Monday, October 07, 2019

Strategies for coping with too many singers in your choir

Last week I asked Can you have too many singers in your choir? and gave several reasons why this might be the case.

This week I want to look at strategies for overcoming these.

I outlined six main reasons why you might decide that there are too many singers in your choir. I’ll go through them one at a time and give ideas you might try to move forward.

You might also like to read Working with a big choir

1. venue not big enough

You might find that there are too many singers to fit into your rehearsal space or concert venue. The simple answer is to find a bigger space. This may not be as easy as it sounds. There might not be a suitable space in the same area, or it might not be available at the time and day that you need. See How to squeeze singers into a rehearsal space that’s too small

2. lack of social cohesion

In a large group it’s easy to get lost, especially if you’re a new choir member (see How welcoming is your choir?). It’s much harder to get to know other singers and to feel part of a team. There are ways around this though. You can have separate rehearsals for each voice part; ensure you have lots of social events with mixing and mingling opportunities; rehearse your singers distributed throughout the space rather than standing in sections; use “get-to-know-you” games in the warm ups; create smaller ‘choirs’ within your large group which take turns to sing to the rest.

3. too tiring for choir leader

Above a certain number of singers, a choir leader can get tired very quickly. It’s not too bad for a one-off, but dealing with more than, say, 70 singers every single rehearsal can wear a leader down. To help with this you could consider having more than one leader (see Does your choir really need a conductor (and if so, how many)?; appoint section leaders to rehearse each part; split the choir over different days.

4. new/old choir member balance

It’s much easier to work with a large group of singers who are at the same level of experience and who know the same set of songs. As you take new singers on over time, you will find that the balance between ‘old’ and ‘new’ singers will shift. There is the logistical difficulty of bringing new members up to speed with existing repertoire, but also the challenge of training inexperienced singers up to the level of more experienced ones.

There are ways of introducing new members to old repertoire – see Helping new choir members learn the old songs. You can also do a few one-off workshops for new members to teach some of the old songs. Make sure you keep vocal training elements in your warm ups to bring newer members up to speed. Or you could consider auditions (if you don’t already) to ensure that new members are as experienced as current members.

5. admin overload

The more singers you have, the more admin there is to do. At the very least you’ll need to keep some kind of list of members’ names and contact details along with their payment record for subs. An obvious solution to overload is to hire someone to do it for you. You can even hire someone remotely over the internet who can do basic admin. If that’s beyond your budget you could ask if any choir members would volunteer in exchange for a free or discounted place. Or, in the holidays, make sure your admin systems are up to date and fit for purpose. If you keep on top of things as and when they occur, you shouldn’t get overwhelmed.

6. repertoire choice

If your choir specialise in small ensemble pieces, or songs that only work with a certain number of singers, you have two options. One is to stick with that and close your choir to new members. The other is to adapt and embrace the new repertoire possibilities presented by having a large choir.

what if none of these can resolve your situation?

You have several other options, the main two being:
  1. start another choir
  2. close your choir to new members
Next week I’ll look at How to manage when your choir becomes too popular: waiting list or start a new choir.

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Chris Rowbury




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