When I first moved here, I started looking for professional choirs to audition for and I ended up getting on two rosters (with no promise of work). After a few months, I started to really miss singing with other people, so I asked my voice teacher for a good local choir, even an amateur one. He suggested the choir of the local orchestra and I auditioned at the beginning of May and joined right away.
The choir is a regional one - as is the orchestra - and is based in two cities: Nantes and Angers. There are two groups of singers who meet in their respective cities for most rehearsals and then there are combined rehearsals before the concerts. Because it's supported by the regional government, there are all sorts of perks. First of all, when the combined rehearsal is in one city, there is a bus that picks up and drops off everybody from the other city. When there is a concert or dress rehearsal in the "other" city, there is a 15€ reimbursement for supper for each singer. If singers drive more than 50 km to a rehearsal, they are reimbursed for the kms driven. There is a singing teacher present at each rehearsal who listens along and gives suggestions for ways to make things sound better and there are also free mandatory individual singing lessons for every singer. The downside is that regular rehearsals go from 8:30- 11:00 PM, and when the rehearsals are in Nantes, I don't get home until 1:00AM, making getting up early for work the next day almost impossible. This weekend, we are heading away for a 3-day retreat on the Atlantic coast. All expenses are paid!
It is an amateur choir - and a large one at 75 people! - but the level is quite high. Sometimes I miss the intimacy of the 12-voice professional ensemble I sang with in Vancouver and I'm even playing with the idea of creating my own here (if you can't find it, make it!).