Starting a Chamber choir within a church
Here is the VERY belated compilation of the responses to the following
>I am interested in learning about your collective successes and protocol
>when attempting to establish a chamber choir within a church. Some
>questions that come to mind are:
>1. How many members are in your weekly service choir?
>2. How many members are in your chamber choir?
>3. Do you, as the director, hand-pick the members for the chamber choir or
>do you audition for the group?
>4. If they are auditioned, do they "re-up" every year or are spots filled
>on an as-needed basis?
>5. How often does the chamber choir perform in worship?
>6. If members are auditioned, what has been the general reaction by those
>who didn't make the cut?
>7. How, if at all, has the presence of a smaller, select group affected
>sense of esprit de corps among the members of your weekly service choir?
>Of my thirty active singers, I feel that I could assemble a nice group of
>about twelve choristers to form a chamber group that could perform more
>challenging literature. However, (as you can glean from my questions
>above) I'm worried about the potential negative psychological effects upon
>certain members of the chancel choir that may come about as a result of
>establishing a group from which some members are excluded.
>On the other hand, I know that many of you have had successes with such
>ensembles. So would you please share your insights with me by answering
>the above questions and sharing any other thoughts/opinions/pros/cons that
>you may have?
Hello. In our church the problem is that there seems to be a feeling of
"we are TOO special for words" among the smaller group. LOL. In fact, many
of them feel now that they should not have to sing the "regular" music of
the choir since they have to come to an "extra" rehearsal. Try to make the
rules clear and it should work out. Good luck!
... for the numbers you are dealing with, I have [a] suggestion. Select a
nice piece of music, not super-difficult, and invite about twelve folks to
sing it one Sunday in worship, as a "second anthem" other than the
offertory. Rehearse it about three times, immediately following your
regular choir rehearsal. Then invite another group, octect, quartet, to do
another piece another time. You can ask the same singers each time, or mix
it up with each new piece. People LOVE that! It gives your
not-quite-bold-enough-to-sing-a-solo people a marvelous opportunity. And,
those one-shot deals are great for people who travel and are somewhat
"seasonal" in their choir participation, know what I mean?!
Doing that will pave the way for a permanent ensemble.
We have a chamber choir that I put together last year. We are in our
second year now (which includes a tour of Austria this summer). To answer
some of your questions: I have 68 in my weekly chorus. My chamber choir
has 28 members. I select most of them, but also hold open auditions for
any interested. So far, there has not been any problems that I know of.
We have a very family type atmosphere in both groups and my Chamber Choir
members are very careful not to "lord it over" non-members. We sing
occassionaly for church, but we work primarily for bi-annual concerts at
the church and several away. There is a lot of commitment involved in the
chamber choir, so there a plenty of great singers who don't want to be a
part of it for that reason - so even the ones who aren't in it because they
"couldn't cut the mustard" don't feel quite so left out. I hope all goes
well with your chamber group. Mine has been a blessing for me, primarily
because of the literature we are able to do (a bit too challenging for my
> 1. How many members are in your weekly service choir?
30 on the roll
> 2. How many members are in your chamber choir?
> 3. Do you, as the director, hand-pick the members for the chamber choir
> do you audition for the group?
hand picked on basis of a personality and voice and interest fit.
> 4. If they are auditioned, do they "re-up" every year or are spots filled
> on an as-needed basis?
> 5. How often does the chamber choir perform in worship?
once a month in the summer, occasional special events, services in the
> 7. How, if at all, has the presence of a smaller, select group affected
> sense of esprit de corps among the members of your weekly service choir?
I've worked hard at not interfering. so far all OK
our basis is really one-two on a part, again based on ability, interest,
etc. We rehearse on a Fri or Sat or Sun evening at a house, and end with
food and drink. So it is very much an intimate social thing.
I think personality is a big thing-the people have to want to be together
and have like interests in repertoire etc. We do basically 16th c. and
I am a staff singer at a large Episcopal church in Tucson. Even though I
am not the music director, I think I can safely answer a few of your
>>1. How many members are in your weekly service choir?
There are approximately 65 members in the volunteer adult choir, including
8 staff singers. They sing one service per week and participate in other
musical activities at the church, e.g., workshops with guest conductors,
etc. There is a weekly 1.5 hour rehearsal on Tuesday evenings.
>>2. How many members are in your chamber choir?
There are 18 members in the Canturbury Choir, including the 8 staff
>>3. Do you, as the director, hand-pick the members for the chamber choir
or do you audition for the group?
>>4. If they are auditioned, do they "re-up" every year or are spots
filled on an as-needed basis?
Each member must audition yearly, including the staff singers.
>>5. How often does the chamber choir perform in worship?
The Canturbury Choir sings one service per Sunday, and they join with the
larger choir for special events, e.g., workshops, First Sunday music, etc.
There is a one hour rehearsal on Tuesday evenings.
>>6. If members are auditioned, what has been the general reaction by
those who didn't make the cut?
There is a strong commitment among the group to the music program, and I
don't know of many who have been so disgruntled with not making the
Canturbury Choir that they quit alltogether. The music program is very
strong, and I think people realize it's a pleasurable experience,
regardless of the choir one sings in. Of course, there are those two or
>>7. How, if at all, has the presence of a smaller, select group affected
the sense of esprit de corps among the members of your weekly service
None at all, that I am aware of. I've been a staff singer at this church
for nearly 4 years now, and I know many of the singers in both groups
pretty well. I've never noticed a lowered morale because of the two groups.
Indeed, when the Canterbury Choir give a special concert, the audience is
made up largely of folks from the volunteer choir.
We have made some steps in that direction - with a sort of
self-selected, self-directed group that has sung for a few chapel services
special events with pretty good success - and with a good acceptance level
I'm in the process of wanting to develop it more into a regular "chamber
choir' with more definition to its structure and expectations about
commitment,auditions, etc. (this is with the support of members of the
Marlon G. Hurst, Director of Music
Conyers Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Phone (770) 929-0700; Fax (770) 929-1940
Office e-mail: cpcmusic(a)bellsouth.net; Home e-mail: mjhurst(a)bellsouth.net
"The most important thing in music is what is not the notes."