The Benefits of Choral Collaborations

by Chris Cherwien

Several months ago, Paul Stever, a colleague from a neighboring church, contacted me about the possibility of joining our choirs together for an evening service on Pentecost Sunday. The service would feature Kim Andre Arneson’s beautiful “Holy Spirit Mass.” The National Lutheran Choir premiered this work in 2017 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Washington, D.C. Since Pentecost is early this year, and this is a festival that often gets shortchanged, he suggested that this was the perfect year. Paul had put a great deal of thought into what this collaboration would take. This work would be difficult to do with its divisi without a larger number of singers than either of our churches have.

My experience in joining voices with other church choirs has always proved to be more than fruitful! Here are some of the benefits:

  • The joy of singing a major work that needs a larger choir.
  • Rehearsing and growing with a different conductor.
  • Bringing faith communities together to learn from each other.
  • Building community and connections.
  • Sharing the cost of hiring instrumentalists.

The rehearsal schedule was set for each choir to work on their own during regular weekly rehearsals and to also provide additional optional rehearsals. We had our kickoff joint rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon in January. It was a productive two hours that included sectional work. We have two additional joint rehearsal opportunities along with two mandatory rehearsals and a dress rehearsal planned before the Pentecost service on May 19.

As part of the desire to build community and excitement about this collaboration, we decided to do a pastor/choir exchange on the last Sunday in February. My choir thoroughly enjoyed the exchange and so did our pastor!

Of course there are challenges as well. We all know that our weekly rehearsals are packed, and it is challenging to teach the music for our worship services in the short amount of time that we have each week. One of my choir members expressed a legitimate concern that working on a major work might impact how prepared we would be for our church services. In my experience the opposite has happened. When choir members are presented with a challenge, they dig in and work harder—especially when the music is such that it draws them in!

I encourage you to consider partnering with another congregation or two in order to experience the joy and growth that making music together will bring!

If you are in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, you can attend the choral collaboration discussed in this blog post!

Evening Prayer Service featuring “The Holy Spirit Mass” by Kim André Arnesen
Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2004 at 7 p.m.
Pilgrim Lutheran Church, 1935 St. Claire Ave., St. Paul, MN

Posted on Apr 11, 2024 9:00:00 AM
Filed Under: Music Ministry, Filed Under: music,

Chris Cherwien

Written by Chris Cherwien

Chris Cherwien has been a church musician for over 38 years serving congregations in Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. In all three cities Chris founded/co-founded summer music and arts camps for children and youth. She is currently the Director of Worship and Music at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and has been the alto section leader for the National Lutheran Choir since 2012. Chris and her husband Paul have three grown children and four grandchildren.