It happens in most church choirs: People join at the beginning of the year, eager to be part of the exciting cantata you have planned for Christmas. In January, some will happily take their seat in the pew until next September, while others stay and join the "regular choir," with the glimmer of Easter on the horizon. But, after Easter? Well, we all know what tends to happen after Easter.
Attendance gradually declines, the people who joined for the cantata zip out for an extended summer hiatus, and you're left with the faithful of the faithful, the die-hards, holding on until that last Sunday of the program year.
How do you keep choir members engaged (and present) through the end of the program year? What can you do to get people excited about choir after the allure of Christmas and Easter?
Here are a few ideas:
Participate in a choir festival.
A choir festival is a great opportunity to join forces with other local church choirs and put on a concert for the community.
Here are a few examples of church choir festivals across the country:
North Carolina Baptists Senior Adult Choir Festival
WCLV's Jubilation! Church Choir Festival (Cleveland)
Church Choir Festival (Dahlonega)
Delaware ACDA Church Choir Festival
All-Church Choir Festival Concert (Santa Rosa)
Church Choir Festival (Ashland)
Choir Festival at Pine Shores (Sarasota)
A choir festival can be as simple and low-key as having three church choirs sing one or two pieces on their own and three all together. On a grander scale, 10+ local church choirs might participate (perhaps making this a state-wide event). Some church choir festivals bring in a guest clinician to work with the combined choir, and some plan rehearsals, special events, worship services, and fellowship opportunities spanning a few days.
Large or small, church choir festivals offer a great opportunity to help raise awareness (and funding) for a cause or charity by turning the culminating concert into a fundraiser. Partner with other church choir directors to plan the program and ask audience members to bring a canned food item for donation, take up a free-will offering, or charge a small admission fee to benefit a local organization.
Plan a concert of favorite anthems.
If your choir is like mine, you know they like to favorites with the choir anthems you choose throughout the year. Give them an opportunity to sing their favorites in a special end-of-the-year concert.
Sometime after Easter, create a list of anthems - either things you've sung during the year, or a general list of 30-40 pieces. Decide how many pieces you want to program (ten is a good number). Pass out ballots during choir rehearsal and take a few minutes to let everyone vote for their favorite ten anthems.
This solves the age-old problem of not having enough anthems in the folder to rehearse at the end of the year. Now, you have ten anthems to work on, in addition to the music you have planned for Sundays.
For the concert, group anthems together by theme and maybe intersperse with a bit of narration to tie everything together.
Organize a fundraiser concert.
This might be a dinner theater, talent show, or concert of Broadway favorites. What could your choir do well? What would get them excited? What kind of music do they enjoy singing? What would your congregation enjoy (and attend)?
For a dinner theater, choose a short musical, or make your own by adding musical numbers to a play script. Involve youth in the performance and/or as servers.
For a talent show, encourage people of all ages to participate. Put together a few ensembles - maybe a men's ensemble, women's ensemble, mixed ensemble, women's trio, barbershop quartet, etc. so it's not all solo acts.
For a concert of show tunes, again, think about some pieces for full choir and some for smaller ensembles, for variety. Will you have costumes? Choreography? Think about ways to group pieces together to create sets for the concert: maybe by show, love songs, etc.
Plan a patriotic concert for Memorial Day or 4th of July.
Summer is a great time to put on a concert and the patriotic holidays are a perfect opportunity to sing some of those American classics that everyone loves to hear.
You might consider presenting a concert at a community center, school, or even outside - a town green, gazebo, or park. Include some instrumentalists (solo or ensemble), for variety, and maybe even partner with another church choir or community ensemble for a few big numbers.
Take your choir on a field trip.
Do a mini tour over a long weekend. Sing at retirement centers, malls, hospitals, schools, or join with another church choir at their church. Add in a few tours or group experiences (museums, historic sites, outdoor activities) for fun and fellowship.
Alternatively, plan your own mini retreat at a local conference center. Sing, visit, and plan some fun activities to do together, as a large group, or in small groups.
. . . . .
In the end, the best way to keep momentum in your choir is by giving your singers a purpose - a practical way to participate in something greater than themselves, something to look forward to, something to tell others about.
How do you keep momentum in your church choir at the end of the year? I'd love to hear your ideas!