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Starting a church choral festival - questions and concerns

Has anyone out in church choir land attempted to organize a church choir festival where choirs of many area churches come together for a day of workshops with each other's directors, performances and a mass performance at the conclusion? If so I'd like to pick your brain... I believe this sort of activity would be very beneficial to the church choirs in my area and would like to know what was easy to pull together and what factors were more challenging. Thank you to anyone with any advice.
on January 7, 2013 11:37am
Have not tried this...but what a great idea!
on January 7, 2013 4:37pm
Craig:  Not quite the same, but my late wife was one of six children's choir directors who organized a Children's Choir Festival that was extremely successful for several years back in the '80s.  The key factor was the directors themselves, and their willingness to plan, prepare their choirs, and handle the administration.
But it wasn't the choir directors who led the Festival (which, by the way, was called The Singing Children of Blacksburg).  Instead they invited in a well-known children's choir director or arranger each spring, so it was kind of a big deal for the kids and their families. 
The most difficult thing was the logistics, of course, and that will be the case in any such event.  Everyone and everyone's family feels they can be an exception to the rules that are agreed on!!!  And the end of the run came about when some of the directors, their own choir schedules becoming more demanding, began to feel that they couldn't take the time to prepare their kids, and others started pushing for the kind of musical pablum that my wife's kids recognized right away as "junk food music"!
But at the time I was directing an excellent university show ensemble, and we had a chance to put on Christmas-season benefit concerts for the benefit of our county Christmas Store.  My predecesor had claimed that such would not be possible, since he spent all Fall perfecting his touring show.  But I had participated in the "Chimes of Christmas" shows at Indiana and knew that it could be done using guest soloists and ensembles.  And I was proud to be able to ask The Singing Children to be our guests at least twice over a period of several years.  We purchased all the music, and dontated it to the individual Children's Choirs, so they were able to use it for their own holiday programs.
None of which really helps answer your questions, but it does point out that every situation is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer.
All the best,
on January 8, 2013 9:54am
Having been guest conductor for such a "church choir festival/workshop"  and having organized an annual "church music conference" at Furman University for 25 years or so, I would suggest the following:
#1 determine the REASON or GOAL of such an event.   state clearly what you want to accomplish through such an event
#2 make sure all choir directors who will be involved are committed to the Goal - if preparation of the music ahead of time is required, then all choirs must understand and come prepared.    everyone provides music for themselves to keep down expenses.
#3 schedule the event/day  so that there is time to "mingle" and "get to know one another" - the fellowship of such gatherings can be very important in the long run, assuming you want this to be an annual event
#4 perhaps the first year, invite a respected "outside" conductor to be the clinician  (saves any first-time issues among the various choir directors);
this would involve a fee, so determine up front what would be possible  (per singer fee?   per choir fee paid by the church?)
I have been involved with a very successful, one-day event for several years now.   I choose 5-6 anthems, rehearse on Saturday, in the morning and early afternoon,  have a "performance" around 4:00 pm   (family and friends attending).   This is more of a workshop or clinic, and while polished performance is desired, the main goal is for the choirs to do TOGETHER what they probably could not do SEPARATELY.   several churches and 100-125 singers each year.    a good time,  some good learning experiences for all,  and an enjoyable Saturday investment in improving technique, etc. for better, more effective church choir "performances" in worship.
This is a great idea.   Most church choirs never hear each other, let alone get to know each other.
Perhaps another feature might be for each choir to sing one or two anthems at the end of the day.....sing for each other.
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