As a music director then, I often asked myself if it was possible not to have choristers who arrive late for rehearsals. I discovered it was not only peculiar to the choir I was leading but a global phenomenon. Does this mean it can’t be dealt with? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
Choristers are one of the most amazing sets of people in churches. If it’s not a chorister showing up late, musicians not in complete formation, it’s soloists not scoring the songs effectively. In some cases, the soloists or those playing major roles in a piece not turning up – is this familiar? How would you imagine an extremely gifted singer who still has challenges overcoming lateness to rehearsals and performance having put so much effort in personal practice? Or choristers who come in halfway into rehearsal and get offended when asked to stay back or step aside?
Many choristers have no idea what most music directors go through in ensuring successful choir management. Hardly would you find a large percentage of choir members who understand their role in the choir. Many feel it’s just to sing, show up, wear uniforms or robes, be in the ‘happening’ department or make the database list.
Becoming a chorister is far from singing in every worship service and being part of the choir’s database. It’s an ecclesiastical office with a high spiritual propensity, skill, character and sacred responsibility. There are roles and expectations from everybody not from the choir director alone.
I have put together in this post, things choir members do that affects the entire choir negatively. If you find yourself having one or more of these shortcomings, you are inadvertently killing your choir. Watch it; it won’t be long before it becomes cancerous.
Yes! How does an individual’s non-practice affect the choir? The choir is made up of individuals with different roles. You cannot have one person doing everything. In 1 Chronicle 16-22 roles were assigned. The musicians (instrumentalist), singers, conductors, director, Minister or Pastor-in-charge, etc. all make up the choir. The rehearsal is a place for singers who are practising and not for singers that have come to practice. Just showing up at rehearsals and expecting that your music director will identify individual mistakes, weakness and correct them is like preparing for an exam and expecting your lecturer to provide the answers for you. You do not have to be the one taking the solo to practice. Chorister should maintain a daily practice lifestyle. The choir director has several things his or her mind is fixed on. Individual attention may not be possible except for obvious reasons like going off, singing when you ought to be quiet or applying crescendo when it should be decrescendo. If as a chorister or singer you do not have a personal practice moment, you are constituting a major problem in your team.
NONE SCORING OF SONGS
As simple as this is, you still get to find singers who turn up for rehearsals without knowing the songs or pieces to be rehearsed, let alone scoring the song. Some remember it’s rehearsal time few hours to rehearsal and jump on the song(s). Hey! How much can you grasp? This applies also to musicians. In the case of musicians, you will observe them trying to improvise and ‘freestyle’. If you are guilty of this, you should not be part of the choir. Your basic product is singing/playing and if you can’t do this even at your time, then it’s a BIG problem. If the Choir director who often will not perform with the choir will score and can sing the song(s) in detail, then why not you – the ‘product owner’.
NOT WARMING UP VOCALLY
You don’t want to show up at the rehearsal to discover you are having a little strain around your neck. Talking throughout the day is not the same thing as vocal warm-ups or fitness. Vocal warm-up prepares you to sing effectively. Not warming up before rehearsals however little, is like cooking a meal without following the exact recipe. It loosens your muscles; helps to remove excess mucus, strain and reduces the risk of injury to your voice. Vocal warm-up should not only be done before rehearsals – it should be a daily affair. So, the next time you are waiting to get to rehearsals before warming up, you are not helping!
This is one major setback for many choirs especially if the choir is small – the mother of all vices. Resuming late is like not being present. If you are fond of resuming or arriving late for rehearsal without cogent reason(s), you are a major problem to the growth and success of your team. It takes great care, time, attention, patience to make a good music piece. This is one of the most common problems in the choir. Imagine teaching a piece halfway and just in the nick of time you have solved the most difficult area in the piece, some choristers just show up. Or waiting for choristers to show up because the director cannot commence with the few voices available. This is not only frustrating but a red alert that kills the choir. Everybody’s voice is important and should be on the same page. If for instance, soprano singers are meant to be five to give a good balance and blend in harmony, and only two are available, it’s going to be difficult for the director to commence or achieve the desired result. If you have made up your mind to join the choir, be there always especially if it’s a small choir. You are holding the choir hostage when you show up late for rehearsals. Similarly, if the choir is to repeat the songs performed earlier and some perpetual late choristers are the ones available, what then becomes of such performance seeing that they have never been early from the beginning till the end of the piece? Oh yeah! I know what’s going to happen to that piece – it would definitely be in pieces!
