Treble Line – minutes of Sept 2012 meeting

Treble Line

For Boys in Church Choirs

Notes of the Meeting held at The Charterhouse (‘Sutton’s Hospital), Saturday  16 September, 2012 (14.00 to 16.40)

Present: Rev. Jonathan Boston (Chairman),  Berkeley Hill (Secretary), Peter West, Michael  Nicolas, Lawrence Notley

Apolgies: received from Alan Thurlow (President) and several other choir directorss

Jonathan Boston  thanked representatives of choir for attending.  Since the last meeting:

  • Dr Alan Thurlow had accepted the position of President of Treble Line.
  • The Treble Line website has become active.  Among other things this has

o        Places for choirs to add photographs and news

o        A link to the full text of the Report of the 2011 Survey

o        A list of Treble Line choirs with contact email details.

  • A Newsletter has been issued.

Lessons learned from the 2011 Survey

Berkeley Hill prefaced his outline of the findings of the 2011 Survey of Treble Line choirs with a description of his own choir (St Leonard’s Church, Hythe, Kent) and the way that he has already benefitted from lessons learned in compiling the results from the 31 choir directors who had replied by the deadline.  Since then two further replies had been received – from St Mary’s, Warwick and St Mary Redcliff (Bristol).  However, these later results were largely in line with those already in hand (though the Warwick church was unusual in being largely devoid of problems of recruitment).

The PowerPoint presentation that accompanied his talk is attached to this note.  In conclusion it appeared that:

  • Treble Line choirs were in a generally robust and sustainable state, with what appeared to be an optimistic future.  However, these are clearly the survivors, and it might be instructive to know the characteristics of choirs that had folded.
  • They typically pursued an active and systematic recruitment process
  • Membership was challenging to trebles, both in terms of the music and the personal development (graded training was useful in this respect).
  • Various ‘good practices’ were maintained to retain choristers, including making each one feel ‘special’ and appreciated.

Berkeley Hill felt that there was much to be learned from the experiences of what works contained in the annex to his Report.

Experiences in choir re-establishment at Reading Minster

Peter West described his experiences of re-establishing a boys choir at Reading Minster.  From its initiation in 2009 there had been several waves of encouraging recruitment and training, followed by periods of shrinkage.  There had been a general problem of getting singers and their parents to understand that singing on Sundays at services was a central part of a choirboy’s life.

Recently there had been a firmer establishment of the principle that attendance a Sunday services was obligatory.  This had reduced the number of choristers to a committed core, but recent recruits now have a more appropriate set of role models.

A girls choir might be established in the future, but Peter felt that this should only take place once the treble sections is fully established with a secure membership of about 20.

Discussion  followed on issues including the attitude of schools in letting visits to recruit take place, the perceptions of parents about regularity in singing on Sundays, and the virtues of having tole models within the choir of older trebles who had gained experience and set examples.

Round table on choirs and local schools

Following a break for tea, a Round Table was held on the relationship between the choirs and schools in which recruitment takes place.  Each person present described their experiences.  These included the danger of relying too much on individual schools, problems where the school music department was uncooperative (putting their own interests exclusively first) and difficulty of getting a response from some schools.

Membership of ABCD or a greater contact was advocated as a way to promote Treble Line (Secretary has become a member)

Having an occasional stocktake with individual singers was found to be a good way to underline membership and achievements (MN, Ipswich has done this on occasion, with good results)

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