Seven things I learned in choir rehearsal

“Sing unto the Lord a new song.”  (Psalm 96:1) 

“Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

Rehearsals are work.

During the time I sang with the choir at our church, I loved singing for the worship service, but had to make myself go to rehearsal.

I sang in the choir during my college years, and eventually noticed some patterns forming. In time, those impressions coalesced into life-lessons that have remained with me through the years.

1) I do not like new songs.

The minister of music would say, “Joyce, pass out the new music,” and I would cringe. I did not read music and did not do well trying to negotiate my way around these clothes-lines of blackbirds.  The piano is picking out the melody of the song and I’m working to get it.  This is no fun.  It’s work.

But a funny thing happened.

The following week, when we saw that music for the second time, I was interested in that piece.  It had possibilities. And the third week, I kind of liked it. By the fourth week, the preparation for actually singing it in church, I was had been humming it all week and could not wait for Sunday.

But you know what happened, I expect. At rehearsal, the minister handed out some new music once again. And again, I cringed. “I hate learning new music.”

Scripture says we are God’s new creation, sent to be new wineskins, and God is always doing new things in our lives.  Anyone resisting new things may have a problem in the future, living in a “new Heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). In fact, that’s pretty much a description of everything, since He says,  “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

2) We sound better together than we do separately.

Even the good singers, when called on to do a little solo in rehearsal to help the others, even they were not all that great.  And of course, I was the very definition of mediocre. But a funny thing happened. When we all joined our voices together, the result was something magical.

I suspect that’s the reason for church.  We all work more efficiently, worship more effectively, and pray more faithfully in concert with brothers and sisters than we do alone.

3) I sing better and learn faster when standing near a good singer.

Larry Andrews, our minister of music, would place the non-music-reading singers (but with some possibilities) next to solid singers.  And we would pick up the notes from them.  Later, once we got the hang of the song, we could stand anywhere.

Encouragers and examples to those of us new to the faith are worth their weight in gold. The Apostle Peter told the pastors not to lord it over the congregation, but to “be examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3).

4) Singing is a great mood-transformer.

How does the line go? “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” (I looked it up. Often misquoted “Music hath powers to soothe a savage beast,” this is how William Congreve said it in his play “The Mourning Bride, back in 1697. We are indebted to him for the line, but the truth has always been there.)

The 100th Psalm calls on us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving.”  There is the clue as to how to “come before HIm with joyful singing.”  We start by giving thanks to our Lord for His abundant blessings.  Do that–“count your many blessings, see what God hath done”–and the darkness of the blues seems to dissipate. Soon, you’re singing and doing so quite well, thank you.

Worship and praise are the great mood-changers.  We do not allow our moods or circumstances to dictate our praise.  Habakkuk 3:17-19 establishes the gold standard for God’s people: We praise Him anytime, anyway.

5) Those who bless us on Sundays are the ones who did the hard work of rehearsing during the week.

Just this week, a pastor told me about his worship ensemble. “I cannot get them to come to rehearsal. They love to sing on Sunday, but if I announce a rehearsal, only one or two show up.” Not good.  I suspect they enjoy gathering fruit from crops they did not plant or cultivate, too.  That kind of laziness is common. Something inside me feels the same way.

Rehearsing is work. But for those who know how transforming an hour of worship with God’s people can be, it’s an investment of faith.  And–to be fair–there are Sunday School teachers and even pastors who do not like to do the hard work of isolated study and prayer, but revel in the hour with friends talking about the Lord. This should be a caution to us, for those who express love only in public but never in private the Scripture calls hypocrites (Matthew 6:5).

6) When done right, a rehearsal for worship is also a time of worship.

Many a time, I have left the choir rehearsal with my spirit lifted and my heart full. The fellowship with friends was great, some of us hugged one another, and we laughed a lot.  We fell in love with some songs and learned to express our love for our Savior more with them.

Likewise, the preacher and teacher should have great worship times in the seclusion of the study as they commune with the Lord about the lessons He is sending.

7) Singing is as much a faith enterprise as praying or giving.

Anytime we do anything by faith–believing, worshiping, giving, praying, going, serving–we do so regardless of what we have or do not have, what we know or still question, those nagging doubts, and the discouragement from others. The operative word is “regardless.”  When we pray, we do so regardless of seeing the results of our requests in our lifetime.  Likewise, when we drop our offerings into the plate.  And with singing to others, in church or assembly or a classroom or nursing home, we must not look for immediate results.

“By Him, let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).

The jailbirds Paul and Silas showed us how this is done in Acts 16:25. Beaten that day and their wounds left untreated, then locked into stocks in the interior of the Philippi jail, along about midnight they began to pray and sing hymns. “And the prisoners were listening to them.”

They’re always listening to us sing. They want to know if our faith is genuine and our God still faithful.  That’s why we want to sing in Babylon (Psalm 137) and in jail, as well as in church and in choir.

God did some amazing things through Paul and Silas that night, all of them instigated by their faith-singing.

What will He do with your singing? I have no idea. But count on it, friend, He will use it for His glory.

So, go ahead.  Join with me now. “I  love you Lord. And I lift my voice, to worship You, O my soul rejoice. Take joy my king, in what you hear. May it be a sweet sweet sound in your ear.”

Has anyone ever told you you have a great voice?

You ought to be in the choir.

6 thoughts on “Seven things I learned in choir rehearsal

  1. What a wonderful article, and so very true. As a person who has been singing
    for most of my life ( I’m 69) I can totally
    relate and agree with the statements this gentleman has presented.
    It is very encouraging and hopefully will be to others. He actually read me like a book.
    May God bless you sir.

  2. I always loved choir rehearsal and I couldn’t read music either. Larry just taught the notes to us so well it was easier. Remember the time the Vesper choir learned Carol of the Bells from not ever having seen it to singing it from memory in one 2-hour Sunday afternoon rehearsal?

  3. Well spoken, Joe! As a choir director, I can tell you that no matter how pitiful my attitude is, or how bad my day was, I always feel so enriched spiritually when I go home from Wednesday night choir rehearsal. It may be the close community of the choir, or possibly the devotional and prayer time at the end of the rehearsal. It is a blessing to look at the faces of the choir and know that everyone there loves music and aspires to lead others in worship. It is even a greater blessing to realize that these choir members have sacrificed several hours of their week to be with the choir. I do know that it is getting harder to get people to commit to anything twice a week.

    My dad used to make a big deal out of “make a Joyful NOISE”. That noise could be good or bad. Ha! It just needs to be joyful!

    Thanks, Joe, for your incredible ministry and for memories of your work with my dad at FBC Jackson!

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