A Choir Director’s Wish List

Sorenson_Heather
Heather Sorenson entered the church music industry in her twenties, and her name quickly became a welcomed fixture in the publishing world. Heather is hired by the largest and most respected publishers in the world, and her pieces remain at the top of Bestsellers lists and Editor’s Choice selections.  Diversity is the characteristic that makes Heather somewhat of an anomaly in the industry: she easily maneuvers both the traditional and contemporary genres of Christian music, often combining the two for a unique blend that has become her artistic fingerprint. Initially recognized for her skill as a pianist, Heather is now known for her compositions in choral anthems, solo piano collections, and orchestrations. Her works are performed regularly at competitions, concerts, recitals, and churches worldwide.  In the past several years, Heather has appeared multiple times at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Constitution Hall. Although her career is sometimes on a big stage, Heather’s heart is leading the Church in worship, and she feels that her greatest calling is using her music to connect people with God.  Years of experience as a church music administrator and music educator have proven to be invaluable experience, and teaching has become a large part of Heather’s ministry. She taught all elementary levels of music at Grace Academy of Dallas for 4 years, served as an adjunct music professor at Baylor University, and has served on many master class panels in piano and songwriting. Heather regularly is a guest speaker and conductor at churches across America, and leads scores of sessions each year at various worship conferences, schools, and universities.  Heather makes her home in the Dallas, TX area with her beloved (and very vocal) beagle, Lucy.
  • More members.

  • Specifically, more tenors! Seven, please.

  • Talent.

  • An accompanist who enjoys ALL key signatures.

  • A higher first soprano.

  • A choir that knows how to read music.

  • 100% attendance at rehearsals, full pastoral support, bigger budget, fill in the blank ____________….

Sounds great, doesn’t it?! In fact, most of us are so dedicated to our ministries that we would happily take a cut in pay in exchange for this copious wish list. However, after serving in your church for 15, 20, 40 years, you know that there just isn’t another tenor out there.  Your accompanist is a harried working mom of toddler triplets, and she happily gives her 2.5 minutes of free time each week to “practicing” the 6 anthems in her choir folder.

How then can the average church choir become more effective? Here’s a very short (and obviously non-comprehensive) list of things EVERY choir can do, regardless of size and talent – things that would probably double your choir’s effectiveness in just a few weeks. (That’s a pretty big promise….which is why I used the word “probably!”)

Get out of the music! This is HUGE. And almost every choir I’ve worked with really struggles with this. When I look up at the choirs I direct, and I see most heads down, I know that we have cut off our biggest communication tool with our audience. It grieves me. We have such a great message to deliver. And coupled with the power of music, we have the opportunity to touch hearts on a deeper level sometimes than even a great sermon. Eyes up!! You’ve told them this 10,000 times before. Now let’s do it! Your choir will become a different group overnight.

(By the way, most choir members think they are communicating far more than they really are. Video record them, bring some popcorn to the next rehearsal, and make them watch themselves. They’ll hate it!)

Blend. Every choir needs to blend. The smaller the choir, the more crucial this is. Don’t just TELL them to blend – TEACH them! One exercise is to start with one voice, and add a voice to it, matching tone and volume, reigning in vibratos. Keep adding voices until the whole choir is completely blended. Blending is actually a fairly easy fix, if you will work on it for just a few weeks. The payoff is worth the rehearsal time.

Come prepared spiritually. Scripture is refreshingly broad on the methods of worship. Isn’t that great? I love how BIG and DIVERSE God’s palette is. Of course, we each have our opinions, preferences, (and sometimes personal) convictions in this area. Just look at social media!

There is one thing, however, on which Scripture IS clear regarding worship. We are commanded to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Ps. 29:2, 96:9) We have spent so much time working on the musical aspect. Have we taken time to clean our hearts? (Convicted. I’m preaching to myself here.) As we strive to lead others into God’s presence, may we not forget our own requirements found in Psalm 24:3 – 4. “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and a pure heart.”

You could probably add 10 other things to this short list that would help our choirs be more effective. But maybe these three things I’ve mentioned can jumpstart the campaign. If we want to keep church choirs around, let’s make sure we are being as effective as we can. And that’s another topic for another blog…!

May God pour out His blessings on you and your ministry!

Heather

 Editors Note: Check out the anthems below from Heather and others that celebrate the gift of worship and praise in our lives!   There are many styles included and when you click the anthem cover you can “Look and Listen” to the anthem using our “ScorePlay” feature.

  1. In This Hour
  2. Let All The World in Every Corner Sing
  3. Bring Joy!
  4. Awake, My Soul!
  5. Raise Your Hands
  6. This Is the Time to Be Joyful
  7. Praise the Lord! Sing Hallelujah!
  8. A New Song
  9. Rise Up! Rejoice!
  10. 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
  11. Praise to the Lord!
  12. Nobody Shoutin’ Like Me

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