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To listen to a popular song and then be able to envision an entire choir successfully singing it requires a special talent. And it will come as no surprise to My Pop Choir members to know that owner/director Alex Fiddes has that ability (most of the time).

“Some songs are beautiful, but they would not work at all as a choral choice,” he says.

Jackie Curtis, the founder of My Pop Choir, describes how she also sought that all-important quality when she started choosing songs in 2011.

“I made lists from radio stations of all the hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s because I knew our target group,” she says. “And I learned quickly that it wasn’t the popularity of the song at the time of release that made it right for choir. We always included one song that was well known because that gave everyone a comfort level, but then it became about songs that really had that cool choral fluidity and fun in them.”

For the past several years, Alex has encouraged suggestions from choir members. “Whenever people email me and suggest songs, they go into a file on my computer called song choices. There are probably about 150 songs on there right now and the majority that get chosen at this point are on that ever-evolving list. “

Before every term, Alex takes a look at what’s in that file. “The first thing I do is extract about ten songs. I am not yet thinking about all of the diversity we need. I am just thinking about what would sound good in choir and what my gut’s telling me.”

The goal is to have a good male/female split, one that’s fast and one that’s slow, as well as one Canadian selection, along with having various decades represented. “And I would like to have more from musical theatre and also vary the style and flavour of the music,” Alex adds.

It’s clear that choosing the music is not straightforward. “What’s challenging is it’s not just the diversity of song choices, but in addition it’s the length and complexity of the arrangements that we also need to keep in mind in order to ensure a smooth ebb and flow to each term. We need a combination of easy, medium and hard arrangements."

Once Alex has his list of ten possibilities, he sends it out to a My Pop Choir team for feedback, including Jackie Curtis. “Alex and I debate all the time,” she says. “We do need that mix of music in each term. After all, we don’t want five sorrowful ballads.”

Alex says that in the final stage it's mostly he and Jackie, who go back and forth over the final choice for a week or two. “Because she is of a different generation, life experience, and connection to the choir, she provides a different perspective.  So it’s very beneficial that she remains so involved.”

After a few weeks of decision-making the selections are made. “It’s so important to have the right song choices,” Alex emphasizes. “But then the list can change, for instance in the case of a celebrity death.”  When Gordon Lightfoot died in May 2023, one of the Spring term song selections was changed to “If You Could Read my Mind.”

Usually, Alex likes to have the song list firmed up a couple of months before each term. “And I invest a good amount of time into it.”

In the end, what makes for a successful My Pop Choir song is perhaps undefinable. “It has to be a magical song for us,” Alex concludes.

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Dave Toms
Dave Toms

Alex says it right when it comes to song selection: "It has to be a magical.” And having sung with My Pop Choir for several years now I can confirm that it always is, thanks to the efforts of Alex and everyone at MPC. Great blog entry, as usual!

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