If you're interested in joining us, read on to find out how it all works.
Are you recruiting?
Not exactly. We don't do public recruitment because we want to keep our numbers steady around the 20 mark – that's about 5 in each section. Our turnover of singers is low, so vacancies don't arise very often. When they do, we fill gaps as they arise, either by word of mouth or from our waiting list.
But if you're interested in what we do, don't let that put you off getting in touch. We're always interested to meet new singers who are keen to join what we do, and we may be able to add you to our waiting list (which is short for some parts and longer for others). We're a flexible group, and we always welcome sitters-in for our rehearsals.
What's the commitment?
We rehearse monthly in central York. The current date is the second Sunday of each month, between 2pm and 4:30pm. We're not draconian about it, but we expect all our singers to be able to commit to these rehearsals every month, not miss any without good reason, and let us know in good time if something urgent comes up.
Then there's the gigs. We do a mixture of services (mostly Sunday mornings and evenings through the year) and weddings (mostly Saturday afternoons in spring and summer), plus the odd concert. Everything's arranged in good time, normally with at least a couple of months’ notice and often much more. On average, we sing about 8 services each year, and maybe another 6-8 weddings.
If this sounds like a lot, don't worry. Because of the ad-hoc nature of our gig planning, none of these dates are ever compulsory for any singers, and we're very flexible – if you can't make one, you just let us know and we don’t include you on the list for that gig.
So it may sound counter-intuitive, but as a member of the Clerkes, rehearsals are compulsory and gigs are optional! That is, as long as you attend all our rehearsals, you can pick and choose which gigs suit you. You could easily be a full member of the choir and actually only choose to sing 4 services a year, for instance. Naturally, we generally hope that most of our members can make most of the dates -- and if you're often busy on Sundays, the Clerkes may not be for you.
Once you've said yes to a date, we use that information to plan repertoire and rehearsals (not to mention signing contracts with brides-to-be!), so we expect you to stick by your commitment.
Is there an audition process?
No, we're not that formal. Most of our current singers joined us after being recommended by an existing member. We know what we're looking for, and we expect that you’ll have a good idea what you're looking for too, so it's simply a matter of seeing if the two match up. We have high standards, but we generally find we can meet them more effectively that way, and it's less stressful all round.
What does it cost?
Nothing! We're lucky that our overheads are low and our rehearsal space is provided for free by a York city centre church. So we don't charge subs to our singers. You give your time for free, and in return membership of the group is also free. We even pay travel expenses for singers who share lifts to our more distant performances.
What skills do I need?
Not to put too fine a point on it... we're a good choir. All our members are strong sight-readers and experienced singers. Rehearsals go at a fair pace, and focus less on note-bashing and more on ensemble and musicality. Because we only rehearse once a month, we can’t afford to do things otherwise.
As well as feeling comfortable with this, it would help if you had some experience of the world of Anglican church music. Better still if you've actually sung in a church choir before, but this is by no means essential. If you're unfamiliar with this world, that’s fine, but be prepared for a steep learning curve when it comes to things like hymns, responses and the dreaded Anglican psalm chant!
We don't have any requirement about religious commitment. Our members have a variety of beliefs, from atheist to devout. But of course you'd need to be comfortable singing in church, since that’s mostly what we do.
What do I need to provide?
Not much. We supply all your sheet music, plus a rehearsal folder and a separate posh folder for performances.
You'll need to wear black for most services: for ladies, a plain black top, black trousers or skirt and black shoes; and for men, a plain black suit (ordinary lounge suit, not DJ) with a white shirt and a coloured tie of your choice. Gents, it helps to have a black tie to hand too, as we do sing at the occasional funeral.
What are the benefits?
You mean, apart from being part of a musically excellent and highly versatile chamber choir for free?
Well, we're also a very friendly and sociable bunch. We always go to the pub after rehearsals, and when most of the choir gets together for a service or concert, we usually go out of our way to organise a meal or similar social event afterwards.
Obviously, none of our social events are compulsory. But we're very keen that everyone feels part of the group. If you're looking for a drop-in-drop-out choir, where you can turn up, sing and go home, we won't turn you away -- but we'll be quietly disappointed!