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#1 Sylvette

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:55

Hi everyone!  How do I find a choir that sings to a reasonably high standard but doesn't sing church music?

I really enjoy choral singing, but for personal reasons I do not want to sing religious music.  Neither do I want to join the 'nobody but the leader can sing or read music but it doesn't matter' type of choir! 

All the choirs round here seem to be either church-based or fall into the latter category.  There must be people out there singing other things, but how do I find them?

 


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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 10:23

I play for 2 choirs in Gloucestershire which sing a real mix of music. We sing the odd religious piece but lots of other genres too. I think you might find it hard to find a choir that never sang anything religious. The two choirs have music readers and none music readers. Don't suppose you're in my part of Gloucestershire!
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#3 leahdon_uk

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 10:33

Hi Sylvette,

 

I'm the music director of a ladies chorus based in Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham called Cleeve Harmony. We are a small a cappella/barbershop chorus and (apart from at Christmas) do not do religious music. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me, but if you are free on Sunday, we are singing at the Bishop's Cleeve Street Fair at 1pm and 2.45. Our repertoire is all 20th/21st Century music ranging from When I Fall in Love to Bohemian Rhapsody. If you are further South, there is also Fascinating Rhythm (near Stroud I think) plus several similar choruses in and around Bristol.

 

Oh and about a third of the chorus can read music well, a third understand what the spots mean when they go up and down (as one put it) and a third don't read music. We give everyone the music both as music and as teach tracks but non-readers are still expected to use the music in rehearsal (although one writes out the songs with her own short-hand to remind her what to do). We do all our performances from memory (and that includes my directing).

 

Best wishes,

 

Donna


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#4 Tenor Viol

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 17:57

Depends what you mean by 'religious music'. Do you mean hymns/gospel style, or no masses by Mozart or Handel oratorios? If the latter, that eliminates a very large proportion of the mainstream choral repertoire. There are choirs that specialise in other genres such as music theatre, American songbook, etc. Most choirs do a mix.

In general, chamber choirs tend to be of a higher standard, but choral societies can be too. Community choirs tend to be non-selective.

The only way to find out is to ask.


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#5 Banjogirl

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 10:11

Leahdon, I was about to suggest barbershop but you beat me to it.

 

It is totally the best kind of singing in every way. Standards are high, everyone is lovely, there's loads of attention to detail, and it's hard without being unmaneagable. And of course we have fabulous outfits.  We have a similar balance of readers and non-readers to Cleeve Harmony, though I'm having a bit of a drive to teach non-readers at least the basics. There is no difference in the standard expected whether you can read music or not, and some of our 'best' singers don't read music. I was completely hooked at my very first rehearsal twenty years ago, having wondered for a year whether it was worth going as I thought I wouldn't like it!

 

Donna, will we see you at convention in Bournemouth?


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#6 Sylvette

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 10:57

Thanks, everyone for your responses.  I don't have a problem with the odd bit of religious music, but I have joined two choirs in the last few years, only to find that their repertoire is 80-90% religious.  One was a 'community choir', which proved to be an extension of the local evangelical chapel, With the other, I was led to believe that "we do a mix of things", which has turned out to be a Bob Chillcot Latin mass, his arrangement of Blake's Songs of Innocence and some spirituals!  As a convinced atheist, I am uncomfortable with this, particularly when the rest of the choir seem to be regular churchgoers. 

I do appreciate that historically a lot of music was written for church use, but I am more interested in modern music. 

I had thought about barbershop, but did not know where to look for groups, so I will definitely be following up on leahdon_uk's suggestion.  Thanks again.


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#7 Banjogirl

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 11:29

http://www.labbs.org.uk

 

Or, dare I say it,   http://sweetadelines.org.uk/ Their website is a bit pants, and there aren't any choruses near you.


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#8 linda.ff

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 12:59

Even in many - OK, some -  places where they are directly tied to religious institutions, they will turn a blind eye to your belief or non-belief. My ex has been a member of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Choir for nearly 30 years, and he is definitely an atheist. But then, he's also a tenor, and a good one too, and as they're quite rare, you don't ask too many questions!

 

Even good choir directors who are non-believers work very successfully with sacred music. (Is there a different slant to it if you call it sacred instead of religious? Possibly one referring to the music and the other to the performer).One of the most inspiring people I worked with in my long life told me he would be conducting something like the St Matthew Passion, find it terribly moving, and be thinking "Oh, I wish I could believe this!" - but he knew, as I would in the same position, that he never would.


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#9 leahdon_uk

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 13:12

Even in many - OK, some -  places where they are directly tied to religious institutions, they will turn a blind eye to your belief or non-belief. My ex has been a member of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Choir for nearly 30 years, and he is definitely an atheist. But then, he's also a tenor, and a good one too, and as they're quite rare, you don't ask too many questions!

