During my doctoral research, I interviewed many composers of church music. This week, I'm delighted to feature music by several of the people I interviewed. Today's composer is Brian Büda.
During my doctoral research, I interviewed many composers of church music. This week, I'm delighted to feature music by several of the people I interviewed. Today's composer is Molly Ijames.
During my doctoral research, I interviewed many composers of church music. This week, I'm delighted to feature music by several of the people I interviewed. Today's composer is Faye Lopez.
If you’re an average amateur singer with a pleasant, unremarkable voice, your sound is eventually going to waver. When someone hears you sing, they will immediately pin you as an older person, not a young one. And because of that sound, your own voice will become undesirable, at least in the setting of a church choir.
You've probably noticed that more women attend church services than men. The Pew Research Forum recently released a report confirming these observations and showing that women tend to be more religious than men in most places across the globe. In particular, American Christianity amplifies this tendency: Christian women report daily prayer at much higher rates than Christian men (75% vs. 61%), and the same holds true for weekly attendance at religious services (50% vs. 44%)—a greater than average gap for Christians in comparable countries.
Take these tendencies, couple them with the fact that American women tend to participate in social singing more than men, and what do you get for a typical volunteer, “come one, come all” church choir? More upper voice than lower ones.
While you may have heard music directors complain about the lack of tenors and basses in their choirs (or made those complaints yourself), I think we should embrace this tendency as an outworking of our faith.
In reading through the National Congregations Study’s full report and then sifting through the 826 questions in the study, I learned about trends in the church as a whole and trends in what we do in our worship services. And while I found some surprises, most of what I learned was confirmation of what I already knew anecdotally.
The decline in choirs, from 54% to 45% since 1998, was one of those non-surprises.
The study alone can’t tell us the why behind this decrease, but it could be related to the rise in contemporary worship music—music styles that fall under that umbrella don’t usually feature a choir or include one for back-up vocals, unless you count the mass of people singing in a blurry unison that some recordings use.
I don’t think a church choir is necessarily better/worse than a band, a cantor+organist, or any other particular configuration of musicians leading singing—and some churches have almost completely eliminated their choir in favor of more congregational singing.
But if your church has a choir (or wants to start one), here’s something else the study tells us that could strengthen an existing choir or help a new one grow into a cohesive unit: the power of small groups.