Finding the perfect venue for your first community choir to rehearse in can be an exciting project, but is fraught with potential problems. Here, our experienced choir leaders have put together a checklist to save you time and money when researching and shortlisting the perfect rehearsal space.
Make a note of local venues you already have in mind, then continue your search online. Build a list of potential venues from listings and ads and check your local council website as some provide information about spaces for hire. Be sure to recce every possible venue, there are numerous factors to consider and you’ll only be able to make an informed decision if you physically visit the space.
Determine with the venue manager whether the space is available each week, and long term. Choir members won’t appreciate being moved to a new venue every few weeks and it will make life much easier for you if you don’t have to go through the process of finding a new rehearsal space every six months.
Looking for a venue where there is, at best a PA and a piano, and at least, a keyboard and accessible plug sockets will save you huge hassle and heavy lifting. Schools, community halls, and church venues will often include a personal address system and a functional piano. Formal rehearsal spaces can be excellent because they will provide amps, back lines, PAs and all sorts of useful technical and musical equipment. They can be expensive though and because they are designed primarily for bands, may well be too small for your needs.
Avoid large, hard-surfaced, echoey sports halls at all costs, unless you have ten thousand egg boxes to soak up the noise! Your choir’s voices will bounce horribly from wall to wall and disturb everyone. Churches can be great acoustically but only if you’re using just a piano and vocals, if you’re playing backing tracks too, then the church hall may well be the better option.
These two important factors will impact hugely on how your choir members feel and sing. Avoid dreary, stagnant or damp spaces. Instead look for a good flow of air, with windows for fresh air and light in summer, and good lighting for a cheery atmosphere and brightness in winter.
A venue with its own car park or nearby free parking is a must. Your choir members will want to drive to the venue and park without too much trouble – a lack of convenient parking will undoubtedly discourage many of them.
The last thing you want to do is aggravate the locals, especially in a residential area. So, before you book your favourite venue, check with the council and the venue manager about any possible noise restrictions.
Check that there is a loo in the venue that is clean and well stocked with toilet paper and hand soap. Your choir members will appreciate it, especially since, as a conscientious choir leader, you will be encouraging them to drink lots of water!
Ideally choose a venue that is in, or near to the town centre, so members travelling by car or public transport can easily reach it. Also be sure to check access into the building itself, a big flight of stairs with no lift will prohibit the less able bodied from joining.
It will become a major headache if you have to cart your own tea urn, mugs, water, tea and coffee in to rehearsals every week. Even the most basic kitchenette in your rehearsal space will make an enormous difference.
Check the venue has enough chairs in storage for you to use so that all of your members can sit if they wish to. No one past school age much appreciates sitting cross-legged on a cold floor.
Look for a venue that is well used. A community hall might be the artistic hub of your neighbourhood and as such you will get more exposure via the increase in footfall. If there is a newsletter, you can ask to be included, and people visiting the centre for other classes will see your posters on the notice board.