One year, I went to a workshop led by the guru of all things having to do with children’s choirs in the church, Helen Kemp. Helen said something simple that rocked my world that year. She said, “Routine relieves anxiety.” In fact, she had a big, beautiful poster with those words that I can still see in my mind’s eye. Helen already knew what I would soon learn and put into practice. When children know what to expect—when they know that the routine of the rehearsal will include things like sitting in a seat labeled with their name; a sung, responsive roll call; a warm-up; a hymn; anthems; then a closing prayer, for example—they come to rehearsal without fear of the unknown. This healthy, predictable environment provides a safe place to be open and learn.Read More > >
As a pianist who is not an organist, I sometimes lament the inability to aid the assembly’s song with sustained sound. After all, the attack of a hymn’s final chord is immediately followed by a decay, or dying away, of the sound on the piano. My experience has been that congregations often follow that lead and pull back with their voices, rather than hold on to a final chord with gusto.
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The contemporary/traditional dichotomy that came to exist in the last few decades of the 20th century has caused discomfort and even emotional pain among many worshipers, church musicians, and pastors alike. The effects of these “worship wars”—as they came to be known—will likely last for decades to come. Much has been written about this topic, but perhaps examining it under the lens of social capital—the shared values that enable groups to trust each other—can provide some insight into how to move beyond the dichotomy.Read More > >
When someone asks me about the benefits of intergenerational choral experiences in the church, I think of Thomas, a college student majoring in music. Throughout his childhood and youth, he benefited from a variety of musical experiences at church, including singing in the children’s and youth choirs, and, as he grew, performing as an instrumentalist. He also participated in intergenerational choirs several times per year. As a child, he heard harmony around him for the first time. When his voice changed, he gained vocal confidence because he was able to sit among strong, adult male voices. Because the combination of choirs meant increased numbers of singers and the vocal security that brings, the anthem could be a bit more musically challenging.Read More > >