Surprising Lessons in Choral Singing

By Bernard Callus on 17 July 2019

I’ve always enjoyed singing. Ten years ago I took up choral singing. However, singing by myself is one thing and being part of a large choir performing for hundreds of people is entirely different. Singing together is pure collaboration, and is universally regarded as celebratory. It unites people across different cultures and evokes joy, happiness and strong feelings of togetherness. My choir soon begins its next rehearsal season and this provides a great opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt from choral singing.

Discomfort leads to growth

We all desire growth to become better versions of ourselves. Without challenges we stay comfortable and unfortunately, this stifles our growth. Conversely, challenges cause us to grow. When I began choral singing I experienced great discomfort. I couldn’t read music. I was exposed singing with the tenors since the other sections often outnumber us. Yet, discomfort is necessary for growth. Importantly, the more discomfort we experience the more growth there is to have. When we take on new challenges we move outside our comfort zone into a zone of discomfort. The longer we spend in discomfort the more we adapt and modify our actions and behaviours. Over time our discomfort subsides and we begin to feel comfortable again. We have expanded our comfort zone. We have grown. Indeed, a state of ‘Flow’ can be achieved when the task at hand, is a ‘slight stretch’ outside our normal comfort zone. If you seek growth and want to increase your performance, look for new challenges and relish the discomfort they hold.


Choral singing requires teams and teamwork. Typically, a choir has 4-8 teams each with 5-15 singers, e.g. sopranos and basses. Getting 5-15 people to sing their part, the same notes at the same time is challenging and only achieved with timing, teamwork and practice. In an orchestra, all the parts need to perform at the right time and volume. The same is true in choir. Cohesive teamwork is needed and without it disharmony results, and the mood being created is lost. Indeed, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Everybody leads

In a choir, everybody leads. Waiting for someone else to take the lead doesn’t work. Everyone comes in late and disharmony results. Rather, we need to lead ourselves and be responsible to sing at the correct time. In this way no individual is responsible for the team’s performance. Performance is indeed powerful when we all take responsibility and lead. It is also important that I contribute to my team. I want to support my teammates and do my part. I’ve discovered the more supportive I am the more my team supports me. Being supportive and sharing a passion greatly fosters team strength and performance. Finally, choral singing has helped me be a better listener. By really listening I can tune my voice to be more like those around me. By tuning into each other, many voices unite to become one. This is the ultimate in choral singing.

While I didn’t foresee these lessons out of participating in my hobby, they were present nonetheless. The question is, what is your version of choral singing? Team sports? Abseiling? Public speaking? What makes you uncomfortable and challenges your status quo? Relish in discomfort. Valuable lessons and growth await you and are there for your taking. Courage is all you need to take the first step.