How Do You Deal With The Loss of a Choir Member?


“The song is ended, but the melody lingers on”  – Irving Berlin

This month’s blog post is a personal one and was prompted by the loss of three of our very own choir members in the past few weeks. It is a sad time and hard to comprehend that we will no longer hear their voices when we return to rehearsals in a few short weeks, and yet, there is comfort in the memories we have shared with them. So what happens when a choir member passes, and how do you deal with it in a sensitive and comforting way? Not only have you lost an important member of your choir, but your members have lost a friend, a confidant, a fellow Alto, Bass or Soprano or possibly even a family member – it’s important to acknowledge the loss and allow your members time to express, not only their sadness but also the joy that person bought to their lives.

Connecting with your choir after loss

For most, joining a choir becomes a huge part of who they are, so when someone passes, their friends and family will feel a connection and may reach out to let you know of their loved one’s passing. It is then up to you to share the news in a compassionate and comforting way. If a long-term illness was involved, their passing may have been expected, but there is also the possibility this could have been sudden and, therefore, a shock. Before making an announcement, consider writing a brief Eulogy that reflects the member’s impact on your choir. Find appropriate photographs showing their personality and share the circumstances of their passing in your private social media group or via email, allowing your members to comment.

Finding a way to share stories

Create a platform, whether via an online card, physical card, memory box, social media post or video, where your members can share their uplifting stories, memories, photographs and tributes. It is highly unlikely your entire choir will attend the celebration of life/funeral, so this can be an excellent way for your members to honour their memory and can later be shared with the loved ones of those who have passed.

Remembering and healing through song

During term time, take a few moments to dedicate (and have your choir sing) a song in honour of their fellow member. It might be their favourite song, or a piece you feel represents their personality but make it uplifting – the tears may flow, but music is healing, and there will be a sense of comfort, knowing you took the time to remember them. Alternatively, you could reach out to the family and offer to provide a recording of the choir singing one of their favourite songs – we often shy away from approaching people while they are grieving because it is “difficult”, but you will have been a big part of that person’s life, and your, connection, kindness and candour will be appreciated more than you know. If you do happen to be invited to the funeral/celebration of life, performing the choir member’s favourite song live would surely be the greatest honour of all, however emotionally challenging this might be. If a live performance is not possible, sharing a video of the choir performing a selection of songs from a recorded performance at the wake, featuring the choir member who has passed away, might also be a special way to honour the memory of a person who took so much joy and happiness from being part of your community.

Have you ever considered a Threshold Workshop?

A few years ago, we were contacted by The Threshold Choir, who were interested in running a collaborative workshop to spread the word of their unique and compassionate service. A little sceptical, we pursued the opportunity and were incredibly uplifted to learn how, through music and song, terminally ill patients and their families could be comforted at the very end – the threshold of their lives. This was not a sad, sombre workshop but rather an incredibly uplifting experience, shared with an amazing group of men and women. The Threshold Choir love to share their music and stories, and for any Choir Leader looking to convey music’s true power and beauty at one of life’s most challenging times, a visit from this wonderfully talented Choir taught us how to share our music with confidence, even under such sad circumstances.

There are many ways to acknowledge the loss of a choir member; the important thing is that you do it in a way that works specifically for your choir. Sometimes circumstances will dictate how much or how little you can do, but be confident in your approach and be sincere with all those involved. Having just experienced three losses in as many weeks, our hearts are broken but having spoken personally to all three families; we know our approach has been truly appreciated.

Did you enjoy our blog? Check out our other blogs on all choir related topics

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Marie Wong

Jamie, as someone who works in a hospice, your words and suggestions are absolutely spot on! Thank you for this and thank you for making Cool Choir a safe place for people like me who were told that they can’t sing so if they wanted to remain in the glee club they had to mouth the words. True story and I was in grade 6. I never sang again until now 🙂

Joy Porter

Oh and I should have said we dedicated that Christmas concert to the other 2 members who had died just a week or two before

Jamie Serafi

Beautiful. A dedication in memory of a performance is most certainly something special. ❤️

Joy Porter

Oh Jamie this is such a meaningful post for me right now as my choir too have suffered the death of 3 much loved choir members over past weeks
one whom we farewelled just two days ago came to our Christmas concert ( the first concert in 2 years ) sat in her family car with the windows down beside an open door and sang along with us while connected to her feeding tube
At the end of the concert she welcomed her choir friends to come by the open car window to offer their farewells
What a gift that was that Meryn gave us ! I made a collection of remembering comments from her choir friends and gave them to her sons at last Friday’s funeral
Jamie, your comments here have given me lots to think about going forward too thank you

Jamie Serafi

Hi Joy

What a moving account you have given today of how much your choir meant to this lady that she chose to spend the last days of her life listening to the choir perform. I truly cannot imagine what higher honour there could be for you all – what a beautiful reflection on your work and your community. Sending you love and light from Canada Joy! ❤️

Marian Hamilton

This is a timely article for our choir and for myself. We have lost three choir members in the last two years whose deaths were unexpected. I recently encountered lingering grief when a choir member asked me to remove a photo of one of the deceased. It was too hard for her to look at it. I like the idea of dedicating a performance or song to our lost loved ones.

Jamie Serafi

Hi Marian

Thank you for taking the time to read the blog – we’re so pleased it was helpful to you. We’re also very sorry to hear that you too have lost choir members. Sometimes we are so busy building community that we can forget just how strong the bonds between people are. Then when one of the members passes away, the shock waves ripple through the choir and, yes, “linger” for some time. That’s a very poignant word for sure. When the next opportunity arises, dedicating a song in memory (or/and even placing a written dedication in a show booklet) would always be special and heartfelt – for you, the choir and the family and friends of the person in question. Sending you love and light, Marian.