Respecting and working with choir members who used to be the directors
  • Up until five years ago, the music ministry at my new job was run by volunteers in the church. They are a lovely older couple whose family has been in this church for its entire 80 year history. The director before me did not respect these people, or their 30 year unpaid commitment to managing and building the music program there. Even the current pastor gets irritated with them sometimes because they still like to sit up front and "lead" the hymns. I had a chance to talk to the wife yesterday. I need to know what music they've done recently, what they haven't done in a while, what do they like, what they don't, and so on. From my perspective, this couple is going to be very helpful to someone like me, coming from the outside and not having a clue about any of those things. I think it's only natural that they still want to feel "useful", and I don't have an issue with allowing them to pretend-lead the hymns (you can't really hear them anyway). The wife also purchased a Christmas cantata with her own money just before they hired the previous director, but I found the parts still in the wrapping. She was sad that they didn't use any of it. Maybe we won't use the whole thing, but I know it will make her happy if we do a few pieces from it. Considering the music fund is in the negative at the moment, I will barely have enough to scrape together enough for the two pieces I want to purchase-buying another cantata is out of the question right now. I don't know. I'm more about working with people, and I'm not about to disrespect these people. I didn't realize their influence until they explained it to me yesterday. Have any of you had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Or, how do you maintain your authority while making people like this feel like they still get a "say" in things? I feel like they deserve that.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,890
    I had to get across to one, who has retired many times from many churches, that I appreciate her input but the job is no longer her responsibility. She retired, left for a few weeks, then realized she had few friends outside of the choir and returned. We get along well and she has been really helpful in some instances, although I am much more traditional in music choices than she was.

    I think - my 2 cents - that when a musician retires they should stay away for at least a year to give the new person time to take control and put together a program. Seems like a common courtesy to me.
  • Fidem,

    If it's within your means to do this, invite the couple to your house for afternoon tea (or something similar). If/when you do something the couple doesn't like, you will have already established a certain rapport, and they will know that you're not doing (whatever) out of spite or cluelessness. Listen (politely) to whatever they have to offer, but don't feel obligated to do whatever they suggest.

    Thanked by 2mmeladirectress bdh
  • @Chris Garton-Zavesky:

    That is a really great idea! My house can be a little busy with three kids and four cats but they're all pretty tame now LOL! Our yard is wonderful for entertaining, too...maybe even have a "get to know everyone" party, start a bonfire....yes! (I'll take any excuse to party here lol)
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,687
    "I think - my 2 cents - that when a musician retires they should stay away for at least a year to give the new person time to take control and put together a program. Seems like a common courtesy to me."

    Certainly for professionals who are not parishioners. But long-time volunteers who are also parishioners will never be able to fully stay away, even if they cease active involvement, and they have no duty to you to become entirely invisible.
    Thanked by 1PaxMelodious
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Now that I am officially retired, I've retained leadership over only one weekend Mass in our three parish merge, and have no intention of asserting myself into the machinations of my successor, my organist of 26 years, who's going to do a great job. Why retire if you can't let it all go? Besides, it's much more fun to just show up in ChasW's joint and kibbutz.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,890
    Hah! LOL. I'm sure we have all met individuals who can't let go of things and move on with their lives. I don't think that fits either of us, but I have dealt with some like that.
  • Thanks for your input everyone. The couple still sings in the choir. I don't get the impression at all that they want to control things, they just want to be included. I'm thinking to start a rotation with hymn leading. To be honest this church doesn't necessarily need a hymn leader because the congregation is just AMAZING with their singing, even with new stuff. I still can't believe I'm there, it's just so wonderful to hear them all on Sunday mornings. But giving choir members and/or parishioners a chance to lead I think is a good thing.
  • have had 2 experiences with singers who used to be CDs, either here or somewhere else. I found both to be very cooperative and helpful

    but I did have to keep reminding each of them to sing with one hand holding the score, and one hand in the pocket.
    I have no doubt I will be the same one day!
    Thanked by 1CCooze