Help for Small to Medium Churches
Help for the small-to-medium sized church choir director
By Barbara Hamm
Assess the strengths of your singers—purchase music accordingly
Familiarize yourself with old standards, e.g., "Stainer's "God So Loved the World"
Keep abreast of new music:
Byron Hoyt, San Francisco
Tupper & Reed, Berkeley
*Camerata Music, Dublin
J. W. Pepper, Fremont
Subscription mailings: 2 to 3 a year for around $35 for the year. A real bargain!
Hope, Carol Stream, IL
Malecki, Los Angeles
Publishers' new music mailings of catalogs, cd's, and tapes
Attend Choral Performances:
Special Performances, Bay Area, e.g., Cantare Con Vivo
College Music Groups
Choristers Guild Festivals
Attend Workshops and Music Conferences
Choristers Guild, Bay Area Chapter—3 a year
Classes at the GTU, Berkeley
California Conference of Music and Worship (every 2 years)
National UCC Musicians' Network Conference (every 2 years)
Hymn Society (yearly)
Attend Publishers' Reading Sessions in the Area
Take college classes in choral conducting
Specific "How-to's" and practical tips
Actively recruit, all the time, with letters, calls, cards, friendly face-to-face reminders.
Identify people who might like to sing occasionally, but cannot regularly commit.
Identify people who might like to sing solos or sing in a small group.
Look at SAB, 2-pt. mixed, and unison anthem settings. There IS a world outside SATB!.
Create a soprano descant from the tenor line of piano accompaniment on a unison piece.
Look at the music of Taizé and other short, mantric pieces that the whole congregation can sing along with the choir as introits, prayer responses, confession and assurance. Taizé books from GIA and SPIRIT ANEW from Wood Lake Books are excellent sources..
Get choir members to begin singing solos with Taizé cantor parts, anthems from GIA, OCP and others that have soloistic verses, as well as a refrain legally permissible to print in the bulletin for congregation to sing along on.
Consider anthems for which a children's choir could sing the melody or a descant part along with the sanctuary choir ("Praise, Praise, Praise the Lord" from Cameroon).
Consider a cappella singing if you have never done so, ("Balm in Gilead"—Tuskegee version by William Dawson is the old "standard"), ("O Rejoice, Ye Christians, Loudly," and "How Brightly Beams the Morning Star"—Bach chorales. If you've never done one, you may find a new and deeply satisfying world awaiting you).
Consider singing songs in another language.
Latin—"Gloria in Excelsis" Mozart "Sanctus" Gounod
German—"Holy, Holy, Holy" Schubert
French— Christmas carol collections (soloist do 1 vs., then cong. in English)
Italian — Christmas carol collections (soloist do 1 vs., then cong. in English)
Spanish— in newer hymnals and collections of global music,
African— in newer hymnals and collections of global music, e.g., "Siyahamba," or "Come All You People"
collections like HALLE, HALLE, HALLE" ; GIA, elsewhere.
Explore various genres/time periods of music.
Have the choir introduce new hymns to the congregation.
For those who work with children/youth in the church:
Send out a survey to assess interest.
Try to start a children's choir, or a youth choir, or a girls' chorus. Keep plugging away.
Identify children/youth who might like to sing solos—for offertory, or in the summer.
Have combinations of children/youth sing for special services: Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Mother's Day, Pentecost, the start-up Sunday of the fall program, Thanksgiving.
Take your children/youth to a Choristers Guild Music Festival—generally two of them a year sponsored by the Bay Area Chapter of Choristers Guild