The first story I remember my Grandmother reading to me was the story of the Little Red Hen. The story goes that the hen was making bread. She asked all the barnyard animals who was going to help her sow the wheat. ‘Not I’ they all said. Harvest the wheat. ‘Not I’ from all the barnyard animals. Who was going to grind the wheat? ‘Not I’ said all the barnyard animals. Who is going help me make the dough. ‘Not I’ said all the barnyard animals. So on through the bread baking process. Who is going to help me eat the bread? ‘I will’ said all the barnyard animals.
Choir Directors often talk about feeling like the Little Red Hen. Choir recruitment and maintenance is a very difficult job for some reason. When it works, though, it is tremendously rewarding.
Over the next few weeks and months we will begin starting up the choirs. I hope that word is plural. My vision for choirs at St. John’s is an adult choir of around 30 voices, a children’s choir of at least 15 voices singing in the services at least 2 times a month (my preference is more), and a youth or mixed age handbell choir.
Choirs take dedication and rehearsal discipline. In most American churches they involve a rehearsal during the week and singing a service on Sunday morning. In high functioning cathedrals they can rehearse and sing up to 6 days a week.
The last year (plus) has taken a severe toll on performing arts organizations. Even though church choirs sing sacred music in services of worship it is still a performing art – meaning the art isn’t created once and remains in place to be observed. It must be re-created each time it is heard. In order to sing the great anthems and music of the church (and it is great), a singer’s skills must be maintained and music must be learned.
Even before a pandemic, the dedication to choral arts was on a significant decline. The decline was accelerated alarmingly during our last year’s change of routines and habits. I fear we have not yet seen the results from a year of not performing in churches, schools, civic organizations, universities, and symphonies. The state in which choral music emerges will only be evident as choirs attempt to re-emerge from hiatus.
This is not to be defeatist. This is said to encourage us all to rise and rebuild what we know is possible.
Over the next few months here is what we will do:
- We will begin recalling the church members and staff singers who have been vaccinated and feel comfortable singing in a choir to reinforce the hymns and the service music. (The purpose of a choir is to strengthen the congregational singing.)
- Rehearsals will begin on a very limited basis over the first few weeks.
- Anthems will begin to be re-introduced into the services as singers and rehearsal time allows – likely toward the end of Summer and beginning of the Fall.
- We will immediately begin recruiting trained vocalists to begin staffing the choir again.
Here’s what we need from you: If you yourself sing or you know someone who sings and can give about 3 hours per week to choir performance, please come and sing or invite them to be part of the choir. If you know of a trained vocalist who would be interested in a staff singing position, please let me know so I can contact them.
If you’ve ever wanted to sing in the choir, now is the time to do it. We need you. There will be a hugely relaxed singing and rehearsal schedule that slowly grows as we rebuild the choir. This will give you time to get to know the routine and schedule.
Sing a new song unto the Lord!