World Choir Games Flanders 2023

Front, back or side? The best place to stand in 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]

     

    When you first join a choir it’s very tempting to stand on the back row and hide until you feel more confident.

     

    photo by Pam Fray

     

    But did you know that’s the worst place for a beginner to be? Here’s why.

    When we’re not sure about something it’s natural to hang back and to want to stay on the margins rather than be in the thick of things.

    In a choir or singing workshop, most novice singers or those unsure of their part will gravitate to the back row and hide until they feel more confident. But that’s a really bad place to be:

     

    • you can’t see (or hear) the choir leader clearly;
    • you can feel isolated and forgotten;
    • you have to rely totally on yourself since you’ll be on the margins of your section;
    • you won’t be able to hear the rest of the singers in your section clearly to know if you’re on track;
    • it’s hard to get a sense of how it all fits together as everyone’s voice will be projected away from you.

     

    As counter-intuitive as it seems, any singer who is unsure (lacking confidence, new to a choir or singing, slow to pick up a tune, worried about getting things wrong) should stand in the front.

    More than that, you should be in the centre of your section on the very front row.

    Here are the advantages:

     

    • the other singers will be reinforcing your part by singing in your ear;
    • you will feel supported and part of the team;
    • you will be able to see (and hear) your musical director clearly;
    • your musical director will be able to see (and hear) you so can help and support when needed;
    • you will get a better sense of how all the harmony parts fit together;
    • the closer you are to the other singers, the more accurate the harmonies will be.

     

    Yes, it’s scary and counter-intuitive, but the front row is the best place to be. Leave the back row for the more confident singers.

    And if you initially find harmonies hard (i.e. the other parts put you off easily rather than making things easier), then don’t stand on the join between two different harmony parts either.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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