Monday, June 01, 2020

Singers miss out when there’s no choir, but what about choir leaders?

There are plenty of studies now about the many benefits of singing together. But they only look at the experience of the singers in a choir.

I’d like to consider what choir leaders get out of leading a choir and what they might be missing when choirs aren’t meeting.

Those of you who sing regularly with others know how beneficial singing together is. There is now a growing body of research to support this (see Why you should start the year singing – and then sing some more!).

However, I don’t know of any studies which have looked at how leading groups of singers affects choir leaders.

I’m not writing this to gain your sympathy as, like the majority of choir leaders, I love my job. I just want to offer another view of singing together. And if it helps you appreciate your choir leader more, then even better!

In this era of COVID-19 when choirs cannot meet, many singers are missing the simple act of gathering together and singing with others. It can even have adverse effects on singers’ mental health. There are online substitutes, but none of them quite hit the spot.

I’m sure you all appreciate the hard work your choir leader does, especially in these difficult times. Many of us might appear to be swan-like on the surface, but we’re paddling like mad just to stay afloat much of the time!

To give you an insight (if you need one), you may want to read The job of being a choir leader which shows what a typical week might look like.

Many choir leaders have been working hard to support their singers. They have created WhatsApp groups, been sending out weekly emails, have set up regular online singing sessions, and so on.

Working online is actually a lot harder than running a normal weekly choir. There is an awful lot of technical work and time needed to present even the simplest online singing experience.

When running a live online session, your choir leader has to try hard to motivate, energise and involve all the singers, but unlike a regular choir session, they are getting no immediate feedback from the singers. It’s much more tiring to run sessions like this.

Speaking for myself, here is what I get out of leading a group of people singing together:

  • the satisfaction of hearing a bunch of people finally nail a song;
  • hearing the amazing sound of a group singing harmony;
  • watching people who think they can’t ‘sing’ lose themselves in the group sound;
  • the opportunity to socialise with a lovely group of people;
  • bathing in the feeling of a large group of people all breathing at the same time;
  • being able to build a sense of community in a bunch of strangers;
  • seeing people’s smiling faces as they sing;
  • being able to try out new arrangements of songs;
  • being able to help a group of people create something wonderful together;
  • realising that singers singing abilities are improving because of my teaching and warm ups;
  • seeing familiar faces and feeling happy that people want more of what I have to offer;
  • being part of a group all working together towards the same thing;
  • introducing new songs to people and seeing them discover new styles of music;
  • watching people relax and unwind as the session goes on;
  • … and much, much more!

When there is no choir I really miss all of this. Not just during a pandemic, but also over the long summer break for example.

It’s not just singers’ mental health that may be suffering during lockdown, but many choir leaders are being affected too. We’re social creatures and miss the many interactions with our singers. We miss the healing sounds washing over us. We miss seeing the joy on your faces as you sing.

I’m sure you do already, but I hope you appreciate everything your choir leader does when choirs aren’t meeting. Not only are they having to work very hard, but they too are feeling the loss of their singing groups. Be kind to them!


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Chris Rowbury




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