Sunday, January 30, 2011

CHOIR HOW-TO -- An Audition Blueprint for choir leaders

Your problem… your chorale has lost members due to change of job, increase in family responsibilities or changing interests.  You realize that you need new blood, but you want to keep a distinctive style and sound. 

Old and new Stairwellers at our 30th anniversary rehearsal

Targeted auditioning is the answer, but – how to start?

  1. Be organized – know what you are looking for – Tenor? Soprano? Tailor your advertisement to target the voice type you need.

  1. What voice style do YOU need? The Stairwell Carollers sound requires clear straight voices. Pierre likes a pure sound – similar to an English boy’s choir.

  1. Like any well-designed interview, an audition should be straightforward, with no surprises. It should cover the skills and knowledge required in a concise way. To join the Stairwell Carollers, a person does not have to know how to read music, so much as be able to learn quickly and keep in tune within a multi-part chorus.

  1. On the day of the auditions, have a member of the choir greet auditionees apart from the audition space. If you must, to keep them from walking in on an audition in progress, post signs to direct auditionees to come in an alternate entrance. The Stairwell Carollers audition in the chapel of St. Columba – in order to hear how well the voices blend. Our greeter waits inside the side vestibule and presents them with the audition sheet. She also notes their time of arrival.

  1. Audition each person alone and then accompanied by choir members from each part to hear the voice blend. A voice with too strong a vibrato or tremolo may stick out and unless the person is willing and able to change that quality, their voice may not be suited to a small choir such as the Stairwell Carollers.
Many years ago -- our tiny group at the Tulip Festival

6. What we call the second “audition” is really for everyone's benefit. Invite the auditionee to come to a couple of regular rehearsals and they will also get a feel for the choir’s style and personality. After each rehearsal, you can ask current choir members for feedback. After the two rehearsals, it should be clear to everyone involved if the person is truly interested and up for the commitment of joining your choir.
Pep talk before a spring show in Quebec

Happy auditioning! 


  1. Wow, I wish more choirs auditioned people in ensemble with current members! After years of trying to guess -- with little success -- what kind of sound is wanted ... Some directors give verbal instructions or try to demonstrate, but usually I wouldn't be able to sound like him/her (fully trained voice). There really is no substitute for singing WITH people if you want to find out whether you will be able to learn to sing with them better. --Aditi, two-spirit tenor.

  2. Great comment Aditi -- thanks:)

    Since this is the ONLY choir I have ever been a part of I can't compare experiences and really appreciate your feedback on this. Of course this audition process went through stages until we settled on the process we have today. A lot of heads put themselves together on this one.

    Holly, alto


You can also email your questions to me - info (at) stairwellcarollers (dot) com.
Holly :)

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