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  • Topic

    Singing in a chorus in Germany


    I sing in a New York City chorus called Oratorio Society of New York. It's a 150-year-old chorus, 200 singers, mostly non-professional, that sings the major oratorios, and commissioned works, usually in Carnegie Hall.

    A colleague of mine in the chorus is originally German. She's been living in New York for many years, and is now considering moving back to Hamburg, her home town. She'd like to sing in a good chorus in the Hamburg area. She's done some investigation and has discovered, to her surprise, that German choruses don't like to have female members over about 40 years old, even when they are experienced choral singers. Or maybe not every chorus, but at least the high-level non-professional choruses that she'd be happy with.

    Can anyone shed any light on this issue? Is it really true that German choruses, or maybe Hamburg-area choruses, don't want older members?

    Can you offer any advice? She'd be unhappy not to be able to sing again when she moves back to Germany. Any suggestions on any good choruses where she would be welcome?

    Author eric (new york) (63613)  30 Apr 23, 03:06

    Church choirs can be anything from lousy to excellent but most of them are pretty decent. They are usually full of members aged 65+ so, while only the smaller ones might be willing to add another one of this age group, any female in her forties would improve the average age and should be very welcome.

    Apart from the North German Radio Choir, the State Opera Chorus and maybe the Choir of St Michaelis ("the Michel" which has the best church music in Hamburg),* I would not expect any choir in Hamburg to exclude a 40+ female singer as an applicant per definition.

    The Symphonic Choir Hamburg does not write anything about applicaton but gives contacts per voice group. Their choir director Matthias Janz is truly excellent; we attended many of his concerts when we lived in Flensburg A.D. 1988-90, and even one in Budapest later.

    Good luck to your colleague, and tell her to learn to say Hummel Hummel!

    * Not even the Michel's choir mentions an age line! - And all the five Hauptkirchen can be expected to have very good church music indeed.(i.e. the Michel, St Petri, St Jacobi, my own St Nicolai and the most beautiful St Katharinen)

    #1Author mbshu (874725)  30 Apr 23, 06:47

    Zum Chor und zum Repertoire gibt es Infos auf der Seite, auch Kontaktdaten, und Videos dort (oder Links dahin) geben einen Eindruck von gesanglichen Niveau ... und schon auf dem Foto gleich ganz oben sind auf jeden Fall Frauen über 40 dabei ...

    #2Author no me bré (700807) 30 Apr 23, 08:31

    Die Metropolregion Hamburg ist groß genug, um auch in den Nebenzentren Ausschau zu halten. Es kommt also auch darauf an, wohin Deine Mitchoristin ziehen wird.

    Nur ein Beispiel: die Kantorei der Immanuelkirche Wedel ist ein ziemlich anspruchsvoller Chor, auch wenn nicht mehr so viel Avantgarde aufgeführt wird wie unter einem der früheren Leiter, Hans Darmstadt.

    Bei den kirchlichen Chören erwarten die meisten, dass in Hamburg natürlich die evangelischen Chöre am größten und besten sind, das entspräche der Konfessionsverteilung. Ausgezeichnet ist aber auch der katholische Domchor am Dom St. Marien (Stadtteil St. Georg), seit letzten Herbst unter neuer, profilierter Leitung.

    #3Author reverend (314585)  30 Apr 23, 08:53

    I know for a fact that it can be difficult for female choristers 60+, but I have never heard of a choir refusing new members who are 40+, however, sopranos might have to switch to singing alto as they get older.

    I suggest your friend check the Verband deutscher Konzertchöre (VDKC - where our choir is a member). She could check the list of relevant member choirs (in her case Landesverband Nordwest: ), contact those where she would like to sing and ask them. She will probably have to audition, but that shouldn't be a problem.

    One thing to bear in mind with church choirs is that they are often required to participate in Sunday services.

    Simply googling there are several choirs who could be interesting, including Monteverdi-Chor Hamburg which is a member of VDKC.

    She will definitely find somewhere in Hamburg where she can sing at a semi-professional level, I know it's possible in Düsseldorf, Cologne and Karlsruhe, and Hamburg will be no exception.

    #4Author penguin (236245) 30 Apr 23, 09:06

    Hamburgs größter "freier" Chor ist übrigens der Hamburger Oratorienchor mit einer eigenen Probenorganisation in drei Chören, die erst in der letzten Phase vor den Konzerten gemeinsam proben.

    Auch an der Hochschule für Musik und Theater gibt es einige Chöre, von denen m.W. einzelne (Frauen- und Jazzchor) auch Nicht-Studierenden offenstehen. Die meisten Mitglieder sind aber natürlich StudentInnen der Hochschule; entsprechend ist der Altersdurchschnitt niedrig und die Fluktuation hoch. Die beiden genannten haben aber ein interessantes, besonderes Profil, auch wenn es vielleicht wenig Überschneidungen mit dem Profil eures New Yorker Chores hat.

