Beginners’ Guide to the Oakville Choral Society

Congratulations! You’ve made the first step to group singing. As Time Magazine recently wrote, “Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed. Even if you walk into rehearsal exhausted and depressed, by the end of the night you’ll walk out high as a kite on endorphins and good will.”

OCS rehearsals are filled with positive energy, even when we’re working hard. Our members are friendly, with a great group dynamic. Our leadership is solid and professional. The Music Director of the OCS is David Bowser. The accompanist, Anne Marie Leonard.

But wait – maybe it seems that everyone else knows what they’re doing and you’re feeling completely lost. Don’t panic! Many of our members have been with the choir for years; many have sung some of the numbers before. But all of us were beginners once. There are excellent resources to help you on your way.


Within the choir, you can turn to both David and Anne Marie for help. Also, each section has a section lead who is there to provide learning and guidance. Our section leads are:
- Soprano: Amy Moodie
- Alto:
- Tenor:
- Bass:

There also are wonderful websites to help you. If you’re are shaky reading music, you might try the following websites:

If you’re having trouble learning the music, try YouTube or one of these websites:
- Stacy Horn, ‘Singing Changes Your Brain’, Time Magazine, August 16, 2013

Rehearsals and Dress Rehearsals

Rehearsals are Tuesday evenings from September through April, with time off over the Christmas period. We start with a warm-up at 7:45. This loosens both the body and the voice. You find you will sing at your best when you’re relaxed. We take a 15-minute break at around 8:45 or 9:00. We generally have water, coffee, tea or juice and a small snack available. Please make a small donation of a loonie or two to the choir when you take something to eat or drink.

If you have to miss a rehearsal, let the section attendance taker know. We’ll give you their name and contact information at one of the first rehearsals.

There will always be a dress rehearsal the Thursday before the concert, in the concert venue. But at a dress rehearsal, we don’t come “dressed” for concert. The term only means the final rehearsal, with accompanying musicians, before the concert. Just dress casually as you would for any other rehearsal.

One very important tip when you’re singing is how you hold your music. Hold it high. You shouldn’t be looking down at your music. If you do, then your voice is going into the floor rather than joining with the other voices. Much more importantly, if you’re head is down, you can’t see the conductor. And if you can’t see the conductor, you can’t sing as a group. So hold your music up high and look over the top of it with your peripheral vision to watch the conductor.

Feel free to annotate your music score – in pencil! Make whatever markings will be helpful to you, whether it’s the pronunciation of a particular word or the specific dynamic markings the Music Director asks you to make.

Inclement Weather

This is Canada – we can’t always count on good weather. When there’s a bad snowstorm, we rely on the decision of Sheridan College. If they close the college for evening classes, we cancel the rehearsal. The attendance takers for each section will try to contact you to let you know. But you can also check the Sheridan College website or your favorite radio station for updated information.


We generally have two concerts per year – one in early December and one in late April. Mostly these will be on both a Friday and Saturday evening, but other times might be arranged for certain concerts. What’s tricky about singing a concert is that you suddenly find yourself in a new space, not the one you’ve been singing in for rehearsals all season. You’ll be farther away from the conductor and there may be an orchestra between you and the conductor. You’re going to have to work extra hard to watch him! And during concert is when this matters most. Concert dress usually is fairly formal. Men wear a black tuxedo (or black suit), white shirt and black bow tie. Women wear either full-length black trousers or a floor-length black skirt. No calf-length skirts are permitted. Women wear black tops or blouses with long or ¾ sleeves. Both men and women wear black socks or stockings and black shoes.

Structure of the OCS

We are a registered charity and are run by a Board of Directors. Our financial year is from July 1st to June 30th. The Annual General Meeting is held during the break of one of our rehearsals in the fall.


We have some fixed and variable expenditures. The Music Director, Accompanist and section leads are paid positions. We pay the musicians who accompany us at concerts. We also must pay various administrative costs, such as rent for both the rehearsal hall and the concert venue, insurance and so on. The main sources of income for the chorus are membership fees and ticket sales. If you have trouble paying your membership fee, come and have a private conversation with the president of the Board of Directors. We also do fund-raising and accept donations. We are a registered charity and can provide receipts for all donations.

We distribute tickets to all members of the chorus with the fervent hope that most members will sell their total allotment of tickets. We have not made this mandatory. However, without adequate sales of tickets the OCS will not remain financially viable. Also, singing to an empty house at concert time isn’t nearly so much fun. It’s energizing to sing to a full house!

We also receive some support from the Oakville Arts Council to help us with special projects. Unfortunately, they don’t contribute to our regular operational expenditures though.


There are always opportunities to volunteer to help the OCS. We need volunteers to serve on the Board of Directors, to help to set up our rehearsal space and put it back at the end of rehearsal, to help out at the concert. We need volunteers who are part of the OCS membership and other volunteers who are not actually singing with us, especially during our concerts. If you’d like to volunteer, please let the Board know or just raise your hand when we ask.