Thursday, July 12, 2007

Q&A #03: Worship Choir?

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"Do any of you guys have a worship choir? How difficult is it to incorporate with music such as Passion, Hillsong United, etc. Do you have to be as technically proficient as with a traditional choir, or can you use simpler harmonies such as with the background vocals? Do they sing all the time with the congregation, or like typical backing vocals?"

I'm going to leave this one open for comments before I post. We've been using a "worship choir" for the past year, and I'm still putting all the pieces together, and I'd also like to hear what other people have to say about this topic...


Steve said...

Nate, what a great approach to a blog. Thanks for taking the plunge. I'd love to comment on all your questions, but I'll start with this one:

There's a lot that could be said here, but for a foundation, I'd say simplicity is the key:

Don't oversing or overharmonize.

To me, there are few things more powerful in corporate worship than many voices singing in unison, so don't be afraid of that at all. (It also helps the congregation--they don't have to fish for the melody line, as they sometimes must do when an entire team/choir is belting out multiple harmonies.)



travis ham said...

I've never tried to pull this off, though I've seen it done really well a number of times over at Northwood Church in Keller, TX (check this out for some of Jordan's insight:

Currently we do not have quite the numbers of people to pull this off consistently, but I imagine that as we grow this will become a possibility and maybe even a felt need. I would also love to hear additional insight on how to incorporate a group like this (rehearsal, harmony vs unision, etc).

MilePost13 said...

Here are some basics about our worship choir:

We have about 15 people (150 member church, 400 attending on Sunday mornings), and are currently using three parts: alto, soprano, tenor, with a good number of vocalists for each part.

Have learned 6 new songs in the past year, including 3 Chris Tomlin songs (to give you an idea of what we're using).

Have sung three times on Sunday mornings and once for a special event since revamping from a slightly more traditional performance choir last July.

Two Purposes:
1) To serve with the band to help introduce new congregational songs to the church body.
2) To serve with the band to help lead the church in worship.

We specifically use the title "Worship Choir" to keep focused on our purposes.

One of my keyboardists and I "write" the vocal parts out, and we keep them incredibly simple (for example, the tenors only had one note for one song we just sang this past Sunday)...we try to stay away from singing the traditional three part bouncing harmonies.

I use the GarageBand software to record my own voice singing the three parts over top of the original recording, and give a CD of new songs at least several weeks in advance to every member of the choir...they learned three new songs and came to our first of two rehearsals already knowing their parts...all we had to work on during rehearsal was timing and dynamics. So, we learn almost exclusively by ear.

We usually rehearse twice before singing on a Sunday morning. We rehearse on Sunday nights for 1.5 hours.

Our goal is to use the worship choir at least once every other month (arround 6 times a year). We are NOT going to be doing any traditional holiday cantatas/concerts, but I would like to learn some holiday music (think Mercy Me's "The Christmas Sessions" CD)

Anyway, those are the basics for us. I'm thinking about starting a new blog series just for this subject because I could spend a few hours writing about this, and I know that more and more churches are looking in this direction.

MilePost13 said...

BTW, Steve...thanks for the encouragement. You and our past conversations are partially responsible for the inspiration behind this blog. This just gives us a better venue to discuss.

Steve said...

nmvqkNate, really good ideas here. I'm going to share your post with our new head WL. He's pretty much on board with all this just brings some cohesion to things we've been talking about.

A couple of weeks ago, the choir from the regional Teen Challenge rehab ministry joined our singers for a Sunday of "worship choir." It was a fantastic change of pace, and you could feel the confidence level of the congregation rise as many voices sang as one (not all that much harmony). Not something we'd do every week, but maybe similar to what you suggest.

Do you layer all three parts on one demo CD or do you make separate "trax" for each voicing?

And what were the 3 Tomlin tunes??

MilePost13 said...


The tracks on the CD went like this:

Original Recording #1 ("Your Grace Is Enough" for example)
OS #1 with Just Tenor Part
OS #1 with Just Alto Part
OS #3 with Just Soprano Part
Original Recording #2

I adjusted the tracks with me singing the parts so that the song was softer and the vocal part was louder. I'm going to try to get one of our female vocalists to record the alto and soprano parts next time...

I told the choir to listen to the recordings with their part until that had it nailed, and then just listen to the original recording to learn the dynamics, lyrics and timing.

The 3 CT songs we've done:
"Glory In The Highest"
"On Our Side"
"Your Grace Is Enough"

We've also done Lakewood's "You Are Good" and "Friend Of God", as well as Jennie Lee Riddle's "Revelation Song".

If I get some time, I can try to figure out a way to get the parts down on paper in a format others will be able to understand.


TheOldATrain (Alex) said...


If you're looking for something quick and cheap to score these choir harmony parts, try ScoreWriter (it used to be made by Cakewalk, but they sold it to a company called GenieSoft).

I don't know if you've ever used scoring software, but it's basically a word processor for composing music -- you start with a blank staff and add notes, rests, key signature, time signature, etc.

Other software packages like Sibelius are more complicated, sophisticated, and expensive; but if you're just looking for something quick and dirty just to get some vocal parts onto paper, ScoreWriter would be the ticket.


MilePost13 said...

Thanks, Alex. I usually try to stay away from that stuff cause it brings back bad memories of music theory classes in college... :) But, I'll take a look at ScoreWriter.