How to find new choir members....and directors.
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    Now, this sounds like I am about to spout off advice on how I did it and how you should do it.

    But i'm not. It's about understanding how other people think and react to the idea of joining/singing and being part of a chant/polyphyonic choir.

    What got you in the choir that you are in now? Something in the paper? Something you heard from a friend? Tell us your own personal experience and let us learn from it. If you are the director, how did that come about?
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I've found that personal contacts and one on one appeals work best.

    I've put things in the church bulletin, had the pastor mention it, etc. and got ZERO resposes or successes each time. Where I've gotten people is where someone knows someone or I know of someone and talk to them personally.
  • Paix, I totally agree with that approach. Even ministry fairs do little in my neck of the woods. Word of mouth and personal solicitation seems to be the best method after bulletin ads, ministry fairs, etc. A lot of times people feel like church choirs are composed of groups of people who have been together for a long time and are against new membership, when, in reality, choirs are always looking for new people. A personal one-on-one invitation to come and sing through a rehearsal seems to work best.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    A lot has to do with how a program is presented. If you present your program in the right light and have the right people involved, recruitment is really easy.

    Bulletin ads can work - if your program is such that people are yearning to be a part of it. Don't worry - if people aren't yearning yet, you can eventually get there with the right steps.

    Personal contact is good... if you're charming, likable and competent. Personal contact is bad if you're awkward, uncomfortable and/or not quite competent yet.

    And the statement "choirs are always looking for new people," isn't necessarily true. Some choirs are very comfortable with the status quo of members and don't really want to upset things.. I mean, things are pretty good. We all go out to brunch and fit at the one table we really like at Restaurant X. If other people join they might want to go to brunch... Or they might be younger/older than us. Or they might not be as talented as us... or they might be too talented... In any event, new folks can be a threat to the way things "have always been."

    At any rate, if you're having problems recruiting, you should always HOPE and PRAY that YOU are the problem. Why? Because it's a lot easier to change what you're doing than it is to change the status-quo choir, the pastor, etc...
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    Bulletin notices serve to reinforce, while they often do not have a direct result, they do get people talking...and that always pays off.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    It also could depend on your bulletin - which you might have no control of. My current parish's bulletin is sometimes 20 pages long. It's like a magazine that people are supposed to read each week. A small announcement hidden in 20 pages of stuff is not really good advertisement.

    I tend to find that parishes with very good bulletins have people who read the bulletins. Parishes with bulletins riddled with spelling errors, incorrect information, lots of massively-reproduced content, etc... tend to be largely ignored.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    To answer Noel's question, why are people in choir? Because they want to be!

    I've found that what you need to do is drag people in kicking and screaming. Give them a taste of it - let them sing for a Sunday. Form an ad hoc men's choir. Give a choral workshop.

    At my church, we advertised "Amateur hour", where anyone could come and sing with the choir on the 2nd Sunday of Easter. We had 3x as many "amateurs" as regular choristers! Even if it doesn't pay off in numbers, it gives people an idea of what it is that the choir DOES, which will make them more supportive of the music program.
  • With all due respect, if choirs are not looking for new people and satisfied with the group they have because of things like going out to brunch, or whatever, then they are not true ministry. Being a member of music ministry should not give a forum for frustrated singers or musicians who can't find work elsewhere. And, because of this, should be open and loving to anybody who is interested. Change is inevitable in all walks of life, and being a threat to "the way things have always been" is not being in ministry. Sorry, but I am VERY passionate about my feelings on this matter. As DM, if the choir does not accept new people with open arms and hearts, then I feel they need to re-visit why they are there in the first place. Right now I am dealing with a very sensitive issue involving a long-time singer who has gotten older and is no longer able to cantor, but insists on doing so. I've had to hire a couple of outside younger singers to carry the masses. It has caused several people to leave the ministry because "it's not like it used to be". Are we in ministry because we want to lead the congregation in worship through song, or are we in ministry to satisfy gentle egos? I also lost several musicians because they refused to share the "limelight" with the children's choir and were afraid the kids would somehow "upstage" them. This is not ministry.

    It is my opinion that choirs should always be on the lookout for dedicated, talented singers. And DM's should be open and honest about where certain singers should be placed (i.e, whether or not they are cantor material).
  • marajoymarajoy
    Posts: 781
    No need for your apologies about being passionate- I doubt anyone here disagrees with you. :-)
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I was always involved in church music in some way. After having a baby I left my job as a teacher to be a SAHM. I wanted a part-time job and the position I have now (director of the senior choir) appeared in the Catholic Register in Canada. I phoned the contact, had a brief phone interview which lead to a rehearsal, where I had to direct. I received a phone call that I got the job, and have been there for ten years.

