Monday, November 06, 2023

What is a ‘community choir’?

The term ‘community choir’ is used a lot, but what does it actually mean?

There is no single definition, but I thought I’d look at some common characteristics.

‘Community choir’ can conjure up many different images: a mixed group of singers who can’t sing that well; a draughty church hall on a cold Wednesday evening; a mixed bag of singers wearing identical t-shirts singing for charity.

But these tend to be stereotypes. Community choirs can get a bad press, especially from those in the more formal ‘choral world.’

no barriers to entry

For me, a community choir is a way of bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together. Each singer will have their own reasons for being in the choir. Those can range from singers who want to connect with others socially, to those who want to create beautiful music as part of a group. And everything else in between.

Community choirs will have no barriers to entry. They often won’t use sheet music and don’t have auditions (so people with no musical background are made welcome). Despite that, many community choirs perform to very high standards.

focus on community and belonging

Community choirs also place a focus on creating a sense of belonging and community. Musical excellence is never the first priority (even though the music-making can be of a high standard). The priorities are to make everyone feel welcome; to create a sense of belonging; to make singers feel safe and supported; to offer opportunities for singers to learn something new and to grow; and (most importantly) to have fun making music together.

So maybe everyone wears the same t-shirt, and perhaps the singing is not 100% accurate, and yes, the singers are in a draughty church hall, but they are all in it together, supporting each other, and enjoying themselves. That’s what counts the most.

other posts of interest

Here are some older posts that you might find interesting:

Being in a community choir
Answers to a series of Frequently Asked Questions from singers in a typical community choir.

How to start your own community choir
Includes my definition of a community choir.

Why ‘singing for fun’ doesn’t mean low standards and poor performances
There is a myth amongst many choral educators and leaders of formal choirs that so-called amateur or ‘hobbyist’ singers can’t cut the mustard. That’s simply not true!

My ideal community choir
My personal view on what an open-access community choir should be – in an ideal world!

Does a community make a choir, or does a choir create a community?
Music-making groups such as brass bands and choirs used to emerge from strong, pre-existing communities. But now, in our fragmented society, it’s more likely that the choir creates the community rather than the other way round.

Should you have auditions for a workplace or community choir?
To have a musically excellent choir, is it necessary to have auditions?

Chris Rowbury


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