Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back into music

Today I was involved with making church music.  I've been learning a lot ... being with a new denomination introduces me to a new hymnal and going to "contemporary" services exposes me to music I also don't know. I've been studying pretty hard, going to "praise band" practice, and taping music for my car trips.  Unfortunately our musicians, including me, will get burnt out if we don't get advance time for practice.  A musician operates on a couple of levels. There's the kinesthetic stuff where one does the mechanics. After that is taken care of, one can actually listen to the music and convey the spirit behind it. With groups, one has to get used to the others. For example, a song sound better when everyone pronounces the vowels in the same way (which is one reason singers look at each other). It's a lot like sports I think, only it's a new game with each new musical piece. 

Some pastors don't understand the kinesthetic preparation that's needed and they think a musician can just launch into the spirit stuff. It's embarrassing to make a mistake publicly and a musical mistake can be loud and awkward. A soloist can fudge, but a member of the group really sticks out.  If music selections were just a matter of appropriate words, we could just chant poetry instead of singing it.  The "groanings" of the Holy Spirit can teach us that words aren't the only form of worship. So perhaps a pastor could let go of his attachment to the importance of the words to the expense of having time to practice. Just saying. ;-)

While preparing for a song for this morning, I was told I'd be using a mike, but there's be no time to practice with the mike. I said "I've used a mike lots of times". Heh heh. It did not occur to me that I'd never used a mike while holding music. So for the first service, I found I could not see the music where I had to hold it. By the second service I'd figured out where to hold it.

Three of us sang a hymn a capella. I'm told it was the "Mennonite anthem", so I think it's appropriate that we sang a capella.  The congregation's pleasure was palpable. Connie and Jim and I do pretty well staying on pitch. What a pleasant blessing!

Two new people were interested in joining our tiny praise band (average 2.5 people).  I hope we'll get more lead time so we can work better as a bigger group.


Christopher said...


Sounds like you're really enjoying this new path, so happy for you.

Our praise and worship team is going through some growing times right now, sometimes songs are "off" a bit, and it kind of shows in their expressions. Unfortunately, we have a few folks that get critical, instead of realizing that the team is doing their best. I think that sometimes folks forget that the praise and worship team is there for God first then the congregation, if He doesn't smote anyone for being off key, we shouldn't either.

Anywho, I pray that through the learning and growing process your spirits stay high.

Grace and peace be with you.

cathy b. said...

Actually the path is not entirely new. That's why I got on the soapbox about timely notification from pastors. I led music for a Spanish congregation - played piano from a hymnal and played guitar for praise choruses (which I liked in Spanish more than in English). I did this for two pastors.
The congregation, who came from several countries, had to learn the music with repetition over time. They sang with gusto and most of my experience I remember fondly.
But I couldn't get used to the last minute nature of the music selections. I really had to scramble to find the music both to hear and to play. Once I asked the pastor to record the song he wanted and he did cheerfully, but he sang so out of tune I couldn't make much use of it! Finally I burnt out and resigned. Actually it was probably a good thing because there were some young men who could play some basic chords on the guitar and they were less intimidated when I wasn't there.
I've also attended a church where the music has been chosen months in advance. The choir begins to practice several weeks in advance. I never saw anyone scratching their head over the choice of music. And nobody complained that the music clashed with the sermon.
I'd better stop now, before my comment gets bigger than my post.