The Case for a Choir, Pt. 2

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The choir (along with the accompanists) can provide transitions and links which will enhance worship by allowing for a seamless fabric without a lot of interruptions and verbal instructions. Interspersing musical segments for choir alone among those which include the congregation helps to keep the service moving, while giving those in the congregation a breather and a chance to listen and reflect rather than singing nonstop (which might be more taxing and wearying for them). Our choir members will have up to 16 sheets of music in their folders on a given Sunday (not including the anthem); the “road-map” can then sometimes be more challenging than the music(!), but a choir can be taught to keep the momentum and flow of a service going by providing musical connectivity.

It is simply not necessary (especially in larger churches) to move to a praise team setup in order to provide such elements in the service. Our choirs are capable of more than we sometimes give them credit for.

Be sure to always provide for the people even the texts which they are not singing (in the bulletin, on overhead or whatever medium you use) so that they can understand and respond to the texts without having to strain to make them out.

Segments for Choir Alone

A variety of choral segments can be woven into the service: These will aid in developing the theme of the service, will provide a richer palette of textual/musical/emotional development, and will give the people’s voices a break, and will allow for more congregational reflection and response.

Anthem Excerpts

This is a rich reservoir which goes untapped in most churches. In most choirs’ repertoires there are an abundance of anthems, which are familiar to the choir (and to the congregation); these can often be excerpted (a verse or a refrain, for instance) and used to help develop a theme. (These excerpts can be legally photocopied for use by the choir as long as the anthems in their entirety are owned by the church.)

For instance, when we have a service focusing on the holiness of God (usually using David’s Clydesdale’s “Holy Is He” as the anthem), the choir will sing at various points relevant excerpts from Cindy Berry’s “Thou Art Worthy,” Ed Willmington’s “We All Sing Holy,” Kenny Woods’ and Billy Crockett’s “The Lord Is Lifted Up,” and Jimmy Owens’ “Holy, Holy,” interspersed among the verses of the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” sung by the congregation.

Why use these marvelous anthems only once a year or so, when they can be used so effectively in this way also? (Incidentally, a side benefit is that when the anthem is later used in its entirety, it will be more recognizable to the congregation, and its impact will be thus increased.) It’s time that we take another look at our anthem libraries and mine them for effective worship materials!

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Ron Man studied music at the University of Maryland (B.M. in Theory & Composition, 1974; M.M. in Conducting, 1975). After coming to Christ in March 1975, he did an additional year of conducting study at the State Music Academy in Munich, Germany, then attended Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving a Th.M. degree in 1982. From 1983-88 Ron was on the pastoral staff of the International Chapel in Vienna, Austria. Then from 1988-2000 he served as Pastor of Worship and Music at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Since August 2000 he and his family have been living in Germany, where Ron serves as director of the department of Worship and Creative Arts for Greater Europe Mission; his primary focus is to travel and teach on the biblical and theological foundations of worship at schools and churches in various countries in Eastern and Western Europe, including (so far) Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Holland and Germany. Ron has published both popular and academic articles in such publications as Worship Leader, Creator, Church Musician Today, Reformation and Revival Journal, and Bibliotheca Sacra. All of these articles may be accessed at