IT’S ABOUT MORE THAN JUST LEARNING THE NOTES!
If you have been involved in choral music ministry for any length of time, you know that the one practice allotted to choir each week does not provide nearly enough time to learn all that needs to be learned. In fact, if you think about it, we are called to achieve seemingly impossible goals: our choirs must provide special music for most Sundays of the year, as well as seasonal presentations and other miscellaneous events, such as memorial services, etc. All of this is accomplished by way of (usually) ONE rehearsal per week!
In the midst of meeting this daunting schedule, it is easy to forget that our weekly rehearsals need to be about more than just learning the notes, achieving good vowels, and singing in tune. Ideally, our times of rehearsal should also be times of meaningful worship.
Personally, I am stingy with the ninety minutes of rehearsal time allotted to me each week. I want to use every minute of it working on our scheduled anthems. However, I have found that if I relinquish some of my practice time to more worship-oriented activities, I always get better musical and spiritual results from my choir. Here are a few ways to make the time with your choir more spiritually meaningful, as opposed to just musically meaningful.
1) As your choristers are entering the rehearsal space, have worship music playing on the sound system. This could be any type of music, from contemporary to classical. Although the singers will be talking and fellowshipping with one another, filling the air with the sounds of praise will undoubtedly center their minds on the task ahead. At the conclusion of each rehearsal, you might consider playing some departing music as well.
2) Open the rehearsal with a very short devotion (literally no more than 5 minutes) based upon the text of an anthem currently in the rehearsal folder. This could be something that you lead each week, or it might be something that you assign to various folks in the choir.
3) As you begin work on a new anthem, do some investigating to ascertain what gave birth to the music and/or the text. Nowadays, many anthems come with a note from the composer or lyricist detailing the genesis of the work. These notes usually reveal what spiritual struggle, victory, or lesson was in the mind of the writer as he or she worked through the songwriting process. Always spend a few moments sharing these thoughts with your singers.
If no notes are available, try to contact the writer via e-mail or social media. If you do not have the composer’s e-mail address, publishing houses are more than happy to pass along your correspondence. Every writer I know (and I know LOTS of them) would be more than happy to share any spiritual insights that might have played a part in the creation of an anthem.
4) Finally, always spend a few minutes at the conclusion of each rehearsal praying for one another. I am amazed at how many church choirs do not do this. Choir is a community, and, as a community, we are instructed to lift each other up in prayer.
Lately, in order to make the most efficient use of our prayer time, I have been sending around a “prayer sheet” during rehearsal. Choir members write out their praises and prayer requests as the sheet is passed around (I give them permission to not sing while they are writing!). Once this sheet has worked through the choir, I have an assistant copy and distribute it to each member. Then, when we are ready for our prayer time, all of the requests are already listed on the page in front of us. The singers can then take this sheet home and continue to pray for folks throughout the week, and not just at rehearsal.
These are just a few ideas that can help keep your rehearsal time grounded in spiritual excellence, and not just musical excellence. Be sure to look for more “Thinking Outside the Loft” ideas from me in future editions of WORSHIP SONGS ONLINE.
Let Us Gather in the Shadow of the Cross
Reflections on Life and the Word
Fanfare & Concertato on To God Be the Glory