Choir membership has been the low point of my career as a Music Minister. I am fairly comfortable with just about every other part of my work, but recruitment is not my forte (music nerds, see what I did there?). This year, I’ve given myself a little bit of a break to focus on domestic pursuits, but as Holy Week approaches, I find myself wishing for more voices.
Yeah, it’s a selfish motivation, and it’s my own fault for not being more assertive in inviting people to sing. But I was reading St. Josemaria Escriva’s The Way last night, and he gave me a bit of a kick in the britches to do better in my music ministry. “Don’t fly like a barnyard hen when you can soar like an eagle.”
Okay, so my humble little parish choir isn’t likely to be doing any eagle-soaring anytime soon, but I need to step up my game. And I need your help to do it.
I know you have excuses for not joining. I know they are good reasons too. But if you’ll tolerate me for a few minutes, I’d like to address those.
“I’m not a singer.”
This is always the first objection I hear, and you know what, me neither! I took a few semesters of chorale in college, but that’s as close as I came to any kind of vocal training. Trained vocalists can be an awesome asset to a chorus, but that’s not actually how a choir is supposed to work. There isn’t supposed to be one or two or three “good” singers that carry the music, everyone is supposed to sing and blend together. That is much easier to do with untrained voices than with voices that have been trained to carry melodies on their own, in my experience.
If you can match pitch, that is as much vocal training or experience as you need. Even reading music, while a definite benefit, is not necessary at all.
I hope it goes without saying that if you are musically trained, I’d love to have you too!
“I just want to pray during Mass.”
And to that, St. Augustine says, “He who sings prays twice.” We aren’t singing the latest pop tunes during Mass. Lately, most of what we’ve been singing is from the Psalms, actually.
Church choirs shouldn’t be like a performance that you have to put on for the congregation. They should be an extension of the prayer that is already happening during Mass. The choir should be leading the people in song more often than not, and helping them to enter into the “double prayer” of singing.
“I don’t know anyone.”
Yeah, but we’re all fairly nice and we’d love to meet you! Choir rehearsals aren’t social hour, and Mass is not a time for chit-chat, but the best way to form relationships with new people is by serving God along with them. And hey, tell ya what, if we get enough interest, I’ll institute a coffee hour before or after practice so we can all hang out more.
“I don’t like the music.”
Bring us some new ideas! I do have to follow some basic Liturgical guidelines, so there are a few hard and fast rules, but there is lots of wiggle room in there. As long as the music is Sacred in nature, and appropriate to the season or feast, I’d love to take a look at it. My musical repertoire is fairly limited to the traditional side of things, but there are lots of great pieces I’ve never heard or thought to play. I’d love more suggestions from my choir members about what they would like to sing.
“I can’t concentrate while singing.”
This one I actually will give a little credence to. After fourteen years straight of singing and/or playing at almost every Mass I attend, it does get a little difficult to detatch myself from the music and just attend Mass. I give my choirs the summer months off for specifically this reason.
Vatican II called for a fully conscious and active participation in the Liturgy. (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14) Sometimes that gets taken to mean that everyone needs a job to do, be that as a server, lector, usher, extraordinary minister, or greeter. I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate, and I think you can be fully concious and actively participating from the pew. But going back to that quote above from St. Augustine, if you do decide to sing with the choir, you will get a leg up on that level of participation.
“I have better things to do with my time.”
Another reason that I definitely understand. I took this year off of Thursday practices because I’ve got a little nursling that would not be happy if I left him for four hours on a weeknight during bedtime. There’s a lot of obligations that need to come first. But I purposefully try to keep choir rehearsals short and sweet for just that reason. Maybe a half hour after Mass, and one hour on a weeknight.
“You don’t need me.”
No, I REALLY do!!! There are so many pieces of music I really want to sing, so many things I could do with a bigger choir. We get the supreme privilege of beautifying the Sacrifice of Calvary every Sunday. That’s serious stuff, and we should do our very best to make it as lovely and as prayerful as possible.
I can’t do that on my own. While I’m so proud of our current little choirs, we could make so much more lovely music with your help! We owe God our best effort, not just our “good enough”.
To the members of my local parish, please give joining one of the choirs some prayerful thought. I really truly would love to have you sing with us!
To members of all other parishes, I can almost guarantee your local music director feels the same way I do. Ask them, or a choir member, about joining, I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms! If not, well, go join anyways and make the choir a happier place.
Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes. She wrote about the Lenten Blues (which I totally have, yeesh!) Go see what everyone else is talking about on this fine Friday!