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Community Sing-A-Long

For our church's fall musical offering, I want to try something (apparently) obscure; a sing-a-long concert of great choruses, NOT MESSIAH. We would use keyboard for accompaniment.  Just looking to allow people the opportunity to sing in a large group and have a great time without a huge time commitment.
Has as anyone tried this? Was it successful? Any tips?
Now the biggie; suggestions for repertoire?  I am not looking to do larger works, no masses, etc. Just individual pieces such as a Handel Coronation Anthem, or Haydn's "The Heavens Are Telling."
I'll hang up and listen.
Replies (13): Threaded | Chronological
on February 19, 2014 1:32pm
Hi Lance,
A few years ago, my chamber choir did a concert of Psalm settings.  I wanted to do something a bit different and involve our audience and decided to end the concert with a DIY-Caesare Franck Psalm 150. I borrowed extra copies so anyone who wanted to sing along could and even advertised it would be a DIY Psalm 150.....and it bombed.  I had an excellent organist with my 15 or so singers but.......that piece needed more and it was just *eh*....never again. (The rest of the concert was wonderful because it was music for smaller forces.)
It could work in your situation, I think, if you choose the right music. Get your own choir involved thinking about the pieces.
on February 20, 2014 4:11am
As a Circuit Music Teacher, I ran into a great school (in a «terrible» neighbourhood) where there was singing all day, every day — a VERY happy place!   SECRET: The Principal SANG (however badly!); the classroom teachers SANG; parents visiting the school found themselvers singing.  It all started with one classroom teacher 's efforts at teaching cooperation and discipline by singing first TO her pupils and then WITH her pupils.  She then coopted her fellow teachers (and the crow-voiced Principal) into casual bouts of singing: at assemblies; during lunch; singing at basketball games.  It caught fire — we had a «CHOIR» of 400+ voices — it was nothing short of magical.  I've started with something as simple as getting my teachers singing, FOR (if necessary) or WITH their classes, the National Anthem every morning.  MODELLING is a powerful tool, especially in schools where pupils don't get much positive stimulation outside the school.  Sometimes musically-gifted  pupils (even, occasionally teachers!) will evidence and that's a REAL gift — for YOU — use them as models!  If all (or at least most) classroom teachers are happily singing, the attitude and practice will rub off and you'll have a happier and more cooperative school where singing is as natural as talking. 
— the Curmudgeon Choirmaster (Still «at it»  55 years later) 
BTW: by «National Anthem» I mean O CANADA (an easy sing range-wise). I'd replace The Star-Spangled Banner with My Country 'Tis of Thee until range is less of an issue. 
on February 22, 2014 3:48am
Hi Freeman:
Sounds like a great place to work! It saddens me greatly that most people these days think singing is for singers. Singing is for everyone, and luckily the school you mentioned still believes that.
Tom Seniow
on February 20, 2014 6:50am
the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir does a regular program of sing-alongs but outside of the concert setting.  They are called Singsation Saturdays and we invite different guest conductors and read through a number of different works.  We run five each year and they are well attended.  We actively promote them and now have a large following.
I think it may be more of a challenge to do as part of a concert -- are people coming for a listening experience or a participatory experience?  There would need to be very clear communications around it so people know what to expect.  Do people need to be able to sight-read music.  Is there another choir who might be interested in this experience that you could partner with -- to ensure enough singers.  Or promote through other churches in your area -- ask them to let their own choristers know.
Regarding repertoire, what about adding Vivaldi's Gloria.
Good luck.
on February 20, 2014 7:56am
How well does your congregation sing and read music?  If they're not strong at either, perhaps a first sing-along event could be a hymn sing, then move to great choruses at another time.
on February 20, 2014 8:01am
Lance, Who comes to these "musical offerings"?  Is it a concert for primarily the church membership or does it attract a community-wide crowd?  If it's primarily for the church try assigning a few choir members to "spy" on the congregation next time you throw them a new and unusual hymn.  How many are singing, how many are reading the music, etc.  IOW, try to get a handle on how musically adept your congregation is.  In my experience, very few congregations could handle anything like the repertoire you suggest; we lack the musical training and even if trained lack exposure to singing in a choral way.
What you are suggesting sounds like a "Summer Sing" that several choruses in my area have done.  These are open to the public and attract members from nearby choruses, and frequently vacationers who are in the area.  If well adverrtized, incluing a program listing, they do attract a mostly capable singing crowd.  The core repertoire is mass and oratorio, but themes like Broadway/movie and opera choruses sell well.  In a few instances the "sponsor chorus" sang ín formation and expected the audience to sing along, they were disasters; everyone must sing together.  Gathering and managing enough scores for 90 minutes of eclectic singing is a daunting task.
on February 20, 2014 9:08am
Obviously, there needs to be a bit of clarification.  I apologize for the ambiguity of my original post.
