Monday, November 06, 2017

Is it time to hand your choir over to another leader?

Nothing lasts forever and change can be a good thing.


There comes a time when it might benefit everyone if you hand your choir over to somebody else. Why would you want to do that?

getting too familiar and comfortable

Over time your choir will get to know all your tricks and techniques. They will become familiar with your approach to warm ups and how you rehearse a song. They will know when you are being serious and when to really pay attention.

No matter how hard you try to keep things fresh and new, the way you do things will have a certain flavour. This is a good thing and is what makes your choir unique, but it can also restrict the growth of the choir.

There may come a time when you simply can’t develop your choir any further. You have a certain skill set but that won’t ever include all the possible ways in which a choir can grow. You might be great at working on blend, but not so good at rhythm work. You might find it hard to conduct complex material, but be fantastic at getting short songs up and running.

the pains and benefits of handing over your choir

It might be painful in the short term, but it can be of enormous benefit to a choir to hand over the reigns to somebody new. That new leader will have their own unique set of skills and their way of doing things. Initially these will be unfamiliar so choir members will be kept on their toes, open to change and new possibilities.

When should you think of handing over?

This will depend on many things of course, not least that you have other work lined up to replace leading this choir, but also that there is a suitable candidate to take over.

Some choirs will take a long time to “train up” (especially non-auditioned choirs), so it may be many years before you consider handing over. Others my get up to speed very quickly and you’ll find yourself reaching your limit sooner.

I’ve handed over several non-auditioned community choirs after 10 years. It seems to be about the right length of time to get to a suitably high standard and to have experienced many live performances, tours, recording CDs, etc.

But I know of other choir leaders who have stuck with a choir for up to 25 years before feeling that they’ve done everything they can with them or it’s just not inspiring them any more.
It would be great to have a local register of choir leaders and every few years leaders will just swap choirs!

do choir leaders ever retire?

Some choir leaders seem to go on forever and are replaced only when they die.

For others there comes a time when they simply don’t have the energy or ideas to continue.

Why might a choir leader not want to retire?

  • Many choir leaders who work in the non-professional sector simply can’t afford to retire because they don’t have any pension.
  • Music-makers are highly creative people and making music becomes an important part of their life.
  • Leading a choir is a highly social activity so retiring can be very lonely.
  • Being a choir leader can keep you young! Mixing with interesting groups of people, singing regularly, doing physical warm up exercises, maintaining stamina by conducting and giving out energy to your singers.

It’s often the case that creative individuals never fully retire, but simply cut down on their work load as they get older.

other useful posts

If you do ever decide to hand over your choir, you might find these posts useful:

Taking over an existing choir: a guide for musical directors

When a new musical director takes over your choir: a guide for choir members

Taking over an established choir – a guide for choir leaders

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Chris Rowbury



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