A couple of people have asked me lately how easy (or hard!) it is to set up a successful choir and so I thought I would write down some of my initial structure when we set up MicWire just over a year ago.
1. What type of choir would you like to set up?
First of all, figure out what other choirs there are locally. Is there need for a new choir in your area and how is it going to set itself apart from the rest? Will it be an audition choir or can anybody join? What sort of music will you sing?
2. Asking other people for help
Whilst the internet can provide a multitude of ideas, guidance and strategy when setting up your choir, for me, the whole point of setting up MicWire was to bring together lots of like minded individuals to enjoy a singing experience that was different to everything else out there. To achieve this – I asked other people what they wanted from a choir that was perhaps missing from the existing groups and lots of ideas came forth that I could work with.
3. Keeping clarity and focus
There is SO MUCH amazing music out there to choose from and so many amazing choirs, each with their own niche and strength. When we set up MicWire, we chose to focus on Soul, MoTown and Gospel music. This helps us focus on which music to choose for our repertoire and gives us a clear advertising strategy. This is both when finding new members and for advertising performances. If people know what we are likely to be singing – they will know if it’s the kind of music they enjoy and whether to come and give it a try or come and listen to our performances. It also helped me to come up with the catchy name and logo as I knew what I wanted to deliver from the outset. We follow through on our MicWire message with the colours we wear, our ongoing branding and our online presence.
4. Finding a location for rehearsals
Deciding when and where to have your choir rehearsal is probably the hardest decision to make. Personally, I had to fit choir with my own timetable to make sure I could attend every week. I also wanted to make sure that the choir provided a location that was easily accessible, centrally placed, safe for young and older members to get to in winter and somewhere that had good parking facilities. I thought that Friday evenings or daytime rehearsals would perhaps discourage younger members, day workers or singers with families from attending. I also wanted to avoid being on the same night as the other local choirs so that singers would be able to come along to both if they wanted to: Singers just love singing!
5. Finding a choir leader
If you’re not planning on leading the choir yourself, you will need to find a choir leader to host the rehearsals. You may want to hire an accompanist too. This leads us to…
6. Organising Finance
Hiring a professional choir leader, professional accompanist, paying for the rehearsal venue, paying for sheet music music, purchasing backing tracks, software and hardware to record rehearsal tracks, printing costs, spending money and time on advertising, your website, a website builder, a logo designer, web hosting, business cards, flyers, posters, stationary, equipment, a keyboard, an amp or speaker and social media ads all cost money before you’ve even had your first rehearsal. There are various arts funding opportunities available, there maybe a local budget for creative arts in your town, you could ask a local company for sponsorship to get you started and you could charge a fee to participate in choir rehearsals weekly, monthly or annually. Once your choir is established, you can charge for your performances too.
7. Recruiting People to Sing in the Choir
In my experience, word of mouth is the strongest and most effective tool of recruiting new choir members. You should have an up-to-date website to direct people to and you can use social media ads to get the word out. Advertising on local council pages or music / choir pages is a great idea. Putting up posters in local shops and businesses is also a good way to generate interest. Ask your first members to put up a few posters each and to bring a friend to the next rehearsal – perhaps offer an incentive to encourage your singers to spread the word.
8. Organisation and Administration
This bit is not for the feint hearted! So much needs organising to keep a choir running successfully. Here are just a few things that probably need to be sorted out as an ongoing capacity once your choir is set up:
- Choosing the songs for the choir to sing
- Arranging songs yourself or choosing appropriate musical arrangements for the people who attend your choir
- Finding and purchasing accurate backing tracks (appropriate key, correct version etc)
- Advertising for new members
- Advertising for gigs
- Posting on Social Media to generate (and maintain) interest
- Writing blog posts to promote what your choir is doing
- Thinking of interesting warm-ups for rehearsals including vocal and physical warm-ups and listening or rhythm exercises
- Promoting vocal health and good singing habits for all singers
- Ensuring you’re teaching at the appropriate level for the members who turn up
- Creating rehearsal tracks
- Organising concerts
- Advertising concerts to make sure an audience come to watch and enjoy
- Liasing with event organisers to get performance bookings for the choir
- Liaising with the choir to make sure they can turn up at concerts!
- Arranging social events outside of choir rehearsals
- Keeping on top of finances and paying invoices
- Updating the website and social platforms as your choir grows and develops
- Planning rehearsals
- Keeping record of rehearsals to ensure continuous improvements are made to the music being learned
- Listening to feedback and suggestions for the choir
- Implementing feedback and suggestions from the choir
- Maintaining objectives and giving the choir something to work towards – such as a concert
- Applying for funding
- Organising payments for the PRS
- Ensuring everyone is having fun!
9. Satisfied singers mean everything to the success of the choir!
If I’ve learned anything in our first 15 months, it is that your actual choir members make all of this possible. In MicWire everyone is so eager to help, to join in, to promote concerts, sing in concerts and to host concerts. Most of the performances we have done have been organised by singers in the choir putting us in touch with the right people. We have performed in several charity events, on the radio, at private gigs and at community days.
Collaboration is great and the local community is wonderful to get involved with. Get out and perform at local events – its a great way to boost the bank balance as well as advertising the choir to potential new members!
Use personal choir connections: Singers like music, they like concerts and they will likely sing elsewhere too. They may even know other musicians who you can collaborate with. There are endless suggestions from MicWire members of repertoire they would like to sing, people they would like to sing with and places they would like to perform. These may be both appropriate, inappropriate and even hilarious(!) but better to have too many options than not enough.
Running a choir takes dedication and passion. It is such great fun and you’ll meet no end of incredible people in setting up a choir of your own.
It is hard work but it is amazing fun, immensely rewarding, amazing for the community and local area and, in my opinion, absolutely worth it. If you decide setting up a new choir is too much to take on alone, perhaps form a collaborative committee or join another existing choir. Good luck on your new musical adventures, whatever you decide!