Directing a Choir – the best job in the world?

Ladies Choir

I’ve been involved in choirs as a singer, director and accompanist for around 20 years now and I’ve always enjoyed it immensely. Since forming the Pewsey Belles over 2 years ago I have discovered just how rewarding it can be running a choir.  Below I have set out some of the highlights for me:

Teaching a new song:

Every now and then I go on a mission to expand the repertoire and usually select 6 new songs with the challenge being to teach them in 6 rehearsals, i.e. one new song every rehearsal.  Now of course any self respecting choir master will tell you that you can’t learn a new song properly in just one rehearsal, particularly when half your choir can’t read music!  However, you can get the basics together so a reasonable performance of the entire song is possible by the end of the practice.  Ok so it might not be the version you would want to perform or indeed record. But there is a huge amount of satisfaction and feeling of achievement amongst the choir when, after just 90 minutes, they can “perform” an entire new song.

Providing enjoyment for others:

Notwithstanding the purpose of rehearsing to perform (discussed below), I have always believed that one of the primary functions of any Community Choir is for people to enjoy singing together.   This is always my aim for every rehearsal right from the initial warm-up to the very last note before we all head to the pub!  I’ve often sung in choirs (mainly choral societies) where the warm-ups can go on for 20 minutes or more.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if they are enjoyable and most importantly explained.  I love to see the choir having fun  doing sillier and sillier things as warm ups, but I always explain the point of the particular exercise before we do it!  I will discuss this more in another post.  You can find some of my thoughts and ideas on warm ups in my previous post about getting good results from rehearsals.  I plan to put together more ideas soon in a forthcoming post about the importance of warm ups.

So all of that aside, choir practice needs to be fun.  That doesn’t mean to say you can’t work hard.  I am well known for working my ladies choir quite hard and, I like to think, as a consequence get good results.  The art of this is to ensure that your choir know when they have achieved something.  So, if you have worked them hard and gone over and over a particular section, it’s always important to praise them when its right.  By the same token, if something isn’t working, then it’s important to know when to move on.

Performing in Concert:

For me, notwithstanding the enjoyment factor, the main purpose of any choir should ultimately be to perform at a concert.  There’s nothing to match the exhilaration of standing up on stage in front of an expectant audience and an even more expectant choir.  Bringing together all the weeks of rehearsal for that one performance and the one chance to make it count.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction that a choir gets after doing a good performance.  Whilst I’m not a great fan of encore’s, its always nice to be asked for one and this is particularly encouraging for the choir.

Summary:

The few notes above, only really scratch the surface of why I love running choirs.  I do believe, however, the most important thing is to have fun working with a choir, in the hope that in return they have fun performing and rehearsing together.  As the old saying goes, work hard and play hard.