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Recruiting: Recruiting via an Open rehearsal

Dear Choralist,

Thank you for the ideas that came my way for the Open House. My request was
in December. The harvest was great -- and I have waited this long to see if
they would stay with us. They have, and more are coming.

Two members from the congregation came forward, and joined the Tenor and
Alto section. They saw the invitation and thought it would be a good idea
to join! They have sung in University choirs, and have really helped out the
sections! Also, another Alto has joined, also a recent University graduate
and two more are coming next fall, after they graduate from University
(children of 26-year choir veterans).

The Chancel choir was prepared psychologically -- an announcement was in the
bulletin for a few weeks and also in the Church monthly newsletter. They
were invited to bring people.

Basically, we had a basic general rehearsal, working on the
anthems/responses for that week. We also began work for Easter (this was the
second week in January), using the "Alleluia" round by Boyce. We got into a
circular setting to practice it. We also sightread through some of the
coming anthems. Then, we had a nice reception afterwards.

The choir was very hospitable and welcomed them warmly. The Chancel choir
here is a warm and supportive group that actually functions as a family. It
has been a blessing to be a part of this group and to have others join.

I am including my original request, followed by the Choralist replies.
Thank you again for the ideas!

Cheryl Van Ornam
Newton Presbyterian Church

I am interested in ideas for a Chancel Choir "open house". The Pastor would
like to have a mid-winter rally day of sorts, and has suggested that we have
an open rehearsal in January, with refreshments, etc. so folk who are
interested may join the choir.

I appreciate his support. Now I just need ideas to make this work....
===========================================================================Try to involve the audience in some way:

1) include them with the choir on learning one anthem, or part of
one. No pressure to sing on Sunday, but a chance to feel what it's
like to rehearse with the group. That way, they'll feel right at home
the first time they come for real. It should be meaty enough that you
have to actually rehearse it (beyond just notes), but easy enough to
get a sense of accomplishment quickly. Put real music in their hands.

2) the audience can definitely join in the warm-ups. Start with
stretches or backrubs or calisthenics, so all the non-singers (which
you won't admit the existence of) get started along with you. Explain
the purpose of warm-ups (maybe your singers need to hear this too).

3) Ask the audience to act as "choir spies," checking to make sure
the choir is doing dynamics, watching the conductor, etc. Have them
repeat the text the choir sang without looking at the music, or vote
on which section had the best diction. If you ask the choir to repeat
a phrase to improve something, ask the audience whether it was better
(especially if they can say yes).

4) Be sure to prepare the choir psychologically, so they don't flip
out. If this "open rehearsal" will be somewhere other than your
regular rehearsal space, practice there a couple of weeks ahead. Make
clear that you want this to be a real rehearsal; if they get into
"church potluck" mode, it's all over.
===========================================================================very briefly we did the same thing last spring with a TURKEY dinner
sponsored by the choir. Interested 'joiners' to the choir were
invited-at our church food is a great draw! Out of the evening we
recruited six new members. WE made sure the atmosphere was relaxed and
at the practice which followed the music was flashy!! but easy to read
Hope this helps
===========================================================================basic ideas--do stuff that the choir knows well, and some stuff that is so
simple that everyone can join in no matter what. rounds are good.

move to a circular setting for at least part of the time.

have food and drink
your sopranos and altos invite their husbands and boyfriends to sing? >>

Forgive a lurking soprano for jumping in... But this doesn't sound goofy at
all to me. My church choir director tried to recruit my husband. Didn't work
in this particular case, as we can only spare one adult from child care
duties during rehearsals and performances right now. But maybe when our kids
are a little older...

We also have three father/daughter teams in the choir at the moment. Two of
thedaughters are high-school students and I think the dads like being able to
share something with the kids.

Another idea: The high schools in our town have a community-service
requirement for graduation (the kids have to put in x number of hours at a
community activity). We've had a number of high-school members doing choir
as their community activity. It's not a long-term solution, but on the other
hand, it does give the kids some additional exposure to choral singing.
===========================================================================Just saw your Wednesday note to Choralist, asking about ideas to make an
open house work. It occurs to me that you might run it in the format of a
"hymn sing", invite your whole congregation, and have an evening with a few
anthems by the choir, but more, many more hymns from the congregation, with
someone functioning as a hymnsing leader that will even give the singists a
break by sharing *short* histories of the hymns.
on September 7, 2015 3:10pm
Having "open rehearsals" at the beginning of a season or year allows those who may be interested to come and "try it out".  Run the first rehearals just as would be done any other time of the year to get the group started.  Have the librarian check out music for the rehearsal and collect back at the end of rehearal.  Those who wish to continue as members will sign up, pay dues if that is applicable, and sign up for audition if you audition your singers.  It becomes evident very quickly for new people if they are comfortable with the rehearsal pace, the level of music reading needed, the comraderie of the ensemble. Singers have enough common sense to know if they are up to the challenge of being in a group or willing to work hard and grow as singers and musicians.  Whether it is a church choir or community chorus, having an "open door" can uncover some wonderful treasures.  A professional ensemble will want to have auditions and have voices that will blend well, skills that will make rehearsals move into the advanced level of technique and interpretation rather than just hoping to learn notes correctly.  There is place for everyone.