Motivating a choir
  • tdwee
    Posts: 1

    I have just been given a task take charge of our parish's choir (consisting of 7 different groups), and as the different choirs are at different footing, i thought that i would be good to begin by providing a basic input of the importance of the role of a choir member. i wish to also provide some encouragement and motivate the members at the same time to really love their roles and to give their all.

    As this is my first time dealing with choirs, i don't really have much materials to start with. I am wondering if anyone could help and point me to some good source on this matter, in particular the topics below:

    - the role of a church choir.
    -the role of a choir member.
    -the dilemma of balancing one's musical talents and singing in a choir
    -quotable quotes on the importance of choir in liturgy
    -motivational lines for choir

    thanks a lot. any help is highly appreciated.

  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Last summer I read a book Lois and Fred Bock called "Creating Four-Part Harmony." The title refers to four areas that a church musician must achieve balance for a successful choir program. It's an easy read and has a lot of helpful suggestions in those areas.
  • - the role of a church choir.

    I would say the choir’s role is primarily to enhance the liturgy by singing music whose complexity or lack of repetition makes it unsuitable for the entire congregation. So, there is a legitimate tradition, for example, of giving the entrance, offertory, and/or communion songs/chants to the choir. Additionally, the choir can sing in alternation with the congregation--again, ideally, with the choir singing music that the congregation would not feasibly be able to sing well.

    -the role of a choir member.

    To be in the choir? Not sure what the issue is here....

    -the dilemma of balancing one's musical talents and singing in a choir

    Do you mean the soloist-versus-ensemble thing?

    The best singers I know (professionals) are usually among the best choral singers, too.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,899
    Don't forget the social side. We have a group that has been together for a number of years. We are all friends and we look after each other. You would be surprised how far a choir party or social event will go toward cementing good relationships. A little Irish coffee goes a long way at Christmas, too.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    yes, the social side of the choir might be more than 50% of it, maybe more like 90%. People have to know and like each other (it was totally different in band, btw, in which no one cared a thing about others). This aspect of the choir must be cultivated constantly. It is like Second Life.
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    In my program the biggest stumbling block is talented members who cannot make a total commitment. It makes my life a lot easier when they sing in the choir, but I learned the hard way that people buzzing in and out can create some bad feelings among the crowd you can always count on. If you make a rule that you have to be at rehearsal in order to sing, what happens when Big Bob, who's a fantastic tenor with great choral instincts and skills but whose work often takes him away, etc. shows up and wants to sing, and you both know he can cut it? Do you bend the rules for him or tell him sorry? What about people who only want to sing at Christmas or Easter? Or WORSE (in my opinion) always leave for Christmas and Easter? I think the role of the choir member is inextricably tied up with what you expect from the choir member. You don't want to scare them away by demanding a blood deposit, but it's very hard to have a healthy, prosperous program without developing a sense of the importance of dedication to the group. You might need to do this gradually, or you might decide it's better to be strict at the beginning.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Yes, we've had people attend one rehearsal and then drop out because they realize that joining will amounted to a major life change.
  • That's why I am not currently in a regular parish choir. My wife put up with missing Christmas with her or my parents when I was making part of our living as a DM, but I can't make that argument now. With that I don't feel right about committing to a choir.
  • Practical circumstances...a very capable organist who insists on three weeks to prepare anything to be played...resulted in what we call the three week rule. Everything we sing is rehearsed for at least three weeks. If someone misses a rehearsal, or even two, they may sing on Sunday morning because they have sung what we are doing at least once. It makes it easier for those who HAVE to miss for very valid reasons to stay in the choir and they seem over two years to have become very loyal to the choir.

    The social side is very important as some have already established. Ignoring this side of it has been the downfall of many very capable directors who fail to try and understand the people that sing for them.

    And...and this can be very, very nice to everyone who sings for you at all times. Especially if they are a royal pain in the butt. If they are out to get a goat, do not let it be yours. This sounds saccharine and ridiculous to some, but I have worked under, coached for and auditioned with some big name musicians and the ones that are jerks have never had my respect....regardless of their musical abilities.

    Their tirades and vicious attacks on musicians under their batons cause me to shake my head when I hear their recordings, or hear someone rave about their conducting.

    noel at
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    My father always had the rule to never attempt to build a program. Just do what you can to do quality work with whatever you have, week to week. This way you are not devastated when people leave, don't show, or whatever. You can be genuinely grateful for what they have done in the past. If the program really does grow into something big and wonderful, it will be a result, not an intention. He emphasized to me that this is very important for the sanity of the director. Otherwise, you will be frustrated your whole life, make everyone around you miserable, and then die unhappy. If you forget about building a program, you can do wonderful, small things every week and live a happy life.
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    Frogmusicnj, I couldn't agree more, and when I look back at the really fantastic people I was able to work with, one thing always stands out: they were gracious and went out of their way to treat their musicians with dignity and respect. Sometimes humor a little on the jagged side, but it was all in good fun and nobody ever got offended. We want the choir to be there because they WANT to. Then, like Jeffrey's dad said, you don't so much have to work at building your program, it just grows because it's succeeding, and nothing draws like success.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 992
    Jeffrey - Your father was a very wise man.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    By the way, he never followed his advice.

    Before he died, when he saw where I was headed with this stuff, saw that I would likely repeat the same error, he gave him this thought above. He also pleaded with me to "never enforce attendance; inspire people to come and make them feel like they missed something spectacular if they don't come."
  • Intrinsic motivation?! ;)
    Wonderful idea. Thank you to you and your father!