Choir recruitment in Covid era
  • Pardon me if this has been asked before.

    Those of you who are in parishes/dioceses that have allowed the resumption of regular choral activities, what have you found has changed in the covid era, and what were some strategies you used to overcome hesitation or do recruitment in the current environment.

    My numbers had been fairly steady for the last 5 years or so until covid. While none of my members have succumbed to the 'vid, I have several who remain out of choir, out of precaution (which I understand). We also had the devastating loss of a highly talented and devoted soprano who died from complications from a brain tumor last year.

    Is this something I should be stressing about or should I be content to have 7 to 8 with inconsistent voice coverage for the time being?
  • HCMusicGuy,

    Whether you should stress about about this depends on something you didn't tell us, or possibly several somethings you didn't tell us. Is the congregation as a whole growing? Have you tried to recruit, but failed? Does most of your repertoire require more voices than you currently have, reliably? What does your pastor expect you to do about the present situation?
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • Elmar
    Posts: 464
    Seconding Chris's disclaimers, I'd add that the first step might be consolidation of what comes out of the past period (singers are exhausted more quickly, voice range narrowed) before further recruiting; will members who haven't 'yet' come back eventually do so?

    Incidentally, the choir of my own parish in which I still sang at times - when duties permitted - before covid, proudly announced a couple of weeks ago that "nobody has resigned during the pandemy" before even checking the members' intention to return, and therefore couldn't yet know that I won't.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 832
    Since we restarted, my choir has lost one member (not due to Covid, however) and gained three. I've had two more inquiries but the people couldn't manage the schedule. In general, I have found that interest has increased because people are anxious to get back to normal. It's also helpful that choir members don't have to wear masks while everyone else does.
  • I started at a new parish two months ago. We had our first choir practice last week -- we are requiring masks because the choir area is not far from the congregation, and because we have several older members that feel more comfortable if everyone is masked. (We also have a state mask mandate, but the diocese I am in elected to leave decisions on choir masking up to the parish level.)

    There were 25 or so members before Covid, according to the prior director. There are five or six people (either immunocompromised or related to someone who is) sitting out until Covid is done done, plus another four or five that retired, moved, or died.

    But I also got eight new people, including two tenors in their early 20s -- I made the point in recruiting that everyone has to start from scratch, so this is the perfect time to jump into music ministry and give it a shot. And the first few pieces we're doing are ones no one really knows (even though they're fairly easy), so that everyone really is starting from scratch together.
  • But I also got eight new people, including two tenors in their early 20s

    this requires a parish to have tenors in their twenties... sigh.

    In three years I've only been able to attract a small handful of souls... I receive frequent feedback from the congregation that they like what I'm doing, but no one will join to help do it. Frankly, there aren't that many individuals here who would even fit the bill.
  • When I started my current DM job in 2016 at a rather small country parish (mission until a few years ago), I recruited a mixed schola and had seven or eight members. There was no music program previously other than an occasional keyboard. Seven to eight is about the size I would expect relative to the tininess of the parish. We were able to pull off occasional parts for hymns and polyphonic motets. In the years since, two or three (young) members have moved to other parts of the country, and one or two have stopped attending Mass (at least at our parish). We have next to no young people in the parish, and those folks who are active volunteer-prone parishioners are already lectors, ushers, sacristans, servers, etc. The volunteer pool is stretched very thin. We have gained no schola members in a couple of years, and Mass attendance at the parish itself is shrinking (which has been exponentially sped up by COVID fallout). This leaves us with four, my wife and I included, on a good day. We still do a good job with what we have (hymns, chanted propers, chanted ordinaries, sung dialogues and whatnot), but gone are the days of singing in three or four parts on special occasions. It is a little disheartening, but I don't see how the schola can grow in the current circumstances. At least we're still able to keep things dignified, and at least we have a music program I suppose!
  • We're in a perpetual need of altos and sopranos. Anyone have some for sale? I'm willing to pay $0 for them, alas.

  • TCJ
    Posts: 832
    I would trade one alto for a tenor or a bass.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    (Fondly remembering my years in a choir with a dozen very strong altos and a half dozen tenors, where the A/T sections were more blended sight readers than the outer voices; it's like those years I was in a youth chamber orchestra where the string players were stronger than the wind players.)
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,349
    Post Covid, we have gained, two 16/17 year old tenors, 17 year old bass, 19 year old Bass, and another Bass in his twenties. Now we are short of Sopranos and Altos!

    Our Parish priest has been good at sending people our way. The dinner with wine after choir practice also helps!
  • Tomjaw,

    You must be mistaken. Only old people who hate Vatican II attend the EF, which was called that so it could be as rare as possible, until it is extinct.

    Thanked by 2tomjaw ServiamScores
  • It’s very easy to make something go extinct when you hunt it to death…
  • We're in a perpetual need of altos and sopranos. Anyone have some for sale? I'm willing to pay $0 for them, alas.

    Chris, I don't know where you're located, but I am a soprano in Connecticut who loves excuses for road trips.

    The dinner with wine after choir practice also helps!

    This is the secret to that Anglican sound we've heard so much about.
  • Anna,

    I'm on the opposite coast.
    Thanked by 1Anna_Bendiksen
  • I'd be thrilled to have 7-8 really. Today we had a full house: 3 sopranos (one the pre-pubescent daughter of the alto) an alto and a baritone (me). We had a tenor who'd had COVID AND was vaccinated, but the rest of the Schola is militantly unvaccinated, so he's been staying away. We had 16 or so "on the rolls" in March 2020 and typically had ca. 10 on any given Sunday. Most of our issue is that there's now a 2nd TLM in town, at a more convenient time (blended parish, so we can't move ours). But they haven't been getting people either. Some of our old haven't-returned folks like the freedom of choosing either Mass, so they won't commit.

    So I've got nothin', and await the collective wisdom.