Monday, December 27, 2021

Posts from Christmas past – part two

I thought I’d do a round-up of posts I’ve made over the years which are relevant in some way to Christmas.

Part one was last week. Here is part two.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Posts from Christmas past – part one

I thought I’d do a round-up of posts I’ve made over the years which are relevant in some way to Christmas.

Here is part one. Part two follows next week.

Monday, December 13, 2021

How to deal with a toxic choir member

Very occasionally a singer may join your choir who seems to affect everyone negatively.

They are somehow ‘toxic’ and affect the whole choir. Here’s how you can deal with such a person.

Monday, December 06, 2021

Discovering “the space between” when singing

This week Mary Denn writes a guest post which introduces the Japanese concept of “the space between.”

photo by chris_j_wood

Since singing is a universal form of expression, other cultures can offer different insights into how we approach it.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Revealing your humanity as choir leader or singer will bring people on your side

As David Burbidge pointed out in his recent guest post about choir leadership styles, some singers end up putting their choir leaders on pedestals.

And even if you resist that extreme, it’s easy to forget that they have a life outside choir and music. Choir leaders are as vulnerable and human as you are.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Is it ever OK to criticise your choir leader in public?

Or … “Who’s in charge of your choir?” (answer: it’s not you!)

photo by jon jordan

I often hear from choir leaders about singers who point out to them that they’re not doing their job right. Is this ever justified?

Monday, November 15, 2021

Choir leading and power – striking a difficult balance

This week, David Burbidge writes a guest post about leadership in choirs.

photo by Quick fix

Is it possible to be in charge without diminishing those you are trying to lead? David believes you can be empowered as a leader whilst also empowering those you lead.

Monday, November 08, 2021

How your choir or singing business can stay in the public eye even though you have no events to promote

There are times, especially during the pandemic, when there are no choir events or concerts coming up.

But you need to keep your singing business in the public eye or people will forget you. Here are some ideas you might try.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Why rounds aren’t the best way to introduce singing in harmony

Rounds are often seen as a simple way into harmony singing.

photo by Hyacinth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But I would argue that they’re not that simple and aren’t a good way to introduce harmony. Here’s why.

Monday, October 25, 2021

How to make sure your choir constitution is fit for purpose

Many choirs have a written constitution and an associated committee.

This is fine when everything is going well, but when something goes wrong, you might find that your constitution is not fit for purpose. Here are some things to think about when you write one for your choir.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Choir leaders: how do you give individual attention in a room full of singers?

Often, as a choir leader, I notice one person who is not quite catching on for some reason.

How do I give that person individual attention when they are just one in a room full of singers? Here are some ideas that might help.

Monday, October 11, 2021

How to stop viruses spreading at choir – ventilate, ventilate, ventilate

Many of us feel that we have become seriously over-informed about aerosols, droplets and other Covid issues.

But the silver lining is that we are now far more aware of how to help prevent winter colds and flu in our choirs (and Covid of course).

Monday, October 04, 2021

How a choir is like an orange – and other useful comparisons

Have you ever wondered why a choir is so like and orange?

Wondering about this is a very useful exercise and can throw up some surprises. Here’s how.

Monday, September 27, 2021

The difference between foreign song lyrics and made-up sounds

How important is it that the words in songs mean something, or can they be meaningless sounds?

Many choirs sing songs in languages they don’t understand, so does it matter whether lyrics are in a real language?

Monday, September 20, 2021

What to do if you don’t like your choir leader

Not every choir leader suits every singer.

Here are some questions to help you work out what to do if you don’t like your choir leader.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Plans are worthless, but planning is everything

I always, always plan my rehearsals and workshops in great detail, including the warm ups.

But invariably the unexpected happens and my plan goes out the window! Nevertheless, here’s why planning is still vital.

Monday, September 06, 2021

5 ideas for when your mind goes blank in front of your singers

It’s happened to us all: you’re mid-rehearsal and suddenly your mind goes completely blank.

Instead of panicking, here are some things you can do.

Monday, August 30, 2021

The more trust there is in your choir, the more trustworthy people become

Can you trust that your singers will do their best in the concert? Do you trust your choir leader to not harm your voice?

Rather than wait until you feel somebody is ‘trustworthy’, assume that you can trust everyone in your choir and they will rise to the occasion.

Monday, August 23, 2021

We all want to be seen and heard – so join a choir!

One of the most powerful human needs is to be seen and heard.

We all want to feel valued, important and that we matter. Being in a choir does all that and more.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Are only ‘singers’ allowed to sing?

Following on from last week’s post (Can only singers lead choirs, only music readers arrange songs and only musicians be songwriters?), it’s time to consider ‘singers’.


I think most of you know by now that I believe that everyone can sing. I’d like to delve a little deeper into whether you need to be a ‘singer’ in order to sing.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Can only singers lead choirs, only music readers arrange songs and only musicians be songwriters?

Many choir leaders demonstrate and teach songs by singing them. But can you lead a choir without being able to sing? Similarly, do you need to be able to read music to be a song arranger, or be a musician to write songs?


