Starting a new pop-rock-soul-gospel-folky workplace choir as a brand new choir leader...Top tips, please!!

Hi leaders!

To give you the context: I'm starting a new choir for staff and students in the aeronautical institute where I've started working, here in Toulouse (student body 1900, probably 80% male; staff including part-time, 1800, poss 60% male - no idea how this will translate into percentages in the choir itself, or indeed how many I'll have.)

The songs will be in English; I want to teach from ear (lyric sheets but not scores)... It'll be an (almost) hour-long session at lunchtime, pretty casual (who knows, a separate, more serious group that would practise after school might emerge from it, eventually...) 

I'll be using backing tracks and, to start with at least, pre-made learning tracks, I think. We'll have an accompanist for performers and I can read music and I'll have a keyboard in the rehearsal room, but I won't be accompanying during rehearsal, unless sporadically. 

The institute is willing to buy the material (tracks, etc.) , but as I have to buy from suppliers and others have to set up accounts with these different suppliers, I have to be astute and tactical in who I use (ie. use as few as possible, otherwise they'll get fed up - it's French and bureaucratic and is already proving surprisingly complicated). (I should add that I'm principally an English teacher, so this isn't my main job!) 

I'm looking at Choir Community (lots of great a cappella, but I think this might be risky to start with?) and also I had a couple of great tips (pink zebra music, choir player, karaoke version) from the Mastermind yesterday, so I'm about to look into those too.  I guess I need learning tracks + backing tracks + lyric sheets (if arranged with the oohs and ahhs in place? Who would you recommend as a one-stop-shop? I reckon I can manage 2 stop shops, but that might be it.)

Some other questions I have: 

What great starter tracks would you recommend? Especially for a choir whose makeup you don't know (I don't think I'll have a sense of the regular makeup (SAT/ SATB / TTBB?) until the novelty has worn off and it has settled down!) Probably no harm starting with Lean on Me or Stand By Me or Caravan of Love or Down by the River to Pray / Go to Sleep You Little Baby... ? 

Should I start out with two-part harmony or am I safe enough to go for three? 

Planning: Am I right in thinking that I'm only likely to get through a warmup, maybe a round and then half a song in a lunchtime, adding on a couple of previously learned songs at the end, once we get a few under our belts? 

Any and all advice/ideas very welcome. 

Thanks so much in advance :)



Hi Fiona,

It was great to see you on the mastermind, this is a really excited project you have starting and I know your fellow members will have a wealth of advice. I'm going to mention your post in the weekly member news to draw people to it.

In the meantime, I'll be doing a drop-in session this Tuesday evening on Zoom for members to along and chat or I'm very happy to set up a coaching call with you directly. Let me know :)

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Hi Christine, thanks so much for doing that. Very unfortunately, I can’t make this Tuesday, but if we could have a chat when it suits you, that’d be really terrific. Much appreciated! Fiona

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Hi there!  I run a workplace choir and have one hour for the session …. The reality being that it ends up being about 45 minutes as people arrive late if they finish a meeting on the hour it can take 10 minutes to get to you, and some people need to leave early to get to the next meeting!  Don’t overload the time to make you feel like you’re rushing - it does take this group longer to learn songs as attendance isn’t as consistent as my other groups and the sessions are shorter.  

It depends on the experience of the people but I would start with 2 part and give confidence to do something good quite quickly and will give you chance to see where the strengths of the group lie. 

It has different challenges to my evening groups but still great fun!  I even got to go to Paris a few years back with them for a gala event (we are in the UK).

Not sure if this helps but enjoy! 

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HI Kathryn, yep! That sounds very similar to my cohort; I think that a nice emphasis on one tune per lunchtime with a warmup and yes, try to avoid rushing and keep it fun. As a teacher I have a terrible tendency to over-prepare and try to shoehorn too much in, so I definitely need to avoid that mistake here... And nothing beats a choir trip! Especially if you get the DJ onside in the bar or club you go to after the gig and he plays all your tunes... (if it's that kind of choir!)

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