A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported there could be more than a quarter of a million choruses and choirs in the USA. The study which formed the basis of the report is hard to access now, but it shows one thing: Choral singing is incredibly popular and is not limited to professionals singing in the formal choruses attached to symphony orchestras.
The tradition of Choral Singing
Singing has always pleased us. If we look back into primitive societies there is always a custom of choral singing and music as a way of expressing emotions. We sing when we’re happy and when we are sad too.
The early traditions of music, before they wrote it down, were passed on from generation to generation. There is evidence of the ancient Greeks singing together in unison. This only increased over time as in the early middle ages we began to develop harmony.
The church also had a lot of influence in choral singing, commissioning much of the repertoire but never all of it. There has long been a tradition of folk songs and secular songs adapted for multiple voices.
Why still so popular?
Most adults involved in choral singing have simply always done so. Recruited into school choirs as a child and then later into Glee Clubs and college choruses. Once you start it gets into your blood and when you don’t sing, you miss it.
We can all sing to some extent, some are better in the car or the shower, but if you can carry a tune then singing in a chorus gives you a creative activity where each voice contributes to something where the whole is greater, much greater than the sum of the parts.
Choral singing places individuals in a situation where the barriers between self and others dissolve to produce something beautiful. For a short while, politics, religion, class and all other divisors melt away while a group of people pursue something beautiful.
Choral singing is diversity demonstrated
There are so many different ways for people to sing together. People collect to sing the Messiah at the end of the year. It is the joy of singing the music that means people of all creeds, ethnic backgrounds and age come together. It is not a calendar festival, it is not a celebration of the season, it is the music.
It doesn’t matter how good you are
The only real requirement is the ability to sing. There are choruses which require you can read music, but there are others which don’t. Children’s choirs learn by memorization and the theory carries on into adulthood it just takes a little longer.
Singing in a chorus is about community
It is traditional for non-professional choruses to refer to themselves as a community chorus; a group who has joined together for the single reason of music. In the internet age where it becomes increasingly hard to meet people, choruses are more important than ever.