“Wow! I get to do this?”
That’s what most church musicians feel when it comes to accompanying worship. We have a keen awareness of our role in the body of Christ. David called it “serving the Lord with gladness.” Like Mary with her expensive bottle of perfume, we do our best to pour it all out, in this case our hearts, to our Savior in worship, dedication, admiration, reverence, awe and love.
This is Who We Are
Musicians are a strange bunch. All cut from the same cloth? Aloof. Artistic. Blessed. Caring. Colorful. Confident. Creative. Detail-oriented. Determined. Difficult to understand. Disciplined. Eclectic. Emotional. Energetic. Expressive. Fervent in Spirit. Focused. Genuine. Hard-working. Independent. Inspired. Involved. Kindred Spirits. Loving. Mindful. Ordered. Passionate. Patient. Persistent. Quirky. Real. Self confident. Sensitive. Servants. Spirit-filled. Tenacious. Thin-skinned. Unique. Worshipful.
This is How We Roll
Musicians just think about music – and we can hear and feel it deep inside.
Music is in our soul, it’s in our bones, and it pumps through our veins with a 60 to 100 bpm tempo.
Musicians help worshippers understand and feel the message in the music.
Musicians are simultaneously servants and leaders.
Musicians dance to the beat of a different drum.
Musicians don’t draw lines between traditional and contemporary, or guitar and organ. We understand and support one another in the worthy pursuit of praise.
Musicians have an attachment to music that goes beyond appreciation. It is a labor of love.
Musicians never stop learning their craft.
Musicians are drawn to creativity like moths to a light.
Musicians want to be part of something vibrant, exciting, lively and fresh.
Musicians live outside the box.
Musicians are thankful for who they serve.
“Like family we are tied to each other!” – Billy Joel
Performance vs Service
The most important quality of a church musician is to have a servant’s heart. We are to be servants and not performers. Humility is the heartbeat of the worship leader.
So church musicians are not after the approval of others. We know that God is listening and that His acceptance is freely offered to all who believe.
A performance mentality enslaves us to the opinions of others. A service mentality actually frees us.
A performance mentality pushes us towards perfection as we seek the praise of others. A service mentality allows us to do our best knowing that Christ has already accomplished everything for us.
“When you have a heart to serve and help others – it unlocks something in you.” – Reuben Morgan
Pastors, pray for your musicians. We pray for you!
Michigan Lutheran Seminary – Concert Review
The Michigan Lutheran Seminary Choir performed at Messiah Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT on April 16 at 7:00 PM.
Thirty High School teens and two adult leaders drove in a bus, overnight, from Saginaw MI to South Windsor, CT, some 700 to 800 miles and 14 hours on the road; many of them sleeping the best they could on the floor of the bus.
There’s something about seeing this age group, traveling this distance, and singing hymns that reminds one that there is still a lot of good in this world.
The sound that filled our small sanctuary that evening was beyond description; so I will simply mention a few of my favorites and offer a few observations that I found to be noteworthy.
The choir opened up the evening with “God’s Word is Our Great Heritage” which seems to be the credo for the entire Seminary and whose lyrics add support to their existence. Shortly thereafter, the choir sang a piece titled “At the Name of Jesus” accompanied by Hans Thomford on the organ and I could not help but be inspired by their vocal dynamics and I knew then and there that the night was going to be special with the resounding chorus of amens contained in this piece. Another favorite of mine was a Bach arrangement called “Crucifixus”, accompanied by Catherine Webber on the keys and sung in English. The layered singing in this piece was particularly impressive.
My favorite song of the evening was “the Power of the Cross” by the Celtic songwriting team of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. This was accompanied by Prof. Leonard A. Proeber on the keys and the pristine vocals and incredible lyrics brought the story of Christ’s sacrifice to life for me that evening.
Another favorite of mine was a piece called “Then Will the Very Rocks Cry Out” by Mark Hayes. This was a lively piece and what I found to be interesting was how the singers were taking a subtle hand motion from their leader Prof. Proeber and amplifying it into a massive, cohesive, swaying back-and-forth motion that echoed the groove of the piece and drew me into the spirit of the song.
As the choir sang “Jesus Loves Me”, I could not help but notice the genuine contagious smiles on their faces and it reminded me that in worship, we never get to see each others expressions as we sing. It was a wonderful site to behold and somehow they also worked a resounding “YES” into this classic hymn as well.
During a spiritual song titled “You Can Tell the World about This”, I was moved by the repeated lyric “You Can Tell, You Can Tell, You Can Tell…” and by the phenomenal solo performance added by Catherine Webber.
As a musician, I took special note at how one student accompanied everyone who took turns at either the keys or the organ and tapped out the tempo on each instrument to help the musicians keep time. She was their human metronome and helped to hold the music together.
Finally, I must not forget the guitarist; Evan Lehr who accompanied a hymn titled “O Thou in Whose Presence”, unplugged and with a beautiful maple-colored Seagull guitar. Nice job!
In total, it was a wonderful and worshipful evening and the perfect event to kick off our Holy Week observations. Hosting this group is a very special treat not only musically but it also benefits the worship life of the congregation and these kids serve as excellent role models to your congregation’s children as well. I still have fond memories from the past when we have hosted this choir and have taken a few of these students into our house where we have had a better chance to get to know them and see them interact with our own families. They are a blessing to our Synod and our churches and I thank them for all the time and energy that goes into the preparation and delivery of each concert.
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”:
An Outreach Idea for Your Choir
This was sent to me by a Pastor Friend. What a neat idea to use with your choir at the local Mall!
Thanks Pastor Steve for sharing.
- Choir Performance (waterslandingpta.com)
Choir Idea centered on the word “refuge”
Here’s a different idea to use with your choir. In the middle of a musical piece, have the organist continue to play through the accompaniment; but have the choir take a break from singing and have each choir member take turns reading about how God is our refuge using some powerful verses from the Psalms (see below).
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge . He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society
Image Source: Michigan Lutheran Seminary Choir