It’s surprisingly easy to get a new workplace choir up and running. Here is some help and advice to assist you in doing so:
SELECT A TAB:
Why join a workplace choir?
- There are no auditions and nobody has to sing solo. What have you got to lose?
- There is no experience necessary (indeed, many participants have little or no experience of singing in a choir).“It really is something that I can look forward to all day at work. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
- From day one, the results astound even the choir members themselves. The power of singing in a group – either in unison or in harmony – is incredible.
- Employees in workplace choirs have said that they spend all day, or even all week, looking forward to their choir rehearsals.
The benefits of a workplace choir in any organisation are numerous and valuable:
The science (why group singers feel such a ‘buzz’):
- Group singing triggers the release of all 4 ‘happiness hormones’ in the body: dopamine, serotonin (associated with feelings of exhilaration and contentment), endorphins and oxytocin. The importance and significance of oxytocin must not be underestimated here. This hormone is usually released during physical contact and has been found to promote trust and togetherness, whilst reducing stress and anxiety. Group singing is one of very few ways to produce significant levels of oxytocin without physical contact, which makes it an ideal activity for workplaces.“Group singing is one of very few ways to produce significant levels of oxytocin without physical contact.”
- As well as the invaluable release of beneficial hormones, group singing reduces levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol has been called ‘the stress hormone’.
- Singing increases lung capacity, improves posture, boosts the immune system and increases mental alertness due to greater oxygenation. These benefits are further enhanced by the warmups and exercises associated with choral rehearsals.
- A choir can lead to a massive increase in team effectiveness in the workplace. Teams gel better and thrive for longer, performing beyond their ceilings of expectation.
- Employee fulfilment and retention rates increase thanks to improved morale, reduced stress and deep social connections.
- Employees benefit from the self-confidence that choral performance provides. This benefits their communication and presentation skills.
- Engaging staff in a new and exciting way boosts productivity, creativity and general wellbeing in the workplace.
- Choir rehearsals are a unique opportunity for colleagues from different departments and different levels of the organisation to meet, and to make great friends in the process. This breaks down barriers, improves communication, and brings a renewed sense of pride, direction and focus to the organisation.“Breaks down barriers, improves communication, and brings a renewed sense of pride, direction and focus.”
- Choir rehearsals and performances are a lot of fun, and are often a highlight of the working week for choir members.
- Workplace choirs lead to a healthier, happier, more confident workforce.
- Organisations benefit from having their own choir to perform at annual conferences, seasonal parties, office parties or other events. A choir can also be a valuable asset for advertising and PR, or even just as an event in itself (foyer concert, flash mob, etc.). A workplace choir performance at a community or charity event can be a valuable element of an organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility strategy.
- For all of these reasons, a workplace choir represents a very big return on a very small investment.
Don’t just take our word for it
Time Magazine featured a fascinating article on the benefits of singing. It’s worth reading for further information on everything from the origins of singing to synchronised heartbeats. Click the ‘Singing Changes Your Brain’ article to enlarge it.
Once you’ve decided to form a workplace choir, we would suggest that you take the following steps:
- Gain management support for the idea. Most managers, when shown our information on the benefits of workplace choirs (see first tab above) would find the prospect hard to resist.
- Find out the best way to broadcast the message in your workplace. Perhaps a Communications Manager or HR Department could help.
- Use a combination of approaches – both high-tech and low-tech.
- Print a RECRUITMENT POSTER and hang plenty of them so that nobody can use the excuse that they didn’t know about it (on notice boards, by the copier, in the bathrooms, by the kettle, etc.). This awareness will also be useful in the future when you are drumming up support for the Semi-Finals and Competition Final, so don’t hold back.
- You could use the supplied Google Form template (below) to gauge interest or to have people sign up online.
- If you sense a reluctance amongst your colleagues, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to arrange a free demo rehearsal in your workplace (limited availability). We will demonstrate the progress that can be made in one short rehearsal.
Find like-minded people
By circulating a Google Form in your workplace, you can quickly build up a spreadsheet of colleagues who are interested in forming a choir. We’ve created a form template for you.
In addition to 10 or more choir members, management support, and a rehearsal space, you will need to consider two other factors:
- Although not officially a requirement for the competition, we recommend that you appoint or hire a choirmaster. Choirmasters can be sourced through local music schools, college music departments, churches, community choirs or arts organisations.Your choirmaster can advise you on song choices and arrangements.
- Your choirmaster can be either an amateur or a professional. We recommend hiring somebody who has experience of choral direction, vocal warmups and performance.
- The choirmaster is there primarily for musical direction. Administration of the choir (scheduling, etc.) should be managed by somebody within your organisation rather than by the choirmaster, if possible. The choirmaster’s role should include:
- Advising your choir on music/song choices, and making some recommendations.
- Sourcing sheet music (or sometimes even composing arrangements of songs to suit the choir). If there is any difficulty sourcing sheet music, we will be happy to help. Contact us at email@example.com.
- Providing sheet music for an accompanist.
- Instruction on technique and vocal warmups.
- Suggesting which section of the choir might best suit each member.
- Assigning work to be done between rehearsals (ie. what to sing at the traffic lights!).
- Conducting the choir, both in rehearsals and on stage at the Semi-Finals and Competition Final.
- Inspiring and encouraging the choir and it’s members.
- You should discuss and agree a fee with the choirmaster to cover the rehearsals and the competition performance. Each choir should deal directly with their choirmaster in all matters relating to fees and remuneration. The competition entry fee does not cover any fees for choirmasters or accompanists.
