I’m giving a friend a break from conducting the church choir during Lent & Easter.
This choir is much like every choir I have conducted in my life. They are wonderfully enthusiastic, committed to being there, like to laugh and love God and their church. People who sing in choirs usually are all these things. They may come into rehearsal after a long day at work tired, spent physically and emotionally but they managed to drag themselves to practice.
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned in 28 years conducting a church choirs.
1. If an adult gives up a free evening to come and sing, this is a huge thing. Never, ever, ever take that for granted.
2. Be early to rehearsal. Nothing says “you are not my priority” like making people wait for you.
3. Be over prepared. The thing you thought was going to be hard, isn’t and the thing you thought would be a breeze has the choir looking at you like you’re nuts.
4. Be ready for that person in the choir who always has an opinion, helpful advice, instructions for everyone, and is sure you are doing it wrong. They are not your enemy, but they can distract others. Gently, lovingly, carefully thank them for their help and contribution and then- do it the way you had planned. (Be sure you HAVE planned though- weakness provides opportunity.)
5. Laugh- at yourself.
6. Pick the music you like, tell them why you like it, give them background for why you chose it, and enjoy what they do with it.
7. Your choir rehearsal is never the place to talk about: the money you are paid to do this job, negative things about the pastor (or anyone else for that matter), or politics. Yikes!
8. Get to know the people you serve and be careful with their souls. Adults have a ton of things going on in their lives and they may need prayer or a shoulder to lean on. Singing can bring this “stuff” to the surface. I have been aware many times that something we have sung has moved someone to tears and they need a moment to collect themselves. Let there be space for that.
9. Don’t be afraid to look at music resources from a variety of other denominations, and churches. Mix up what you are singing with the group- classical, contemporary, jazz, world music, gospel….
10. Music is prayer. The choir leads the people in music. We are called Liturgical churches which literally means “the work of the people.” It is not a performance. That being said- you should treat each moment of music like it is a performance, planning to not be a distraction but to aid the people in worship.
11. Pray- every rehearsal and before every worship time. There is no better preparation tool then asking God to hang around and bless the music and the people singing it.
11. Once the music begins it doesn’t belong to you (or the choir) any more. It is a gift for an audience of One.
In the Presbyterian church, one of my favorite parts of service for people who are being ordained to serve in leadership is when they are asked:
“Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?”
If you cannot answer with an enthusiastic “yes!” to these questions with regard to directing your church choir, don’t do it.
As the director, you stand in the very best spot in the room- the sweetest spot. You can hear every voice and the blend, balance and harmonies are at your fingertips.
Have a great day! We’ll talk more later.