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


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

In this heartfelt blog post, we find ourselves reflecting on the departure of three cherished choir members within the past few weeks. This is undoubtedly a somber period, as it’s hard to fathom that their voices will no longer grace our rehearsals in the coming weeks. Yet, amidst this sorrow, there’s solace to be found in the memories we’ve collectively created with them. So, how does one navigate the loss of a choir member with sensitivity and comfort? It’s not just about losing a vital component of your choir; your members are also losing a friend, a confidant, a fellow alto, bass, or soprano, or perhaps even a family member. It’s crucial to acknowledge this loss and allow your members the space to express not only their grief but also the joy that these individuals brought into their lives.

Connecting with your choir after loss

For most individuals, joining a choir becomes an integral part of their identity. Consequently, when someone passes away, their friends and family often feel a strong connection to the choir community and may reach out to share the sad news. In such instances, it falls upon you to convey this news with compassion and comfort. Whether the passing was the result of a long-term illness or a sudden shock, consider composing a brief eulogy that captures the member’s impact on your choir. Share appropriate photographs showcasing their personality and communicate the circumstances of their passing through your private social media group or via email, allowing your members to offer their condolences and share their thoughts.

Finding a way to share stories

Establish a platform, whether it’s an online card, a physical card, a memory box, a social media post, or a video, where your choir members can share their uplifting stories, cherished memories, photographs, and tributes. Recognise that not all choir members may attend the celebration of life or funeral, making this platform an excellent way for them to honour the memory of those who have passed. These contributions can later be shared with the loved ones of the departed members.

Remembering and healing through song

During your choir’s regular sessions, take a few moments to dedicate a song to honour the memory of your departed fellow member. It could be their favourite song or a piece that you feel encapsulates their personality but make it an uplifting selection. While tears may flow, music possesses a remarkable capacity to heal, providing a sense of comfort in knowing that you’ve taken the time to remember them. Alternatively, consider reaching out to the family and offering to provide a recording of the choir performing one of their loved one’s favourite songs. Often, we hesitate to approach grieving individuals, fearing that it might be “difficult.” However, your connection, kindness, and sincerity will likely be appreciated more than you realize. If you are invited to the funeral or celebration of life, performing the choir member’s favourite song live would be a profound and touching tribute, despite the emotional challenges it may entail. If a live performance isn’t feasible, 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, could also be a special way to honour their memory, especially if they found immense joy and happiness in being part of your community.

Have you ever considered a Threshold Workshop?

Several years ago, we were introduced to The Threshold Choir, an organisation dedicated to providing a unique and compassionate service. Initially, we were somewhat skeptical, but upon further exploration, we discovered the remarkable impact of their musical and vocal support for terminally ill patients and their families during life’s most challenging moments—the threshold of their lives. This experience wasn’t marked by sadness or somberness but was instead profoundly uplifting, shared with an extraordinary group of individuals. The Threshold Choir is passionate about sharing their music and stories. For choir leaders seeking to convey the true power and beauty of music during life’s most trying times, a visit from this exceptionally talented choir taught us how to share our music with confidence, even in the midst of such sorrowful circumstances.

In conclusion, there are numerous ways to acknowledge the loss of a choir member, but what truly matters is that you do it in a manner that aligns with the unique dynamics of your choir. External circumstances may dictate the extent of your response, but approach the situation with confidence and sincerity. Having recently faced the loss of three cherished members in as many weeks, our hearts are heavy with grief. However, after personally engaging with all three families, we are reassured that our approach has been deeply 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.