Where have all the choirs gone?
Actually and thankfully, many WELS churches still have choirs while a few have relied more heavily on “praise bands” to lead the congregation in musical worship. My church makes use of both, but the most important musical group is the congregation itself. As God’s people we are to lift up our voices in a unified chorus of worship, praise and adoration to our God and King; but this is not to say that there is not a place for gifted and trained musicians to assist in the area of corporate singing.
I believe that there is a place for both the praise band model and the use of choirs in corporate worship. The praise band model is founded in Old Testament worship notably being led by the Levitical musicians. And using a choir adds an entirely new dimension by helping the congregation to sing better as well as beautifying our musical offerings.
“The choir uses their gifts to undergird, support, enhance, strengthen and embellish the congregation’s singing” – adapted from Ron Man: “The Choir as Worship Leader: Revitalizing the Ministry from the Loft.”
Moreover, the choir adds volume, sonic depth, dynamics, diction, rhythm and timing, and most of all – multi-part harmonies. An additional benefit of choirs is their ability, through God’s gifting and by the Holy Spirit’s guidance, to keep hymn singing alive and vibrant in our congregations. I say this because most hymns are specifically written for four part harmonies and many also have descants for the sopranos and tenors.
I encourage today’s contemporary church’s that rely solely on praise bands to consider starting and using choir ensembles as well. Just the use of harmonies alone are worthy of the effort required and are a great way to glorify our Lord. Conversely, traditional churches can benefit by using some lighter contemporary pieces whose lyrics are a bit easier to grasp than some meaty hymns might be.
The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Choir will be performing at my church (Messiah Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT) on Saturday evening, April 16, 2011 at 7:00PM. Consider yourself invited if you are in the area.
Here is a video of the MLS choir singing “I Choose You”: