This is my first post of the year, so Happy 2013 to everyone. Our rehearsal of 21st January was snowed off – due to the venue being unavailable, not through lack of loyalty or perseverance. In fact I considered offering my house as an alternative venue but thought too many people to be comfortable might arrive.
One of the things we are doing this week – because we can do it electronically – is voting to find out which of the songs we’ve learnt choir members would like to revisit and polish up. It’s not just about performing – we all get a kick out of doing something we enjoy really well. What a choir chooses to sing is very much part of its identity and although in an open-access choir like ours people come and go, there are members and songs that have been there since the beginning. There are SO many songs out there, so many great songs, that one lifetime isn’t long enough to learn them. So how to choose?
Our choir is more of a benign dictatorship than a democracy – if I, as musical director, don’t like a song, it doesn’t get a look in. Songs have to be challenging enough to be interesting, but simple enough to be doable. There should be some nice harmonies and everybody should get a tune at some stage. The lyrics are ideally something we can all sing with feeling – even if it requires us to adopt a persona that is not our everyday selves. Lyrics are often a dividing point, a reason why someone just doesn’t like a song, although sometimes this happens with a specific sort of harmony too. Some people take against songs with a drone, but is this because they don’t like the aural effect or because it’s dull to sing?
Finally, of course, you have to have variety as well. However much the choir loved singing X, the next thing you sing can’t be X mark 2. How much variety there is in your repertoire defines your choir too. We don’t really have any rules. We didn’t do any contemporary pop but then a few of us loved* “Rolling in the Deep” so much I had to have a bash at an arrangement which really works.
*In this context, “love” has to include a conviction that it will work a cappella.