We have all found ourselves in situations like this: Choir practice begins, the director announces which piece the group will begin working on first, and a collective groan is heard throughout the room. This can happen for any number of reasons. Perhaps the piece is too long. Perhaps the piece is too difficult. Or perhaps the piece is just not rewarding to sing. Whatever the case, a groaning choir is a discouraging choir. Most often, the music the group is singing sets the mood for how the practices will go. Practices and performances will go much smoother when choir members are excited about the music they are learning.
What do People Like?
How do you choose music that appeals to a wide variety of people? People have different tastes and opinions, but it’s okay to ask choir members what they’re personal preferences are. Most choir members are excited to talk about music that interests them. Especially consider the ideas that come from choir members that have been actively involved in the choir for many years. They’ve seen and heard a lot of music over the years – find out the things that have really stood out to them. It can be a chance for the choir to try new things and learn more about each other in the process.
When planning out the choir rehearsal, consider the order in which you put the music. Give your choir members something to look forward to. If you know a certain piece really stands out to them and is exciting for them to sing, consider practicing it toward the end of rehearsal.
During a recent choir rehearsal, I heard one of my fellow singers say “It’s a good thing we practiced that movement last. If we had done it toward the beginning of rehearsal I don’t think I would have made it.” Knowing that an exciting song is on its way can increase choir members’ energy and drive to keep going for the rest of the rehearsal.
Keeping order in the rehearsal is also something many choir directors struggle with. If the music is slow and people are restless, chattering among choir members can distract even the most committed singers. Exciting songs motivate members to focus and be involved in all of the music – even when the director is rehearsing with other parts.
Choosing the Music
Choosing music that choir members love may be a daunting task at times. Tastes differ, and all it takes is one grumpy choir member to bring down the others and steal the joy out of rehearsal. Some songs are naturally more exciting. But not all songs have to be upbeat or include body percussion in order to be engaging.
With Easter approaching and choir practices lengthening, you’ll want to choose music that choir members are excited to sing. It’s also important to take into consideration different skill levels when choosing choir music. There are many diverse options to choose from at H.T. Fitzsimons. Easter Anthem by William Billings and arranged by Hugh Chandler is an excellent choice for an exciting Easter piece. The music is not incredibly difficult. Soprano, alto, and bass parts intertwine to create beautiful polyphonic melodies. This piece is a stirring example of music that is rewarding to sing and perform. For many choir members, hearing themselves create resounding chords among other voice parts is some of the most rewarding singing they can do.
Alleluia by Will James is another excellent piece to keep choir members engaged. This selection is an especially powerful choice for Easter Sunday. For a liturgical church that follows the traditional somberness between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, Alleluia is an exclamation of joy that is sure to keep everyone excited and engaged. Arranged for a four-part a capella for mixed chorus, Alleluia’s moving melody lines offer just enough difficulty to keep choir members focused. This piece offers a rousing and joyful message that everyone can enjoy.
It’s Never Too Late
Perhaps you find yourself already too invested in boring music to turn back. Your choir members are disinterested, but it’s too late to change the songs. You can still work to keep an exciting atmosphere in your rehearsals! Try implementing new warmups at the beginning of practice. Share a little bit about the piece with your choir, and tell them why you chose it. Often times, choir members may be disconnected to a piece of music because it does not mean anything to them – find ways to give the music new meaning!
Being involved in a choir is a uniquely beautiful experience. Relationships are made among members that can last a lifetime. It’s important to give choir members a reason to come back. When they sing songs with passion and excitement, they keep the art of choral music alive.