Our first rehearsal for Fall 2023 is Monday September 11, 6:00pm to 8:30pm. Please do let us know you’re coming well in advance so we can be sure to have enough sheet music. Contact Jack Pelham here.
See our entire rehearsal/performance schedule for the 2023/2024 season here.
What is Freedom Choir?
Freedom Choir is a volunteer community choir that aims to sing at the level of an excellent college choir. We’re a mixed choir of men and women, starting at 16 years old, generally. We’ve written the rest of this page so that you can see whether you would enjoy the way we do choir!
Styles We Sing
You’ll see a list of our past, present, and future repertoire at this link. In short, we’re a mixed chorus (SATB) that sings a multitude of styles, including the following. .:
- Standard choral works (occasionally)
- Patriotic songs
- Mixed Barbershop
- Negro Spirituals
- Doo Wop
- Jazz / Swing
- Sea Shanties
It’s All About Fun–But What Kind?
Let’s talk first about what kind of fun we have—because there’s more than one kind, and they’re both good, but they’re very different from one another! Imagine a great group of kids at a summer camp having a blast playing volleyball. They’re not very concerned with the rules or with best practices, and they’re having a great time that they will remember for the rest of their lives. And now consider a different camp—a volleyball camp—where another great group of kids is also having a blast playing volleyball. But unlike the other camp, their fun doesn’t just include the playing, but learning to play by the official rules and to use the best practices of strategy and teamwork.
Freedom Choir is like that second volleyball camp. We know we won’t appeal to as many singers as we might if we were less deliberate about how we do things, but that’s OK with us. What we do is a special kind of fun, and we totally understand that not everybody develops a taste for it. We’re just another choice in the collection of community choirs, each having its rightful place!
6 Things We Love
In Freedom Choir, we love:
- the singing, and
- the music, and
- the members, and
- the audience, and
- the performing, and
- the working hard at excellence.
That’s six things, and they’re all crucial to us. We’re looking for members who share all six. The ideal Freedom Choir member is the type who either knows how to read music, or is interested enough in developing his or her skills that he or she is willing to start learning how. All members are expected to learn their parts at home—and we have learning tracks on this website, in addition to the sheet music. This way, we don’t have to burn up valuable rehearsal time teaching notes.
Our ideal singer is also doing personal work on the quality of their singing, and is apt to be always learning how to do it better, and may even take voice lessons or voice classes. They are team players who will volunteer periodically to come early or stay late to help with load-in and load-out. If they mess up on something, they have no problem saying, “Sorry, everybody—my bad!” They’ll help us promote Freedom Choir by sharing our posts on social media, and by “liking” and “sharing” and “commenting” and such. They’ll wear our T-shirt from time to time and talk to friends about joining.
Who is Our Target Singer?
From the beginning, we had in mind the singer who sings or sang in high school or college choirs, and was pretty good at it. Having said that, though, we do have a few singers who never had that experience, and walked in off the streets as “naturals” or “quick studies”—and we wouldn’t trade them for anything! Freedom Choir is designed to give them a continued outlet, for as long as their choral singing skills and health holds out.
One of our singers told us what a former teacher of his had said, and we thought it perfectly matched our philosophy about quality control. The teacher had said something like, “You are responsible for the quality of every sound you put out into the room.” Is it in tune? Does it have a good tone/resonance? Are you singing the exact same vowel the director is targeting? Does your volume match everyone else? Is your timing of things matching the director’s timing? Are your sibilants (S sounds) too long or short? These are the kinds of details that will wear out the one singer, and energize the next. And that latter singer is the one we had in mind when we envisioned Freedom Choir.
What Never Seems to Work Out Well
Here’s what experience has shown us does not work well―and we don’t mean to get all grouchy or awkward about this, but it’s important that we speak frankly about the kinds of singers who have turned out to create more difficulty for us than value. They are those who can’t consistently do the following:
- Sing in tune.
- Use the same vowel sounds and vocal tone the choir is being asked to use.
- Keep the vibrato in check.
- Learn their own parts at home with the rehearsal aids given, or by any other means necessary.
- Diligently read a whole web page (such as the one you’re reading now) or an email for comprehension.
- Check their communications (particularly email) regularly and consistently, and reply in a timely fashion.
- Accomplish tasks such as registration in a timely manner.
- Own up to their own mistakes.
- Attend rehearsals regularly and punctually.
