World Choir Games Flanders 2021

New choir season, new ideas – but how much can you really change?

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    It’s the time of year when many people decide to change things, to try something new.

     

     

    But the problem is that you’re still the same person. How much can things really change?

     

    time for a change

    The New Year is a time for having ideas to shake things up, for really getting down to stuff and for setting big plans in motion.

    You may want to:

    • make your choir rehearsals more exciting/ inclusive/ challenging
    • introduce new and exciting warm ups
    • add movement to songs in performance
    • try out songs from different genres
    • do some acappella for a change
    • instil a new sense of discipline in your choir: reduce chit chat, start rehearsals on time, ensure people learn songs by heart for performance
    • try teaching without (or with) sheet music


    Whatever it is, it feels new and exciting and you can’t wait to introduce the changes.

    you are you, and they are them

    However, there are two big obstacles to any changes:

    1. you (your personality, your skill set, your background, your abilities, your training, your culture, etc.)
       
    2. your choir members (their expectations, their understanding, their tastes, their abilities, their fears, their comfort zones, etc.)


    It may be that you’re a really, really nice person who runs choir rehearsals with a huge dollop of fun. So trying to introduce strict discipline might not come easy.

    It may be that your choir members signed up for a relaxed leisure experience to sing Songs From the Shows and won’t take easily to learning complex songs in Latin.

    It may be that your skills lie in fluent sight reading so you may stumble when trying to teach by ear.

    It may be that your choir members don’t have the self-awareness or body sense to take on board your new warm ups or the movements you’d like to introduce for performance.

    be realistic and self-aware

    This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to make changes, to keep things fresh and to grow and develop. It’s just that you also need to have an understanding of who you are and who your choir members are.

    Some changes might not be possible because you’re just not that person. Others may require you to introduce things very slowly and start with small steps.

    Some changes may require you to get some further training. Others may result in some choir members leaving because your changes are a step too far.

    So go ahead: think big and continue to have great ideas for new things, but at the same time try to be realistic.

    Also, if changes aren’t really working a few months down the line, don’t beat yourself up as maybe it’s just not ‘you’!

    this applies to singers too

    All the above also applies to individual singers.

    You may want to:

    • “be a better singer”
    • increase your range
    • develop a warmer sounding voice
    • try to sing jazz
    • make more time for practice
    • take singing lessons


    Whatever changes you want to make, be realistic.

    You are unique and have a unique singing voice, so don’t try to sound like someone else.

    Your physiology means that there is a limit to how high (or low) you can sing. Yes, you can increase your range, but only up to a point.

    You didn’t keep up that gym membership last year; you were always late to school; you never did manage to do your piano practice each night. So regular singing lessons might not work for you.

    don’t give up!

    I’m certainly not trying to pour cold water on the new ‘you’.

    By all means stretch yourself and set challenging goals, but at the same time realise that you are a unique individual with a unique set of skills and background which may not fit comfortably with the changes you have in mind. Be gentle with yourself.

    You may find these posts useful when setting goals for the coming year:

    Setting your goals for the coming year (guaranteed to work!)

    Achieving your singing goals for the year; 7 fool-proof steps

    What small changes will make you a better singer or choir leader in the coming year?


    Good luck with it all! Do let us know what changes you make and how successful you’ve been.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
    blog: blog.chrisrowbury.com
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