12 Tips for Ward Choir Conductors

By: Natasha Young

1. The selection of the music is one of the most important things a director can do to make singing with the choir a worth while experience. Since ward choirs are made of amateurs and volunteers, difficult music should be avoided. A good rule of thumb is to select music that can be learned within three weeks, since ward choirs sing traditionally once a month.

2. Also, since ward choirs typically are small, 10 to 20 members, music should not include more than the traditional four-part harmony.

3. Most church pianists are also volunteers and not professional musicians, so
The abilities of the accompanist should be considered when choosing choir music as well.

4. Music that will invite the spirit should be selected; keeping in mind that a ward choir's primary purpose is to worship through song, not to impress the congregation with their musical abilities. It is better to sing simple music well than to sing difficult music only so-so.

5. Directors must plan the music well in advance and coordinate with the Ward Music Chairman to avoid repeating the same hymn in the same meeting. A calendar with future performances could be kept and copies made available to choir members, the Ward Music Chairman, and the Bishopric member in charge of ward music.

6. Once appropriate music is selected, directors must familiarize themselves with it before introducing it to the choir. They need to be prepared to anticipate key changes, or differences in time signatures so they can focus on helping the choir learn their parts and not be confused by anything they may encounter in the music.

7. Each member of the choir should be provided their own copy of the music and pencils provided for making reminders in the music. Folders could be assigned to each member.

8. Ward members will be more willing to participate if they know the choir director keeps practices to a reasonable time. For most ward choirs, an hour a week is considered acceptable.

9. It is also best that rehearsals are held at the same time and place each week to eliminate confusion.

10. Choir member will also appreciate rehearsals that begin and end on time and good use should be made of the time. While going over the base part, for example, the other members could hum their parts quietly while the pianist plays only the base part.

11. It is useful to remind the choir before each performance. Most choirs arrive early in order to warm up their voices and review the hymn or hymn arrangement to be sung. Some choirs have a choir president who calls all members on Saturday night. Other conductors to the calling themselves. Many prefer to use email since a mass email can be sent.

12. However the performance turns out, Choir members should feel their efforts are appreciated. Even if the performance was less than perfect, the words and actions of the conductor should encourage them in their efforts. Any compliments given the director by appreciative ward members should be passed on to the choir at the next regular rehearsal.

The choir director can make singing with the Ward Choir a rewarding experience for everyone.

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