One of the most exciting things for me, and I’m certain all ministers of music, is to welcome a new singer to the choir. I love to watch those who have been with me a while encourage the new singer, show them “around,” help them find music, introduce our guest to those who will be sitting around them, etc. I will always make a formal introduction and give them there “Welcome Snicker Candy Bar” and we jump right into rehearsing.
The past couple of evenings, I had the opportunity to work the the choir of the Union Baptist Church in Winder, Georgia. Brian Faglier and his wife, Lynn, have lead the music in that fine church for sixteen years. This is great choir and I had a blast.
Monday evening I worked with sopranos and altos and Tuesday with the tenors and basses. We had a great time as we “woodshed” their individual parts preparing their music for the fall. On Monday evening, after working a a couple of songs, a lady with a very good voice ask the question, “What do you mean, resolution?” (I had been talking about the altos resolving a particular chord.) This prompted other questions from others. After a few explanations about resolution, where to find their parts, when to repeat, etc, “the light came on.” Of course, as a guest, I had no way of knowing who were veterans to music and who were new to choir. The lady who asked the question was brand new and had she not been bold enough to ask the first question, she may have not only been “lost” the entire evening, but because I had not been sensitive to the needs of new singers, she might have simply not returned. (Brian would probably have not asked me back to work with the men the next night or worse yet, would not have taken me for coffee….)
Gratefully, she DID ask the question, I was able to explain, she had a great time, and no doubt will become an active member of the choir. It has, however, caused me to do some “meditating” the past few hours. Those who know me, know that I have been at it for over fifty years and always have made it a point to consider that my choirs are made up of very experienced singers as well as people who are just beginning their musical experience. However, in my zeal to teach notes, I forgot to consider who was in the room. There is nothing wrong with not knowing, but there is something major wrong if the environment is not conducive to ask questions. I wonder how many people have attended only one rehearsal…..
I have openly been critical of Christians who use “church language” around non-church people and of churches using “church talk” around people who have hardly ever been to church and then wonder why they are turned off. Years ago I remember going to the northern part of the USA, commissioned by the Home Mission Board, to work in “unchurched” areas. I was singing in a struggling church attempting to organize not only S.S., but TU, WMU, BH, RA’s, GA’s, Pot Luck, offering EE and CWT when the people around the church weren’t even certain who Baptists were, much less, Southern Baptists, and as my friend Clyde Chiles would say, they may have known Jesus only as a grotesque figure on a stained glass window. The local folks weren’t dumb, but they didn’t need all of that, they simply needed Christ. We don’t have to “dumb down the Gospel,” but we do need to speak the language of the people with whom we are attempting to communicate.
The previous paragraph is of major significance and maybe another time I might expand on that, but the point of this “essay” is to remind music ministers/leaders that 95% of our singers don’t have degrees music, are not seeking degrees in music, don’t really care about secondary subdominants, nor the name of the composer’s pet. Generally they are there because they love to sing and our job is always to affirm them, encourage them, and lead them with clear language. We don’t need to talk down to them, we just need to make sense to them. (This makes me think of another topic for another essay, I firmly believe non-Christians and non-church members should be welcomed and part of a local church choir.)
How many times have I asked my doctor to “hold on a minute, put this in words I understand.” That is not be being a jerk nor does it mean I am stupid, but I’m not a doctor, I just want to make certain I know what is going on in or on my body. I have been blessed with doctors who, for the most part, have been very accommodating. I don’t know much about medicine, but generally, my doctors don’t know a great deal about music. (There are some exceptions, however.)
We all have men and women in our choirs who are skilled in countless disciplines that I know nothing about. If I ever am in the position that I need to know how set a broken leg, drive an over the road truck, assemble a drive train on a John Deer, make glass, etc,, I would home my instructor will speak to me clearly, patiently, graciously, and eagerly.
With all this said, I’ve got to get ready for rehearsal. I am sure looking forward to welcoming some new singers tonight……. I am really enjoying partnering with Level Grove Baptist during this interim time. Yes, I’m a working on Christmas Celebration 2014.
(I hope things are spelled correctly. I can’t find Spell-Check…)