Many community choirs around Australia have sprung from the activities of visionary individuals:
Colin Slater - Sing Australia
Jonathon Welch - Choir of Hard Knocks
Tanja de Jong - Creativity Australia
Community Choirs are generally instigated by passionate and committed individuals. These leaders can draw people together from diverse backgrounds with mixed ability. The aim is enjoyment, but can also be performance excellence. Some notable practitioners in NSW include Tony Backhouse, Stuart Davis, Kate Swadling, Rachel Hore, Steven Taberner, and the list goes on…
What the research shows:
*Community choirs promote personal well being and build social capital
*Virtually anyone can start a community choir, however the group’s musical standard is determined by the leader’s expertise
Issues facing community choirs:
* It is compulsory to purchase scores as well as obtain permission from music publishers to sing and arrange legally protected songs. This can restrict a choir’s repertoire and is costly where community choirs tend to be not-for-profit and run on a shoe-string budget (APRA is currently negotiating with community music representatives and publishers to address this issue).
* Community choirs are generally run by volunteers where there is minimal expectation that skilled leaders are paid which compromises the musical standard and profile of these groups.
*Cultural practitioners tend to be invisible, unrecognized, undervalued and poorly paid. The field lacks coherence that otherwise could forge alliances addressing over emphasis on the fiscal pulse of a nation to the detriment of art, creativity, culture and community.
Inspirational documentaries and films on the topic of choirs:
Outback Choir (2014, ABC TV documentary with Michelle Leonard)
Boy Choir (2014 US film featuring Dustin Hoffman & Kathy Bates)
Song for Marion (2012 UK film featuring Vanessa Redgrave & Terence Stamp)
Unsung Town (2009 UK documentary with Gareth Malone)
As it is in Heaven (2004 film Sweden, featuring Michael Nyqvist)
PRACTICAL GUIDE TO INSTIGATING AND RUNNING A COMMUNITY CHOIR
* A leader should be able to sing as well as inspire, encourage and teach songs to a group of mixed ability.
* In the beginning, choose songs that are fun and easy to learn. Repertoire can build in complexity as the competency of the group grows.