World Choir Games Flanders 2021

Why aren't there more mixed age-group choirs?

  • [this is a version of a post which first appeared on my blog From the Front of the Choir]


    There are choirs for gay men, choirs for women, choirs for socialists, choirs for hire, choirs for weddings and choirs for the deaf. There are Welsh choirs, youth choirs, gospel choirs, Bulgarian choirs, barbershop choirs, school choirs, church choirs and the Young at Heart Chorus.



    But there don’t seem to be many truly mixed, general choirs with a wide age range.


    The world of choirs seems to have become ghettoised (I’ve touched on this subject before: The lost generation of singers – why no provision for the under 50s?).


    I run choirs and singing workshops that are open to all – and I mean all (my only personal restriction is that I don’t work with ‘kids’, i.e. under 16s. I’m just not good with crowd control!). However, the reality is that most people who attend my choirs and workshops are over 40, with many over 60.


    It’s not that youngsters don’t like to sing. There is good work going on in schools, many youth choirs of all types across the country, and I even get the occasional 18-year-old wandering into one of my sessions. It’s just that young people tend to stick together creating homogeneous choirs of singers of a similar age.


    Many young people are put off by the word ‘choir’ and think that it’s fuddy duddy, uncool, old-fashioned and full of old people. They may be right on the last point, but then that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if they don’t join. (see also Avoiding the ‘C’ word: choir)

    I really don’t know how to appeal to youngsters!


    I’d love to run groups which truly reflect a cross-section of society in terms of social background, age, race and gender. However, the reality is that it’s mainly older middle-class white women who join. The sessions I run are fun, high energy and with a wide-ranging repertoire. When the occasional adolescent does stumble across a workshop of mine by accident, they usually enjoy it.

    Back in 2008 I came across a young choir called The Heard:


    “a contemporary choir for the contemporary people of London. They’re not looking to ancient eastern spirituality to get a natural high; they’re just singing their favourite songs together in perfect harmony for kicks.”

    Although they perform vocal versions of more contemporary repertoire (Bjork, Radiohead, Hot Chip, Klaxons) they are actually fairly traditional in their approach. The arrangements are not particularly exciting and often the choir simply acts as a backing group to one lead singer.


    So what attracted these young people to join this ‘choir’? Was it just the repertoire? Was it that fact that the leader is also young?


    Interestingly, it looks like the choir doesn’t exist any more, so maybe young people don’t have staying power!


    I’d love to have some suggestions on how to get more young people to join general, open-access choirs. Please send me some ideas!


    What happens to all the people in youth choirs when they leave school or get a bit older? Why don’t they join adult choirs (see Why do kids stop singing when they grow up?)? Would a contemporary pop repertoire attract more young people? Could I form a young people’s choir by simply saying “open to all 16 – 25 year-olds”?


    Do leave a comment with your answers. I'd love to hear from you.



    Chris Rowbury:

4,925 views - 8 comments - Post Comment
  • Elizabeth Cain
    Elizabeth Cain So, when are you going to post what you do? i was reading your blogs and/or info and see that you don't use music scores to practice from. Did I read that right?
    March 7, 2012
  • Chris Rowbury
    Chris Rowbury Yes you did. I don't use sheet music, don't audition, and focus on traditional songs from cultures around the world (all in the original languages). You can find out more about me and my work on my website: more
    March 8, 2012
  • Elizabeth Cain
    Elizabeth Cain I think it is really neat that you teach parts without sheet music. My sister is a natural at harmonizing with anything. To bad you are over the ocean. :( I was looking for videos of the choir also.

    March 11, 2012
  • Elizabeth Cain
    Elizabeth Cain And the choir sounds wonderful for not using any sheet music. I would probably be very lost if i did not know the song.
    March 11, 2012
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