Monday, July 03, 2023

The benefits and drawbacks of working in a circle when singing

I like to outsource elements of my teaching practice when leading singing days.

I allow the singers to put chairs out (or not), and to decide how they want to stand. Often, it ends up being a circle. But is that the best way to sing as a group?

I may turn up to a village hall and find exactly the right number of chairs laid out in rows. Or perhaps they’re round the edges of the room. Or sometimes, I walk into an empty space.

I find it interesting (and sometimes challenging!) to allow my hosts and/or singers to choose how they want to use the space. I’ll go with it (at first), but may well change things as we progress.

Most of the time, singers seem to be drawn to working in a circle.

Perhaps it’s the way they do things in the choir they belong to, or previous workshop leaders might have asked for this. It also feels like the most sociable and equal way to work – everyone can see everyone else.

But is singing in a circle the best way to do things?

I’ve written before about Rehearsing and singing in a circle: the pros and cons. In that post I outline seven or eight advantages and disadvantages of working in a circle.

One disadvantage I didn’t mention at the time was that everybody will be breathing over everybody else! In these Covid times, that’s pretty bad, but even without that, in ‘flu and cold season, it’s not a very sensible thing to do.

If you do choose to work in a circle, there are two ways you can use them to your advantage:

  1. divide the choir into smaller circles spread throughout the space. Either in choir sections, or mix the voices up.
  2. stand the singers in a large circle, but face outwards – this allows singers to focus on listening to each other rather than looking.

Whether you decide to work in a circle or not, it’s always a good idea to change things from time to time. Don’t always sing in the same formation, mix things up occasionally.

Chris Rowbury


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