The ministry of music is an important entity of the church service. Psychologists tell us that singing is natural human behavior and is basically enjoyed by everyone. The ministry of music is not only beneficial to the individual who is engaged in it, but it plays an active role in stirring the soul and preparing hearts to receive the Word of God. While only the true Word of God has pure drawing power, music that comes from the heart and reaches the heart can play a great part.
It is often said that the spiritual status of a church can be gauged by its music ministry. Not that good churches cannot have bad music, but churches that are concerned with giving God their best will pray and practice until they achieve choirs, choruses, or ensembles that bring glory to the Father.
OBJECTIVES OF A SONG SERVICE
A song service for any service should have several basic objectives. Song leaders must continually be aware of these objectives and keenly desirous of accomplishing these spiritual ideals. Without this awareness and desire a song service can easily become sheer entertainment or a mere time-consuming activity. The following are several of these spiritual objectives of a song service:
- A song service should provide the means of unifying a group by providing a common channel for individuals to join together in worship, prayer and praise.
- A song service should teach and reinforce spiritual truths.
- A song service should provide individuals with an outlet for expressions of personal and soul attitudes and experiences which often are difficult to express in one’s own words.
- A song service should create the proper atmosphere and mood for the message and the remainder of the service.
- A song service should not consume time for the sake of consuming time. Unless the Spirit indicates the need to prolong it, don’t do it.
Everyone who sings should have an eye to God in every word they sing. They should aim to please Him more than themselves or any other creature.
- Recruiting & Selecting New Members. First of all, it is important that choir members be professing Christians – except in the case of children’s choirs who should be coming into the knowledge of Christ in order to become professing Christians. The ideal church choir should be at least ten percent of the total church membership. The mass choir should be at least 20% or more of the membership and a combination of the other choirs. In order to achieve this goal, the director should meet with the choir officers and the pastor to make a list of prospective members and send invitations to those selected. The letter of invitation should be sent with a return card to be filled out by the prospective member stating their intentions regarding choir membership. The same procedure is repeated periodically to keep from overlooking new talent or people desiring to participate in praise. This method should only be utilized when no volunteers are available or previous efforts have failed. Note that special attention should be paid to the recruitment of male members.
- Development of Spiritual Attitudes. The choir/music ministry has to be a spiritually effective organization. Members must be taught and impressed with the importance of their ministry. Each member must be made to realize that he has a vital place in the work of the church. The main purpose of the choir is not mere entertainment or the display of individual talent. Rather, it is the blending of many talents and personalities into a composite force that has unusual possibilities for providing spiritual inspiration, warmth, and unity to a service. Each member should be made to realize that during a service his or her disposition should serve as an example to the congregation as a leader for attitudes of reverence and worship; a leader for unity; a leader for general alertness; and a leader for attentiveness and respect to the pastor and his message. Each member must be made keenly sensitive of his privileged ministry- that of a leader in the worship and praise of the Almighty God, and he or she should seek to use his music ability to accomplish the spiritual aims and purposes of his or her church.
Since the spiritual effectiveness of any church choir is directly proportionate to its loyalty and morale, a director must work constantly against the factors that can undermine this. Some things that can destroy the morale of a choir are:
- Erratic/poor attendance at rehearsals
- Habitual tardiness
- Missing service after attending rehearsal
- Singing in the service after not attending rehearsal
- Unrelated foolishness and lack of attention during rehearsals
- Unfriendly attitudes toward other members or the formation of cliques within the choir
- Ill feelings voiced publicly instead of privately and in a Christian manner
- Members who are concerned with themselves instead of the welfare of the group
- Lack of drive or motivation to move forward
- Any action or attitude that dampens the enthusiasm of present or future choir members
- Music Library. One important investment that most churches fail to make is that of a music library. It is extremely important to have a library filled with resources for Christian Education. Similarly it is good to have a library that includes copies of song lyrics stored in durable folders, tapes and CD’s in shelves or containers, and recordings of the choir singing. Most people would agree with the first two suggestions, but many do not see the need for the third one, however this will allow the choir to listen and learn from mistakes, chart progress, commemorate success, and preserve history.
- Rehearsal Techniques. Rehearsal is by far the most important activity the choir undertakes before service. Since rehearsals usually range from 1 ½ -2 hours per week, time is precious. In the case of special programs or events, extra rehearsals or longer rehearsals may be necessary.
Since learning new songs should take place in three stages: introductory stage, learning stage and the perfecting stage, three weeks (or rehearsals) should be allowed for each new song.
Directors or musicians may introduce songs by playing actual recordings then teaching or they may choose to have the choir speak the lyrics until they memorize them. In the ideal situation, the choir will be able to sight read from the sheet music and move right along. Please let us know if you are successful with this method at your local church – especially if you sing gospel music and we would love to meet you. Formal singing techniques can be taught to the average singer by a qualified director.
After the song is introduced, it is torn apart and learned in portions. Then, and only then, should it be put back together and sung in its entirety. During the perfecting stage, special attention should be given to phrasing, inflection, pronunciation, intonation problems, and other details.
