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Toward a definition of a community choir

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Community choirs in America furnish the primary musical setting for adult amateur singers wishing to continue their choral experiences after formal public schooling or college. Nearly 1400 community choral organizations or those meeting the established parameters were catalogued by ACDA for its 2007 National Registry of Community Choirs. A 2003 Chorus America report stated that one in ten Americans sing weekly in a community-based choir. But what is a community choir in 2007? What factors determine that a choir is representative of its immediate community? Are community choirs in the twenty-first century providing for the musical needs of the adult amateur singer?

This paper will contend that many community choirs are either facing a declining membership and ageing singers, or have evolved into semi-elite performance machines that are no longer characteristic of the community. It will discuss the concepts of democracy, volunteerism and community, and compare early twentieth century philosophical and social arguments on community music with current issues confronting community choral organizations. Part research, part philosophical, and part the author's personal observations of community choirs, it will contend that, in their quest for choral performance perfection, some choirs actually marginalize adult amateur singers. Furthermore, it will discuss the pivotal role of the choral conductor, who, in establishing a democratic tone for the group, can embrace and develop the true spirit of amateur singing, and provide an opportunity for lifelong musical learning and participation.
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Keywords: adult learning; amateur singer; choral conductor; community choir; music education

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Hofstra University.

Publication date: 2008-05-01

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  • The International Journal of Community Music publishes research articles, practical discussions, timely reviews, readers' notes and special issues concerning all aspects of Community Music. The editorial board is composed of leading international scholars and practitioners spanning diverse disciplines that reflect the scope of Community Music practice and theory.
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