I’ve been a member of the glorious Tottenham Community Choir for four years now (even though I haven’t lived in the area for nearly five) and was recently re-elected to the committee for my third spell as hon sec. To be honest it’s often easier to *not* be on the committee, and to not have to deal with all the various trivial (and not so trivial) issues that come up, but on the whole I’d rather be involved and have a say than not.
One of the problems with helping to run an open, inclusive, community choir is the sheer diversity of people that we get. And I don’t just mean in terms of age, ethnic background, religion, orientation or whatever (and we do have a pretty diverse mix of all those), I also mean in terms of what they actually want – or don’t want – from a “community choir”.
Whose choir is it, who does it ‘belong’ to, who does it exist ‘for’? The choir members? The choir as an entity? The community? The Musical Director/choir master? The committee that attempts to run it on behalf of all the other interested parties? Or an aggregate/conglomeration of all? Who makes the decisions – for example, if we are asked or invited to perform somewhere, who decides whether or not we should do it? Are we driven by the number of people that want to? We have several members that don’t really want to sing in public at all, and for whom even the annual winter concert is something to be tolerated, rather than relished (not me – I love being on stage & always have).
Should we make gigs compulsory, or create a smaller sub (chamber) choir that wants to – and does – perform more frequently? Would those who are not in this subchoir see that as a relief, or as an exclusion? Some people may not fancy a particular gig – it’s too far away, too early (can’t get there from work in time)or too late (have to get home for the kids/cats), or it’s their knitting or bridge night, or dance club, or whatever – or it’s just simply too inconvenient. But some of us would go out of our way to sing live – that’s what it’s ultimately all about.
But we can’t – and shouldn’t – perform in front of people if we’re not ready. Some people can’t – or won’t – learn the music. Some people won’t (or don’t) pay attention in rehearsals, some just want to chat and joke. Some people don’t want to do their homework or any learning in between rehearsals.
Some people can’t sing – and some know it and some don’t know it.
We try to be an inclusive choir, to be ‘for the community’, but how do you deal with someone that is painfully, loudly, out of tune?
All these problems…
My personal feeling is that when something comes in “would the choir like to perform at…?” we should say yes. Almost every time. And if we have to do a smaller cut down set with a smaller group, then so be it. Of course, I’m used to that, I’ve done gigs – hundreds – with just four singers in harmony. And I think that if we can get enough people who want to, and are prepared to do homework, and move away from the safety blanket of the music, and can commit to gigs, fantastic. But unfortunately all those things are a bit up in the air and by no means guaranteed.
So, for the moment, I – and the rest of the committee – serve the wishes of the choir as a whole, which means we recently turned down two local gigs (places we’ve done before and are ‘regular’ gigs on our home turf) because the ‘majority’ (? not even sure it was a majority, though probably enough to make a significant impact on numbers) of people didn’t want to – or couldn’t – make them. And I think that’s a pity, I think we should make every effort to support the community.
As for those people who won’t learn the words and music and still rely on the dots after months, or who won’t shut up in rehearsals and consequently miss what our MD is saying, or who always arrive late for rehearsals, or won’t do their homework, or can’t sing…
Well, what would you do?