Look for and attack these specific problems head on:
- Lack of desire to produce a beautiful tone
- Poor intonation
- Predominance of individual voices
- Faulty diction
- Lack of rhythmic precision
- Failure to listen to other voice parts
- Uncontrolled vibratos resulting in a tremolo or a “wobble”
Remember that a change of pace is always necessary. Voices must be eased; minds, nerves, emotions relaxed. This can be done by changes of activity, by contrasts in styles and moods of songs sung, by time-outs for discussing future plans and engagements, and sometimes fun and fellowship.
Directors and/or Musicians have to plan rehearsals that fit the choirs they serve, but a sample rehearsal could be planned as follows:
- Brief Devotional – It is never appropriate to begin rehearsal without devotion
- Warm-up – vocal drills, familiar songs, basic harmony (8-10 mins.)
- Sing-Thru & Perfect – Sing songs from previous practice (12-15 mins.)
- Intro – New Numbers for future use (10-15 mins.)
- Intensive Practice – Problem areas in songs from previous weeks (20 mins.)
- Break – (5 mins.)
- Sing-Thru & Perfect AGAIN– Sing songs from previous practice AGAIN! (10-15 mins.) Remember these are the songs you are going to sing for the next service.
- Reminders – (2-5 mins.)
- Matters of Performance. The goal of all choir performance should always be that of inspiring an audience with some truth of the gospel message. Many church choirs perform with adequate technical facility but leave little spiritual impression upon their listeners. The choir must be constantly challenged with an intense desire to communicate the message of each song to every listener.
If a church is to have an effective and total music program, it must first of all have a congregation, a board, and a pastor that are appreciative of the music ministry. Once this is accomplished, the church has to find someone who is capable and willing to direct the ministry, not to mention filled with the Spirit of God to dictate their actions. In some churches this person is known as the Minister of Music. In others this is done in combination with other forms of service such as Assistant/Associate Pastor and Music Director; Youth Director and Music Director; Parish Worker and Music Director, etc. It is not uncommon in many smaller churches for the pastor to lead these activities; in some cases the work is divided among several lay or part-time directors with the pastor or music committee responsible for overseeing the total program. It is vitally important, therefore, that anyone preparing for any form of Christian leadership have a basic knowledge of music and a vision of the total church and the music program.
A church music director must be qualified in three main areas: the spiritual, the personal, and the musical. The director should also be someone who is respected.
The spiritual director will have clearly defined convictions and goals that govern all of his or her work. He or she must feel a strong call of service on his or her life and understand that the use of his or her talent has to be directed by the Spirit.
Since human leadership is largely a matter of personality, the sum and substance of all that is in a person, a music director must consciously strive to develop a wholesome personality. The spiritual standard of personality is found in Galatians 5:22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Paramount traits of a Christian leader, then, are sincerity and humility. The director must have a fundamentally warm and sympathetic personality. Knowledge, tact, and organization are also important.
Although choir members may not necessarily be trained vocally, the director should know music. It is impossible to successfully direct a choir without “knowing music” to some extent. Assuming that a person has natural ability, there are still various musical areas in which he will need development and training. The director should at least know the fundamentals: positions and names of notes on the staff, note values and relationships, time signatures, key signatures/names, conducting patterns, and voice ranges. Even if the choir members have no earthly idea what any of these things are, the director should and he or she should be able to find easy, creative ways to incorporate them into the facilitation of the ministry.
There are very few “natural born music directors” but it is possible through study, application and the help of the Holy Spirit for one to develop the qualities essential for success as a director.
Tips for the competent Director
· Prepare a variety of songs.
· Learn the types of voices.
· Learn how to work with each type of voice.
· Choose songs that are voiced well by the members available.
· Work with the pastor so that the entire service emphasizes a common theme and all of the songs and activities have the same basic purpose and compliment that theme.
The range of a voice is generally defined as the highest pure and lowest pure tones that are singable by a particular voice. However, a director must understand not only the range factoring working with the voices. But he or she must also be conscious of the quality or timbre of each voice as well. Voices are further classified according to vocal quality as follows:
- Coloratura – a bright, light quality, capable of singing in very high ranges
- Lyric – a pure, smooth quality
- Dramatic – a full, heavier quality
- Mezzo – fullness which approaches a contralto’s quality, especially in the mezzo’s middle range
- Lyric or High altos – a pure, smooth quality
- Contraltos – a full, heavy, resonant quality, especially in the lower register
- Lyric – a pure, high, light quality
- Dramatic – a fuller, heavier quality
- Baritones – a voice with a wide, colorful range
- Bass-Baritone – rich, firm low tones and not characteristic of a baritone
- Bass or Bass Profundo – a heavy, resonant quality, capable of singing tones in the contra-bass range
- Music Ministry leaders should select musical that is spiritual and scripturally correct.
- Annual Choir Workshops should be held with guest instructors. Music Instruction Weeks are also good educational tools.
- Musicians should have separate practice sessions before choir rehearsals.
- Soloists should be given parts to learn before rehearsals.
- Choir members should make a concerted effort to give their all.