Christmas is a brilliant time of the year but church can sometimes be a confusing place, especially for some of our younger kids when we do things differently. I remember one Christmas in particular the chairs for the choir where all put out at the front of the church and as we sat down one of our friends children leaned over and asked what the chairs were for? We told her it was for the Christmas Carols. She thought about it for a while and then said, “Where are they?” “Where are what?” we asked, to which she replied, “where are the Christmas Carols?” It took us a little while to understand that she thought all the people in the choir were called Carol!
Well there have been Christmas Carols in my life since the beginning of October as I have been preparing for our Annual Christmas Choir at St. Luke’s. If your church is anything like mine you will not have a regular choir but will have worship teams playing contemporary worship.
So what do you do if your Church Leader wants you to put a choir together for the Christmas Carols!?
Well here are my hints and tips…
1. Rehearsal dates
Your first job is to fix rehearsal dates and venues. You will also need to think about how many rehearsals you need (I usually aim for at least 8) but this will depend on the complexity of the songs you are going to use and whether you are going to ask people to sing parts.
2. Signing up
Every year we open up our choir to people who are not part of the worship team. This does mean that you are going to get people of very mixed ability but don’t let that put you off it’s always watching people develop over the rehearsals.
It is important that volunteers realise that they will need to make the rehearsal dates – singing in a choir is a team activity and everyone’s contribution counts!
3. Choosing repertoire
This is tricky – quite often you don’t know who will be in the choir when you will be choosing what songs you will be singing. My advice is don’t choose anything too complex. Remember you can make the simplest of songs sound beautiful with simple arrangements and two part harmony. That said if you have regulars who you are fairly sure will sign up, and who can read music, then you can be a bit more adventurous as they can help others who are singing their parts.
4. Work with others
I always team up with our organist we work together in the learning of parts phase – he plays and I will go and sing the parts with the various area of the choir in order to help them learn their parts. This collaboration works really well. Once we get through the parts learning phase our organist will play while I concentrate on finessing stage.
5. Don’t be afraid to change
If something isn’t working don’t be afraid to adapt. This year for example I chose a slightly more challenging version of Angels from the Realms of Glory, which I thought might be fun. After a few weeks the verse wasn’t working but the chorus was working well so I made a decision to keep the harmonies in the chorus. This has actually proved to sound most effective and has meant we are not wasting time on one song at the expense of the other carols for the service. See even after all these years I keep learning!
6. Creating a whole sound – Finessing!
Once everyone is sure of the parts they are singing it will be your job to crease on cohesive sound. With most choirs you will have a mixture of stronger and weaker singers your job is to ensure you have one overall sound and that no one voice stands out above the others. It’s great to have enthusiasm but sometimes you will need to encourage some people to singer a little quieter and some a little louder.
7. Make it fun!
It is important to have fun. Lots of laughter is an essential amongst all the hard work!
Give lots of encouragement, give correction but make sure you give lots of praise too!
Last but by no means lease encourage your choir to worship. Christmas celebrates The Eternal God stepping into time to be one of us, to feel like us, be human and to die to save us. If that isn’t to worship God for I don’t know what it!!
So if your Church Leaders wants a choir for your Christmas Service this year don’t go running screaming from the room follow my hints and tips and you will be fine.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY SINGING!