feature image: Dan Cooper with Love Soul Choir just before the choir took to the stage with Take That & Lulu.
What is a ‘professional choir’ in distinction from community choirs or other vocal ensembles?
In my personal opinion, a professional choir has a vibe, energy and quality that stands out a little from the crowd. It also means that payment can be applicable for some performances. It also comes with a high level of expectancy from performances and, in turn, a bit more focus and commitment from singers.
What first interested you in professional choir work?
My goal is (and always has been) to encourage singers to enjoy whatever they do, singing wise. It’s why I run initiatives such a SingForce where we focus on people coming together, at work, to have fun singing together. The end result is great but the focus is on fun. There is something super special when a choir, that’s auditioned – to maintain a certain standard – come together to perform and the focus is on how the choir look and sound. I’m one for pushing boundaries and working outside the ’norms’ when it comes to music choice and performance standard. Don’t get me wrong, we have lots of fun along the way too.
What has been an absolute high for your choir? Why?
We got booked to be Take That’s choir for two dates of their stadium tour (2019) in Southampton. We performed in front of 32,000 people, two nights in a row, right behind Take That (& Lulu) singing two of their biggest hits; Never Forget & Relight My Fire. It was an incredible experience from start to finish and an opportunity that many others would dream of. To be on stage performing to a sell out stadium with one of the biggest boybands (in the UK) of all time.
How about another high?
A totally different vibe all together but we regularly support charities and perform for free as a way to give back to the community occasionally throughout the course of a year. A couple of years back, we sang at a care-home. Something very different for us but to see the pure joy that the singing gave the care home residents was incredible. It was a real human moment of care, connection and love. A highlight to see as a choir leader but my members also said it was a really special moment for them too.
What makes your choir distinct from other professional choirs?
Love Soul Choir has been running for 11 years this year (2020) and have constantly pushed the boundaries and evolved year on year. Firstly, the choir perform alone, without an MD or conductor on stage. It’s something I love and something that is pretty unique. We’re like a show choir, I like to think. It means that the focus is on the choir and each member can go out and perform to the audience directly.
It sounds like a huge amount of work!
Well, we also have tonnes of fun, have super high quality output and a professionalism across the board which can sometimes be hard to come by in the music industry. For me, we work hard in sessions to ensure our performances are top notch but away from the rehearsal room I work hard to ensure my communication and organisation (for members but also clients who may book us) is top notch as well as ensuring we have a strong social media presence and a fresh, up to date website. This only happens because I’ve set up a solid infrastructure behind the choir to ensure details don’t get missed and that I have my finger on the pulse at all times. We have a strong brand, strong values and a real family vibe to us too.
Tell us about some of the unique vocal/music demands of professional choir singing
I think that when somebody is paying for a service there is obviously a pressure and expectancy of a specific standard. We get booked to perform regularly at weddings and various events and this does mean that we need to have a big back catalogue of songs ready to go at any time to a high standard. This means regularly rehearsing and recapping material that could be performed over the course of a year.
What is challenging about managing a professional choir?
Oooo, interesting question. So, I think maintaining and improving our standard without pressuring individual singers is a fine balance to juggle. Members of Love Soul Choir don’t get paid to perform and instead are rewarded (as a full choir) in other ways over the course of the year. This means that any funds taken from performances can be fairly distributed across all members of the choir at various points in the year. Members of the choir come because they love learning, being part of something professional and the reputation that Love Soul Choir has in the region. For me, the challenging part is continually encouraging all members to want to do better so that when we put on our yearly theatre show, members reap the rewards from family members or friends in the audience. At times it can be exhausting but it’s always, always worth it!
What is your choir working on now and/or what things are you most excited about as your choir faces the future?
We’re always learning new material and we’re constantly working on being show ready. We have some awesome songs lined up for the remainder of the year and this is super fun for all too. For us, right now, it’s keeping the energy and support alive to ensure we can continue to impress audiences time after time.
Dan Cooper is a choir leader & vocal coach based in Southampton, UK. Alongside teaching, Dan runs a number of projects including SingForce (a workplace choir initiative), Sound Pop Academy (an academy for 7-17 year olds) and Love Soul Choir. Love Soul Choir is a contemporary pop & soul choir who supported Take That at their stadium tour dates in Southampton in 2019. The choir is 140 people strong and perform regularly at weddings, corporate events and theatre shows. www.dancoopermusic.co.uk