NOT SHOWING UP REGULARLY FOR REHEARSALS
These set of people I will call par-time choristers. Do you seriously feel that you are still a chorister having skipped 3 – 4 weeks of none attendance in rehearsal? This is not about notifying or seeking the choir director’s approval to be absent. If there are certain training, exercises, and techniques that have been explained or taught in absentia, how then can such choristers cope or catch up? You get better at what you do with a consistent approach. The choir is not for everybody. If you can’t make it, don’t partake. Music does not respond to sentiments, excuses but to principles, theories and practice. Guess what, I have seen and heard of a post-mortem-none-rehearsal performance; members showing up, joining and performing without being at rehearsals. I guess its no longer a choir then.
You may not openly challenge, resist, disagree, with some instructions given by the choir director. However, if you find yourself discussing a contrary opinion on any instruction or direction given with another chorister, hey you are going overboard.
Commonly associated with soloists and worship leaders. The fact that certain higher visible responsibilities are given to you, should not be a reason to disrespect other choristers or look down at them. What many do not understand is that no matter how nice, effective and dedicated the choir director is, if certain people sow the seed of discord by disrespecting others, it inhibits a healthy atmosphere. If you are fond of talking rudely, looking with disdain at people or feeling some aura of “I am better” or the belief that they are the custodians of the Spirit of God, you may be responsible for people leaving the choir and limiting others from joining. If you won’t help to invite or recruit new people for the choir, don’t piss other people off and frustrate the efforts of the director.
Choir directors can also be the problem of the choir. Naturally, high performers (skilful singers) are easily noticed and celebrated. Their God-given talents in voices and singing are enticing and praised. Temptations abound for high talents which often lead to pride. Choir directors should not extend this temptation and encourage strife in the choir by paying special care and consideration on the skilled and neglecting the less skilful. Those with better voices are always recognized and sometimes are not nearly as faithful in attendance as the rest of the less skilful members. We all have our roles. The soloist is not more important than the backup or floor member. They are often “idolized” which can bring about resentment, divisiveness and sickness of the choir’s very soul. In some cases, it’s in the area of financial status. Some choir directors are unable to address and rebuke choristers who are ‘seemingly’ rich when they go wrong. Choir directors should as much as possible treat everyone equally. If there are certain choristers a choir director cannot address in the choir, he or she should resign – the choir is already divided. The skill level should never be the basis for preference and respect.
A venomous threat that brings or promotes acrimony in the choir. There is nothing good about gossip or slandering. Slandering/gossip causes cancer in the choir. It has the potential of destroying an empire let alone a choir. Are you gossiping or slandering? Watch it, you may be the Lucifer of the choir!
Jesus caused the fig tree for not bringing forth fruit Mark 11:14. Growth, progress, advancement is life. Whatever is not growing, with time it’s going to die. It’s okay when people join the choir as amateurs in music, but it becomes worrisome when such people spend many years and still no sign of improvement or addition despite the director’s effort to bring them up to speed. While the choir director has some responsibilities in ensuring that choristers improve, choristers are solely responsible for their improvement. If you are always waiting for your choir director, sorry, the choir may not be for you.
Sin sinks and stinks. It pollutes and affects the choir. Isaiah 24:5. It does not matter if it’s a secret sin. The impact of sin on God, yourself, relationship, your choir, society, the church, etc. is enormous. It grows into other areas of one’s life affecting your faith, productivity and everything around you. It limits the potentials of the choir. 1 Corinthians 12:12-28.
The individual prayers of choristers can make a huge difference in the team James 5:16. Nothing that is consistently committed to prayer fails. Never underestimate your prayer for the choir. Prayer strengthens the bond, power is made available, the song or music is anointed, helps discern God’s will, God takes control, eliminates sin, evil and difficulties, fosters love, God speaks through His people, etc. It is also very important that choristers pray for their Choir Director and the leadership of the choir.
It’s of no use joining a group you do not have passion for. No passion, no motion! Passion is everything. With passion, you do not have to be reminded or cajoled to practice, score and improve. Passion fuels you up regardless of how convenient it may or may not be. You require the right passion to function. Do you have a passion for the choir? Your response and actions reveal your admissibility.
NOT HELPING THE DIRECTOR TO HELP OTHERS
Hey! How does this affect me? This may sound like it’s a transfer of responsibility of the choir directors’ job. I usually recommend that the very skilful, experienced singers and musicians are not in the choir to perform solo functions alone. The choir director will never see everything and neither would he or she know everything. For instance, most skilful singers would understand certain intricacies and complex dynamics of singing more than the director especially if the choir director is not a regular singer or one who sings. If you are a skilful singer or musician, go mentor others, buddy-up others.
Having stated some of these frequent individual problems and challenges, imagine a choir of about 15 persons where more than 4 – 5 persons are guilty of these. That’s about a whole part group missing or having a problem! Remember you are part of the team. Without you, the team is not complete. Make up your mind today to compliment the team and not compound problems for the team. My recommendation for choristers who have challenges in these areas is for them to seek counsel from your choir director or help from qualified practitioners or leaders.