What's in a Church Choir?


By Tom Bell, Music Director

Posted on April 20, 2016

The question sounds a bit like a recipe!

For a delicious, healthy church choir you will need the following ingredients: God, prayer, and patience. Then combine with the singing. Let them stand overnight (or for a few years). When ready to enjoy, you will be blessed by gifts beyond your imagination, both musical and spiritual.

It is a simple recipe but, as with simple dishes, the choir recipe contains many subtle flavours and variations.

Of course, singing is what a choir does.

It is the common interest that draws us together. It is hard to find another activity that combines such a diverse and deep-seated list of benefits. The physical, emotional and spiritual rewards of singing together have been well researched and documented.

But we don’t just sing for our own sake, we aim to sing beautifully for God. We aspire to high standards of singing because we wish to offer our best to God and to everyone who hears us. Each time something beautiful is created from many disparate and seemingly unrelated voices we hear a distant echo of heaven, where everything is reconciled perfectly. What a lovely thought!

A community of disciples is what a church choir is.

Prayer, love and forgiveness, discipline and service: all these are characteristics of both good singers and mature disciples. These qualities are nurtured through the weekly schedule of Thursday choir practice and Sunday worship. This takes time. Much time. Our relationship with God also takes time. Sometimes it is through the routine of meeting with others, week after week, month after month, that we make the very un-routine discoveries of love and forgiveness. Choirs are not generally drop-in groups because ‘choir’ is a recipe that tastes much better if it is cooked slowly. Good choirs are expensive casseroles not quick-cook hamburgers! And the same might be said of mature discipleship.

So how does all this happen? We pray before our singing, and we pray afterwards. Praying and singing are important to us and often indistinguishable. Our choir prayer goes something like this: “May our singing give pleasure to us, pleasure to all who listen to us, but most of all we pray that our singing may please God.” The texts we sing are always devotional, and we try to sing them in a way that communicates the words very clearly.

Singing beautifully in a choir requires great technical ability. These purely musical skills are indispensible, but they can be learnt by nearly anyone who is prepared to make the commitment. However to sing in a way which is offered in a spirit of worship, and which pleases our Maker, further ingredients are necessary. That’s why the Church Choir recipe cannot be created without God, prayer and patience!

If you would like to learn more about the St. Paul’s Choir please contact me or speak to me after the 11 a.m. service on Sundays.