What Are Singing Groups Doing?

In celebration of National Singing Week and to support the return to group singing both in-person and online in these unprecedented times, a webinar was held on 5th October at 6pm. It was aimed at building meaningful relationships and a strong community of practice. Sing Ireland and representatives from singing groups presented their experiences and described what they are currently doing.

See notes and resources from the speakers below, along with extra resources from Sing Ireland.

Extra Notes:

It was noted that groups wanted more information on Jamulus and Sing Ireland have just published this document with thanks to Nás Na RÍ Singers see HERE

Groups also asked whether the insurance would cover them for outside rehearsals. See an FAQ doc on the Sing Ireland insurance scheme HERE

City of Derry International Choir Festival - A change of tune for 2020!

  • Exclusive concerts with internationally-renowned guest artists Tenebrae and Ardú
  • Global virtual choir performance of Danny Boy conducted by Bob Chilcott
  • Performance of Amazing Grace by singers from local schools
  • World premiere from award-winning composer Brian Irvine - A Topography of Love
  • Virtual choir trail featuring local, national and international choirs
  • Exclusive mini-series featuring brand new festival footage through the years
  • Five-part podcast series with special guests
  • Interactive singing workshops and panel discussions

All details can be found on Facebook, YouTube and at www.derrychoirfest.com or check out the launch video at https://youtu.be/7zys1o3oDRk

RTÉ Choirs

  • Transfer of rehearsals onto Zoom with as good a tech set-up as possible, e.g., conductors use audio interface boxes with a microphone /USB microphones/ headphones, etc. to get the best sound quality and to prevent distortion and skipping of sound. Singers encouraged to wear headphones too as it really helps to hear the music tracks to sing with.
  • RTÉ Philharmonic Choir 90 minute rehs with a mixture of really good warm-ups for vocal health and then work on some Repertoire. Includes sectionals in breakout rooms as well as full groups. Nice chatting before and after as singers log in, and we have an average of 115 at each rehearsal out of the 130/155 who are engaging with Zoom rehearsals.
  • RTÉ Cór na nÓg (age 9-14) do 90 minutes on Wednesdays and Saturdays and RTÉ Cór Linn (age 14-19) do two hours on Saturdays. Mix of theory in groups, sectionals and one-to-one, plus full group rehearsal.
    All choirs have kept to their usual days and times on Weds and Sats, but the Phil rehearsal is shortened.
  • Use of Carus Music App with RTÉ Philharmonic Choir. Free to download and then approx €8-12 per piece for each individual singer to buy and download their own individual line part which includes full recording, coaching facility and score. Can be used by conductor during the Zoom rehearsal. The music can be shared and the visual score scrolls along with it.
  • Zoom and Sing Events, free to attend, run by David Young, Chorus Master of the RTÉ Phil, with a mix of warm-ups, workshop, chats by Fergal Caulfield, our Phil accompanist, about the piece or related subjects, with a "full performance" singing to a good recording at the end after lunch. We have opened these up to any singer anywhere who would like to take part, not just for RTÉ Choir members.
  • Virtual projects such as the combined Irish Blessing that the three choirs did together in May, with almost 200 singers sending in tracks and photos. Very rewarding but huge cost in time and audio engineering, plus the singer's worry when they hear their own "solo" voices! But we MUST have something to aim for to keep going until we can meet again and re-form. It is all about keeping a sense of choral community and actually singing to keep the voices going "until we meet again".


  • The Musical Director has pre-recorded warm up and voice exercises as a video and shared with the choir using Dropbox. Singers do the warm up before Zoom rehearsal.
  • Zoom rehearsal concentrates on learning new music with MD playing the parts and singers singing along to their sheet music. Microphones muted.
  • Singers sing the complete songs to a video of a choir singing the piece. Video and audio files are displayed with co-presenter screen sharing.
  • Outdoor singing in woods is in a remote location and is booked by email and limited to a maximum of 14 people. Singers must accept the choir Covid declaration and rehearsal regulations.
  • The Covid officer ensures that physical distancing and outdoor ventilation are adequate to ensure singing can be conducted as safely as possible.
  • Outdoor singing is enjoyed and has a very positive impact on participants well being and mental health.

Cór Cois Abhann

  • Cór Cois Abhann is a large Cork City choral society, with some 80+ members on the books. The group has a busy performing schedule and gave an oratorio last Christmas and was preparing to open the Cork International Choral Festival, along with two similar Cork based choral societies, in April.
  • Like perhaps many choirs, the philosophy of this group is that performing in public is important, but the primary musical witness is through the regular meeting week by week.
  • Cór Cois Abhann is an important pastoral resource to its members; indeed, the break, before and after, is every bit as important as the singing.
  • We attempted to use YouTube live throughout March and April. It was important to us that this was a live experience and not a recorded one. The broadcasts were taken down immediately afterwards. It allowed a shared collegiate experience in that it wa simultaneous for all members. The broadcasts took place from the Director’s piano (sometimes the organ console in Cloyne Cathedral) every night in March and most nights into April and less in May. They were ten minutes long and focussed on three items of past repertoire plus some talk.
  • Unlike the ingenious and impressive experiences of others, who seem to have done so well with Zoom, this has proved, sadly, to be an impossible situation. Indeed, the AGM on Zoom met with serious trouble for us.
  • In Phase II restrictions, we can rehearse in a very large church. In Phase III, we think we can rehearse in either a closed petrol station or the second to top floor of a multi-story car park and we are preparing to do three or four sessions of 15 people.

SpeakUp SingOut Music School

What are SUSO choirs doing now?

As of this week with the new restrictions, SUSO in Kildare are currently running 8 choirs online. We have a variety of ways to make this fun and entertaining. Here's our top 9 tips!

1. We try to work towards a project at all times. These include virtual videos, community projects and themed events such as upcoming Halloween theme. As well as a proposed Christmas program of a virtual concert, we are also doing a collaboration project for our youth choir with a group from Zimbabwe for World Aids Day in December.

2. Remember the importance of the social interaction and set times for social games, meet ups and activities. These can be music related or just for fun!

3. For our adult groups we have been running a seminar series with guest speakers and performers. This has gone down really well and has been a big part of our first term back. Guests have included Mundy and Mary Coughlan.

4. We record all tracks on Audacity and send members parts in advance and then use them tracks to play during rehearsals so that people are singing along with a choir sound.

5. We are using easier material as it is more difficult to teach and learn across the virtual world.

6. We keep online sessions to 1 hour as it is more manageable for people online.

7. We use breakout rooms and have section rehearsals, members find this very helpful.

8. We use the app Choir Player for our small groups as a practice tool. They are currently doing a free membership offer during covid and I would really recommend this.

9. We remind each other to mind ourselves, keep linking in and keep talking!