Time moves on, and CHANCEL CHOIR rehearsals begin once again – THIS MONTH! I have been singing in a church choir, or playing the piano, or doing plays in church, for as long as I have memories. Some churches were small, some churches were so big that Christmas productions would last for several performances for several thousand people.
In any situation, as a musician, it’s good for me to step back and remember that musical talent is a gift, but it needs to be paired with “craft”; a craft that requires several levels of learning and, most of all, constant practice.
In music, there is of course the learning of the notes: making sure the notes being played or sung (as far as tones & melody) correspond exactly to the notes written on the page. Once those are in place it is time to look at how the notes are played or sung: loud, soft, slow, fast, etc.
Once the notes are learned, along with the way they are to be performed, it is a matter of “detailing”; making sure that we are not ONLY singing or playing the correct notes at the correct time and with the correct dynamic range, but that we are communicating the mood and message of the song.
All of this learning is part of a craft which pairs with natural talent under the direction of a trained ear and trained teacher, like our own John Huntoon. It is the job of the DIRECTOR/TEACHER/COACH to listen not only to the individual artist but to a group, as in the case of a choir or instrumental ensemble. The director determines exactly what type of practice is required at what time; to make sure that the performance is as musical, as communicative and as precise as possible.
We, in the choir, don’t start the first rehearsal knowing everything or giving a perfect performance, it takes time, energy, heart & soul.
It takes practice.
We don’t start making music well simply because we are labeled as members of the choir or handbell choir.
God, our Father, has called us and brought us to a place where we are His children. We are His children because He calls us His children. He “creates” by speaking the words. When He “says” we are His children…we are. But becoming (or, a better word might be, “realizing”) who we are, and living like the people He says we are takes time, energy, heart & soul; it takes practice. A common mistake for a person of God is to believe that once the choice has been made to BELIEVE & FOLLOW, there is nothing more to be done.
That is partially true. There is much about being in the Kingdom that is out of our hands, God is the “Decider”. But for us, being named by God is not the end, it is only the beginning of the life-journey. We realize what it means to truly be a member of a musical group when our individual notes not only fall into place with the other members so that together we play beautiful music, but also when we begin breathing together and thinking together; when we race together and when we rest together.
After much practice we can perform together without need to concentrate so much on the technical things we’ve been doing over and over, perfecting, polishing…and we start thinking on the true message and the true music. At that point we begin to understand what it means to truly carry the label, “member of the choir” or “member of the orchestra”. When we walk with God, together with those around us who also believe and follow (not looking at our feet and path as much as we used to when we first started, but looking up and seeing those around us, enjoying the view, and listening intently to the One who leads us) then we trust the Voice and understand what it means to BE a Child of God.
It is up to the Director (with a capital “D”) to listen and watch US, determining what type of practice would best lead us to that place. And it takes patient practice to become that disciple with a depth of faith to experience the indescribable peace of the believer. It doesn’t happen immediately, any more than a musician starts off with perfection. The notes have to be learned first, then the appropriate dynamic. Then the details…even then, one can’t take their eyes off of the Director/Father…for He alone is in charge of the performance.
So, let us practice, let us be willing to fail, be willing to accept the failure of others, and be willing to go back and do it again. Let’s get the “notes” into our voices before moving on to something else. The message of the music is important to those watching our every move and listening to the song we sing.