Join us (on Zoom!)

Why join Epworth choir (during a pandemic)?

In some ways, there’s no better time to join us than during a pandemic. Here are just a few of the many advantages:

  • As the nights draw in and the weather worsens, you don’t have to venture out into the night to enjoy your weekly singing fix
  • You can join from anywhere in the world
  • If you’re not sure whether singing in a choir is for you or whether your music reading is good enough or anything else then remember: in cyberspace, nobody can hear (or see) you sing! Our rehearsals are held on Zoom and we can all hear our lovely musical directors singing and playing on the piano but we are all muted except in the breaks. And though we love to see lots of happy faces taking part, if you prefer to have your video switched off that’s absolutely fine
  • If you like, you can treat yourself to a proper drink during the break!
  • If you’re all ‘zoomed out’ after a day of working at home, you can stretch your legs, perhaps find a different spot in the house if you have a suitable laptop, tablet or smartphone and have a change of scene while singing. You don’t have to be on video yourself, so anywhere you feel comfortable will do

We love to have a great variety of people in our choir, so whatever your reason – even (perhaps especially) if it’s not on the list above – we want you to feel at home in Epworth Choir.

So what’s it like?

This bit was written pre-pandemic, but still holds true. Keep reading for more on how our online rehearsals work.

It’s like learning something new with a varied group of friends once a week. Some of us have been singing for decades and some of us only started recently. Some of us can read music, some ‘get by’, others sing mainly by ear. And we all have our own tastes in music. But we sing such a variety of different pieces and styles, we’re all learning something new every week. We learn from each other and we learn from our musical director and accompanist. They’re both accomplished professional musicians and have an enormous amount of experience in teaching and getting the best out of amateur singers.

How good at music do I need to be?

It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you are, or how much experience you have, or whether you can read music. Honestly. Come and try singing with us for a week or two: if you enjoy it and want to come back then we’d love you to join. There are no auditions, no tests, no ‘judging’ at all. You just need to enjoy singing and learning.

At the start of each ‘term’, most of us are in the same boat: we’ve never sung the music before, so we’re all learning it together. It’s pretty ragged to start with, but there is plenty of rehearsal time before each concert and for the trickier pieces, we sometimes split into smaller groups of people all singing the same part so we can learn the notes more easily.

We have a special website just for members where we share recordings of the music we’re singing so you can play it in your car or on your phone or wherever until you get the hang of it. That’s a really good way of learning the music in between rehearsals even if you don’t always have your music with you or struggle to read the notes.

What do you sing, when and where?

This is obviously very different during the pandemic. Normally, we rehearse once a week on Wednesday evenings at Trinity Methodist Church in Woking. For the time being, though, we are sticking to online only rehearsals so we still meet on Wednesday evenings every week at 7.30pm but now in the comfort of our own home.

Rehearsals

We rehearse online (using Zoom) every week on a Wednesday night from 7.30pm – 9.30pm (with a good break for refreshments and a chat half way through). We’re currently rehearsing music on a theme of ‘Broadway’ for what we hope will be our first concert once we are able to do live performances again. The music is sent out by email each week in advance as PDF files so you can view these on your laptop/tablet or print them out if you prefer.

At the beginning of each rehearsal, we all join and generally have a good chat until most people have joined then we do a mixture of whole choir and sectional (Soprano and Alto, Tenor and Bass) rehearsals using the ‘breakout rooms’ feature on zoom so that we can learn the music for our own voice parts more easily. Don’t worry if you’ve not used breakout rooms before on Zoom, the musical director will allocate you to the right room and you just need to click the button that will pop up on your screen to join it. You’ll then be in a zoom meeting with just those in the same group of voice parts as you. At the end of each rehearsal we always come back together as a whole choir to run through the pieces we’ve been learning that week.

When we’re ready to start singing, the musical director will mute everyone so that we can all hear him (and the piano) but not each other. You may also turn off your video if you prefer. If you need to ask a question, or want to chat during the break then you can unmute yourself at any time or use the chat function in zoom.

Top tips for enjoying online rehearsals

Online rehearsals are obviously very different to in-person ones, but we’ve found that these tips can help you to make sure you get the most out of them:

  • Most importantly, find somewhere you’ll be comfortable singing. You don’t need somewhere with a tidy backdrop (we’re not proud!), and you can always turn off your video if you prefer. If there are others in the house and you’re self-conscious about singing, bear this in mind when choosing your spot! You just need good WiFi and somewhere you feel comfortable.
  • Sit, stand or alternate. If you’ve been sat at a desk all day it can be preferable to stand and this is generally better for singing anyway. But it’s a long time to stand so feel free to mix sitting / standing as you feel comfortable.
  • Consider using headphones. Some people find it a lot easier to get into the singing if they block out the world using a pair of headphones. This can also help to reduce disturbance to others in the household (although they obviously still get to enjoy your singing!). If you want to talk to others during the breaks, you will need to have a headphones with built-in microphone (the headphones supplied with mobile phones often have these). But failing that you can always use the text chat function or simply unplug your headphones and use your device’s built-in microphone during the breaks.

Concerts

Concerts are currently on hold until we are able to rehearse and perform in person again, but here’s how it ‘normally’ works:

We do 3 or 4 concerts a year – usually in April, June/July, October and a Christmas concert in December. We team up with other groups of singers, dancers and musicians depending on the concert, and perform in halls, churches and other venues around Woking and Guildford. Take a look at our past and future concerts pages to get a good idea of the range of music and concert venues.

How do we support local charities?

Without any live performances, we’re currently unable to raise money for local charities, but we’ll be back as soon as possible. Here’s how it ‘normally’ works:

Each concert raises money for our charity of the year. Usually someone from the charity will come to the concert to speak about what they do. The charity helps us to promote the concert and then they take a collection from the audience at the end of the concert. The costs of putting on the concert (such as venue hire, fees for professional musicians and so on) are covered by the choir so the charity doesn’t have to worry about whether ticket sales will cover all of the costs; it just takes the whole of the collection. Over the years, Epworth Choir has raised tens of thousands of pounds for local charities through its concerts.

The choir covers concert costs by charging for ticket sales so it’s really important that everyone in the choir helps to sell tickets to family, friends, colleagues and anyone else they can find!

When can I start?

This week! You are more than welcome to start any time during term time. The best thing is to just try us out one Wednesday evening and see how you get on. You’ll need to contact us (details below) and we will let you know how the details you’ll need to join our online rehearsals.

Our membership fees are currently under review as the pandemic unfolds, but here’s how they ‘normally’ work. For the time being if you are interested in joining, just let us know and you won’t need to pay anything for your first term at least.

If you decide to stay in the choir long-term, there is an annual charge made to all choir members which covers the costs of our rehearsal venue, our professional musical director and accompanist and other sundry running costs. The fee is currently £10 per year for students, £80 per year for under-30’s and £160 annually for over-30’s, and there are flexible options to spread the cost over the course of the year. In addition to the annual membership fee, every member of the choir must buy at least one £20 ticket to the April concert which they can give or sell to a friend or family member as they wish.

Finding our rehearsal venue

Your place, on Zoom! Contact us (details below) and we’ll send you details on how to join our online rehearsals. In ‘normal’ times, we rehearse at Trinity Methodist Church in Woking:

Join us any Wednesday evening during term time at 7.30pm at the Trinity Methodist Church, Brewery Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 4LH.

Contact us

If you would like to find out more, please e-mail: secretary.epworth@gmail.com, telephone: 01483 756670 or just fill in the form below: