Public perception of what a choir should and can be has changed drastically in the last ten years. From an image dominated by traditional school choirs and angelic church choirs in robes, the format, function and reach of choirs has seen drastic development.
A plethora of different types of choral singing groups have burst onto the scene, or received a greater platform thanks to a rise in popularity, cultural exposure and the internet. In London alone you could choose to join LGBT choir The Pink Singers, all male singing gang Chaps, The Mixed Up Chorus, an intercultural and intergenerational 80-voice choir and, of course, a show choir specialising in musical theatre, pop and performance, like the choirs we run at Starling Arts.
There's a choir for everyone.
The possibilities are limitless, and the future should see choirs continue to bring together people who may or may not necessarily have the chance to meet and sing together otherwise.
Free Range Settings
Alongside the usual venues of a school or place of worship where one might traditionally expect to find a group of people singing together, choirs are popping up in hospitals, nurseries, prisons, offices and pubs.
With no special equipment needed, many choirs choose a portable keyboard or singing without accompaniment, widening options still.
Choirs are more "free range" than they've ever been before, and it's likely that new choral groups will continue to pop up in unexpected places.
Importance of Social Media
Thanks to the internet, group singing is now a global activity. Eric Whitacre made waves by bringing together voices from around the world in his ‘Virtual Choir’ series. Many other choirs now use live streaming to broadcast their performances to wider audiences more instantly. No longer do you have to gather in one place to experience the power of group singing. Perhaps one day all choir rehearsals will take place remotely, with singers logging in from across the world to sing together.
Singing for Good
In recent years, many scientific and social studies have emphasised the health and well-being benefits of group singing, and as a consequence choirs have taken up valuable places in the treatment, rehabilitation and gathering of groups battling health or social barriers. Take the Choir With No Name, made up of people who've experienced or are currently homeless, or Tenovus ‘Sing With Us’ programme for anyone affected by cancer.
It's clear that singing offers much more than a chance to air your voice. It can transform lives and social networks, and the potential of singing for health and well-being is only just beginning to be explored. Expect to see more choirs in increasingly diverse therapeutic and community settings.
A Move Away from Traditional Teaching Methods
Many choirs no longer rely on an ability to read music, opening the field to novices. Some teach only by ear, with simple two or three part harmonies that singers with any level of experience can pick up quickly. There's no need to study music for several years to gain access to the world of choral singing, and new singers can quickly pick up vocal skills in a more relaxed environment than ever before.
Community choirs without an audition process offer a more open hand to those wishing to try singing in a choir for the first time. For many choirs, such as ours, no experience is necessary and no one need audition. In the future, this should lead to more people singing for fun, and in turn reaping the benefits that singing offers.
A Rise in Popular Culture
Thanks to programmes like Glee and the success of Gareth Malone’s hit series The Choir, the concept of choral singing is now widespread. No longer are choirs something only certain circles know about, but they're something recognisable by the masses. This exposure is leading more diverse groups to be attracted to the idea of trying choral singing, in its many different guises. As long as choirs continue to be a talking point, they will continue to grow in diversity, popularity and accessibility.
Where do you think the choirs of the future are heading? Let us know your thoughts below!
Watch our TEDx Talk 'Why the World Needs to Sing' for an insight into the power of group singing.