Problem with soloists/solos in church choir music?
Date: October 13, 2010
I have a chorister who has told me REPEATEDLY that she hates when there are solos in our church choir music, even for special events like cantatas or concerts. She says that isn't really choral music. I have asked her (not sarcastically) what it is, then, but she said she didn't know, it just wasn't choral music. She hasn't defined what the cut-off is - is there a problem with duets, trios, or quartets? How about a descant? How about the final chord that has a high C and I only want one person to sing it? Is that a solo? I don't want to ask these questions because I'm frankly tired of the discussion and because I think she will think I'm being flippant. Because she has brought it up so often to me, I believe she would like me to say that I agree with her, which I'm not going to do, because I don't agree. So now she is saying that she is just going to not sing whenever we sing a song or a cantata that has a solo in it. If I even bring up the possibility of a solo in a piece in discussion - even if we haven't made a decision - she will get up and leave rehearsal and go home. She will not sing on the following Sunday - she doesn't bother to find out whether we decided to do solos or not. I think this is her way of trying to force my hand and make me decide to never do music with solos. I refuse to do this, because I actually think solos are nice sometimes. Especially in cantatas, where Mary and Joseph have specific parts, or in songs where the rhythms are such that they would sound bad with a larger group. Since I have not really "reacted" to her statement, I am sensing that her next step will be to tell me that she is quitting choir.
I do not think she wants a solo; I don't believe that is what this is about. However, she has mentioned once in passing that it seems like the soloists are "more special" than the other singers, or get more attention. I don't know if that's her main issue with the solos or not. I really make every effort to treat my choristers equally, but even though I offer the solo opportunities to everyone, it does seem like the same group of people volunteer for them. Sometimes I do choose, because there are only certain voices that will sound right. Either way, I have found that the choir as a whole tends to really enjoy all of our music, with and without solos. They cheer the soloists on, and some of the pieces with solos are their favorites. I love that I have solo singers - it's another way to build confidence within the group.
I really can't afford to have her quit; we are very small as it is, and despite my best efforts, recruiting just doesn't seem to work well in our church (this is actually a larger problem throughout the church in every ministry). Any ideas as to what to say to her? I am finding myself reluctant to do songs with solos now, and stressed about picking music...
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