QUESTION: Do I have to be able to read music to join?
ANSWER: No, but if you don’t want to learn how to read music*, we think you’re limiting your own musical future, and burdening yourself with having to learn things the hard way. Suppose you wanted to join a poetry club, but didn’t know how to read English, and weren’t willing to learn how. Think how much longer it would take to learn poetry by having to hear it again and again, rather than by being able to read it. We do provide online rehearsal aids, including audio tracks. And you should be able to learn your parts at home by use of these.
*NOTE: We do hope to start offering a paid after-hours class on how to read music. One semester could do you wonders! Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about that.
QUESTION: Do I have to be a trained singer to join?
ANSWER: No, but you have to be trainable. As time permits, we work on the vocal tone, and we try to get singers to develop a warm, rich, and resonant tone, as opposed to an airy or strident tone. We also work a lot on matching our vowel sounds—which includes agreeing on the shape of the mouth and lips for the sounds we make. If this seems like too much work to you, you’ll be bored or aggravated by what we do. When we achieve a great sound on a song, our singers know it and they enjoy the payoff of it.
NOTE: We do hope to start offering a paid after-hours singing workshop to help people learn how to get a good vocal tone. One semester could do you wonders! Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about that.
QUESTION: What about the sheet music? Where do I get that?
ANSWER: It depends. Some of what we do is original music, and we normally put that up on password-protected web pages, along with the other rehearsal aids. You can print that at home, though we supply hard copies at rehearsals. From time to time, we purchase non-original works, and we can’t give these way. Therefore, your music remains our property, and we need it back at the end of the semester. We’re trying to get more sophisticated with all this—and we really need a dedicated librarian to keep the director from being overrun with library needs. Anyway, we’re considering how to fund a music library of paid-for music in addition to our own arrangements.
QUESTION: What time commitment is required?
ANSWER: Freedom Choir rehearses once a week (Mondays from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm). Attendance at rehearsals and performance is required, along with whatever amount of personal practice time you need at home to show up to rehearsal knowing your parts. For the rarely-skilled person, the at-home time may be zero, because he or she can sight-read the parts perfectly in rehearsal, and is already a part-independent person who can maintain one part even while others are singing other parts at the same time. For others, they may require as much as an hour a day rehearsing a song until they have got it down. The one pays the price by spending those hours practicing, whether the other has previously paid the price by investing years in the training necessary to be able to sight-read. And the former can become like the latter, too!
QUESTION: Do I have to do anything other than just show up and sing?
ANSWER: Well, somebody does! It takes a lot of work to make a successful choral organization—or even a single performance. For example, before the chorus ever gets a song, many hours have already been invested into producing the online rehearsal aids to keep us from having to learn notes in practice. Then there’s the printing (or ordering) and distributing of music, the set-up and break-down for rehearsals and concerts, the social media sharing/promotion of our concerts. Booking show dates and putting up flyers, and handling the logistics of a show, and cleaning up the hall afterward—on and on it goes! And then there’s the constant work of excellent communication about what all is going on. That last one, especially, is crucial, because every member needs to know what’s going on, and to give feedback, but our culture is generally terrible at this! This makes it very hard to run the organization effectively when members don’t get good at communicating.
QUESTION: Will I ever be asked to sing by myself.
ANSWER: No, not unless you’re trying out for a solo part on a song—in which case singing by yourself shouldn’t be that big a deal for you! We realize that everybody’s different regarding their willingness to sing alone, and it’s not our goal to embarrass anybody. With that said, if all humans were fearless, it would be much more efficient in a rehearsal to go down the row and have everybody perform his or her part alone, so that the director can hear who has it right and who still needs work. But we don’t do that because we have some who might never want to come back if we did! But here’s something else to consider: We also have some who are volunteering to sing solos now, who never would have done that when they started! (And they’re good at it, too!)
QUESTION: Do you have need of soloists?
ANSWER: Yes. We sing in several styles, and the kind of voice that makes for a good choral singer is not always the kind that’s going to best fit a solo singer for a certain song. As with many choruses, we have plenty of “vanilla” singers who get a good choral tone, but who aren’t convincing at singing solos in the Soul, Jazz, or Rock styles. Some of the songs we’d like to sing are on hold until we find the right soloists. We’re not opposed to bringing in a soloist for a particular piece from time to time—especially as non-paid performers, since our budget is still small. And if we knew enough singers around town, we might have done this already. But we’d much rather have soloists who are regular members of the group, as this makes rehearsals much easier, and as we have more confidence that regular members are going to be dependable when it comes time to show up for the performances! All that being said, if you’re a gifted soloist who might like to sing with us from time to time, please contact us.
QUESTION: I heard you’re trying to start a band to accompany your songs. Is that true?
ANSWER: Yes. It’s proven too much to handle so far, as we’re still in “startup” mode. We could use some help on auxiliary percussion from time to time, and we’ve managed to get a little of that done already. But we’d eventually like to have bass, drums, guitar, and keyboard so that we can do some standards (think “Desperado”) and some originals with a band. We actually have some of this ready to go—and it’s much better to sing with a live band than to sing with tracks. For example, our show title song, Montana Christmas! Calls for piano, fiddle, harmonica, bass, and drums—but we’re going to roll that with to a track this year, since we haven’t gotten a band together. If you’d like to join us to play from time to time (we’ll never go all-accompanied, because unaccompanied choral music is just too cool to give up, even for a great band!), please tell us about it!
QUESTION: Do you need help with lighting, sound, video, and photos?
ANSWER: You bet! And we need this whether we get a band together or not. Currently, one of our best basses is running back and forth from the control booth as needed. (We sometimes rehearse with tracks, or warm up to a video.) We also need to capture excellent video/audio of every performance, and if we could capture great audio of our rehearsals, this would be very useful to us in a few ways—including for rehearsal tracks and for the director’s further study of how we’re doing and what we need to improve. We also need lots of still shots for social media and other promotional needs, as well as for our own internal “historian” purposes. We also plan to start using special lighting for our concerts, and that should get more and more elaborate as we grow. So we could use a dedicated lighting person for that. These are things we could train somebody to do—or we could certainly accommodate somebody who walks in the door with skills already. Contact us if you’re interested in joining us to help with any of this.
QUESTION: How often do you perform?
ANSWER: By the end of our first year (2021), we’ll have had four performances. The first was a combined concert in the We, Montana! Great Room, with three of the We, Montana! kids’ ensembles. The second was a concert of our own at the Yellowstone Christian College Chapel (May 17). The third will be a performance in the middle of the Billings Community Band concert in the Lincoln Center on Sunday 12 December at 7:00 pm. And the final performance will be our own show: The First Annual Montana Christmas! Singalong and Choral Concert. That show will be Monday 13 December at 7:00 pm at the historic Babcock Theatre.
We hope to start in 2022 with two big shows of our own each year, and a couple of smaller appearances. We want to continue this Montana Christmas! event if it proves popular, and we’d like to add a similar singalong/concert event in mid May each year with an Americana/Patriotic theme—both in large venues.
QUESTION: Is there a fee for joining?
ANSWER: Yes. Starting January 2022, the membership fee will be $60 per semester per member.