As any of us who have been involved in church work for any length of time know, summer can really be a killer when it comes to music ministry. In fact, I have several colleagues that simply opt for giving their musical ensembles the entire summer off. This can be a viable option if you are blessed to have vocal or instrumental soloists in your church who can provide music for you during the summer months.
But, for those of us who use our ensembles, and particularly the choir, as our primary source of “special music” each Sunday, we have to figure out a way to work around low summer attendance and still provide excellent music for our congregations each week of the summer doldrums. So, here are a few ideas:
1) Turn your men’s section into a gospel quartet! Many churches are able to maintain their own quartet, but if your church does not, let the guys in your choir become one for you. Here’s how to do it: Pick out any gospel-styled SATB hymn from the hymnbook, and give the bass line to (you guessed it!) the basses. Then, assign the tenor line to your baritones. The alto line should be given to the first tenors, and the soprano line will be given to the second tenors (they should sing this line down an octave from where it is written). Voilà! Your men’s section will instantly achieve that distinctive, quartet sound!
2) There are many beautiful choir anthems in our libraries that could be transformed into vocal solos. Now, this is obviously not true with every anthem you might own. Some pieces are so perfectly conceived for the choral medium that they simply do not translate well into anything else.
But, what if you have an anthem that you would love to sing, and you are afraid you do not have the choir numbers to pull it off? See if it might work as a solo. It should be an anthem that is not too rangy, and it should also feature lyrics that are suitable to be sung by an individual and not an ensemble. The remainder of the choir can then serve as your back-up singers. Perhaps you might ask them to join in on the refrain or chorus. Or, perhaps they might sing along with the soloist, but, rather than sing words, they could sing neutral syllables such as “ooh” or “ah.”
3) Don’t be afraid to sing anthems written for two and three-part choirs. Hal Leonard is a WONDERFUL resource for this type of material. (Hey, what kind of an editor would I be if I didn’t advertise for our company at least a little bit?…) However, feel free to look in your hymnbook for instant anthems as well. For example, if you find a hymn that is a favorite of your congregation, and you would like to present it as an anthem, try the following:
• Sing the first verse and, if there is one, the refrain, in unison. On the second verse, add the altos, on the third verse, add the tenors, and finally, on the last verse, add the basses.
• Try singing different verses using only unison women or men.
• Try a verse where the sopranos sing the melody as usual, but the other harmony parts sing wordless syllables such as “ooh” and “ah.”
• Don’t forget that, for the last verse, a descant can sometimes be a good idea. Check out my last blog in Worship Songs Online for ideas on creating descants. However, as a quick fix, just ask a few sopranos to sing the alto line up an octave during the last verse.
Okay, that’s all for now. I hope your summer is restful, spiritually uplifting, and musically excellent. As always, I look forward to sharing many more ways of thinking “outside of the loft” with you in future editions of Worship Songs Online!
Editor’s note: Please enjoy these pieces from Brad Nix, all suitable for vocal solos.
LISTEN WITH YOUR HEART