World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Stuck in a rut? 10 ways to revitalise your choir

  • [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 happens to the best of us: choir used to be fun, but now it seems to have lost its sparkle.

     

     

    What can you do to get out of a rut? Here are 10 ways to revitalise your choir.

    Whether you’re a singer or choir leader, there will be times when choir doesn’t seem as exciting and interesting as it used to be.

    The repertoire seems stale, warm ups become over-familiar, what was once challenging and interesting now seems old hat.

    Here are 10 ideas that might help you get out of the doldrums. They are just suggested starting points, but should help to get the idea juices flowing.

    1. do the same thing differently – sing well-known songs from your repertoire in an ‘inappropriate’ style (e.g. opera, country and western, lullaby); use different points of focus in warm ups (e.g. eye contact with others, focus on your feet, listen more loudly, focus on your breathing); warm up after your first song; have the break at the start of the session.
       
    2. take a break – do something completely other, not necessarily singing. Maybe an away day or an evening out at ten pin bowling.
       
    3. change something – sing a different part; move the sections around; mix the parts up (i.e. not in blocks but small groups of SATB); if you use chairs, stand up – if you don’t use chairs, try sitting down.
       
    4. find a new context – use a completely different rehearsal space; perform somewhere unusual (i.e. not your usual concert venue); rehearse in the street; get a slot in a concert that you wouldn’t normally consider singing at.
       
    5. swap choirs – find a local choir who rehearse at the same time and day and swap choir leaders. They are bound to do things in a different way. You might discover new ways of doing things, or at the very least appreciate your own choir leader more when they return! If there is no suitable local choir, then hire a choir leader in for one session.
       
    6. do something new – something you’ve never done before, something that’s a challenge, e.g. very different kind of repertoire, a flash mob, work with musicians, record a CD.
       
    7. introduce the unexpected – gets people out of their habits. This is mostly for choir leaders because it involves a bit of planning. Set something up so when the choir members arrive at rehearsal they will be somewhat discombobulated. Just by setting yourself this challenge can get you out of your own rut!
       
    8. go deeper – really explore something in depth, whether it’s the dynamics of a song or a vocal technique. People often get bored because they feel over-familiar with something and have lost the ability to really be in the moment with it. This is a way of re-connecting with the material.
       
    9. collaborate – find another choir to collaborate with. Could be to do a joint concert, or to perform a song together, or swap repertoire, or set up a choir festival. Working with others always introduces a different energy and reminds us that there is more than one way of doing things.
       
    10. create a goal – it’s always good to have something to work towards. If you don’t usually perform, then maybe work towards a song sharing. If you perform regularly, then set something up with much higher stakes (choral competition? the Royal Albert Hall?). Make a CD. Plan a choir exchange.
       


    There are plenty of other ways of revitalising your choir and I’d love to hear some of your ideas. Do drop by and leave a comment.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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