By Prof. Robert N. Ham
As a choir director I am increasingly aware of the special relationship I have with my church choir. Because of our relationship, the arduous task of producing choral music every Sunday and rehearsing every Wednesday becomes another chance to show the world we care about God, our church and each other.
I entered this relationship with my church choir fourteen years ago. I was hesitant and nervous and the choir was apprehensive as we met for the first time. As the first minutes passed, both sides wondered if this was "right." I told them I was "part time" but I would give them one hundred percent of part time. They told me they were volunteers who loved to sing, but they quickly pointed out areas they were not experts in. For instance some could not read music. "That's ok," I said. Some said they weren't soloists. "Neither am I," I replied. Some wanted classical material, and some wanted contemporary. "Let's do both well," I said. "Don't expect us to be college level," they offered. "I already have a college job. I want to do music that brings people in contact with God at a number of levels," I answered. They smiled and so did I, and together we have been rehearsing our hearts out together for fourteen years.
Every church choir relationship is different, but every excellent relationship has some core characteristics. Here are a few:
¥ A clear mission: Members know who they are and who they are not. They know what they're doing and why they are doing it. They know their role and work hard to fulfill it.
¥ A shared vision: Because members have taken time to discuss their collective vision and have bonded together as a team, they share a common vision. The choir's very existence and effectiveness are tied to
¥ An unwavering commitment: Attending choir practice and singing on Sunday mornings is a priority. When attendance is not possible, communication is used so there are no surprises for the director or the rest of the section.
¥ A love for service: Choir members are the first to get to church on Sunday morning and usually the last to leave on rehearsal night. The choir is there for the special services as well as the regular ones. Their love for music, God, the church and one another is a beacon and example for others.
¥ A respect for each other: When we respect each other, we show dignity and honor to God. Respect will help guard our words and will bring out the best in each other.
These areas are foundational to any choir that desires to be all they can be for God. A wise choir director will take the lead in seeing that these goals are part of the very life of the choir. A breakdown in any of these areas will cause problems. However, these can be overcome if the choir is accustomed to functioning according to these principles. A good relationship between the director and the choir is lived out each time they are together. The results of this relationship are staggering. During the rehearsal, worship sometimes occurs. Fellowship definitely occurs as a nice rapport is established. Laughter and tears share the rehearsal with us from time to time. The best texts available challenge our minds and stir our hearts. We often come to the rehearsal tired and bogged down and leave refreshed and renewed. Our practice time is very special and we go away having grown closer than we were the week before.
Recently I had conversations with people in another choir. When I asked if the relationship with their director was special, they couldn't stop talking about how great it was. In another circumstance I asked a
director what made his choir special, and he went on for about ten minutes with random thoughts that were loving and inspiring. In both cases it was obvious that a very special relationship was at the heart
of the matter. Relationships do matter. Let's do everything in our power to nurture what God has put before us.
Prof. Robert N. Ham is Chair of Fine Arts and Choir Director at Bethel College. He also directs the adult choir at Clay United Methodist, South Bend, Indiana. E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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