North West Folk

It's Raining Men. Not
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Author:  FolkyAdmin [ Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:36 pm ]
Post subject:  It's Raining Men. Not

Singing tutor Chris Rowbury recently got in touch, regarding a problem with men taking part in his workshops and choirs. There's not enough of them. With his permission his e-mail is reproduced here.

Any of you chaps want to explain your reluctance or say what would tempt you?

Sorry for dropping into your inbox unannounced, but I hope you can help with a problem I have with men.

I'm writing to you because I want some help with getting more men to sing.

I have over 1,200 people on my singing mailing list, of whom only 180 are men (that doesn't take into account people called Chris, Pat, Jamie, etc. whose gender I can't determine!).

From my experience, I can usually count on there being about 10% men in any workshop or choir that I lead, so 180 is a little above average. However, it's still not the 50% we need for a proper mixed choir.

I've been struggling for many years to try and figure out why more men don't join mixed choirs or come to singing workshops. I have lots of theories, but none of them really explain everything.

In the professional world of opera and choral singing there are at least as many men as women. In the pop world, there are plenty of boy bands and all-male groups, perhaps more than women in fact.

This is what I've tried so far:

Some men are frightened by women and don't like to be in the minority in a mixed group. So I started to run a men-only singing workshop once a year. I was hoping to attract men to singing who didn't already do so. I got a good turn-out, but pretty much everyone who came was already in a choir, so I was preaching to the converted.

I've tried to attract men by pointing out that there will be loads of single women in the group; that singing is good for your health and stops you from dying young; it's a great stress-reliever and is a good way of winding down after work; singing is macho: look at famous singers like Pavarotti, Robbie Williams, Johnny Cash, etc. But this didn't result in any new recruits.

This is what I know:

- men don't like to be in the minority. If they come to a workshop and there are only 2 or 3 blokes, they are unlikely to come again.

- men can't commit. We have lots of women who are senior-level management, business leaders, consultants, etc. in the choir, and they clearly prioritise singing as they turn up every week. The equivalent blokes often cry off because of work.

- most men think singing, the arts, and creativity is somehow not masculine. Most men don't like being in a position where they're not in control or are vulnerable.

So ... I'm asking if any of you out there have any ideas on how to get more men involved in singing. Maybe I'm preaching to the converted (all you blokes on this mailing list) in which case you're the wrong men to ask! But you women out there, maybe you know why your husband/ son/ partner/ friend/ colleague won't come to a choir or singing workshop, even if you know they can sing and they would enjoy it.

I recently ran a weekend African singing workshop which went exceptionally well, but there were only two blokes there. They did sterling work, but we really needed more male voices to make the African songs come alive. I've suggested two things to the residential centre (Farncombe) in order to persuade more men to come:

1. if anyone brings a member of the opposite gender for the weekend, they get a discount

2. I will offer a men-only weekend. It's a lovely place and you can bring your partner along to sample the food, the walks or maybe do another course at the same time.

Do you think these will work?

If you have the time, please drop me a line and give me your ideas. It is such a shame that male voice choirs are aging with no young men joining; that most community choirs have tiny male bass sections; that the exciting, that men are excluding themselves from the many upbeat African and other world music workshops that abound.

Thanks for your time. I hope to write a post on this subject on my blog in the near future. Why not drop by and check it out: ?


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