Monday, April 24, 2023

Singer or choir leader, you are not as indispensable as you think

Whether singer or choir leader, your choir can’t do without you. You are what makes it.

photo by Kathryn

Yet, at the same time, you can be replaced. You are not indispensable.

This post came about because I had to find a replacement to lead a singing weekend for me. More about that below.*

We all like to think we are important, as singers or choir leaders. And we are. If we don’t turn up, there effectively is no choir.

You are what makes the choir what it is. Its sound, its character, its community.

But if one singer were replaced, would it make a huge difference?

And if your choir had a different choir leader, would that change everything?

The fact is that we’re all dispensable. Important, yes. Valued, yes. But irreplaceable, no.

A new choir leader would do things differently. But if they’re half-way decent, work in a similar way to your previous choir leader, and stick to the same repertoire, then I think the end result would be pretty much the same.

I’ve seen this happen because I’ve handed over three community choirs over the years and they’re all still going strong.

If you replace one singer in a choir, nobody would notice the difference (except maybe their Mum!). If you replaced a handful in a choir of over 30 singers, say, nobody would notice the difference.

Of course, if you replaced an entire section, or 3/4 of your choir, then it would probably take some time to get back to the quality of sound that you had before. But it can be done.

There’s an essential paradox here. The very nature of a choir comes from its members, both singers and choir leader. Yet no single individual is that important that they can’t be replaced.

* being replaced

I had a big residential singing weekend coming up, the first after my six month winter break. Four days beforehand I tested positive for Covid. When I told the singers (many of whom have been on lots weekends with me over the years), loads of them said they wouldn’t want to come if I weren’t leading. That’s what they’re paying for. They would rather cancel.

Faced with a huge bill for cancelling the weekend, I managed to find someone to replace me at the last minute. This person kindly made a short introductory video that I could send to the singers. After watching it, only three out of 29 said they’d rather cancel. His personality and demonstration that he works in a similar way to me, was enough to sway them.

So, it turns out, I am replaceable after all. I’m sure the weekend will be different from when I lead. But it will still be great fun and a rewarding experience I’m sure (it hasn’t happened yet).

I just hope he’s not that good, so singers will still want to work with me after the weekend!


older posts

You might find these other posts of interest too.

You are the most important singer in your choir

You can’t franchise charisma – why your choir leader is special

There is no “I” in “choir”

When singers don’t show up – how to rehearse effectively

How will your choir cope if you don’t turn up?

Choir leaders: who’ll replace you when you’re gone?

Chris Rowbury


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