Monday, July 20, 2020

Is a choir a family?

People join choirs for many different reasons. Whatever those reasons might be, a choir ends up being a small community.

In fact, some consider a choir as a kind of family. But what might that mean?

It is inevitable that any group of singers who meet regularly will end up creating a sense of community. I have written about this before: A choir is a shining example of the perfect community and How singing together creates communities and Does a community make a choir, or does a choir create a community?

But what kind of community can that be?

There is a meme going around social media at the moment written by someone called Chloe (I’ve not been able to find an accurate attribution).

It is about what choir means to her and how that meaning has changed over the years. During the pandemic she feels that “Today I can tell you that a choir is a family”.

This feeling has developed over many years. From a bunch of people who came together to learn songs; through development of vocal technique and performance to become a polished team who work well together; finally to a supportive group united by their love of singing who have gone through a lot of highs and lows together.

In short, they have become a kind of family, not connected by blood, but by a love of music.

I know that many choirs who have been going for a long time end up in a place like this. The choir becomes a lifeline, a support group, a social entity, in addition to the music-making.

This explains why some groups have succeeded with online singing, even though they can’t hear each other. The sessions have become a way of reinforcing the bonds between the singers. It becomes less about the singing, and more about the online quizzes, the breakout chats, the meet-and-greet at the start of each session, the smiling faces and the waves goodbye.

Not all singing groups are like this however.

You don’t have to know, or even like, everybody in your choir in order to make beautiful music together. It is possible to create wonderful harmonies with a bunch of strangers (see Singing in the company of strangers and The singers shall remain nameless).

A cohesive group who have known each other and sung together for a long time can be problematic when taking on new members. No matter how friendly you think your group is, it can feel a bit like a clique for new singers joining (see How welcoming is your choir?).

And if your choir has become like a family, there are all those potential downsides that blood-related families have too: jealousies, over-familiarity, fallings-out, unasked-for advice, emotional button-pushing, pecking orders and so on.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what kind of choir you are.

You don’t need to feel that you’re missing out if there’s no sense of ‘family’. You don’t need to get on like a house on fire all the time. You can be really close as a group and support each other through difficult times. You can be an individual singer who only turns up for the music-making. You can socialise as a group, or not see each other outside choir sessions.

And everything in between. All possibilities are fine as long as it suits you.

The most important thing is to keep singing and keep your choir alive!

What kind of choir is yours? Does it feel like family? Does that have any downsides?

I’d love to hear from you. Do drop by and leave a comment.


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Chris Rowbury




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