Tag Archives: choir

How to Find the Right Choir

Evensong in York MinsterFinding the right choir for you can be tough, but as I’ve said before, joining a choir is a great way to improve your singing and musical skills. Here are five really important questions to ask yourself before you start looking at the myriad of options available.

How Does the Choir Learn the Music?

Some choirs use sheet music, while others learn “by ear”, or more accurately, “by rote”. Using sheet music opens up a range of more difficult (dare I say, interesting) repertoire than can be learned just by listening and repeating. It also means things can be learnt more quickly. If the choir uses sheet music, you will get a real boost in your sight-reading abilities. However, you want the choir to challenge you, but not leave you behind, so ask the director if you can find out more about what kind of repertoire you’ll be singing and how fast you have to cover it.

Do I Have to Audition?

A good number of choirs audition, and they auditon for lots of reasons. Some want to check if you can keep up with the sight-reading needed. Others might be looking for a particular vocal sound. The most prestigous will want the whole package. You might find a choir auditions sopranos and altos, but doesn’t audition tenors as they’re a bit short handed. The size of the choir will give you an idea of how difficult the auditions are to pass, and you should definitely ask the director what you have to do and how formal the process is. You might also ask how many people are successful, and how many are turned away too.

What kind of music do they sing?

There’s a choir for every genre of music, but the main types you find are traditional choirs (singing classical music usually with sheet music), pop choirs (singing contemporary music learned by rote) and church choirs (singing religious music, usually with sheet music). You definitely want to look for a choir whose music you enjoy, so why not go along to a concert or service to hear the choir and decide if you like the general kind of music they sing. You won’t like every peice, so consider the overview more than the specifics.

Sopranos

What kind of performance do they give?

The TV show Glee has led to a rise in the “show choir” in the UK. There are now more and more choirs who really go to town with their performances including dance and costume. Some choirs are more sedate, going for some swaying and clapping. Others are much more formal and just stand with book in hand. Think about what is most comfortable for you. You should be able to find out about this easily.

This is also the point to consider if you have any mobility or health issues that might affect your ability to stand still for a long time etc.

How much does it cost?

Some choirs are free. Some might even pay you to be part of them (church choirs, for example). Others charge a membership fee to cover the cost of the musical director and accompanist, hall hire and books. There may also be charges for loan of music or buying choir t-shirts. You should ask what costs are entailed, and make sure that you check about extras, not just the membership fee. If you do have to pay, ask about the arrangements for leaving the choir – do you get money back, or can you only leave at the end of a subs period?

Useful Websites

Here are a few directory sites that might help you find a few choirs to try:

  • http://www.choirs.org.uk/home.htm
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/sing/findachoir.shtml
  • https://www.nationalassociationofchoirs.org.uk/

Are you part of a choir? What kind of choir is it? How did you find it?

Five Reasons to Join a Choir

One of the most valuable things you can do as a singer is to join a choir. Why, you ask? Why should you give up another evening a week and a few weekends? Well, here are my top five reasons;

Evensong in York Minster

1. Meet other singers

Singing can be a very solitary business. We take one-to-one lessons and we practice alone. If we don’t go out there and meet others, we can end up becoming lonely and discouraged. Joining a choir is a fast-track way to meet other people who share your passion for singing.

2. Learn to sing in harmony

Solo singing teaches loads of useful skills, especially the confidence to get up and sing by yourself, but it’s not easy to teach harmony. By singing in a choir, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll be singing a harmony part most of the time if you’re a woman, and a 100% chance you will be as a man. Even if you’re a soprano, sometimes, you’ll have to sing a high harmony while the altos or tenors take the melody line. Learning to perform in harmony boosts your aural skills massively.

3. Pick up the pace

Choirs ususally require you to learn things fairly quickly. The pace varies from choir to choir, so you might need to ask questions about this when you join. No matter what, you’ll be thrown new music to work on quite frequently.

Another way singing in a choir helps with pace is your ability to keep going dispite mistakes. In solo singing we can stop and start again, but a choir of a hundred, or even thirty, won’t stop if one member gets something wrong, or gets lost. You’ll need learn to be adept at carrying on regardless and finding your place if you get lost.

4. Develop performance skills

Altos

Singing in a choir develops all kinds of performance skills, whether it’s carrying on despite mistakes or being able to follow a conductor. You’ll also get used to dressing properly, coming on and off stage, and looking enthusiastic. Depending on the choir, you may also learn to clap, move or dance while you’re singing.

5. Improve ear and sight-reading

Choirs usually fall into two categories – teaching by ear, and teaching using sheet music. If you choose a choir which uses sheet music, it will improve your ability to sight-read no end as you will have to do loads of it! Choirs which teach by ear will hone aural skills like musical memory and the ability to hear and repeat complex music. Whichever kind of choir you join will be able to improve your ability to find notes which harmonise, sing in syncopation and a myriad of other things.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to your favourite search engine and get involved in your local choir!