|The First Unitarian Universalist|
Congregation of Ann Arbor
The fate of the choir should not be separated from the practice of congregational singing. If the choir is only a performing choir, which sings music as performances in the midst of the service, people will find it pleasant some of the time, boring some of the time, and in the case of more adventurous music, kind of irritating some of the time. And in our older model buildings, where the choir is in a loft in the back of the sanctuary, it's even worse. Choirs need to be where the congregation can see them.
When the choir can be seen not only helps the congregation relate to the performed pieces, it also helps when the congregation sings together, during the hymns and songs.
The congregation in Ann Arbor is a singing congregation. Yesterday, during the church services, I counted less than 10 people who were not participating during the congregational singing, out of probably 500+ total people in the two services. (Maybe some were just lip-synching, so that number could be off.) What this does to quality of the worship experience is beyond description.
|Glen Thomas Rideout|
And the choir leads the singing as well, modeling enthusiastic participation.
You should realize that this is all pretty low-tech. Until the new sound system was installed two weeks ago, Glen Thomas stood at the pulpit and used the fixed pulpit mike. No lyrics projected on the wall. One piano and two drums. A mix of songs from the Teal and from the Gray hymnals.
Does your congregation have a song leader who leads the congregation in song? Most congregations don't have one. Usually, it is just the minister up there, many of whom lack the confidence and skill to do more than sing along. Many are even told to be sure to step away from the microphone while singing. In many cases, the minister models tentativeness and embarrassment as singers.
What the congregation sees is as important as what the congregation hears while singing.
If I were to be starting a church today, or looking for a music director or musician now, I would look first for a congregational song leader: someone who would get up in front and activate a lively musical spirit in the worship of the church. If you can get the congregation singing, I think building up a choir will follow.