 

Even good choir directors who are non-believers work very successfully with sacred music. (Is there a different slant to it if you call it sacred instead of religious? Possibly one referring to the music and the other to the performer).One of the most inspiring people I worked with in my long life told me he would be conducting something like the St Matthew Passion, find it terribly moving, and be thinking "Oh, I wish I could believe this!" - but he knew, as I would in the same position, that he never would.

But it's not about whether the choir will ignore the singer's beliefs, it is whether the singer feels the songs make him/her uncomfortable which is what Sylvette has highlighted. 


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#10 linda.ff

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 13:54

 

Even in many - OK, some -  places where they are directly tied to religious institutions, they will turn a blind eye to your belief or non-belief. My ex has been a member of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Choir for nearly 30 years, and he is definitely an atheist. But then, he's also a tenor, and a good one too, and as they're quite rare, you don't ask too many questions!

 

Even good choir directors who are non-believers work very successfully with sacred music. (Is there a different slant to it if you call it sacred instead of religious? Possibly one referring to the music and the other to the performer).One of the most inspiring people I worked with in my long life told me he would be conducting something like the St Matthew Passion, find it terribly moving, and be thinking "Oh, I wish I could believe this!" - but he knew, as I would in the same position, that he never would.

But it's not about whether the choir will ignore the singer's beliefs, it is whether the singer feels the songs make him/her uncomfortable which is what Sylvette has highlighted. 

 

True, but I was trying to make the point that you can enjoy the music without believing it. Surely the concern that you're "supposed" to believe it must be part of the problem.

 

When I taught in school I had several Muslim girls, almost all from Bangladesh, in my choir, and mostly they weren't able/allowed to take part in the carol concert. Finally in her last year, one girl said to me "My mum says it's all right, I can sing those things. I just mustn't mean them" which I thought was brilliant. So I told them it was OK, I didn't mean them either!


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#11 sbhoa

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 14:08

 

Even in many - OK, some -  places where they are directly tied to religious institutions, they will turn a blind eye to your belief or non-belief. My ex has been a member of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Choir for nearly 30 years, and he is definitely an atheist. But then, he's also a tenor, and a good one too, and as they're quite rare, you don't ask too many questions!

 

Even good choir directors who are non-believers work very successfully with sacred music. (Is there a different slant to it if you call it sacred instead of religious? Possibly one referring to the music and the other to the performer).One of the most inspiring people I worked with in my long life told me he would be conducting something like the St Matthew Passion, find it terribly moving, and be thinking "Oh, I wish I could believe this!" - but he knew, as I would in the same position, that he never would.

But it's not about whether the choir will ignore the singer's beliefs, it is whether the singer feels the songs make him/her uncomfortable which is what Sylvette has highlighted. 

 

I understand that feeling as I never felt comfortable with Christmas concert songs that tried to tell us all the things christmas is but for me totally missed the point.


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#12 Sylvette

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 14:39

It was actually Christmas that made me leave the first choir.  We sang a lot of 'meaningful' pop songs (Tears in Heaven, Lean on Me, You've Got a Friend, etc), which I was quite happy with (although the version of Hallelujah that bore almost no resemblance to Leonard Cohen's except the tune was going a bit far), but when it came to Christmas, every suggestion for a song that was not explicitly a hymn or carol got turned down.  I'll sing a good carol with the best of them, but to be told that it was 'inappropriate' to sing Jingle Bells or Frosty the Snowman in what was supposed to be a community choir for people of all faiths or none was too much for me.


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#13 leahdon_uk

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 14:46

Well our current Christmas repertoire comprises Angels We Have Heard on High, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silent Night (will be new this year), That's Christmas to Me (Pentatonix non-religious song), What Child is This/We Three Kings medley. 

 

Every Christmas we host an event called Carols at the Barn which is a sing-a-long/performance night comprising the songs above plus others with the audience given the words for the sing-a-long songs, plus we take part in a Church Carol service (a couple of members don't take part in this) and provide Christmas entertainment for various local residential homes/Rotary fundraisers.

 

:-)

 

Donna


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#14 Banjogirl

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 15:52

We've just been planning our Christmas repertoire. One or two newer members asked if we could resurrect some of the Christ mas material we used to sing, such as 'Silent Night'. They should know better than to suggest to me that we sing something we've already sung before (!), but that aside, there was a general feeling that we can and should and want to sing different things from standard choral societies or church choirs. Currently our Christmas repertoire is a mixture of sacred and secular, from mediaeval to modern with only about three 'carols'. I also sing in the church choir (I'm an atheist - it's a long story...) which makes me even less keen to sing the standard carols in my chorus.

 

Putting my prejudices aside, everyone in our chorus is welcome to suggest music, and it will always be given consideration. There doesn't seem much point in only singing the things the music comittee like! The nice thing about singing barbershop is that there's something for everybody, and every kind of music has been arranged.


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#15 Cyrilla

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Posted 08 June 2017 - 23:08

leahdon_uk, whose arrangement of 'Angels We Have Heard On High' are you doing??

 

:)


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