World Choir Games Flanders 2021

Does God mind if you sing badly in church?

  • [The views expressed in this blog are from my personal experiences from 25 years of leading non-auditioned community choirs in the UK, as well as adult singing workshops. My focus is on teaching by ear using a repertoire of songs from traditions across the globe. Your experiences may differ from mine, so do feel free to leave a comment and let's begin a conversation! A version of this article first appeared as a post on my blog From the Front of the Choir]

     

    I’m not a religious man, but I often get emails from church choirs.

     

     

    Recently I’ve had a few such enquiries asking what to do about singers in the choir or congregation who sing too loudly or out of tune.

    [The opinions expressed here are, of course, mine alone and although I was in a church choir as a child I am not a church-goer.]

    singing in church

    There are two kinds of singing in church: the general congregation and the church choir. The main difference between the two is that of participation and performance. The congregation are not performing for anyone but themselves.

    It seems to me that singing in church (or synagogue or temple or shrine or …)  is a way for believers to express their faith. Singing is a joyous and natural way of expressing emotions and ideas that can’t be put into words.

    You only have to go to an evangelical or gospel church to see the joy and delight on people’s faces as they sing.

    Formal church choirs exist for several reasons, the most important one being to lead (and encourage) the congregation in song.

    Since they are (usually) formed formed of more accomplished singers, church choirs are also able to sing more complex music than the general congregation can. This beautiful and challenging music is sung not just to praise, but also to edify the congregation and to touch their souls.

    what if someone sings ‘badly’?

    If someone in the congregation is singing too loudly or out of tune, then I don’t see any problem: it’s a personal expression for that person and is not there to be judged.

    If someone in the church choir is not singing well, then they should be treated like any other singer in an auditioned choir. A church choir needs to be rehearsed and trained. The criteria here are different from an average member of the congregation – we expect better musical skills.

    don’t forget why you’re singing!

    In the end though, you must not lose sight of why you’re singing in church. The primary reasons are for worship and expression of faith. If the music-making is not perfect, then God won’t mind. It’s the thought behind it that counts.

    It is so easy for people to get swept up in issues of personality (and possible clashes), petty politics and too much focus on the music (forgetting the people). If you find something becomes irritating, then take a step back and look at the whole picture.

    I’d love to hear your own experiences if you are involved in singing in a church or other religious context. Do drop by and leave a comment.

     

     

     

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    Chris Rowbury

    website: chrisrowbury.com
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