Printed Scores vs. Projected Lyrics in the choir in the Intergenerational Church

Have you ever wondered if church choirs today are using printed scores when they sing or do they only use a confidence monitor (or projected lyrics) when they sing? If you said no, you’re probably not alone! When I was researching the choir in the intergenerational church, I wondered if the “appearance” of memorized music was prevalent in these churches. What I found was for choral anthems/specials, there really wasn’t a stand-out method of transmitting lyrics.  Here’s the data:

  1. Almost 31 percent always use printed scores when they sing choral numbers
  2. 21 percent used printed scores and project lyrics simultaneously
  3. Only 11 percent use projected lyrics

When cross-comparing with other data, here is what I found about these choirs:

  1. Every choir who uses only printed music for choral numbers wears robes.
  2. Choirs that were dominated by higher numbers of young people (especially Gen X) used projected media when presenting their choral numbers.
  3. Larger choirs and choirs in larger churches (1000+ in weekly worship attendance) use projected media all the time. The thought here is more people in the choir makes it easier to “follow along” if you don’t have a score.
  4. More than half of the choirs that use projected media for choral numbers wore Sunday attire and not robes in their worship services.

This data suggests that since those choirs that are Gen-X dominant used projected media for choral numbers, while the converse was true for the Boomer dominant choir, a director should alter their plans for lyric transmission based on their group OR desire to attract. This thinking is not that simple. While the data suggests what others are doing and there might be some comparisons to your own church, it doesn’t take into account every situation you might be in.  Here is what I do know that can complicate everything I’ve said. What would you add?:

  1. Some churches don’t want to use printed scores simply because they want to be free to express themselves in worship with their bodies and communicate truth with their faces. Some leaders find the converse to be true, the choir members shouldn’t bring attention to themselves when presenting choral music.
  2. Those who use combinations of printed scores and projected lyrics really want everyone to refer to the score when they need it, but what they REALLY want is for their choir members to get their heads out of the MUSIC and communicate the truth of the text.
  3. Some leaders don’t want their choir members staring at a confidence monitor in lieu of looking at the leader.
  4. Some churches still don’t have a way to project lyrics to the choir so it’s not even an option.

At our church, we use a combination of both. Part of the reasoning has to do with rehearsal time. We simply don’t have enough to time to internalize something to the point where I feel everyone is comfortable not using the score. With that said, I do insist we forgo printed scores on several things, but only because quality and confidence are more important to me than it just looking good.  If I could, I wouldn’t use scores at any service, but I would like for them to be as prepared as they were with scores.

Here’s a list of things that dictate why I do that I do:

  1. At Ivy Creek, we use both printed scores and projected lyrics most of the time and don’t wear robes. Our choir membership is 93 and our weekly worship attendance is presently over 600.
  2. I have a large number of music readers, but the volume of literature we sing makes it hard to memorize everything, even though I provide listening examples.
  3. I insist that we look uniform when we sing with or without scores. By this I mean, all looking towards me, eyes on the director, etc.
  4. If the Spirit moves you, feel free to express that praise, but remember, if it becomes a distraction to those around you or causes people to stare at you, you’ve missed the point.
  5. Because we use scores frequently, I remind the choir often to look up and not sing into the book. Even though we go through lots of literature, we are never unprepared (unless you’re not coming to rehearsals).
  6. Even though we are a large choir (over 75 persons), we haven’t been that big very long. While it’s easy to depend the shear number of people in some choirs, more than half of my choir hasn’t been in the choir longer than 4 years! That said, their “muscle memory” for long-time favorites doesn’t exist, because there are no long-time favorites or “sugar-sticks!”

Most of those leaders I’ve spoken with who are hard-core believers in not using scores frequently DO NOT learn lots of new literature in a year. And rightly so, most people need lots of time learning their part the first time a round or have more rehearsal time than I have. Those with larger choirs and more music readers MIGHT be able to learn music quicker, although it is not guaranteed.

What are your thoughts?

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