Engaging Your Choir Through Repertoire!
If it’s not already on your radar, it’s time to think about repertoire for the upcoming season. Music choices can make or break a show finale and add to the enjoyment of your members, and it’s more important now than ever to get it right. As well, as your members dip their toes back in the water after a long hiatus, repertoire (although not everything) can certainly help influence their decision to return. This month, the Canadian Choir Leader Network (CCLN) looks at a few simple practices that will help you choose repertoire to engage, entertain and create an impact!
Here are 5 factors to consider when planning your repertoire for the year ahead:
1) Reflect on what’s happening in the world currently! With the pandemic raging on (albeit more controlled), there can be no better time to look at repertoire that reflects the moment. Uplifting, powerful songs or pieces of resilience and survival will resonate with your choir, and there is nothing more magical than feeling connected emotionally to what you are singing. Of course, this will also show in the delivery at any future performance; the audience will ‘feel’ the emotion and will feel equally connected – it’s a two-way street, and your audience reaction is just as important as your choir’s.
2) Get your own creative juices flowing! You could consider writing a special song or piece for your choir that reflects the current mood and gives life-changing local or world events a sense of authenticity. How truly special your members will feel knowing you have taken the time to create something exclusively for them, and if you’re not confident enough to tackle this on your own, reach out to our wider choir leader community for advice or collaboration. After all, if we can’t help each other and share our own knowledge, the only thing that really matters will suffer – the music!
3) Allow your choir to help you choose the repertoire! Give your choir the power and hold a vote. Depending on the size of your choir, you could have each member submit one, two or three songs or pieces they would like to sing. Only you know what will work for your choir, so it will be up to you to use your knowledge and skills to filter these accordingly – would it work as a choir arrangement? Is there a choir arrangement readily available? Does it have the wow factor? Is it suitable for a wider audience? Once you have a shortlist, throw it back open to the choir to vote. Such a simple exercise can make your choir feel totally invested and valued while you maintain control by selecting only those songs or pieces you know will work. It’s a perfect balance!
4) Pick unique repertoire that hasn’t been done before! We’ve all been there, we’ve chosen songs or pieces because they’re popular and “perfect” for a choir, but sometimes it’s exhilarating to think outside the box and choose music that no choir has ever done before. It might even come from an artist or composer who no one has ever heard of, so dig deep and seek out something unique or quirky. We are, after all, educators and what better way to educate your choir than to teach and introduce them to a music that’s never been done before! There is no better feeling than knowing you are a choir that stands out from the crowd thanks to your unusual and never-before-performed repertoire choices.
5) Pick a theme! When selecting your repertoire, think about a theme for a semester or even the entire season. Your members and audience should feel they are on a journey and when your entire year’s work comes together in one performance, imagine how cohesive it will be if it seamlessly tells a story. For example, you could pick music from different era’s – who doesn’t love to be taken on a musical journey through the ages? Look at songs or pieces that tell a story, much like a modern-day musical but using repertoire that reflects your choir’s style and energy. Or, if it works for you, you could even look at a specific genre of music like jazz, musical theatre or country music.
Whatever you decide where repertoire is concerned, make sure your choir and audience will love it, open your new season and end your final show with an epic, knock-them-out-of-the-park song or medley that they’ll be talking about for years to come. As artists, we strive for perfection, but perfection comes in many forms, and often it starts with the perfect song – we can teach them to sing it perfectly but what we can’t do, is engage them with a song that just doesn’t grab them from the get-go. Good luck with your upcoming season; go out there and grab them with YOUR knowledge, skills and the perfect music choices!
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