How to sell a choir

A LinkedIn article on overuse of certain, hollow vocabulary in job applications taps into a persistent worry I have about how best, with the words we use, to market a chamber choir.

“If you’re motivated about your career, passionate about doing your best work, and are highly creative, then I’ve got news for you: so is everyone else” reports Catherine Fisher on the LinkedIn blog. Everyone has a “track record” of “extensive experience” — cliches and hollow phrases piled on top of each other in a display of boosterism and buzzword bingo.

Choirs can be similarly lazy and unoriginal. In his post-competition Spectator article Peter Phillips remarked that when “every young group in the competition describes themselves as being either ‘dynamic’, ‘fresh’ or ‘innovative’, these adjectives rapidly losing all meaning.”

“Innovative” has always rankled for me. I often feel Epiphoni do some reasonably original things, but unless you’re Apple or CERN or someone, you have to ask whether you really have the creds to say that you’re innovative.

Another curiosity is this line and its variations: “we sing everything from the renaissance to the present day”. Well, duh! That’s kind of what choirs do! With the rare exception of a specialist early music or contemporary music outfit, why would you be doing anything other than singing the full panoply of delicious choral music in the repertoire from across the centuries. And yet it persists as a piece of biographical information that whilst not untrue, is hackneyed and could be enlivened. I’m not always convinced by Epiphoni’s own “choral music of all eras” but feel it’s truthful without trying to sound impressive.

I think we could all try harder in our copywriting to describe ourselves in ways that truly stand us apart from our competitors. We could do ourselves, our singers and our audiences a favour by really thinking about what marks us out as different — why we exist at all — then conveying it in engaging, plain English. I know of at least three new professional London choirs launching this year — adding to the dozen or so existing, established choirs and scores of good amateur ones. What will they do to position themselves differently, both in their marketing and more importantly in their doing?