    #5Author reverend (314585)  30 Apr 23, 09:24

    On the VDKC website you'll find that Symphonischer Chor Hamburg is not looking for new members, whereas Monteverdi-Chor is accepting new altos (and tenors and basses). Under "Kontakt" you can check whether the choir is recruiting.

    (Sänger/innen gesucht: z.Zt. nicht)

    And, with all due respect, I don't think the university choirs are what eric or his friend are looking for ...

    #6Author penguin (236245) 30 Apr 23, 10:04

    @eric: Tried to detect you on one of the photos. Didn't succeed since they change every 3 secs.

    Anyhow, it seems like an impressive body of people

    Could you or anybody else explain to me the difference between "chorus" and "choir"?

    I'd always say that as a child I sang in the choir of the German school.

    #7Author Seltene Erde (1378604) 30 Apr 23, 14:17

    I was also going to ask about this. Is it an AE/BE difference? In Britain "choir" would be the normal expression.

    #8AuthorHecuba - UK (250280) 30 Apr 23, 14:32

    Yes, it is an AE/BE difference. In AE it is chorus, BE it is choir.

    #9Author penguin (236245) 30 Apr 23, 14:44


    #10Author Seltene Erde (1378604) 30 Apr 23, 15:06

    Naja. In US-Kirchen heißt es typischerweise auch choir. Daher fast ausschließlich Gospel choir.

    Eine detailliertere Erklärung findet sich auf Grammarly.

    #11Author reverend (314585) 30 Apr 23, 17:11

    In the US, a group that sings in a church is always a choir, not a chorus.

    #12Author eric (new york) (63613) 30 Apr 23, 17:34

    There are very few things we haven't discussed on LEO yet:

    related discussion: chorus vs. choir - #12

    #13Author penguin (236245) 30 Apr 23, 18:06

    Thanks to you all for your comments and advice. I've passed them on to my colleague in the chorus, and I've sent her the link to this discussion. I'm sure she'd be grateful if anyone has any additional information or suggestions on this topic.

    #14Author eric (new york) (63613) 30 Apr 23, 18:36

    Thanks, penguin.

    #15AuthorHecuba - UK (250280) 30 Apr 23, 19:48

    No. 12: In my time at Christ the King Lutheran in Houston TX, we had both a choir (in which I sang) and a chorus. The latter sand at early service, thus I never heard them ... I believe they sang simpler arrangements whereas we mainly did motets.

    #16Author mbshu (874725) 30 Apr 23, 20:30

    Here's a link to Chöre in Hamburg. (See what I did there, avoiding the blurry distinction between "choir" and "chorus")? 😉

    A quick look at some of them gives me the impression that many are "just for fun" and they may not even require an ability to read music,but there may be some possibilities among those listed:

    OT: Without making reference or comparison to other countries, age discrimination/ageism is alive and well in Germany, and even legal in some cases.

    Case in point: It's not unusual for employment contracts to say that the employment relation ends when the employee reaches a certain age, even if that age is younger than the legal full retirement age. (My contract with my former employer listed that age as 65, even though my full retirement age in the German system is 66.) Apparently someone in that same situation challenged that contractual provision in court. The highest court in that area found the 65-provision to be legal, saying that the employee could simply reapply for their position. (Right -- as if the employer wouldn't change job description to one which excludes the former employee so that the employer could higher a younger/cheaper employee!)

    #17Author hbberlin (420040) 02 May 23, 12:58


    The first line of your link reads:

    Der Chorverband Hamburg vernetzt die Amateurchorszene Hamburgs ...

    That's not where I would look for a semi-professional choir, and it is the reason why I linked the Verband deutscher Konzertchöre above.

    #18Author penguin (236245) 02 May 23, 13:21

    The first line of your link reads:

    And that is precisely why the line I wrote after the link reads:

    A quick look at some of them gives me the impression that many are "just for fun" and they may not even require an ability to read music,but there may be some possibilities among those listed:

    I didn't know that it was such a sin to provide some additional information that could possibly be of a bit of help that it was worthy of being scolded!

    #19Author hbberlin (420040) 02 May 23, 15:06

    I stated a fact. I didn't "scold" you. Sorry if I treaded / trod on your toes.

    #20Author penguin (236245) 02 May 23, 15:30

    You indeed scolded in your answer. There was no reason to even post it.

    #21Author hbberlin (420040) 02 May 23, 17:04

    #20 I stated a fact. I didn't "scold" you.

    I found your tone a bit off.

    #22Author FernSchreiber (1341928) 03 May 23, 08:04

    @mbshu #1

    My Freundin asks me to thank you for your "Hummel Hummel" comment. She wrote "That, of course, is quintessential Hamburg for you." Hamburg is her home town.

    #23Author eric (new york) (63613) 03 May 23, 20:32
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