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Choral singing, choral attendance, and the situation of choirs in Canada

February 28, 201828 February 2018

Arts attendance & participation / Arts organization management

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As part of this project, multiple primary research sources were developed to examine choral activity in Canada in 2017. Throughout the project, a choir was defined as a “choir, chorus or singing group of 8 people or more”.

The report estimates that 3.5 million Canadians sang in a choir in 2017, or 10% of the country’s population, based on a public survey of 2,000 Canadians. Regarding children’s choral singing, the report finds that there are 1.6 million choral singers under 18 years of age (23% of all Canadian children). This estimate is three times higher than the estimate of children who play hockey (531,000, or 7%). Regarding adult participation, the report estimates that there are 1.8 million adult choristers, or 7% of all Canadian adults. This is 50% higher than the most recent estimate of adult hockey players in Canada (1.2 million).

The report also uses the results of the public survey to estimate that “7.8 million Canadian adults (18 or older) attended a choral performance in 2016”, or 28% of the adult population.

Based on a random sample of 977 churches and 864 schools as well as a survey of 861 choral organizations, the report estimates that there are 27,700 choirs in Canada, the majority of which are church choirs (17,500, or 63%). Another 7,700 are school choirs (28%) and 2,500 are community choirs (9%).

The 861 choral organizations responding to a non-random survey stated that they have over 1,500 choirs and 60,000 singers. Choirs reported over 10,000 performances, total attendance of 933,000, and about $20 million in operating revenues in their most recent fiscal years. Choral organizations tend to be quite small: statistics in the report indicate that a typical Canadian choral organization has seven performances, total attendance of 800 people, and annual operating revenues of $14,000. The survey analysis also highlights how “choirs are involved in the social fabric of their communities” as well as the range of choral repertoire sung by responding choirs. In terms of “items that would be most important in the development of their choral organization over the next five years”, the most common selection by far was “attracting / finding choristers / singers” (54%).

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