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Why take a Choral Singing exam?

8 months ago

Gérard’d du Toit

Artistic Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Choir

I have been all around the world with my choirs, participated in many international choir competitions and festivals, and have always faced a big challenge when returning from abroad – where to from here? What is the point in participating in an international event to then come back home and face the future not knowing how to embrace the psychological dip, when a choir, ecstatic (or disappointed) because of their result, needs something new to look forward to and nothing immediate is there?

Two years ago, I decided to enter all my choirs for an ABRSM Choral Singing exam – after I had toyed with the idea for eighteen months or maybe longer. The term ‘exam’ at first swayed my decision not to enter my choirs. An exam, in my mind, differed from being evaluated, adjudicated, and appraised by a jury of professional practising conductors, who know the choral world, its styles and genres, conducting techniques and vocal techniques – there are many different schools.

Questions kept flashing into my mind while busy teaching. A choral exam? What is the purpose? Does this give every student the opportunity to participate in something bigger than a mere choral festival? Isn’t education the main purpose? What was I afraid of? Not passing? Not getting the result I aimed for? That is life, after all. You aim but do not always achieve. What about the repertoire? Technical prerequisites? Formations? Where will the exam take place? So many questions that bothered me so much that I eventually decided that the only way to answer them was to take the exam. So, I took the plunge and entered all three of my choirs.

To my utmost surprise the choirs participated with enthusiasm and eagerness from day one. I did not need to discuss what the exam was about or who was going to examine them; no explanations were needed. They trusted me. They wanted to sing in an exam. They wanted to take part in something different, as opposed to an individual piano, violin, cello, trumpet or vocal exam. They wanted to experience an exam within a group.

Encouraged by their enthusiasm, I felt myself being led away on a different route. A route that I will never regret taking, because it was something new and exciting.

Find out more about South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Youth Choir.

About ABRSM Choral Singing exams

We offer Choral Singing exams at three levels: Initial, Intermediate and Advanced. At each level choirs perform vocal exercises followed by a minimum of three contrasted choral works of their own choice. For successful performances, all members of the choir present at the exam receive a certificate. Learn more.

What else do we offer for singers?

Discover all our exams for singers, including our new Singing for Musical Theatre exams.


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