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Conference Morsel: The Most Important Choir

(An excerpt from the interest session “ And May God Give Us Faith to Sing Always: Purpose Beyond Performance,” presented by Tom Trenney during the 2014 ACDA North Central Division Conference)
       It has been a true blessing to teach the freshmen women's choir at Doane College this year.  These twenty-four seventeen and eighteen-year old women come from many different communities from all over Nebraska and the surrounding states.  When the students came to choir on the first day of school, they did not know one another; they certainly had never sung together.  They all brought with them individually unique and collectively diverse backgrounds, talents, and experiences.  Yet, after they took their first breath together and made their first sound, these two dozen strangers became a choir.  As we began to sing, I soon realized that one of the lovely young women in the choir was not yet matching the same pitches that the others were singing.  She came to me after class and mentioned that she had never sung in a choir before.  I was so sad to hear her tell that some of her family and friends had made fun of her voice.  However, I was so moved that she was eager and excited to take this risk among her peers and to explore one of God's great gifts-- singing. 
       On November 7, the Doane Women's Choir came to sing for the Service of Remembrance here at First-Plymouth.  The next day at class, I played a recording from the service for the choir and invited the students to respond to what they heard.  The young woman who was well aware that she had still not yet found her pitch was the first to comment, and her humble, thoughtful, selfless response continues to inspire me:  "I can't believe my voice is part of such beautiful music." 
       When we come to worship, we all immediately become members of the church's most important choir-- our congregation.  When it comes time to sing a hymn, we are part of a most beautiful communal offering of prayer and praise.  The choir does not sing the hymns for the congregation or to the congregation; the choir sings the hymns with the congregation to make the music all the more beautiful.  The organ does not play the hymns for the assembly or to the assembly; the organ joins in the singing to make it all the more beautiful.  It is only right that we give whatever voice that God has given us to the beautiful music that surrounds us in the sanctuary of our congregation.  When we come to worship, I pray that we will all sing so freely and openly, honestly and passionately, that whether we get a single note right or not, we can praise God with whatever we've got, and then look to our neighbor and humbly say: "I can't believe my voice is part of such beautiful music." 
on May 8, 2014 7:33am
Great article - great thoughts.  Over the years of church music ministry I have always emphasized that the most important music group in the church is the congregation.  In addition to giving maximum opportunity for the "people" to sing I've found it effective to have the occasional anthem which includes congregational participation.
- Roger Wayne Hicks