It was about a year ago when I was asked to begin directing our church choir. At the mention of the idea chills ran up and down my spine as if the company you rented the sound system from messed up the ground loop and your slightly wet lips completed the loop as you begin to sing the first words and strum the first power chord on your electric guitar. I mean I have sang in a number of choirs through school and church but never had thought I could direct one. My Original thoughts were honestly that we would slowly begin weening out the choir and favor a more contemporary and modern service. A majority of the music we received through the major choral music companies was way to over orchestrated and didn’t seem to really fit with the worship band scenario (not all products were like that but you have to look long and hard to find the ones not completely driven by horns and strings). That being said it has been about a year since I began directing our choir and to be honest, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have come to love directing our choir and am finding that it fits in so much better with a contemporary and modern music style than I would have thought. So much so, that I strongly recommend a choir in modern worship and here is why.
1. Visual Energy – I am a big believer in the importance of visual energy. If the person/people leading worship are visually engaging, (not distracting or for show which can sometimes be a fine line but is better hashed out in length in another post) then it engages the congregation as well. Basically if you don’t look like you are enjoying worship (ha ha think worship pain face – you know what i’m talking about) or even look as if you are worshipping then how can you expect those you lead to enjoy or worship. A choir in a modern worship service provides a great visual energy. Though I have never directed a choir before I was always enthralled with the gospel choir – the energy and engagement they provide just draws you in like a moth to a candle flame. That is what I am talking about – a large group of people in total worship and engagement breaks down some barriers for those who might be uncomfortable otherwise.
2. Built in Group Who Know New Songs – I witnessed this once on a Hillsong DVD where they were teaching a large group some new songs so that they were able to sing with the band and Joel (grant it, it was because they were recording a live DVD and who wants a crowd who doesn’t know the songs). But think about it, sometimes as we introduce new songs the congregation can be uncomfortable singing along because they don’t know the lyrics. And while it may not seem logical that they would magically know the lyrics if a choir happened to be singing as well, I have found better response to brand new songs when we have a choir singing along. There just seems to be some visual connection when seeing a large group singing to feeling more apt to sing along as well (as long as you actually teach them the song prior to service – sorry those in our choir for forgetting this crucial idea from time to time ha ha). Plus sonically it’s nice to have the sound of many voices making the unfamiliar familiar.
3. Ministry Involvement – Let’s face it, sometimes it is hard to involve everybody that wants to be involved in the music ministry. It either becomes a scheduling nightmare which never pleases anyone, or you have to tell someone they can’t serve with their giftings (and full disclosure not to be simon but that still takes place sometimes and I am still not sure if it is for the best or not… again another post). But what better way to garner, energy, excitement, and involvement from those who want to serve and worship? I have seen some churches go as far as just creating a worship choir who – for all intensive purposes – are just congregation sitting/standing on or behind stage with no real micing just involvement in worship. No matter how you go about it, it is a great way to connect people to a ministry within the church plain and simple.
4.Vocal Adrenaline – we talked about the visual energy brought through a choir but there is a distinct audio energy that exists with a choir as well. Simple physics would teach us that the more people you have singing the same thing the more energy produced per note – More people = more loud!!!! (but our choir goes to 11). For certain modern worship songs this is just a huge plus for the whole feel of the song – I am thinking Fee, Tomlin, and others that create wonderful musical and vocal energy. There is just something powerful behind a large group of people lifting up the name of Jesus together and in my opinion it provides wonderful worship leading.
5. It is a Blessing – I realize I don’t have a lot of experience as a choir director but let me share how much fun this experience has been. Yes it has been hard at times, challenging at others, but most of all this has been a huge blessing. It has grown me spiritually, mentally, musically, and has allowed for musical diversity in our services beyond what we would do without a choir. You may not choose to go down the road of Choir specials and anything other than modern worship music with a worship band but for us it has allowed us to present worship in many different ways and connect better with those who come to worship with us. Yes we pull choir music from the most modern music as well as liturgical, hymns, a cappella, southern gospel, and more. Sometimes we “modernize” the music (a lot of times we use the arrangements for structure and vocal arrangement but band-wise we play like the modern worship recordings which yields pretty cool results) and sometimes we stay traditional. And we as a church, as a music department, as a band, and as worshippers are better for having our choir being a huge part of who we are.
Yes there are challenges to a choir – stage space, to robe or not to robe debate, micing the choir, rehearsal schedules, more people always means more challenges in keeping the peace. But in my experience it is so much more of a blessing to join together and worship with a choir than anything else.
Does your church use a choir? How does it utilize one? Do you see a complementary relationship between a choir and the modern music style? What are your thoughts?