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Magic Choral Trick #311 Shifting the Chorus Culture

As we Northern Hemisphere folks head back to our chorus and choir rehearsals this week we are given an opportunity to review our dreams and aspirations for our groups – and to consider what would make our weekly experience even more fun.

However, even though the group’s leadership – the director or music team – may have a shift they’d like to make, nothing will happen until the chorus decides as a unit that this is something they’d like to do.

It’s useful to have the music team sit down and talk about which Cultural Shifts we’d like to see this season. And by Cultural Shifts, I mean anything at all to do with chorus life that will make the experience more joyful and positive. The shift can be something technical, like perfecting the group’s staggered breathing, so that no one ever, ever again snatches a breath between words or syllables – or it can be some off-riser cultural agreement, like deciding to complain only to those with the authority to solve a particular musical, or social problem. It might even be the decision to incorporate more of a certain type of repertoire – and to become the chorus that’s really good at it.

All change requires agreement. In my experience, the top down demanding of change never works in a group where people gather to escape all the other ‘top down demanding’ in their lives.

This is one of the beauties of competition. When we look over and see that the chorus that just placed ahead of us has enacted a particular change that won them their spot – there’s no problem with motivating our own chorus to shift a specific behaviour.

As a director I prefer to just calmly keep presenting and presenting (and presenting and presenting) the opportunity that a specific shift would create, and sooner or later somebody jumps on board. When that first person jumps on board, they inspire all the others. And sooner or later, even those who might originally have argued against the change notice the fun that’s being had and want to be a part of it all.

Directors – all you need is the guts to be the Lone Nut, and the patience to wait for your First Follower….

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