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Competing choir membership

I direct a 35-voiced (so I am technically "ilegal" for this community, but have no other that fits our profile as well), highly auditioned and accomplished choir made up of members of our community and near-by communities. We perform at what I thankfully consider a professional level of competence. Developing this choir has consumed many, many hours and lots of dollars - we must be a "presence" in the artistic community, meaning excellent performances but also lots and lots of marketing. We are now in our 24th season. For the first time in memory, a church music director new to town has come in and tried to form his own group by recruiting from mine and another larger symphonic choir in our area. The repertoire would, in part, be identical (sacred music, which covers a lot of ground).This strikes me as unwise at best, unethical at worst. Frankly, it makes my blood boil. The details as events unfolded are somewhat more convoluted, but this is the gist of the story.
 
Also, I understand singers want freedom to sing whenever and whatever they would like. However, I also can forsee horrendous conflicts of interest, as well as a dilution of core esprit (for want of a better term - can't think of one) as a result of separate groups being formed from existing groups. I am considering proposing a non-compete clause for our membership. They would be free to do any- and everthing, re singing in groups, unless the repertoire were substantially the same. I.e., a small jazz ensemble would be no problem. But a classical ensemble that duplicated our efforts woul not be allowed, if they wanted to remain in our chorus.
 
Has anyone else faced a similar problem? What did you do? Thanks in advance!
on December 31, 2014 10:52am
Judith,
 
This happens in all most every major arts market that I know of.  We are in Kansas City, where there are a large number of similar groups of very high quality.  Even two or three that pay their singers (including ours).  Many of our singers participate in 2-3 groups.  I know people in New York, Chicago and LA who sing in several groups simultaneously.  I look at this as a good thing that means the arts market in your community is growing.  (10 years ago in KC for example, there was only one pro group, then Octarium came along and opened the floodgate!)  More opportunities for more musicians to have an outlet is always a good thing.  It also provides your organization the opportunity to grow in order to stay relevant.  
 
Full disclosure, I am speaking from the perspective of one of these "new guys" struggling to make a splash with an upstart ensemble.  (Kantorei of Kansas City)  I think that it works when each group strives to raise their bar with each performance, and also to offer something a little different than the other groups in town. (ie, rep might be similar, but the sound and presentation are totally different.)
 
Good luck, and happy competing!
 
CM
on December 31, 2014 12:31pm
Hi Judith,
 
You are legal--I'm the editor/owner of this community and I say so!  LOL!
 
I suppose I am a *new guy* in my community (the suburbs of Chicago)having started a chamber choir in the winter of 2006 and the other groups being long established before us.  The difference was, I started my group because there was no group I, personally,  wanted to sing in. There were large groups (100+ singers and 40/75+ singers)but no chamber group.  My numbers vary between as few as six to as many as 15 or 16, depending on the concert cycle and other factors.  We are more of a semi-professional community group, with many of my singers having degrees in music or being local church choir directors or musicains or music teachers or soloists.  They sing in my group because of my repertoire (I choose music written specifically for smaller forces) and because we have only two concerts a calender year--fall (sacred music) and spring (secular music).  I have made it a point of befriending the directors of the larger groups, taking  a former director (while she was still the director) out to lunch and explaining I didn't want to compete with her group but enhance the arts community in our area.  Our rehearsal day is a good day for the singers I have with me NOW but it does conflict with one of the groups. I have had several singers in one or another of the other ensembles in addition to mine and I am always very flexible when it comes to any rehearsal conflicts with those groups when it comes to their performance times.  The same cannot always be said about one of the groups....but you didn't hear it from me!
 
One of things I have learned is......to be above reproach as far as behavior and attitude about the other choral organizations in my community.  You will never hear me bad-mouthing another choral organization in public......and that's my advice to you.......let them compete but you don't say a word against them.  And if you want to have a non-compete clause and you feel it neccessary, you should do so....but know this, you will look like a poor sport and they will look better.  Think long and hard about it.  You have lasted this long for a reason......they may be the flavor du jour and it's just a question of waiting them out.
 
I am writing a book about choral ethics.....and your problem seems taylor-made for a chapter!
 
Take care,
 
Marie
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