I want to start by making something very clear – I am not writing this to show off. I have no intention of saying – “Hey, Look at me, I had 130 at choir today”. Depending on context, 130 might be small or just unrealistic, who knows, and it isn’t really what I want to focus on here. The purpose of me writing this is to just share what I have done with my girls choir over the last few years in the hope that it might help someone. I would love to hear from anyone who is looking to start a choir or revamp a choir.
So where do I start?
Well about 5 years ago I started the girls choir – I have a boys choir too, but there are only 30 in that. But look, it isn’t about numbers at all it is about so much more than that. When I started the group there were about 12 girls and they were committed and worked so hard. Today I had 130 and it is just the most fun, inspiring, exciting and rewarding thing to be part of. I love all of my extra curricular work but I am so pleased with how the choir has developed. Here are some thoughts:
- We sing what they know, like, love, enjoy.
- We don’t try to be something we are not – a choir of this size is all about access to singing and there is no sense of it being an advanced choral group. It is a choir for everyone. It isn’t really classical or chamber like – you know what I mean.
- We meet twice a week to rehearse and this continues for the entire year. We rarely miss a rehearsal. Commitment is key! As is punctuality.
- Rehearsals are accessible. Girls are allowed to bring their lunch along and it is casual whilst being structured. The atmosphere is just lovely, a real community feel.
- Simple but effective – I aim to make sure that we get songs ready for performance quickly and we are then able to perform at the start of term in events such as open evening. I don’t try and sing anything too hard, but also push them to sing with style and good technique.
- I don’t use music of any kind. I don’t give out any paper and they are able to look up lyrics on their phones and learn them at home. But having said that, I mainly choose songs that they already know.
- On occasion we add some simple choreography/dance moves. This brings the choir and our performances to life – those sessions are called Dance Club, it is fun! But it isn’t for everyone or for every song. Just once in a while.
- I like to think that I make the rehearsals enjoyable. Sometimes we just have a sing – Posh Karaoke I like to call it. We sing through some stuff and it gives me a chance to see what they know and what might work.
- I work out the parts and harmonies as we go and I am not afraid to do a lot in unison. The thing is when 130 girls then go into harmony after a verse in unison, it sounds amazing!
- I make sure that we perform as often as possible in a variety of settings and locations. Finding out where you can perform locally is crucial and Christmas is a great time to go out and get singing.
Making an extra curricular group work is about making it about the students in front of you. Some might say that I could be doing more with SSAA arrangements or that I could be pushing the more able singers. But I love what I have. I love it that lots of girls can be part of a community and enjoy singing. And the thing is, they sound pretty good and they enjoy themselves and so do I. The harmonies/arrangements I come up with (with the help of the students) are not always easy. I make sure they are pushed and I make sure that they work hard. We split into 4 parts at times, but as I say, unison is amazing.
If you have a choir and numbers are low or you want to just try something different then maybe have a go at some of the things I have suggested or get in touch. Repertoire is key and so is the atmosphere that you create. If they are giving up their lunch it better be worth it! And I give up my lunch because I just absolutely love it.
Would this work for boys, maybe. I am working on that this year.
Oh and to finish with, today we sang:
Build Me Up Buttercup – 3 part harmony that I have developed with the girls
Wannabe – The Spice Girls at their best! The rapping bits were so much fun with that many students
Bring It All Back – A timeless Classic from S Club 7, 4 part harmony at one stage, the only harmony is in the chorus!