    Most of my members come from personal contacts of people in the choir, me included. People often don't join because the mass we sing at is at an inconvenient time and they don't want to change their schedules (at least, that's what I'm told).

  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,866
    I announced here that I was looking for a choir, and another member took me on. Clearly, this is of limited applicability.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    We listen to the congregation, and when we hear someone singing rather well, we invite them to join us. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But we have gotten some good choir members this way.
  • Andrew Motyka
    Posts: 935
    At my church, we advertised "Amateur hour", where anyone could come and sing with the choir on the 2nd Sunday of Easter.

    I love this idea. I'm trying it as soon as it's reasonable.
  • I like your approach, CharlesW....maybe I should start sending out "spies".......
  • I was a member of two different choirs in different cities here in Canada. In both cases, I was approached by people who asked whether I wanted to be part of the choir. There was nothing mentioned in the bulletin. It so happens that I have 10 years of piano, can sing and can read music. Those choirs were successful.

    Maybe I should take the same approach in our parish and seek out those who would be interested. I'm still looking for an opportunity to form a new small choir that has a genuine interest in music ministry. Our existing choir is a complete disaster and consists of elderly people (not to knock down on them, but there's no one else, except the guitar and bongo drum people) who - I'm very sorry to say this - simply cannot sing and/or read music, and are extremely limited in what they sing. Imagine listening to O Come Emmanuel three times at every Sunday mass for one month during Advent, plus some 6 other pieces sung throughout the rest of the year, every Sunday, every year, for a decade. And the organ moans and groans with tired tones. I'm trying to resist the temptation to go to the new Extraordinary Mass that started up last year in our city. The existing choir and director are not genuinely interested in the music ministry, it's just a group that's there among friends.

    Any suggestions or critical feedback is welcome.
  • I can relate to having a difficult choir, believe me. But, your DM (I'm assuming that is not you), is responsible for planning a variety of music based on the needs of the seasons, not on what the choir can sing and it is his/her job to rehearse that music. If the director is not interested, then how can she/she possibly motivate the choir to be better singers with a wider repertoire? A group among friends is wonderful in forming cohesiveness with the music, but certainly not a reason for maintaining a ministry.

    Have you approached the director with your own ideas and solutions? In some cases, directors stay status quo because they feel the people are satisfied. Without any kind of feedback, they are just doing what they've always done.
  • I joined our choir upon moving to this lovely, very small town. I just always have been in choirs, since childhood. How I became to be DM is another story. I was the only person in the choir who knew how to count to 2, 3, and 4. NONE of them knew what a time signature was. Including the organist.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    Well, that'll do it!
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • Our former DM didn't read music, either, nor played the organ/keyboard/piano. She was plucked from another parish because our pastor at the time thought she had a decent voice and offered her a very attractive contract (nothing like mine and I have a music education). God does work in mysterious ways, that's for sure.
  • Charles in CenCA
    Posts: 2,416
    Our former DM didn't read music, either, nor played the organ/keyboard/piano. She was plucked from another parish because our pastor at the time thought she had a decent voice and offered her a very attractive contract...

    This says it all. Makes the blood boil. Makes Frogman hopping mad I know as well! Has nothing to do with money. Has everything to do with "subsidiarity gone wild" and lack of oversight or accountability.

    Here's what I propose as the CMAA guidelines for a DM job interview:
    1. Hand candidate copy of SEP.
    2. Ask candidate to open to any Proper contained within SEP.
    3. Candidate will demonstrate ability to correctly perform chosen Proper.
    4. If candidate says "Huh?", say "Thank you for your time. Next!"
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    How I became to be DM is another story. I was the only person in the choir who knew how to count to 2, 3, and 4. NONE of them knew what a time signature was. Including the organist.

    How remarkable! That's how I obtained my first musician's position in a parish!
  • noel jones, aagonoel jones, aago
    Posts: 6,601
    Working out in churches, it is amazing how many people have been promoted to be organists or choir directors from the pews. In many ways this is due to a lack of education of priests about the role of a church musician. All in all, what is really amazing about this is how many times this approach ends up working, as it has here.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    I think of the parish where I grew up on suburban Long Island: no church, just a school auditorium (because it was much more important to build a school than to build a church due to the decree of the Council of Baltimore...), and a little Hammond electric organ.The organists, all volunteers it seemed, played chord buttons and swelled and used the tremolo a lot; they mimicked the "churchy" sound they heard in the movies. When the folk group started in 1970, it was such a blessed relief; they were expert musicians by comparison. My Dad, coming from a German Catholic family that had founded (as trustees) a German national parish in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sang, so he was my model; he was very unusual among the men of the parish, shall we say.

