Singing is both a healthy and rewarding occupation and, if possible, we should all make time to do it. Although there is no hard evidence of the origins of singing, many anthropologists believe that it actually
predated speech. Some believe that primitive peoples used their voice to imitate the sounds heard in nature and the call and answer method of communication. Whether you sing on your own or with a group, we can vouch for the great benefits, including emotional, physical and spiritual.
To get the most out of your singing, we recommend that you sing in a group or choir. The difference is that a group could be three or four people but a choir is usually at least eight or more, although it's not written in stone. So how to join a choir? This is a simpler task than you think and only involves some basic research. Many people join their local church choir, which is fine, although you will sing sacred music most of the time. But there are choirs out there that embrace all kinds of different genres, including classical, folk, jazz and musical theatre.
About my own choral background (Robert), prior to emigrating to Canada, I had been conducting choirs in the UK going back to my high school days. My music teacher at the time, allowed me to work with the school choir long before I became a pro, and this sowed the seeds of my musical destiny.
During my post secondary training, I conducted but, along with my wife Lynda, also sang in college choirs. This experience was a major and lasting help in my own musical development, and for which I am eternally grateful. lynda, being a soprano soloist, sang solo parts with the Trinity College choirs and orchestras as well as songs with piano accompaniment. After graduating, I worked with a local amateur choir that not only liked to perform, but also possessed a proud tradition of giving concerts for local charities.
When we first came to Canada as professional musicians and educators, I started a singing group through the local rec centre, which I called the Closet and Shower Singers. By naming it that, I helped people to understand what kind of singers I wanted in this group. My hope was that I would get singers who were not veteran vocalists with years of experience, but rather just people who were looking to sing for fun, and get some singing tips to help them improve.
At that time it worked well, as I got lots of registrations from would be singers, most of whom
could actually sing reasonably well. I chose the music for the course, and my wife Lynda, played the piano to accompany them. I also gave them special vocal exercises and musical
games to play that would help them improve their vocal technique and harmony. We had tons of fun doing these courses, and I know for a fact that the singers really enjoyed themselves, as more often than not, they returned to participate in the next course.
Later, I became the choral director of a much larger choir, for which auditions were required. We performed some of the major classical works for choir and orchestra and were part of a
Symphony Society that operated on mainly grants and donations. If this is the kind of choir that you wish to join, then you would have to be a competent singer, preferably trained and willing to work hard to achieve the standard required for performance to paying customers. In this type of choir, the conductor is looking for an overall blend of voices that match each other, which is why auditions are critical to its success.
So when you are looking to join a choir or singing group, whether it's just for fun or a musical
outlet for a more experienced singing voice, you can either look in the local newspaper, which
some people still do, or you can simply Google 'local choirs' and see what comes up. In many
communities there are local theatre music groups that are basically amateur in nature. That is they do not perform professionally but just enjoy performing to other local entities such as
seniors homes, hospitals, schools etc.
Failing these suggestions, you can explore the local recreation centre, college or YMCA/YWCA course brochures. In the Arts section there is usually someone organising a singing group of some kind that may appeal to you. If there is no choral group, then a smaller ensemble would work - a quartet (4 singers) or quintet (5 singers) would be fine if everyone was on the same page. In other words, with a smaller group, you need to want the same outcomes. For example, if you joined an ensemble that only wanted to sing musical theatre, and that satisfied your needs, then go ahead and join. But if you wanted to sing jazz or classical only, then of course that would be the wrong group for you.
In case you are a complete novice in the search for a singing group, I would like to quickly
explain some basic facts about choirs. The quality of a choir depends heavily on the abilities of the conductor. If he or she is well-trained, organized and enthusiastic, and there is a competent accompanist, then both the stability of the group and your own enjoyment are assured. Also, you need to talk to other choir members to find out what they think of the choir the music and the personnel. You'd be surprised at what you discover!
Most choirs are four part groups - that is to say that there are Sopranos, Altos, Tenors and Basses who all sing their own part. If you are accepted into the group, the conductor usually decides in which part of the choir you will sing. You either accept his/her decision or leave - that's your choice! Occasionally, there is the opportunity for a soloist in a particular piece of music.
There is usually a pecking order but you never know, you may be asked to try out for it.
Being punctual and consistent in rehearsal attendance is paramount for a successful choir. No choral director likes people to either not show up or arrive late. These are choral sins and could be punishable! Lastly, you are responsible for your own music sheets/books. They do cost money and your job is to look after them and bring them to each and every rehearsal without fail.
Whatever type of group or choir you decide to join, make sure that you are ready and able to
fulfill the commitment required. This is the same regardless of the group or team that you choose to be part of. A soccer team demands the same commitment as a choir and so it should, because without that commitment, the group, whatever it represents, will eventually fold. Happy singing!
In the words of an anonymous poet:
"Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed."
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