It is great news that you’re planning to start a group. It can be hard work but it’s certainly one of the most rewarding things you can do. In our experience there’s a lot to do in the early weeks and you’ll need to separate the “must do” from the “nice to do – maybe in a few months’ time”. A broad project plan would be:
- Find your singers (don’t be afraid to start off with just a few friends – more will join)
- Choose an initial repertoire (making sure not to breach copyright)
- Determine a location/format for rehearsals
- Brand yourselves: Pick a name/logo/outfit
- Launch on social media/website
- Produce teach tracks (unless all your singers are incredible sight readers)
- Find performance opportunities
- Produce a constitution/elect a committee/run an AGM
- Get public liability insurance (just in case)
- Recruit/review repertoire/rehearse/perform
- Repeat 10 indefinitely
Some useful resources to assist with these:
www.makingmusic.org.uk/ - useful site for insurance, constitution and other resources
https://www.londonacappellafestival.com/ - UK’s leading a cappella festival – great for inspiration
Groups, particularly the larger ones, would be well advised to carry out some form of “risk analysis” (sorry for the jargon!) based on whatever situations they may find themselves in, eg at rehearsals , at performances (home or away), travelling in the UK, or abroad. If they have equipment, like choral risers or mikes and amplifiers/mixers, there is the risk of theft as well as the possibility of greater exposure to danger, like falling off the risers or electrocution!
Groups should then ask themselves whether they have adequate insurance cover for the “worst case scenarios.” A lot of “what ifs?” need to be considered.
If mounting their own concert or show in hired premises, it is quite likely that the hirer will require the Group to show a certificate of insurance before accepting the hire. Sing A Cappella! has already met this, with its workshops.
Insurance cover can be obtained for risks such as:-
- Material Damage (eg to property, including items on short term loan or hire.)
- Public Liability Insurance (typically for £5M)
- Personal Accident (cover for Group members for death, disablement etc)
- Loss of Money in a variety of circumstances/ amounts
- Abandonment (eg of a concert – but not because of the lack of public support!)
The Sing A Cappella team experience is that insurance cover is most cheaply obtained by joining Making Music (http://www.makingmusic.org.uk ) and obtaining cover from their insurers. The MM website gives full detail of the cover available, but in their Members Area after you have joined! There are very few policies around designed particularly for the needs of singing groups, but this one is.
One member group of under 30 singers is paying £54 in subs to Making Music plus £26 to its insurers in premiums, at 2010 rates, to give you an idea of costs. An alternative is the National Association of Choirs (https://www.nationalassociationofchoirs.org.uk) which offers a similar scheme to members (annual membership fee £54 in 2019).
If you’ve not sung with an a cappella group before it’s worth being aware of the following:
- You’ll find that different groups have their own very distinctive personalities so we recommend you audition a few to see if you feel at home. Some groups are primarily social and sing for mainly for fun, some are ambitious and wish to push the art form or earn an income from prestige singing engagements. Generally speaking the community choirs tend to the former and if you’re a beginner we’d recommend contacting one of them.
- Most groups charge a small fee to cover administration costs/coaching etc. Some may charge a larger fee if they employ a professional musical director or other staff. These should be clearly specified on their website. You won’t need to pay on your first couple of rehearsals so don’t worry too much about this whilst you’re testing potential groups out. Groups often offer special arrangements if you think you might have trouble paying – just ask for a confidential chat with your Membership contact.
- If you don’t read music: don’t worry. Many groups learn songs by ear either during rehearsals or from teach tracks. A few require the ability to sight read. Again this should be spelt out on their website.
- Some groups are auditioned. This is normally a friendly test before you join or over the first few weeks. Generally they’re just testing that you can sing in tune and fit in with the rest of the group. Community groups are often unauditioned.
- For inspiration and just to get to know the a cappella community (they’re all lovely people!) it’s worth getting along to an a cappella festival. If you don’t have any money for tickets it’s worth checking to see if there are any free "foyer performances". Groups love to sing so there often are and it's always good to see how a potential group relates to an audience.
- A Cappella singing is popular and you may find many choirs have waiting lists - particularly (sadly) if you sing a female voice part and it's a mixed voice choir. If so just add your name to the list – they won’t mind if by the time a place becomes available you’re already singing with another group.
- Sometimes there just aren't choirs with spaces available in your area. If so, do consider founding your own choir. It can be a fair bit of work but is hugely rewarding. Links for resources to help can be found elsewhere on this site.