The almighty church choir. It’s your mid-week refuge from the stresses of the week, your second family, and the thing that makes you rush out the door on Sunday morning. It provides an outlet for those who feel called to sing and lead in worship and draws the congregation to join in. Whether you’ve been singing in the choir for 60 years or you just joined, you know that it can be incredibly rewarding. Here are some tips to make sure you are getting the most out of your choir experience:
1. Be on time or even early to practice. Taking two hours on a Wednesday night (yes, Wednesday night, because that is the night Jesus set aside for choir practice) can be a huge sacrifice. You have kids to tend to, dinner to make, or you’ve just had a crummy day at work and don’t feel like being cordial to anyone. Still, if it is possible, be on time for rehearsal. The less time the director has to wait on you to get there, the earlier you can start, and the sooner you can get home.
2. Be open to critique. In my experience in the church choir, whether it is rehearsal or Sunday morning, I want to sing as much as I can. Many times, I wonder why the choir director stops us so much in rehearsal when this is supposed to be a time to worship. However, let’s look at it this way: In the Old Testament, the followers of God were required to bring sacrifices to Him. Would they bring a sick or crippled lamb to the altar to sacrifice it to the Lord? No. They would bring the closest thing they had to a perfect sacrifice.
In the same way, we do not want to offer God anything less than our best. Learning the notes, giving the right style and inflection to certain phrases, memorizing the words, and taking your director’s instruction and applying it are all very important.
3. Learn the music outside of rehearsal. My college choir director always told us, “Rehearsal is like show and tell; you learn your music at home, then bring it to rehearsal to show us what you’ve learned.” The more you learn on your own, the less amount of time you have to spend learning it in rehearsal. Rehearsal is a time to clean and polish a song. If you don’t have time to sit and look at the notes, listen to the song in your car and familiarize yourself with it. You’ll be amazed at how much more actual singing gets done when the choir director doesn’t have to teach notes the whole time.
4. Don’t talk during rehearsal. This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s disrespectful and wastes everyone’s time, so don’t do it.
5. Stay engaged. As much as I love singing in the choir, sometimes going to practice is the last thing I want to do after a full day at work. On top of that, sometimes my choir director tells us to do some pretty strange things to emphasize a point he’s trying to make. I would be lying if I told you that a lot of times when he starts telling us to have more energy or use our hands to help us sing in tune, I just want to keep my hands in my pockets and say, “Nope, it’s not happening. This is all you get from me today.”
Then I remember, not only are his points always right on, but he has been preparing for this rehearsal all day. Also, the director can hear the full choir sound a lot better from where he’s standing than the choir can, so it’s important to trust that what he is saying will benefit you. It will make your choir director feel a lot better knowing that you are pulling with them during rehearsal.
6. Warm up for Sunday morning. I love sleep, and the last thing I want to do on a day that I don’t have to go to work is wake up early. However, I sing tenor, and if I roll out of bed 15 minutes before service starts, I will basically be useless. I always wake up at least two hours before I have to be at church. I don’t start singing high notes as soon as I wake up. I just start talking or humming. It may sound like a little and meaningless thing, but think about it this way: When you are singing at choir practice, you have been up for 10 hours already and have been talking all day. If you want to sound anything like you sound at rehearsal, get up and start warming up.
7. Be aware of what your face looks like on stage. Now, you’ve learned the music and worked hard in rehearsal, honing and polishing every song. As long as you can remember everything your director has told you, you’re in the clear. Not so fast! What does the expression on your face look like while you’re singing? My choir director in college used to tell me, “People listen with their eyes.” Make sure you have an inviting expression on your face while you’re singing and don’t let you mind wonder off during a song. Stay engaged with the congregation.
8. Take advantage of your choir family. The choir is a special community. When I moved to a new church, I joined the choir and only knew one person. Now, some of my best friends sing in the choir with me. We are a tight-knit group that supports and encourages one another. The choir will celebrate with you, grieve with you, and pray with you. It’s not only a ministry to the congregation but to each other. Don’t be afraid to invest yourself in the lives of the people in the choir and receive the blessings of being a part of this group.
9. Get involved. In order to really experience the benefits of being a part of this community, it’s important to get involved with the activities your choir does. If the choir is having a fundraiser, be there. If they are having a Christmas party or a game night, go. These events are not only a fun way to spend time with other choir members and invest in their lives, but most of these events include some type of free food, so why would you not go?
10. Sing with all your heart. Sometimes my wife makes fun of me about how excited I get to go sing on Sunday mornings. I don’t care at all because this is how I praise my Father. I love joining with my friends and worshiping as a community, and I am going to make sure I am contributing. I’m not going to be just a body being used as a hanger for a choir robe. I’m going to sing with all my might, with all my soul, and with all my heart.
About the author:
Garren McCloud is a Regional Sales Rep. at Brentwood Benson and a dedicated member of Christ Church Choir in Nashville. Previous to working at Brentwood Benson, Garren received a degree in Music Business from Lee University where he sang in Voices of Lee. Garren enjoys playing golf, cheering on the Atlanta Braves, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.