Up until recently the notion of being a professional & full time choirmaster (or choir mistress!) would have almost seemed like nonsense. Even with all the choirs now featuring on the television, mostly along with Gareth Malone, running choirs is still seen by many as a part time activity and essentially a glorified hobby.
Obviously for many choirmasters it is a part time position or something which is worked on in their spare time and I don’t in any way wish to detract from the fabulous job that most are doing up and down the country. What I am curious about is, without the assistance of the television, whether there can be such a thing as a full time choirmaster?
One of the challenges facing many in this position is the general view, often from those within the choir, that a choirmaster is only seen for 2 hours a week, and as such how could it possibly be a full time position of any sort. This often leads to a debate about fees and hourly rates! As any good choirmaster (or choir mistress!) will tell you, running a choir is not just about the 2 hours or so a week you spend in front of your singers. There is all manner of preparation to do in advance which ranges from choosing repertoire to preparing for the rehearsal by knowing every part of the score. That’s before you even come to preparation of rehearsal tracks and all the admin associated with putting on concerts.
All of this takes time and often quite a lot of effort, but from my experience with the choirs I work with, it’s always worth every last minute and ounce of effort. That way, you get to see your choirs having a great time singing and giving pleasure to their audiences – and that’s priceless.