Songs – the lifeblood of a choir! How do we choose them, and keep choosing them every new term?
There’s no magic formula that will just work for everyone. I can’t tell you which songs to choose – what I can do is suggest a few things to consider when making your own choices.
Firstly, who are you choosing for?
Your song choices affect a number of people – your singers, your audiences, but also you (and your accompanist if you have one). It’s worth thinking about having some crowd-pleasers for the audience, some songs you know the singers will love to sing, and hopefully also some that will bring you great joy to lead. What’s the mix between them?
Next, there’s the balancing act between new material and old favourites.
Some choirs will only introduce a few new songs in a season, and others will do new repertoire every time – whereabouts on that spectrum is your choir (and do you want to shift it a bit)? Lots of new material means lots of learning (and potentially lots of expense), but if the majority of your songs are ones you’ve done before, that can be intimidating to new members, and maybe tough to keep fresh for everyone else. Strike the right balance for your group – and for you as their leader.
Representation is worth considering.
What do your songs say about your choir’s values, and is this important to you? How many songs by female writers you do, or by Black or gay writers (for example)? If you sing songs from other cultures, do you use that as an opportunity to learn more about that culture – and potentially to help your singers and audience members to learn too?
It’s also good to consider the “journey” through a programme.
Do you want to start with a bang, or entice people in? Is there variety of texture, or does everything sound similar? Is there a theme running through all the songs? What do you want the audience to have as a lasting memory?
whatever decisions you’ve made about your programme, you’ll need to source the music itself. There are great resources to help with this, from local music shops and libraries (although these are dwindling), to groups like The Inspire Club, alongside websites such as Sheet Music Plus, ChoirCommunity, Total Choir Resources etc. If you’re not sure where to find something, ask – choir leaders love sharing repertoire ideas!
The Inspire Club member, Tim Allen has led choirs for over thirty years. His career has included working alongside household names such as Brian May, Aled Jones, Toyah Willcox and Jane McDonald, as well as performances in iconic venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Bridgewater Hall, and the Sage Gateshead. His arrangements and orchestrations have been performed internationally, and he has run workshops for clients from small community choirs to major corporations. His main passion is for supporting others to achieve their potential. Visit www.timothyallenmusic.co.uk to find out more.