By Peter Niedmann
As choir directors, we all face the challenge of “keeping it interesting” for our singers. Many of them have been in the group for decades, singing the same anthems year after year. If there aren’t new elements regularly introduced into your program, boredom and lack of growth can take hold. I’ve been leading the same choir for 24 years—several singers with me the whole time. The good thing about that long relationship is that principles and techniques we’ve been working on together are deeply ingrained in the group. The core repertoire is familiar and strong, and can be polished quickly.
The downside of a long tenure is the tendency towards comfort and complacency. Look back at your old planning books; do you see only the same anthems repeated every season? Or, is there a regular infusion of new music? The trick is to find the balance between familiar and new pieces, so the choir isn’t overwhelmed.
Other ways to keep your choir interested:
- Concerts. Plan a Spring Pops concert with some Broadway and secular songs. If you have strong soloists, give them a chance to shine, too.
- Guest conductors. Bring in someone you respect to work with your choir for a night. The singers will wake up and work hard for a new person. The guest conductor will bring fresh insights as well as reinforce things you’ve been saying for years.
- YouTube. Email your singers exemplary video performances of pieces you’re working on. Give them a high standard to emulate.
- Expand the repertoire. Have you ever sung a piece in French? A folk song from Jamaica? A gospel song with keyboard, bass, and drums? Singers love to try new things if the end result is beautiful.
If you keep it interesting for the choir, you keep it interesting for the congregation…and for you!