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Reflections from the Choir Loft

Singing in the choir is like being part of a team.

I am singing in a church choir again.

For a short stretch of time, while serving as a full-time associate pastor here in St. Charles, I was able to sing in my church’s adult choir. Not only did I really get to know the people in the choir, I also understood how to incorporate the music we rehearsed into the worship. I could make informed recommendations about a song’s appropriateness to tie into a scripture or theme chosen for a sermon.

When the choir would stand and sing, I would join them in my clergy robe and stole, mixing in with them in their choir robes. If the senior pastor was preaching, then I would be seated. If I was to preach, then I would move into the pulpit, introduce scripture and continue on with the worship service.

In any church, time commitments and responsibilities shift as staff come and go and the parish needs change. In time, it was clear that I needed to be realistic and choose between another night at church with the choir or a night at home with the family. I stopped rehearsing and singing with the choir.

And so on Sunday mornings I would simply try my hand at sight-reading the harmony line.

I love to sing. Growing up, I took piano, guitar and voice lessons and kept studying voice in college. Yet I know that I am just a yeoman, a cog in the machinery. After all, I sing alto. 

Now, the alto part is often NOT beautiful. It is the harmony, not the melody. But as a group, a choir works together to produce vocal music that honors God. 

I found when I left the choir, I missed the singing, the beautiful music. 

I missed the community and camaraderie, too. There are some fine church choirs in St. Charles. It is my experience that church choir directors are patient people by nature, or they have learned how to be patient. Rehearsals are full of talk and chatter. Friendships are formed, seats are saved, prayers are prayed.  I have seen a whole lot of laughter, caring and compassion come out of a choir room.

A church choir is like a team. I missed being on the team.

In December, I joined a different church, St. John's United Church of Christ on Wolfrum Road. As soon as I heard the choir sing, I knew that's what I wanted to do to contribute. The choir was good. 

There was no tryout for this team. I was welcomed, handed a playbook, given a spot on the roster, and a calendar of when we play ball, er, sing in worship.

My sight-reading skills are improved. I am still not comfortable in the front row of the alto section, but I am the newest member, so I accept my place.

The choir director has asked if I would sing a brief solo within the Palm Sunday cantata April 17. It’s been a long time since I have sung a solo as a member of a choir.

Nine measures of music have never been practiced this much before now. It is a small choir. Seven of us have solos. Three are singing a trio part. That’s one-third of the choir. But the entire team is needed to carry each part---soprano, alto, tenor and bass---so that the music is full and rich with depth of feeling that comes from the blending of voices.

I have visited many St. Charles churches over the last four months, and the music varies. There are churches with multiple choirs, grand pianos and pipe organs and churches with a song leader playing a guitar. There are churches with a praise band and worship leaders and churches with an adult choir. 

Is the church choir an endangered species? This question was asked by a church choir director a few years ago. I remembered his question this week as I reflected upon the range of music I have experienced while attending worship services.

My answer is maybe. Perhaps the popularity of the television show Glee has interested more persons in the value of singing together and this will carry over into the church. I am more concerned for the future of the church choir than I am hopeful.

But that does not stop me from singing in my church choir, my team.

I sing for my soul. I sing as an offering, however meager, to God. I sing for joy.

And joy is what I need.

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