The abcd Virtual Choral Leaders' Festival

4-6 September 2020

Like so many organisations, sadly we have had to cancel our usual Annual Convention this year - the first time since 1986! However, in its place we are holding our first Virtual Choral Leaders' Festival. We're looking forward to bringing you online versions of some of the originally planned Convention sessions, alongside new sessions specially designed to help choral leaders of all kinds through this challenging time.

Spurred on by the success of our recent webinars, we are presenting a series of one-hour webinars across the weekend, including a choice of strands. There will be plenty of scheduled breaks to avoid too much screen time, plus a wide range of online resources for you to peruse at your leisure, including new repertoire for planning ahead and a virtual exhibition.

There will even be a gala concert! We're delighted to be able to include one of the Live from London choral concerts in our timetable, a performance from VOCES8 on 5 September at 7pm. You can either buy a separate ticket for the concert as part of your festival package, or why not buy a season ticket now for all ten concerts? By buying your ticket through abcd, you are actively helping to raise funds for us.

Book now open!

Click here to view the rates and book your place now! We have tried to make booking as flexible as possible: book for as little as half a day, or join us for the full festival!


Sessions will include topics that are directly connected with the current situation and intended to give conductors help and advice, but also topics addressing training and support for conductors at any time.

The exact content of all sessions may change according to the government guidelines as they alter in order to be as useful and relevant to singing leaders as possible.

Outline timetable for the weekend

Friday 4 September

5.15pm - 6pm warm-up webinar

6.15pm -7.30pm webinar. Bob Chilcott and John Rutter talk about their experiences as composers during lockdown and their their hopes for the future.

8pm - 9pm evening webinar. The King's Singers - Finding Harmony. Jonathan Howard talks about their mission, to use singing as a tool to find unity in a divided world. Hear some of their recent live performance and take part in a Q&A.

Saturday 5 September

10am - 11am
a. The Voice for life. Find out more about the RSCM's well-established repertoire and resource guide for choirs and its new Guide to Choir Training
b. Vocal shape-up. New and familiar warm-ups for all ages with Suzzie Vango. Why do we do wake up slaps or pretend to blow bubbles? What's the point? Find out the answers in this webinar!

12pm - 1pm
a. Understanding and performing Messiah. With Samir Servant, Malcolm Bruno, Nicholas Cleobury and Andrew Gant - exploring new aspects of performing this ever-popular work.
b. Class teaching: the new normal. Strategies to use in order to continue to provide high quality learning experiences whilst grappling with new guidelines and teaching at a distance both in person and virtually. Presenters include Margaret O'Shea, Director of Music for Ark, and Tom Leech, Director of the Diocese of Leeds Schools Singing Programme.

2pm - 3pm
a. Foreign languages - don't be put off! Russian and Spanish repertoire provide exciting opportunities for choirs - invaluable advice on how to approach these languages with Mark Sproson and Irina Walters.
b. Songs and games from Southeast Asia. A hands-on Kodaly workshop learning new musical games songs - and the games - with Susanna Saw, an inspirational Kodaly expert based in Malaysia.

4pm - 5pm
Stories and songs with Sarah Quartel - music and discussion with popular composer Sarah Quartel, live from Canada.

5pm - 5.30pm
Postcard from Latvia. A message from Latvian Voices and two performances from this fabulous female vocal ensemble.

7pm - optional gala concert
Hear VOCES8 live from St Anne and St Agnes Church, London as part of Live from London (separate ticket)

Sunday 6 September

10am - 11am What does diversity mean in choral music? A look at the lack of racial diversity across the music sector; the pressing issues we need to consider and the changes that we need to be making. Chaired by Manvinder Rattan, the panel will include Naveen Arles and Nate Holder.

12pm - 1pm
a. How do we cope with mental health and well-being issues in our choirs?
b. Cambiata in practice. With Ian Crawford and Rachel Staunton. A perfect session for those who already work with cambiata voices, or those looking to start a cambiata choir. Top tips, repertoire and recruitment strategies.

2pm - 3pm
a. Musicianship and sight-reading for singers. A look at the new apps and technical help for all.
b. Friday Afternoons. New repertoire and inspiration from this Snape Maltings led singing project connecting teachers and young people with contemporary composers.

4pm - 5.15pm Where do we go from here? A final discussion on the future of singing post-COVID19 and a celebration of all that's been achieved in these testing times. How can we best continue with our choirs? What is the latest research? How can technology help us?

In addition, all delegates will have unlimited access to our virtual goody bag of online resources, including recorded sessions, repertoire links and resources and, of course, a virtual version of our famous exhibition!