If you ever find yourself with the urge to break into song, but lack an audience, help is at hand in the form of the Doha Singers. The choir, which was formed over 20 years ago, meets every week to practice, and performs two popular concerts each year.
The choir’s director, Bob Krebs – whose day job is heading up the Fine Arts Department at the American School – explains how he got involved: ‘I’d been in Doha about six months when I was approached by a colleague who told me that the previous director, Ian Young, was leaving Doha and if someone didn’t step up, the organisation might fold. After finding out it was a non-paying position, I, of course, agreed to take it on. All kidding aside, Doha Singers has a group of committee members who are dedicated to continuing the tradition, so we all got to work.’
The choir has grown significantly since Bob took over the helm over three years ago. At his first rehearsal there were just 20 singers, but the choir’s ranks have continued to swell, now averaging around 60 members at each concert. It’s a truly international choir, with members from all over the world, including South Africa, the Philippines, India, the US and Japan. Doha Singers operates two ‘sessions’ a year, roughly tying in with the school calendar. Rehearsals begin each September for a concert in December, and then resume in January, with the second concert in May.
The group meets weekly at the American School (ASD). ‘The large rehearsal spaces there are ideal,’ says Bob. ‘ASD has been very supportive of all of our community groups – not just the Doha Singers, but also the Doha Community Orchestra and Doha Community Wind Band – allowing us to use their facilities for rehearsals and performances.’
Bob is upbeat about the future of Doha’s music scene, which is growing rapidly. ‘The biggest change of course is the addition of the Qatar Philharmonic (QPO),’ Bob adds. ‘We actually have some QPO members in the Doha Singers, and they also play with the Community Orchestra and Wind Band on occasion. Add to that the QPO’s own regular concerts, and Chris Coull keeping the jazz scene alive and well, and you realise how much there is going on. It seems like there are more options all the time. There are so many musically talented expats in Doha, it’s actually a little intimidating.’
The choir recently performed their May concert, and in September will start rehearsing again. Bob tells me the programme he has planned is very varied. ‘This programme for the Singers has a little bit of everything,’ he says. ‘Highlights include “the Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem, a rousing gospel song called “John the Revelator”, and a beautiful a cappella piece called “Sing Me to Heaven” by Daniel Gawthorpe.’
Bob puts a great deal of effort into choosing the right music for each concert. ‘I listen to a lot of music and talk to colleagues, but you can’t please everyone,’ he admits. ‘In the end, I try to choose a varied programme that challenges all levels of singers, is enjoyable to perform, and will appeal to our audience. Hopefully we’ve been reaching those goals. I try to remember that our members are giving up their valuable time to drive across town to attend weekly rehearsals, and feel a great deal of responsibility to make it worth their while.’
Inevitably for a group made up of expatriates, the choir has a shifting membership, liable to arrive and leave Qatar at any point throughout the year. Bob acknowledges that this makes leading the choir a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. ‘It’s why we have distinct sessions each year. It works better for people that way. But we’ve also had a core group of members in the Doha Singers since before I arrived, and not everyone leaves at once. So far there has been enough overlap for us to have continuity in the ensemble, which is very important when it comes to building a distinct sound as a choir.’
Bob is also keen to point out that the benefits of being in the choir aren’t just confined to the music. ‘We have a social committee, and try to organise a couple of parties a year. We have a lot of genuinely nice people in the group. Becoming a member of Doha Singers is a great way to meet others, so if you are new to Doha or have been here a while and want to try something new, let us know.’
Fancy joining? Bob says the choir is open to all comers, regardless of ability. ‘Anyone who wants to join can contact us at email@example.com. We welcome anyone in Doha who wants to sing. We don’t have an audition process, but basic skills in reading music are helpful, although not absolutely necessary.’
For tickets and more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.