I am considering doing this as a stand-alone opportunity for singers who don't normally get to sing through such works in their church or community choir experiences.  This would be a Saturday afternoon, 1 to 1 1/2 hour get together to sing through some of the masterworks (see original post) with an accompanist.  It would be marketed to area churches with the expectation that singers would do some preparation before the Sing-a-long so that the experience is positive and not rather namby-pamby.  
To reiterate, this will NOT be a portion of a concert, simply an opportunity to gather a lot of folks who enjoy singing to participate; just like a Messiah sing-a-long.
With apologies, Freeman Dryden, I have no idea to what you are responding; I'm not sure that your response is in the correct thread.
Mrs. Nowakowski, thankfully, my church choir is quite skilled and will be the core of whatever we do.  (My 18 and a few more are doing Vivaldi's Gloria this spring).
Mr. Rindress, this will be our first (hopefully of many) attempts at this so we don't have a following yet, at all.  My vision is for eventually a couple of hundred folks to show up and raise the roof, so to speak.
All of the music will be public domain and each participant (other than my church choir) will be expected to download and prepare, somewhat, from that score.
Thanks for all the help and advice.  Now, suggestions for PIECES would be wonderful.
on February 23, 2014 2:59am
I agree with a previous poster who mentioned a Hymn Sing.  Unless the outreach is to highly-secularized audience MOST people, even one who are not «quick studies» can handle four-part hymns (and hymn ARRANGEMENTS if not to complex) and get a lift doing it.  Healey Willan produced a vertiable library of useful and accessible arrangements — the ORGAN carrying a considerable part of any «difficulties».  I've used a Harold Hamer arrangement of DIADEM for years.  There are MANY American 20th c. and living composers who have done some great stuff for this kind of singing as well — Schalk be
on February 20, 2014 2:55pm
Lance, here are some pieces I would recommend:
Caesare Franck, "Psalm 150" (a stand alone...which was my thinking when I programmed it for my concert)
Brahms, from The German Requiem, "How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place"
Mendelssohn, several choruses from "Elijah"....take your pick, there are plenty to choose from
Mendelssohn, "There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob"
Stainer, "God So Loved the World"
All should be, at least some edition, public domain.  That is probably the MOST important bit of information you neglected to include.
It does help to have your clarification because it seemed you were speaking of a concert type setting, and not what you are actually proposing.  However, as someone who conducts....since 2002....a yearly DIY Messiah, I can tell you, it is RARELY not a namby-pamby experience.  You hope folks will certainly can hope...but don't get your hopes up too high.  And Messiah is well known.   My 2013 Messiah experience was probably the best I've done simply because I "seeded" it with the singers from my semi-professional chamber choir......the 2012 Messiah was DREADFUL! And in my area of the country, we call it the Do-It-Yourself Messiah.
And to have a more positive experience, I would suggest finding out what your potential local singers have done in the past......HS choruses do masterworks or selections from masterworks and it would help to know what they are.  Your local community chorus would also (I hope) have done masterworks you could choose from.  In order to have a positive experience, "seed" it with successes.
on February 21, 2014 5:54am
Thanks for the help.  Public domain was referenced, not in the OP, but in the follow-up.  My choir is good enough to pull this off on our own (so I've already "seeded" it) ;), but I wanted to make the experience available to any others who might wish to join us.  I could be wrong but I doubt many will show up just to mumble their way through it.  It may be a small group but that will be fine to start what I hope will be an annual tradition.  
BTW, your suggestions were great; how could I forget Mendelssohn and Brahms? 
on February 22, 2014 6:48am
Check publications by Nick Page regarding community singing.  Composed octavos are one way, but another option is to just get folks singing with a strong song-leader. Nick has some great strategies for making this happen. You can read about them, or, if this sort of singing is what interests you, you can have Nick come to do a community sing for you.  It is very fun and very rewarding!
Good luck1
on February 22, 2014 9:18pm
How about Hallelujah, Amen or Sing Unto God from "Judas Maccabeus"?
Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus would be an easy one for people to sight read their way through.
I second Marie's suggestion of How Lovely from the Brahms and your own idea of The Heavens are Telling.
The first movement of the Vivaldi Gloria would be nice.
Dies Irae from the Mozart Requiem?
I'm a pretty big fan of the Sanctus from Schubert's Deutsche Messe and the Credo from his Mass in G.
I know you don't want to do Messiah, but would something like this really be complete without the Hallelujah Chorus?
Sorry that so many people seem to be missing the point of your question.
on February 23, 2014 12:17pm
Hi Lance
If you are going to do Vivaldi's Gloria, I have free public domain scores for the choruses edited by Vladimir Ursic, at this link on my web site
I also have part-predominant CDs for the choruses at this link: and MP3 files of individual choruses at this link: These part-predominant recordings are made with professional singers and a Naxos recording of the Schola Cantorum of Oxford with the Northern Chamber Orchestra. Using these, you can ask participants to learn their parts before coming to rehearsals.
Best wishes with your sing-along.
Jim Taylor, President Inc.
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