Whether in your school, office or local community, starting a choir is a brilliant way to bring people together. It can also be a daunting task! Drawing on over seven years experience of setting up choirs and singing projects in lots of different settings, here are Starling Arts’ top tips for getting your own group on its feet!
Who Will You Be?
The first thing to establish is what you want your choir to be. Will the choir be a non-auditioned, inclusive group or will you be wanting to audition and enter competitions with your singers? Make these decisions early on as they will shape how you approach finding members, selecting repertoire and sharing your ethos with your members and supporters.
At Starling Arts, we believe that singing is a great way to bring people together and a strong community ethos, teamed with the goal of producing high quality events, is at the heart of what we do. We strive to create fun, supported opportunities and we love that so many of our members make life-long friends and uncover and develop performance talent through their participation.
Will your group have a particular musical focus? For lots of choir leaders, this focus comes from your existing interests or music experience. Choose repertoire that you’re passionate about so that when you come to sharing with others, your enthusiasm will be infectious! While each of our choirs has its own specialism, our Starling Arts-run choirs tend to sing a range of songs from pop, rock, jazz and musical theatre and we're all about using performance techniques to make sure our singers - and our audiences - have as much fun as possible.
Choose a Name
With all of those decisions in mind, choose a name to reflect the sort of choir community you’re trying to create. You might choose to be clever with a pun-like play on musical terms (such as The Treble Makers or Sons of Pitches) or to include the genre or location in your name (such as The London Jazz Choir or The Finchley Singers).
Find your home
You’ll need somewhere to rehearse. Find a venue that suits the size and demands of your choir. If you’ll be teaching from a piano, you’ll want to check if there’s one available that you can use (or if you can bring your own keyboard). Important considerations include transport links, cost, availability of the space, sound spilling over from other rehearsals or rooms, and access. Does the venue have a lift? Can you use a kitchen? Where are the nearest toilets? What is the maximum capacity? Once you’ve found your dream venue, make sure you formalise an agreement with the venue to ensure you’ve secured the space. Tip: you may be able to secure a discount on room hire for repeat bookings.
Recruit your Members
There are lots of ways to attract singers to join your choir, and the best approach for you will depend on the community you’re working with! Posters or flyers in your school, office or community will start to spread the word, and you can ask friends, family and colleagues to tell everyone they know too. You may want to set up social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to attract new members and fans as well as posting in local and relevant groups. Setting up a website with basic information will prove vital for those who are interested. Keep a list of those who’d like to join, and communicate key details to them clearly.
Music and Arrangements
When you’ve chosen your general musical preferences, it’s time to choose your first songs. You’ll probably want to select something to start with that will appeal to the group you’re trying to attract, or know will be joining. Simple yet songs effective songs are best to start your group, and those with an uplifting message can really engage your new members! You will then want to buy a vocal arrangement of your chosen song(s) to suit the makeup of your group, or, with the right permissions and skills, arrange something yourself.
Plan your Rehearsals
The way you approach rehearsals will depend on your goals and choir ethos. You may wish to prioritise certain techniques or spend more time on bonding or movement. All Starling Arts rehearsals begin with a physical and vocal warm-up to relax and energise.
At Starling Arts, we spend time learning new music, part by part, and look at vocal technique and delivery. We use easy-to-follow professional performance exercises to get the best from our singers and focus on the overall sound and effect of the group. For songs that require it, we look at movement as a group, broken down into smaller sections. Where possible our rehearsals include a break, which is a good chance to get to know the other singers.
You’ll need to bring a register, including emergency contact details for your members, a cash float if you are charging a participation fee, copies of the music you’re using and a copy of your plan! Added extras are folders, pencils and refreshments!
You’ll want to ensure you have sorted any necessary insurance and paperwork, especially if you’ll be working with young or vulnerable people. Keep copies of your important paperwork accessible and set up a bank account / tax records if you’ll be charging subscription fees.
Spread the Word!
Once you’ve started your choir, you’ll want to celebrate it! Post updates, photos and videos from your social media pages and website and interact with your members and fans online! Before long you’ll want to plan a concert or performance - start small and informal and work up to larger scale performances for the public to enjoy! Keep referring back to your original goals, and include your members in discussions about the future of your choir!
Need some help?
Contact us about setting up a choir for your school, office or community! With seven years of experience, we can guide and work with you to develop your musical project!