Whether you’re just starting out as a choir leader or you’re a seasoned professional tackling a new project, it’s important to consider how your choir is going to be presented to its community. I don’t mean recruitment drives, advertising for individual performances or charitable projects that raise your profile. I mean the fundamentals of how your choir is perceived by the people who are likely to join it or make up its audience.
Here are four areas that I believe you need to focus on to create a choir that has a clear identity.
Back in the day, most choirs (certainly in the UK) were church choirs or choral societies. The former obviously took their names from the church where they were based; the latter tended to refer to the town where they were located, e.g. the Southampton Choral Society (still going strong seventy years later!). Choirs also tended to choose titles that indicated the style of music they sang or the type of voices that made up the group – “male voice choir” or “gospel choir”.
Things have moved on a lot, particularly in the last ten years when choral singing has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity. Traditional choirs with traditional names still have a place, of course, but there are also lots of “new kids on the block” with funny and quirky names that give prospective singers and audience members a hint that they might be onto something quite exciting. Just look at some of the names of the choirs we’ve featured on Total Choir Resources: Alive & Singing, Chaps Choir, Rainbow Chorus, Heart & Soul Choir, and of course Christine’s and my choirs – Total Voice.
There’s so much in a name. If you’re in the luxurious position of being able to name your choir, take some time to really investigate all the possibilities. Do a bit of brainstorming – what words and phrases evoke the kind of atmosphere and culture you want to create? Make a shortlist of names and ask your family and friends for feedback. What do your prospective names conjure up for them? You’ll need to be happy with this name long-term – you’ll be saying it, typing it, seeing it, hearing it and even wearing it A LOT!
Style of music
One of my favourite quotes of all time comes from Bill Cosby: “I don’t know the secret of success, but the secret of failure is trying to please everyone”. I try to remind myself of the truth of those words every now and again because I find it very easy to slip into people-pleasing mode.
You can’t please everyone. No single choir can cover every genre and style of music and it would be folly to try. Decide what your choir is going focus on and make that a central part of its identity, whether its musical theatre, pop, classical, barbershop or anything else.
The caveat is, of course, that whatever you decide your choir is going to sing has to be something that’s going to appeal to a sufficient number of people who are sufficiently local to join your choir. There’s little point in offering people Mahler when what they really want is Motown, and vice versa.
I happen to be a choir leader with a weakness for graphic design and typography, and I love nothing better than putting together posters, tickets, flyers and anything else that my choirs need. However, I recognise that I’m in a tiny minority in that respect. Most choir leaders I know don’t have a yearning to spend hours thinking about compatible fonts and colour palettes. Whether design is your thing or not, you need to create a coherent “look” for your choir and stick to it.
It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. Have a look around online for organisations and businesses that have the look and feel you want to evoke. Select a limited set of colours that you’re going to use consistently through all your literature, website, emails etc (for example, Total Voice choirs use predominantly orange, grey and black with magenta and purple as highlight colours).
Go through the same process with fonts. There’s lots of great advice available online, but a good rule of thumb is never to use more than two fonts in a single document. Oh, and please don’t use Comic Sans – it’s not cheerful and friendly, it’s just a little but patronising.
Uniform is really an extension of your design process. From t-shirts and jeans to dinner suits and ball gowns, it’s all about the image you want to create when your choir performs. Uniform also plays an important role in giving your choir members a sense of belonging and of professionalism when they perform, so don’t take it lightly. It might be an issue that you want to gather opinions on when your choir is underway, in which case don’t forget the Bill Cosby quote – there will always be someone who doesn’t like what you eventually decide on.
I hope I’ve convinced you that creating a simple, consistent “brand” for your choir doesn’t have to be dauntingly difficult. It’s a bit like choosing an outfit – what will suit the occasion, be comfortable and project the image you’d like people to have of you?
What names, designs and uniforms have you (or others) chosen for you choir? Do you love them? Hate them? We’d love to know.