Low-Stress Outlets for the Casual Choral Singer

Looking for a group singing outlet, but unable to commit to a weekly rehearsal? Worried that you need to shake off some rust before joining a “serious” ensemble? Have no fear—relaxed opportunities with smaller time commitments are popping up across the country.

The BIG SING

New York, NY

Deborah Simpkin King
Chair, New York Choral Consortium; Artistic Director and Founder, Ember

DeborahDeborah King

1) What is it? How does it work?

DSK: We come together, completely unrehearsed, and read through familiar pieces of music - it's not a performance. People just want to sing! It's about being in the midst of people that you don't know but share a love of singing. I think the people who attend are looking for a human connection experience, and that's the magic. We have some people who like to come and listen (though they are the minority). There's always a theme of some kind. This year it was a "gloria" theme, so we sang the entire Vivaldi Gloria, as well as the Gloria movement from many different masses.

2) What’s the commitment for the singers?

DSK: The only commitment is that you have to bring your own music (or share with a friend). All of the music is in the public domain - so people can download a single packet on our website. You can print it out, or increasingly people bring it on their tablets. Just show up - we don't need to know in advance. We don't have to record your name or email address, though you can if you want to receive information in the future.

3) What level of singing experience is needed?

DSK: Honestly, it doesn't matter. There are people who may drift in and out - maybe they'll recognize some of the songs but want to sit out the ones they don't know - that's fine. Others are good sight readers and will sing works that they've never done. And there are those who have sung this music many times and probably don't need music at all. All levels are welcome, encouraged, and joyfully received. It's truly a community bonding experience. 

4) How often do you meet?

DSK: It's an annual event—it's often held the second Monday in June. People hold it on their calendars and look forward to it. Actually, in New York, while most of the Consortium's choruses are in planning mode for their respective "core" seasons, there is a very lively series of informal sings. We look at the Big Sing as a launch to the "fun sing" season.

Find out more:

https://www.newyorkchoralconsortium.org/the-big-sing


Men’s Night Out

Washington, DC

Frank Albinder
Music Director, Washington Men’s Camerata; Conductor, Virginia Glee Club

FrankFrank Albinder

1) What is it? How does it work?

FA: It's a sing-along, mostly for people who sang in collegiate men's choruses - primarily because those groups don't have the major works that mixed choirs have for their summer sings. I thought it would be fun to do some "glee club classics." But not every song might be known as a classic at each school, but there's enough common ground. 

2) What’s the commitment for the singers?

FA:All they have to do is show up. It's a one-night event. The first year we held this event, one of the Camerata guys (who didn't have a men's collegiate chorus background) wanted me to give him all the music in advance so he could study it. I joked with him that he was taking it way too seriously. We're not going to stop and fix anything, and nobody is judging anyone - we're just going to sing for fun.

3) What level of singing experience is needed?

FA: Zero. Though it is helpful to have had some choral experience, and I believe that most people who show up have sung in a men's choir - or a TTBB choir, as we're now calling them (there was a female tenor at our event, and I know of a few cisgender female singers in choruses that have been traditionally male).

4) How often do you meet?

FA: We do it once a year. Although some community choruses use these events as a recruitment tool (and the Camerata usually picks up a couple of singers per year from this), the idea was mostly to give our regular members a way to sing between June 1 and September 1. It's a fun way to check in and sing some music that we're not trying to hone for a performance.

Find out more:

https://www.facebook.com/events/2221001824795326/


Beer Choir

Various US cities

Adam Reinwald
Co-Leader, Beer Choir Twin Cities; Assistant Conductor & Community Engagement Manager, National Lutheran Choir

AdamAdam Reinwald

1) What is it? How does it work?

AR: It's exactly what the name is. The organization exists for people who love to sing and love to drink interesting beer to have a chance to come together in community, and live out the European social singing model that has been around for centuries. We're trying to revive the idea of enjoying a few songs over a pint, and lift up the idea of community singing. Folks grab our songbook - or "hymnal" - and a song leader and pianist will lead the group, with pauses to drink some beer and talk. From a songleader perspective, the best part is that you see people who don't know each other at all clinking glasses and singing together.

2) What’s the commitment for the singers?

AR: We like to joke that you don't have to be a great singer to enjoy Beer Choir, but you should try to participate. What's involved is simply coming with your best intent on joining in on the songs that you feel like. We're not going to make anyone sing anything that they don't want to or know how to do - but if you do so with a beer in your hand, you're gonna have a lot more fun. Grab a beer, grab a songbook, and follow instructions - that's it.

3) What level of singing experience is needed?

AR: There are songs in the hymnal that speak to the choral enthusiast, so if you want to sing in up to 8 parts - great. If you want to simply follow along with the melody on Danny Boy and aren't too worried about matching pitch, go for it. As long as you've got a beer in your hand, you're gonna have a great time. We've had folks say that they were dragged to our event, or they don't really "like" choral singing, but they had a great time.

4) How often do you meet?

AR:We have semi-regular events in about 30 towns across the country. Events happen anywhere from monthly, as they do in my Twin Cities chapter, to perhaps twice a year. As we professionalize operation, folks will start to see Beer Choir chapters in the top 40 markets in the States, and hopefully you'll find one every month in whatever town you may be in - either on vacation or where you live. 

Find out more:

https://beerchoir.com/


PubSing

Memphis, TN

Jeremy Warner
Founder, PubSing; Founder and Artistic Director, Memphis ChoralArts

JeremyJeremy Warner

1) What is it? How does it work?

JW: It's a simple concept. "We gather, we drink, we sing." At its core, it's all about community, so we try to be as inclusive as possible by providing a specially-curated songbook of folk songs and drinking songs from all over the world. We sing songs about all sorts of libations, not just beer. People tend to sit at tables with folks they've never met before, while also being more open to engaging with others in one-on-one conversation. We take social breaks throughout the event for folks to order more drinks and chat. We've found that it's easier to meet new people and make new friends at a PubSing event than a bar outing with a friend or two.

2) What’s the commitment for the singers?

JW: No event goer is required to "sing" but they are encouraged to 'be present' throughout the course of the two-hour event. Admission and the songbook rental are both completely free—the drinks consumed are the only cost to the event goer. Folks need not bring anything beyond a willingness to be in community with others and some drink money; PubSing provides the rest. We often encourage attendees to move away from their phones (except for the obligatory #pubsing social media posts).

3) What level of singing experience is needed?

JW: Everyone can enjoy a PubSing event. Sight-reading is helpful, but certainly not a pre-requisite. We often learn the melody of each song together first before we jump into two-, three-, or four-part harmony. We encourage singers to sing any part they like at any time, while also giving them the freedom to make up ad lib parts whenever they feel so inclined. We've had many self-proclaimed "non-singers" return time and time again just for the ambiance at our events.

4) How often do you meet?

JW: Currently, we are gathering once a month. We've met at breweries and brewpubs thus far, but we're looking seriously at branching out into evening events at dive bars, pubs, and restaurants very soon!

Find out more:

https://www.facebook.com/PubSing/


Mike Rowan is communications manager at Chorus America.

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