Choirs are bang on trend. Over recent years we’ve had choral competitions on prime time television, Gareth Malone putting choirs together in work places, schools and communities and of course we’ve seen the success of the fabulous Military Wives Choir.
And, unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the past few months, you’ll be aware that there’s a new and fabulous Yorkshire choral festival launching in 2019 and we have been inundated with choirs from every corner of God’s country who want to get involved. We are also fortunate, here at the Yorkshire College of Music and Drama, to have a number of different choirs and singing groups who use our Victorian rooms with their high ceilings and thick walls to rehearse. Indeed, not to show off, but the hugely successful Leeds Male Voice Choir’s Musical Director is our very own Principal, Tim Knight.
Choirs are everywhere and that can only be a good thing.
But, what if you and a group of friends want to set up a new singing group, or a new choir? How should you go about it? What do you need to consider? What do you need to do first?
Well, as we are considered expert in the field of all things music, we have put a (fairly) simple 5-step guide together to help you set up your own choir
1. Define your Choir
Whether there is just one of you with the urge to get started, or there is a group of you wanting to embark on this journey together, the most important thing is to set out your purpose. You need to work out the answers to ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’.
What sort of choir or group you are going to be? Is it a closed group choir or is it a community choir? It’s important to get your ground rules agreed at the start to avoid any confusion in the future.
What is the purpose of the choir? Is it to raise money for local charities or a community cause? Is it to socialize and have fun? Is it to get into National competitions and aim for a performance at The Royal Albert Hall?
Whatever the answer to your ‘Why’, make sure you set some targets and goals. Get some performances booked in the diary – even if just for friends and family – so that you have something to aim for. This will give you a focus and ensure you keep on striving for improvement.
What style of music are you going to be singing? Are you wanting to set up a rock choir or a gospel choir? How about a folk singing group, or a chamber choir?
Your style will, of course, evolve as your skills improve and your members come and go, but it’s important to have a clear idea of the kind of choir you want to be before you start. If nothing else, it will mean you advertise for and recruit like-minded people for your choir.
2. The Logistics
So, the hard bit is done: You have a clear vision of your choir or singing group, you know the kind of music you are going to sing and you have set yourself goals. Now you need to start to tackle the practical, logistical issues, which means finding the answers to the ‘Where’ and ‘When’.
If you need rehearsal space, then research available local community rooms or speak to your local music college. Here at The Yorkshire College of Music and Drama we have plenty of rehearsal space, with the added benefit of musical instruments and experienced tutors and musicians on site. If you live locally to us, then please feel free to get in touch and see what space we have available.
If you’re not local to us, then ask around at your local music colleges and community centres. There is also the option, if you’re starting small, to start rehearsals at your house, but beware of it turning into a social, as opposed to a productive evening. And, hide the wine!
By now, you should have your choir defined and your purpose set out. You should have your rehearsal venue and an idea of when you want to meet each week. Now you need to recruit some members. So, get busy on social media, speak to friends and family, speak to other parents at the school gates, speak to work colleagues and put a notice up in your local music college.
You could get some basic flyers printed and put them in your local library or hand them out in appropriate local businesses. Be clear in any communication about your choir’s purpose and style so you attract people who are of the same mindset.
4. Find a Choir Master
It would be lovely to think there was a Gareth Malone or (our very own) Tim Knight available for every choir out there, but there isn’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t find someone who is both inspirational and talented and perfect for the job.
Speak to your local music college and music departments at local schools. Speak to local universities and arts organisations. There may well be young students or even teachers who are wanting to get involved in a local choir or singing group. Alternatively, get on social media – so Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – and advertise for the role. Make sure you are clear about the aims and purpose of the choir right from the start.
5. Start Singing!
No excuses now. You’ve got your venue, you’ve got your date booked in each week. You’ve got some keen members and an enthusiastic choir master. Get some music and lyrics organised and start singing. As Gareth Malone said, “Everyone has to start somewhere.”
And……If you do get your choir started, don’t forget to sign up and join in with the massive choral festival Voices Yorkshire. For more information go to www.voicesyorkshire.co.uk