Freedom Choir Adds Voice Classes to Its Rehearsal Schedule!
As we continue to evolve as an organization, we note that we have been torn between two strategies:
- Trying to recruit skilled singers, and
- Building our own.
We’ve got a core of great members who are having a great time singing, but when do we stop to giving our singing skills the attention they deserve? If we are going to be a chorus, we don’t have time to teach voice class in rehearsals. Right?
Well, maybe we need to rethink this! And that, we are!
Starting at our first rehearsal in 2023 (January 9), we’ll be splitting our rehearsal time (Mondays from 6:00pm to 8:30pm at St. Andrew Presbyterian on 24th St.) between rehearsing our choral music and voice class for our members. We range considerably in our vocal skills, but we’ve decided to throw in together as a group and to work on our singing very deliberately. Our volunteer director (Jack Pelham) is an experience vocal coach, and will be starting a new class voice program. Singers will be singing individually for coaching during the class time, as well as joining all together for various vocal and breathing exercises. This approach yields some of the same results as private voice lessons, but also has some benefits over private lessons—particularly in that singers get to hear and consider the coaching sessions of all the other singers.
Since our enrollment was going to be down for January, due to several members being unavailable for the semester, we decided to run a lighter performance schedule for the semester, and to invest heavily in the voice classes to improve our core vocal approach. This way, we can make the most of a thinly-attended semester, while also working hard to continue to get the word out to our market area of 100,000+.
Freedom Choir is a growing mostly-unaccompanied “pops” chorus that aims to sing at a collegiate level.
Freedom Choir’s members range from about 15 years old and up, with no upper age limit. We sing in many styles, including Barbershop, Doo Wop, Jazz, Classical, Sea Shanties, 50s/60s Pop, Negro Spirituals, and more. (See our current repertoire here.) (See other hopeful repertoire here.) “Something for almost everyone” is the idea of our repertoire! We sing songs that range in age from a couple hundred years ago to the recent pop charts–and particularly, whatever showcases the rich tone of the human voice and the extravagance of vocal harmony. See our videos here.
FREEDOM CHOIR HISTORY
Freedom Choir formed in early 2021 with 27 members and reached 32 members by our first-annual Montana Christmas! singalong and concert in the Babcock Theatre on 13 December 2021. We hope to reach 50 by the end of 2022. Typically, membership is by invitation only, which helps us to keep a good balance between the sections. But being a start-up group that’s trying to reach a “critical mass” quickly, we’re actively recruiting in hopes of attracting interested singers to come see what it’s like to sing with us. We hope to find lots of nice people with good pitch-matching skills who can maintain their own voice part while others parts are being sung in the same room. We also generally try to keep vibrato fairly minimal on most of our songs. (That’s just a stylistic choice, but it does play heavily into the “sound” we’re going for.)
INTERESTED IN JOINING?
We’re hoping to meet singers who:
- Are people of good character: friendly and low-maintenance.
- Enjoy a rigorous choral rehearsal, professionally conducted according to the best practices, where lots of details are fixed and rehearsed
- Can match pitches and vowels accurately
- Who can hold their own part against those singing other parts
- Who can keep vibrato to a minimum at will. (It’s a stylistic choice for this group.)
- Will be diligent about learning their parts at home (we provide audio tracks in addition to sheet music).
- Love to have fun.
- Love close and precise harmony.
- Are the sort to miss rehearsals very rarely, to never to miss a performance, and to communicate diligently.
If this sounds like you, we’d love to meet you! We hope you’ll come to one our rehearsals and see if you think that what we’re doing is a good fit for you. Or contact our director, Jack Pelham. Meanwhile, we want you to read this entire website, so you’ll be well-informed as to what’s going on. (Here’s a useful Q&A page to answer some of the questions you might have.)
What to expect if you visit.
Our rehearsals are very rigorous—as you might expect in an excellent collegiate choir, or an outstanding high school program. We work very hard at getting all the details of the music just right. For some, this is a grand experience and they enjoy it very much, while others find that this is just not their cup of tea, and that they’d better enjoy something much more casual and easy. We realize that there are two different types of people in this regard, and that we can’t please them all, so we want you to know right up front what kind of philosophy we have about excellence.
If you’re visiting close to a performance date, you’re welcome to listen and to visit with us during the breaks. And we may well invite you to sing with on a warmup number or two. Being close to a show date, however, we’ll need to rehearse our show numbers without visitors joining in, as we’re fine-tuning our singing at that point.
If you visit when we’re not in the last weeks before a show, you’ll have the option of sitting in the chorus and singing along (we’ll provide sheet music), or of observing from the audience seats. If you want to sing along, please do introduce yourself to the director when you arrive so we can get you the sheet music you need and get you seated in the right section. And we’ll be able to chat during the breaks or afterward.
You’re welcome to join us for two or three rehearsals as you’re deciding whether to join.
What if I’m not good enough?
We might occasionally get a singer who turns out not to be as good as they thought they might be when it comes to singing on pitch, to matching vowels, or to what we call part independence, where he or she can maintain the voicepart even when other voiceparts are being sung at the same time. This normally becomes fairly obvious and can be heard in rehearsal as the sections sing their parts. In many cases, the singer has come in rusty, and will quickly polish his or her skills within just a few weeks. But if it becomes obvious that the singer’s not going to be able to perform the voicepart accurately, then we’ll have that dreaded discussion (privately and kindly!), suggesting that they withdraw from the ensemble until such time as their skills have improved.
What skills do I need?
Great question! Here’s a page that’s all about that.
Are there auditions?
No, but sure! We know that’s a confusing answer, so let us explain. Auditions are the most efficient way to find out if a singer’s pitch and part-independence skills are sufficient to fit in well. But at the same time, singing auditions create considerable anxiety for a lot of people (not all, mind you, but a lot). And what we’ve discovered is that if there are 100 people qualified to sing in a group, only a handful of them will be willing to audition for that group up front. So we’d have a handful, and meanwhile, 95 totally qualified singers would be sitting at home, not doing what they love!
Normally, we tell our members that membership is by invitation, and that if they know nice people who are good singers, they are welcome to invite them to join or visit. With this new open-house policy (where you’re welcome to come see for yourself at one of our rehearsals), you don’t have to know anybody in the group in advance. So, you could join and we could see how it goes.
We’re quite willing to hear auditions, however, for those who would be interested in doing that up front. It’s totally your option, and we’ll never bring it up if you don’t.
Is there a fee?
Yes, we currently charge $60 per semester. (We sing in the Fall and Spring, with Summers off). Your participation fee does not pay the volunteer director. Rather, Sing, Montana! singer fees support the choir’s expenses.
Come see a rehearsal to see if this is right for you! You can just show up, but we really wish you would contact Jack Pelham in advance, so we can be sure we’ve got an extra music folder prepared for you see while you’re there.
Join a choir in Billings, MT
Join a chorus in Billings, MT
Are there any good choirs in Billings?
Find a Barbershop Chorus in Billings, MT?
Is there a mixed chorus or choir in Billings, MT?
Choir concerts in Billings, MT
I’d like to join a choir
How can I improve my singing?