- Bear in mind also that many choral arrangements of songs have a small cost attached to them and can’t simply be photocopied. Your choirmaster can advise on this.
- If you have any difficulty sourcing or selecting a choirmaster, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily recommend somebody in your area.
- Many choirs engage the services of a piano accompanist for the Semi-Finals and/or the Competition Final performance. An accompanist is not required for the competition (indeed, some performances/songs benefit from having no accompaniment to the vocal lines). The competition has been won by an unaccompanied choir in the past. “Some performances benefit from having no accompaniment to the vocal lines.”
- Your accompanist might be a musical employee within your organisation, or a professional or amateur musician sourced from local music schools, college music departments, churches, community choirs or arts organisations.
- It is likely that your choirmaster can recommend an accompanist. This has the added benefit that they may have worked together before.
- A piano will be provided at the competition venue for both the Semi-Finals and the Competition Final. Piano is the only accompanying instrument permitted in the competition.
- We advise that the accompanist be present at your final two rehearsals before the Semi-Finals.
- You should discuss and agree a fee with the accompanist to cover the two rehearsals and the competition performance. Each choir should deal directly with their accompanist in all matters relating to fees and remuneration. The competition entry fee does not cover any fees for accompanists or choirmasters.
- If you have any difficulty sourcing or selecting an accompanist, contact email@example.com and we will happily recommend somebody in your area.
- Find a suitable, available and reliable rehearsal space – either within or outside of your workplace. This could be a canteen, a conference room, or even the CEO’s office. Consider how your sound will affect people in adjacent rooms if you are rehearsing during office hours.“Contact us if you need any advice/assistance. Other choirs are going through the same process.”
- If you have a choice of rooms, consider the acoustics of each space. A small room could give you a rather ‘flat’ sound, whereas the echo of a large hall could enhance your sound. Your choirmaster can advise you on this.
- Consider providing refreshments (tea, coffee, water) for your choir members if possible. Otherwise, advise members to bring water if they need it.
- When you’re starting out, we suggest scheduling a 1-hour choir rehearsal, once a week. All members should make a commitment to attend all rehearsals and to make the most of their time there.
- The first few minutes of your rehearsal will consist of vocal and physical warmups. This is a very valuable part of the rehearsal and everybody should endeavour to be on time to all rehearsals. Warmups will teach you good posture and breathing and help you to find and to polish your voice.
- Schedule rehearsals to suit your choir members, the choirmaster and your organisation. Rehearsals could be during your lunch hour or outside of office hours. It can be difficult to find a time that suits everybody but we have seen organisations make this work with 50+ people from all levels and departments of the organisation. It is best to select a suitable day and time and stick to that every week.
- As the competition approaches, think about having a ‘dress rehearsal’ performance to colleagues in your workplace, or elsewhere. There is no substitute for a performance in front of an audience to prepare you for competition.
- You are all there to enjoy yourselves, so feel free to socialise before and after the rehearsal. Why not arrange an outing to strengthen the bonds formed within your choir?
- If you need any advice/assistance regarding rehearsals, please contact the Workplace Choir of the Year team (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ve seen many choirs starting out and can reassure you if you’re finding it tough. Other choirs are going through the same process, so don’t give up!
- For the competition, your choir will be required to perform two contrasting pieces in unison or 2 or more parts, male or female or mixed. Each of the two pieces can be a maximum of 4 minutes in duration.“Choirs performing simple songs well often score better than those getting bogged down in complex arrangements.”
- Many choirs choose songs whose themes suit the nature or industry of their workplace (eg. an airline might perform “I Believe I can Fly”), but this is not required and doesn’t attract any extra points.
- Don’t forget that your two performance pieces should be contrasting. If you are performing one upbeat pop song, you might consider a slower piece – even a classical or an Irish piece – as your other song.
- Your choirmaster can advise you on whether or not a song is within the reach of your choir and may be able to compose an arrangement of a popular song to suit your choir. If you would like assistance sourcing a choral arrangement of any song, CONTACT US at email@example.com.
- We recommend no more than 3-part harmony. SAB (soprano, alto, bass) is enough for an amateur choir and adding any further layers of harmony will increase complexity and may adversely affect your performance. Remember: the judges will want to see that you are enjoying yourselves.
- If you have an accompanist, don’t forget to have piano parts printed/ready for them.
- NB: Choirs performing simple songs well often score better than those getting bogged down in complex arrangements.
- If your choir is feeling overwhelmed by your chosen arrangements as the competition date approaches, don’t be afraid to try a simpler song. Even a couple of weeks is enough to master a new song once you’re used to singing together.
- We encourage choirs to keep rehearsing and learning new repertoire even after the Workplace Choir of the Year competition. Keep up the good work you’ve done.
- Think about what you will wear for the competition performances. You could match your organisation’s colour scheme using scarves or other garments, or even wear work uniforms. Make sure you won’t be too hot/cold or restricted by your outfits. There is no requirement to be in matching outfits, so don’t be afraid to go ‘smart-casual’ if you prefer.
- We suggest that you arrange a ‘dress rehearsal’ performance in front of your colleagues in your workplace a couple of weeks before the competition. This will give you performance experience and show you if there are any remaining issues that need to be ironed out in your performance. It will also drum up some support for the choir and perhaps your colleagues will come along and cheer for you at the Semi-Finals or at the Competition Final.
- Tweet about your rehearsals and performances (@workplacechoir) and post to the Workplace Choir of the Year Facebook page in the lead-up to the event. We’d be delighted to see how you’re progressing.
- Don’t hesitate to CONTACT US at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or to seek advice about rehearsals or performances.