    Then, several years later, when I was finally given permission to go to Mass in the old parish 2 miles away (founded in the 1890s by German-American Benedictines, with a nationally regarded boy's choir and a small but fine pipe organ), I had some solace, but I was weird for my age group in preferring that environment....
  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289
    People joined the choir I was directed (at a historic church in Maryland) because, as one very fine violinist who was in the congregation during mass put it, "As I sat in the congregation, I heard this lovely little choir trying to do good music!" It's true. We struggled for years, and did some good things but we had to fight to achieve a decent sound doing anything complicated. But, the members were motivated and turned on by singing good music. Part of the success of the choir was that we were all patient with each other and understood that I would have to spend a lot of time going over parts.

    I know this was a draw for the parishioners. The word on the street was that I was patient and would do whatever it took to perform something tasty. (Of course I was patient, because I was teaching myself how to direct at the same time. As a piano major in music school - I only had one conducting class.)

    After five years, the choir hit a certain stride and was consistently good and that in itself attracted people.

    How I became a Director is a whole different story and I don't dare tell it because no one will believe me.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    Now we all want to know the story, Suze!
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    How I became a Director is a whole different story and I don't dare tell it because no one will believe me.

    How strange could that story possibly be? I'm sure I would believe you!
  • No one's story could be as bizarre as mine......tell, Tomboysuze!!!!!!
  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289
    I knew this would happen. It's going to sound so out there.....It involves a locution.
    Let me think about it. Me and my big mouth.

    You go first, Musicteacher.....
  • lol, would you ladies just spill the beans,, we are all dying to know
  • veromaryveromary
    Posts: 150
    Where's the next page button??? You can't leave us hanging there!
  • tomboysuzetomboysuze
    Posts: 289
    I'm working on it.....I did write it down, but it's too long.
    Reader's digest version in process.....

    Y'all comeback now, ya' hear?
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen veromary
  • AAaaaarrrrrgh!
    Thanked by 1veromary
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    This is better than Oprah! LOL
    Thanked by 1Wendi
  • Torculus
    Posts: 44
    And here we are, 10 days later. No Reader's Digest version yet. I am reminded of something Mark Twain allegedly said: "I would have made it shorter, but I didn't have the time."
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    Or, as Secretary of The Navy Josephus Daniels recounted Woodrow Wilson's saying:

    "If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now."
    Thanked by 1Claire H
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 593
    What got you in the choir that you are in now?

    I sing in St. Paul's choir here in Akron, Oh., I came to sing in this choir because my parish St. Mary's closed in 2010 as part of a diocesan reconfiguration. I was singing in St. Mary's Choir and joined that choir almost 40 years ago because I was asked by the choir director but really, I was called to join just as some are called to religious life. It's a kind of vocation for me. Currently our choir at St. Paul's consist of one tenor, me, and the rest are lady sopranos and altos. I'm surrounded by

    It's difficult to get new members. I've tried the direct approach by asking but the typical response is "I can't sing" to which I reply, "all the choir members are learning to sing, come and join us". We currently have announcement in the bulletin but no takers. It's a calling, you have to want to do it.

    Our choir is diminishing and aging. Our music director is a great teacher and a very accomplished musician and we are very lucky to have her. I don't have a solution for getting new members except prayer.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Prospective singer: I used to sing, but I can't now.
    Me: That's never stopped us.
  • Prospective singer: I used to sing, but I can't now.
    Me: That's never stopped us.

    What a clever response! I will certainly be using it in the future.

    (It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes... How late does the band play? About a half beat behind the drummer.)
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,943
    There are three reasons why you should join the choir:

