Last night, I was inside a cathedral. It had the whole gargantuan Christmas tree and twinkling lights thing going on. There were mince pies and cava. And the main event: four choirs. THE SCENE WAS SET. I was going to have a festive evening indeed, and it was going to get better and better as the night went on. Right?
Well, no. Not exactly.
The first choir trotted onto the stage, sparkling and swathed in red. They sang upbeat, familiar songs. No backing music, just pitch-perfect voices chiming in at appropriate intervals, as I suppose is the norm with choirs. The conductor (do choirs have conductors???) was energetic and enthusiastic. Everyone was having a fantastic time – the choir, the conductor, the audience. I couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face if I’d wanted to.
The second choir took the stage. A small choir. They didn’t have a uniform – everyone simply wearing a gown or dapper suit in a festive colour. They didn’t sway or jig or gesticulate. They stood with their arms by their sides, and they sang, unaccompanied save for the occasional unintrusive harmony of a piano.
But man, could they sing. Fucking hell, these guys were incredible. My mouth dropped open, its corners still turned up, and my eyes widened. Wow. More familiar songs performed masterfully, an angelic solo, and then the finale – a Jingle Bells/Tchaikovsky mash-up, easily the highlight of the evening. It was tight, funny, and delightful, in a way that only something that truly astonishes you can be.
And then… the third choir. The ‘rock choir’. Now, I love me some rock. I’d been looking forward to hearing them. But something about matching T-shirts and awkward shuffling just doesn’t scream rock to me. As soon as the backing music started blaring through the speakers and the conductor wriggled out from the choir just in time to take the lead, I knew this wasn’t going to be what I’d expected.
And as soon as the choir started swaying in time to the music, stepping left and right, everyone usually going in the right direction at the right time, but not always, I cringed. The words, ‘Oh, this is lame,’ popped unbidden into my mind. It didn’t help that the conductor had to dive into the choir to hit pause on the music while a soloist got into position, and then the poor soloist’s microphone didn’t work anyway.
Don’t get me wrong. They were competent singers. But after the previous two choirs? It all felt a little… flat. Everyone sang in unison, with no particular sections of the choir distinguishing themselves from any other. It was like group karaoke. There was nothing delightful about it. It was merely good.
Finally, the fourth choir. They made a bold first impression, sashaying onto stage in time to a lively piano ditty. Their performance was lively too. Two microphones were placed at the front, and different people kept dashing from the choir to sing a quick line before returning to their places. Much dancing and arm-waving ensued. Again, the singing was competent. Again, it felt more like karaoke than a choir, this time after a few drinks, perhaps. Again, it was merely good.
Which choir would you rather see perform?
And more to the point – which choir would you rather be?
If you’re content to be considered competent enough to get the job done, that’s fine. You’ll probably be able to grow a steady roster of clients and customers.
But if you want to be remembered, talked about, sought after – you need to do better than ‘merely good’.
And the way to achieve that is not by embellishing. You don’t need to include quirky gimmicks or deals or additional services that aren’t exactly your speciality but hey maybe it’ll be appealing to someone.
You need to do one particular thing, in your own way, and spectacularly well. Only then can you become known for what you do.
Simplicity, originality and mastery.