Defining the Church Choir

In order to accurately discuss the role of the church choir in the intergenerational church, I think it’s important to understand how I define certain terms related to the premise of this blog.  Today, I will discuss how I define the word “choir” in the context of the intergenerational church.

To the best of my knowledge, I’m the first person to define the term “choir” from a church perspective in any academic document. Believe me, I searched for an accurate description because I wanted some documentation from other experts in the field. I came up empty. Therefore, I had to search for other definitions of the term for choir and apply it to the church setting. Here’s what I came up with from my own research:

“A choir is defined as a group of any combination of singers that provides vocal leadership in corporate worship. The choir may add vocal support only to congregational singing but also may engage in proclamation ministry through choir music alone, which is music designed to be performed with several voices on each part. In comparison to a vocal ensemble or praise team which typically has fewer singers, a choir, for the purposes of this study, must consist of a minimum of twelve singers. Generally, the choir is placed prominently on risers or in a choir loft but not front and center on the platform area. The individual choir participants are not vocally enhanced through the use of microphones.”

I think some of you are thinking,”that’s a mouthful.” I would agree. There are three important things in this definition that I’d like to unpack:

1. The church choir may have a dual purpose in worship leadership, leading in congregational song and/or leading through proclamation (choral music). Most church music ministers leading choirs I’ve spoken with would agree that this dual purpose in worship leadership defines and encompasses much of the role of the choir in worship. Why is this important?

  • The church choir, with its music reading skills, can learn music generally faster than the average worshiper in the pews. This means that new songs, especially congregational songs, may be learned and taught to the congregation quickly.
  • The church choir can proclaim, or present, more intricate choral music that the congregation itself could not accomplish alone.
  • Additionally, the church choir can involve ALL generations interested in music and worship leadership, no matter how talented.

I know there is much more to unpack here, which I plan to do in future posts. 

2. The church choir has a similar, yet very different, role than the praise team in the life of the music ministry of the church.

  • The praise team can also function as a smaller choir in that they can lead congregational music as well as present special choral music in proclamation of the word. However, most praise teams I’ve encountered are full of vocalists with a generally higher level of vocal skill than the average choir member. Why is this important? Using a praise team only limits the abilities of much of the general population in your church choir from participating. This may be related to age (some don’t want too young a sound on their teams, while other might not want an “old” sound on their team) or related to musical skill (many leaders want music readers on their team) even though the vocalist might have a great sound.
  • Praise Teams, because of their size and often ability, can present literature that may be either too difficult for the whole choir, or too musical complex (either rhythmically or sonority of vocal parts).
  • At my church, I use both praise teams as well as the choir. I exclusively use the praise team in vocal enhancement of congregational song while I may use a special vocal ensemble for special choral arrangements. I see the praise team as an extension and representative group from the choir itself. I am also very careful to use praise team vocalists from all adult generations so they also mirror the generational diversity in the congregation. This is not always easy, but it is essential in order to be committed to being intergenerational in worship. 

A side note*****

It’s hard not to lean toward the attractive, younger singers in your choir who have amazing voices. Who wouldn’t want an A-team to lead vocally with every week? I want to caution you right now though, because I struggle with this all the time. If you’re going to be intentionally intergenerational, talent and stage presence must come after two areas:

          1. Generational diversity of the team. 

          2. Investing in new talent. 

Ask yourself, how easy is it to use A-team vocalists? Of course it’s easy. Someone has taught them well and now you get to benefit in your ministry. Then ask yourself this, what am I doing to invest in moderate or lower level talent to bring that person to the point where they might be an A-Team member? I believe my role is to invest in those people and encourage and equip them to be A-team level. I’ve personally invested in several praise team members here at our church who have steadily increased in confidence both vocally and in worship leadership. Don’t be afraid to invest…it’s worth the effort in the long run. 

3.  The church choir has a prominent physical place of worship leadership.

  • I’ll be sharing much more on the function and role of the choir in intergenerational worship later, so I don’t want to say too much yet here yet. However, here are a few things I’ve found to be fairly consistent in those churches I’ve researched in the intergenerational church, which I believe are probably consistent in any church with a choir.

*The church church is often in a loft behind the the pulpit area of the platform or just off to the side. This prominent position means that the choir should be seen as worship leaders and not simply “back-up” for a soloist or praise team.

* The church choir is not vocally enhanced by individual microphones. This simply means that not every choir member has his or her own personal microphone. The use of area or choir mics is most common for the church choir. I believe this function is significant because the sound of the “whole” group is more important than the collective individual, which I believe to be philosophically accurate. That being said, praise team members usually have their own microphones, great care must be taken to ensure the member understands the purpose of their leadership is not more important than the other choir members necessarily; rather, praise team members are simply an extension of the choir (vocally, facially, spiritually, and represent the generational diversity of the church). 

 

 

In my next blog, I will unpack what I understand to be a church that is intergenerational in their worship. I honestly believe there is no “correct” formula that contains all the correct criteria to be intergenerational so stay tuned!

My plan is not to blog everyday. I think my goal is to pick a day each week to load a new blog, but I’m energized to get a few blogs in quickly while everything is still new.  Since I’m a new blogger, I’d love to hear some feedback from you all. What would you like to know more about related to the content in this blog post?

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