Now, to be fair, these are common problems that music teachers and directors from across the country commonly complain about. But we have made a conscious decision in Freedom Choir to aim quite deliberately for a membership who have already acquired these skills and habits, rather than to torture ourselves by trying to accommodate those who have not, in hopes that they will learn them quickly. This may keep our numbers low, but it also keeps the stress low, and the quality up!
We know there are many very nice people out there who are not good at these things, and while we are happy to be their friends, we’ve learned that Freedom Choir can’t meet its quality goals when we have members who won’t pull their own weight in these areas. So again, it’s not that we want to be grouchy about it, but these issues come up often enough that we’d rather risk offending someone up front (by mentioning these things) than to have a member crash and burn in the middle of a season because our expectations weren’t clear from the start. If you’re not confident that you can do all these things well on a consistent basis, please do us both a favor and look for another outlet. While it may be tempting for the prospective member to assume that everything will work out, despite his or her shortcomings in these areas, we already know from experience that it simply will not. And this goes for something as seemingly-easy as email. If you’re not already in the habit of checking your email daily, chances are pretty good this isn’t going to work out, because we need that habit in place from week one!
About attendance specifically, we hesitate to write a hard-and-fast rule, as situations and reasons vary, but let us say this: Missing a couple of rehearsals is one thing, but when it gets much more than that, it gets harder and harder not to take that as a signal that something is lacking in the member’s good will about being on the team. And when that’s accompanied by silence about it, as opposed to expression of regret about not being there, it really breaks faith with the team, and makes it increasingly clear that the choir and that member are just not a good match. (This goes to some extent for everything else in the bullet list above, but absence and tardiness, especially, take quite a toll, and need to be singled out for mention, especially since our culture is generally pretty lax about this. Remember, we’re not trying to do something common here, but something extraordinary!
OK, the hard topic is finished!
Well, it’s complicated! We have no official upper cap on the singers’ ages, as long as the voice quality is good and the stamina for rehearsals and performances is still there. We do keep a pretty tight lid on the vibrato, though, and control of that may tend to slip in some singers as they age. So we’ll just figure that out as we go. And the right singer will be plenty aware of his or her vibrato as-it-happens. Also, we now require all our concert repertoire to be memorized, so please be aware of that.
As to the younger end of the age range, we say it’s 16
Each case is different, however, and it’ll really come down to the judgment of the Director. (Contact Jack Pelham here.)
We rehearse on Monday evenings from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm at this location.
We currently operate in “semesters”, with a Fall (September to December) and Spring (January to April) semester. The fee per semester is $100 per member, payable at or before the first rehearsal of the semester. If you’ve been invited to join, you may participate in two rehearsals for free, and after that, we’ll prorate your semester fee according to how many weeks are left in the semester. You can pay your tuition fee here.
HOW TO GET INVITED
If you know a member of the group, be sure to ask them about it. And if they think you are a kind person (who would fit in well) and a good singer, they’ll most likely invite you! Or if you don’t know any members, feel free to reach out to the Director (Jack Pelham) to talk about it. He’ll want to do a short pitch-matching test, which can be done over the phone, even, to be sure you can match pitches accurately. And he’ll want to spend a few minutes talking all this over to be sure everybody’s on the same page and we’re a good match for each other.
INTERESTED IN JOINING?
If this sounds like you, we’d love to meet you! We hope you’ll come to one of 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
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 one or two 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. (And they might enjoy our upcoming monthly Singalong! event.)
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 responsible-and-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.
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 use while you’re there. You can also see our Facebook page here.
Code of Conduct
Most people would do just fine without a formal code of conduct, but we wrote one just in case—to make it abundantly clear what kind of behavior we consider appropriate in our ensembles. All members of any ensemble, troupe, or singalong event are expected to sign and abide by the appropriate Code. The Code of Conduct for Freedom Choir is here. Please review it before coming to visit if you can.
Doing the work of having one or more choirs is one thing. Don’t the work of promoting them is quite another! As a small organization, we have to be very smart about efficiency in our publicity efforts, and in the 2023/2024 season, we plan to level-up on our promotional game. This means we need loads of pictures and videos and recordings for social media, for advertising, and so forth. Therefore, we need a media release from every member of our ensembles to ensure that there’ll never be a problem with us using their images and recordings in our promotional efforts. You can find our Media Release page here.