    1. God gave you a beautiful voice, and you owe it to God to sing to his glory.
    2. God gave you a voice that is good enough to be greatly improved and to enjoy yourself by singing in the choir.
    3. God gave you a terrible voice, and at last this is your chance to get even.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I have considered using the solution the British navy used to get sailors, shanghaiing them. Wonder if that would work for getting choir members. It did start a war when the British did it but nothing is perfect.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Don9of11
  • CharlesW - at some point you'd have to remove the gag. :-o
  • kenstb
    Posts: 364
    My response to folks who claim that they can't sing is two fold.
    1. I remind them that EVERY warm blooded animal sings. Whales sing, wolves sing, birds and cats sing. Everyone is able to sing. It just takes learning to control your instrument, not unlike learning to drive.
    2. I remind them that God is never outdone in generosity. I say, "if God gave you a bad voice, give it back to Him. You will get better. "
  • bdh
    Posts: 4
    The choir I work with is a small church choir in a small, expat Anglican community in Italy. There are no paid members and, as an expat community, people are often here for only a short time. Nonetheless, the choir has managed to uphold a certain standard - ranging from Byrd and Tallis to early 20th century works - through the years, and in spite of ups and downs - because it was recognized by the whole community as an important element of their worship. The choir paid for their own director through "dues" and the church paid for the organist at rehearsals.
    A few years ago, the council decided they could only pay an organist for the Sunday service, not for rehearsals. The members were down to 7, we were no longer able to pay dues and we didn't have a director anyway.
    So we decided to just hang on, do our best and trust that God would "do the rest". Though I do read music, I have no musical training other than being with this choir for several years and observing the directors we have had. So I was asked to keep the time while another did what she could with the keyboard. That year, we were able to do several pieces we already knew plus one "new" (to us) piece by Tye.
    The hanging on was essential and sure enough, "the rest" came.
    First one organist then others volunteered to help us at rehearsals, free of charge, while greatly supplementing my lack of expertise (which I welcome! I hope I never make the mistake of overestimating what I am doing).
    We adopted an "open choir" format. In this city, there are many expats who are members of other choirs or are living their professional music careers here and happen to be friends of friends, etc. Many are willing enough to be roped in for occasional events such as Carol Services or Evensongs, as long as they don't need to make a permanent commitment.
    Usually, all that our "core" members need is that occasional support. The happy outcome of this is that many of these "guest singers" have either decided to become regular members or at least have become available for more than occasional singing. Some are non-churchgoers or even non-believers who have become interested in more than the singing...
    Another factor is that my personal lack of expertise is compensated by the superior knowledge, experience and "ear" of the choristers. For some reason, they have accepted my "leadership" and because they know what they are doing, it works.
    Yet another important factor in the recruitment is the contacts. Emails informing even the most infrequent of our guest singers of everything we are doing and planning with a dropbox link to all the scores. We have a choir group page on our phones to keep up with everything, including asking who is going to show up and who isn't. Now we have opened a second one with the recordings of the SATB parts to whatever we are practicing.
    Lastly, listening to people singing in pews is certainly helpful. For one thing, that is how we found our present organist, just because of his beautiful bass voice singing hymns.
    All of this is a rather patchwork solution, but this is how we are managing recruitment issues.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I say, "if God gave you a bad voice, give it back to Him. You will get better. "

    I haven't tried that but it sounds like a good approach. I think that in the back of my mind, I'm afraid God may say, keep it. I don't want it either. LOL.
    Thanked by 2Carol CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,934
    If they truly cannot sing on pitch I prefer they give their voice back to God in another choir somewhere else or from the shower stall.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    Yeah, do you really want just any - body? I don't know. I've gotten four bodies this year.... and two well, sigh....
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,934
    I Only had one person in my entire career That wanted to sing that could not hold pitch. Worse, They wanted to be a cantor. I worked with them week after week To see if I could remedy the problem. But I think the problem was psychological because they would get nervous and then go off pitch. Unfortunately the person was never able to Rise Above the problem.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 570
    My group did something I never thought would work.
    I had to eat my words majorly.
    They realised a letter in comic sans font.
    With a very funny little cartoon at the top of singers with their uvulars swinging about like a punching bag.
    The information was clear but the presentation looked ugly.

    But... It worked.
    We got not just 5 new people but 4 of those people were men! Good men who can really sing!

    I have no idea if it was released at a good time due to working on the mass setting and cleaning that up. And I have no idea if my announcements prior to mass was part of the cause.

    We are now at ful OHS capacity in the trancept.
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    I was a rock musician who went to a mission church every Sunday, and was tired of the lack of singing or the poor singing by the very few that were doing it. The "keyboard player" was not that good and the teens dressed like tramps and had no training whatsoever. So I asked if I could lead the choir with my guitar and my wife playing the keyboard.
    We sang all sorts of ditties and the crowd loved it, until I figured, there must be something more to this music at mass stuff. It felt like we were just singing silly songs.
    I searched and searched for music that made more sense to me and I found the CMAA and this forum. I have learned so much over the past 10 years and now that we are a full grown Parish with an organ (electronic, don't judge), and a nice choir, we seem to get a great response from the parishioners and the priests.

    We recently have grown by 3 members, mainly because I joined a local choral group and asked if any of them would like to join my church choir.

    Currently we have 4 Sopranos, 2 Altos, 2 Tenors, 2 Bass (I am one of the Bass, actually a tenor but we do what we must).

    I hold note reading and sight singing classes as well as Gregorian chant classes every summer and get a member or two that way sometimes.
  • Carol
    Posts: 760
    Joining a community choir and inviting a few to join your church choir is a brilliant move!
    Thanked by 1donr
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    However there are unintended consequences of such a move. They now want me to lead it.