As we have a number of new members since last Christmas I thought I would circulate this note about what we do and how we go about organising and performing at Christmas and what is so far arranged this year.
Christmas is always an important time for us as a choir as it can be a great source of fundraising as well as good publicity and in doing so, we get to do what we’re good at...singing!
At Christmas time, in addition to our main Christmas Concert in the Cathedral, we offer to sing at organised Christmas events. The events can be Corporate or private Christmas Functions, Educational and Charity functions, and may be in hotels, restaurants, corporate suites or occasionally outside.
We sing by invitation only.
Needless to say, other than on very rare occasions, we cannot perform as a ‘full choir’. For the sake of clarity, at this time last year, I issued a detailed note informing everyone of how we organise to undertake these events and what factors have to be taken into account in forming different groups for different events. Most of what follows is a reiteration of that note.
Of all the things we do, singing at Christmas events is always the most difficult to organise. If you consider some of the following you will recognise why:
They take varied forms
They can be inside or outside
They can be long or short
They may allow us to sing our prepared Christmas repertoire or require just straight forward carols and Christmas songs to be sight read
If inside they will invariably be in venues with very limited space
If outside, they will be cold, draughty and involve considerable standing
They can be during work-time.
They might allow one of our recognised conductors to be available or not
They may allow accompaniment or may need to be all unaccompanied
Everyone is busy in the build up to Christmas anyway so availability is under pressure
The number of singers we have in each section (SATB)
The distance required to be travelled
How much the client is prepared to pay
In order to work with these pressures and turn out a reasonable choir every time, we have always adopted a flexible approach, e.g. sometimes it is possible to simply ask people to sign up (although this is getting very limited). This is great but of course can lead to odd results, like (say) a choir of 30 sopranos, 8 Altos, No Tenors and 2 bass which is not a workable balance. Also it may give a number of singers which simply will not fit into the space in the venue anyway.
On the other hand, where a venue is small or the timing precludes those who are at work, individuals are approached and asked if they are available, having, of course, concern for the balance and sound which may be produced by the ensemble.
The responsibility for determining which flexible method to use has always rested with the Chairman, with, where necessary, advice and support from Andrew and Tom.
Last year I made reference to the need for us to be more flexible in our approach, in offering smaller groups at a more reasonable fee (we used to charge £500 and try to have at least 16-20 singers available). The reason for this being that in these stringent times, that level of fee is too great for most would be clients and therefore our invitations had understandably declined.
Our current base offer is to provide 8 singers for a 45 minutes slot (which can be divided), for £100 plus expenses. However this fee increases with the number of singers called on or for longer or more singing slots. There is also the facility for clients to negotiate a one off charge, or for us to charge one if we feel the circumstances allow.
Educational events, i.e. Christmas workshop style functions in Schools are not charged for and events with or for other charities are separately negotiated.
Irrespective of these changes, and despite lots of behind the scenes work in contacting likely clients, take up has so far been slow with only 2 events in the diary so far:
Wednesday 11 December Evening - Leeds Rugby, Christmas Dinner in Premier Suite at Headingley, Leeds
Tuesday 17 December Afternoon - Ladies who Lunch at Oulton Hall Hotel
In addition, on Tuesday morning, 27th November, although not technically a Christmas event, we have been invited back by the staff and children of Streethouse Primary School to be involved in a short performance and interaction workshop with the children, as we did last year.
More About These:
27 November - Streethouse
It is a workday, and the school can only accommodate around 12 people. Sally Forrester is a special needs assistant at the school and has again organised the event. In addition, since last year’s visit, Tom has been undertaking some work with the pupils and will lead the workshop.
Bearing in mind the early Monday morning start time, the fact that it is a working day and the need to keep travel to a minimum, those members who were available last year have been asked again by Sally and Tom. One or two others who are reasonably local to that area have also been added to assist balance.
As this is part of our Education Outreach Programme, we will not be charging.
11 December - Headingley
The details are not yet fully set for this event but it is to sing during the Annual Christmas Dinner of Leeds Rugby (Leeds Rhinos and Leeds Carnegie). The room will only allow a group of 16-20 with piano. As this is in North Leeds, the core of the group to sing will be formed by our LCM Students augmented by a balanced group from the choir. Chris Hewitt will lead and Daniel Justin has accepted my invitation to accompany on that evening. (This event is on the same evening as St Peter’s Consort is performing Messiah, so a number of our members will be involved in that too).
17 December – Oulton Hall
We have undertaken this event for a few years – singing a full after-lunch Christmas Programme, based on our Christmas Concert repertoire for the ‘Ladies who Lunch’ organisation. We sing in the central Atrium area and which can accommodate a choir of up to 28.
I shall therefore be approaching quite a lot of members who are either not working or retired to form this reasonably large choir, but it cannot be a ‘sign up event’ anymore.
Again I will always take account of the distance members have to travel to get to a venue and also how many times a member has been called on to perform at other Christmas Events, just to try to even out the workload. As you would expect, musical consideration as to overall sound and balance will also be an important factor.
As previously, Tom will be leading us in this event.
Hopefully there may be one or two other events forthcoming and as I said in my end of season note to you all, if you can stimulate a chargeable Christmas event in any way we will be glad to consider it.
Please do not be concerned if I contact you about an event and you can’t do it because of previous engagements, I will simply contact someone else. Also, if we remain at only these events, it might be that some of you cannot be invited to sing, however willing you are to do so (especially sopranos, as there are as many of you as there are of all the 3 other sections).
How will I contact you – directly by email, so please keep checking it over the next week or so. but I will also speak with you at a rehearsal.
I hope I have made this understandable and as always I appreciate your forbearance. Thank you in anticipation for your additional support of the choir this Christmas and always.