Avoiding stereotypes – Just how good is your Community Choir?

This week, in the virtual world that is Facebook, I was asked to share 7 little known facts about myself.  I actually found this quite difficult.  However, it turned out that a number of my choir members knew more little known facts about me than I did.  And that’s the thing with social media – suddenly everyone knows your inside leg measurement and what you had for breakfast a week ago last Tuesday.   To be fair, I don’t really have too much of an issue with this. If, like me, you are unemployable by anyone other than yourself, then you will appreciate that a positive online presence is generally a good thing!

One of my little known facts, was that I really don’t like Organ Recitals that much!  Which, apparently, people find surprising. In accordance with the law of stereotypes, if you play the organ, therefore you must like Organ Recitals.  People also assume that because I am a Church Organist, which of course requires me to go to Church every Sunday, therefore by default I must be a devout Christian.   Of course, I’m quite sure for many organists this is the case.  But for me, nope sorry. Don’t do religion either!  So, there you have it, a church organist who isn’t religious and doesn’t like organ recitals.

You find a similar thing with choirs.   It’s no secret that the majority of choirs I run would be ‘classified’ as Community Choirs. It’s uncertain whether there is in fact an actual definition of ‘Community Choir’, but I take it to mean a choir which is un-auditioned and made up from members of a community – whether that is a workplace, a members organisation or, most commonly a geographical location.  Sadly, however, there is often a degree of musical snobbery surrounding ‘Community Choirs’. The assumption being they are run by bumbling fools with no musical expertise and populated by choir members  who cannot hold a tune between them.  I agree if you had that combination, it would probably not make for pleasant listening.   However, for most Community choirs the opposite is often true.

I currently run 3 Community Choirs and 2 Auditioned Choirs. And yes, there are differences between the two.  For a start, to get into one of my auditioned choirs you have to be able to read music and sightread to a good standard. But there are a lot of similarities too.  Most of my choirs are made of at least 3 or 4 parts and the end result always has to be a pleasing musical performance.  You can’t put a choir on stage and then announce to the audience, “Sorry they’re just a community choir, so it might not be that good”.

In a few months time, I will be putting on a couple of concerts which will feature all of my choirs singing together.   I have tried this before, and it was extremely successful, raising lots of money for charity. However, by doing this I will be putting at least 1 auditioned choir up alongside one or more Community Choirs.  Is this fair? Well yes, it’s not intended to be a competition!  But, more importantly, I set up choirs so people can join them and enjoy singing.  We aren’t trying to compete with Voces 8 or The Sixteen, or win any awards (at least not yet!).  My experience is that audiences will come to hear a choir sing usually for one of three reasons.  1. They know someone in the choir 2. The choir is affiliated with their local town or workplace or 3. They like the music being performed.    The job of any choir in concert is to put on the best performance they can.  The role of the Musical Director is to help them achieve their best.

For obvious reasons, I’m not allowed to have a favourite choir! And actually, without wishing to disappoint the many people in all my choirs, I don’t really have a favourite.  For me, they are all great in their own way.  But the best thing, which they all have in common, is they enjoy coming together to sing and perform in concerts.

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Jules Addison is currently Musical Director for: Cirencester Male Voice Choir, The BlueBelles, The Pewsey Belles, The GWH Trust Choir and Transeamus Chamber Choir.