The simple answer to these questions (I believe) is “No.” Here’s why.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Why you can only focus on one thing at a time when singing

Singing can be daunting at first because there are so many things to remember: posture, breathing, smiling, tuning, balance and so on.

But if you try to focus on all these at once, it will end in disaster (especially in performance). Here’s what you can do instead.

Monday, July 26, 2021

How to ensure that your choir is inclusive as Covid restrictions start to lift

Even though we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, some countries are slowly beginning to lift Covid restrictions to varying degrees.

When your choir is finally able to rehearse indoors once again, how can you stay safe, but ensure that you’re as inclusive as possible?

Monday, July 19, 2021

The healing power of choirs: how singing together is good for your mental health

I’ve written before about the general and well-known benefits of singing in a choir: Why you should start the year singing – and then sing some more!

In this post I’d like to look at how singing together can benefit your mental health and how and why that works.

Monday, July 12, 2021

How to be a really successful singer or choir leader – deliver more than expected

If you want to be a real success, it’s not enough to just do the job at hand. You need to deliver more than is expected.

What does that mean for singers and choir leaders?

Monday, July 05, 2021

Finding positives from the pandemic when your choir finally gets back together

It has been said that every setback is an opportunity in disguise. Singing together has had many setbacks during the pandemic and choirs have been affected badly.

Here’s how you can turn those obstacles into positives.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Skills you’ll need to brush up when your choir rehearses again in person

Here in England, we’re limited to a maximum of six singers rehearsing indoors.

photo by allan harris

When restrictions are finally lifted (in three weeks we hope), many choral skills will have gone rusty over the last year or more.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Honouring the song 6: summing up and further resources

This is the last in my series of how to honour the source of a song.

photo by WorldFish

I’m going to sum up briefly give an overview of the process and point you to some further resources which might help.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Honouring the song 5: who wrote or arranged the song?

I’ve written before that even if it’s a folk song, somebody wrote it.


The identity of that individual may have been lost over time, but to honour the song, you still have the responsibility to try to find out who it was.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Honouring the song 4: what is the cultural and historical context of the song?

Just because we can sing a song, doesn’t mean that we should sing it.

It is important to honour the cultural and historical origins of a song so we know whether it’s appropriate to sing it in a different context or not.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Honouring the song 3: can you teach or perform the song accurately?

When using songs from cultures different to ours, we have the responsibility to teach or perform them as accurately as we can.


We honour the song by being as authentic as possible when pronouncing the words, and reproducing the melody and harmonies.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Honouring the song 2: what does the song mean?

When you learn a song — especially if it’s by ear — you take on trust what you’re told about the song’s meaning. This is particularly relevant if the song is in a foreign language.


But meaning is a slippery thing. Incorrect meanings get passed on like Chinese whispers. Some inexperienced song teachers even make stuff up if they’re not sure (see Bele mama from last week’s post).

Monday, May 17, 2021

Honouring the song 1: where does the song come from?

When honouring the origins of any song, you need to be as precise as you can about where the song came from.


It might be hard to find out, but there is no excuse for being lazy and saying something like “This song is from Africa.” Here are some things to consider when tracing a song’s origins.

Monday, May 10, 2021

How to honour the source of a song (and why it’s important)

Many songs get handed down by ear and labelled ‘traditional’ without any clear understanding of where they come from.

It’s important to honour the source of all songs and the cultures they originate from. Here’s a guide to the things that you need to consider.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Even if all your singers are vaccinated, there are still risks

There has been some talk of insisting that singers are vaccinated before they can attend choir.

Not only is this problematic, but even if all your singers are vaccinated, there are still risks involved.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Don’t be put off by the word ‘choir’ – there are plenty of different kinds out there

Many people are put off by the word ‘choir’. It can mean that people feel excluded from singing with others because of their preconceptions.

The choir of St. Peter's Bournemouth

‘Choir’ can take many forms though, so maybe you’re looking in the wrong place.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Will my choir still be there when lockdown is over?

Some choirs decided to stop all activities when the pandemic started.

photo by Cory Doctorow

As restrictions begin to ease in many countries, singers are wondering: will my choir still be there?

Monday, April 12, 2021

When will it be safe to sing together again in person?

Many of you won’t have sung with others in a physical space for several months, or even a year or more.

As vaccination roll-out increases and restrictions are eased in many countries, when will it be safe to sing together again in person?

Monday, April 05, 2021

How to sing a drone of staggering beauty

A drone is a note continuously sounded throughout most or all of a song.


But singers have to breathe, so how can this be achieved?

Monday, March 29, 2021

If you don’t sing (or lead a choir), are you still a ‘singer’ (or ‘choir leader’)?

Many of you won’t have sung with others or led a choir over the last year.

Does that mean you can’t call yourself a ‘singer’ or ‘choir leader’ any more?

Monday, March 22, 2021

The biscuits for my singing workshops have gone stale. Have I gone stale too?

It’s been a year since I last led a singing workshop with real live people together in a room.

Ship's biscuit, SS Great Britain, 1874

When it becomes possible to lead singing sessions again, will I still be able to do it?