Beautiful harmony echoed within this building as multiple churches from across Canada gathered in Rimbey for the Praise and Harmony Workshop. Over a three day period, multiple sessions focused on teaching four-part harmony, introducing new songs and the need for basing our songs upon Scripture. Sunday morning was the first time this Christian Reformed Church had ever experienced an a cappella assembly and the singing was incredible!
Every believer has the right to experience praising God through song.
There is nothing like singing with fellow believers. A cappella congregational singing, when it is grounded in Christ as an offering of mutual edification, makes for the most exhilarating community experience a church can be a part of. Many churches who have enjoyed the riches of this congregational idiom, however, are allowing it to fall by the wayside, blaming their static, lifeless, worship services on the a cappella tradition itself, as if we as a brotherhood haven’t completely neglected to equip our congregations with the skills that enable them to bring their best for the Lord on Sunday.
What’s the solution? Training and education. If a church wants to keep singing alive as a vital experience for every believer, training in congregational singing for the entire church is essential. When I was young, my home church would bring in Ralph Casey to provide a training weekend for the purpose of equipping our entire church family on music basics, singing fundamentals and song leading. This happened more than once in my home church.
The need is greater than ever. Sharon and I travel with the Praise & Harmony congregational singing workshops for the purpose of equipping churches to establish a solid training program to keep a cappella singing alive. Our primary target audience is not the most gifted vocalists, who are already passionate about singing, but the beginners who either don’t participate or who have never tried to sing harmony before. We are finding the results can be amazing!
We encourage churches to establish “new song” classes in which every person is encouraged to sit by voice part with basses, altos, sopranos or tenors. Teaching new songs should be a regular and frequent objective of growing churches. Using training CDs on a daily basis (in cars, homes, etc.) to reinforce the new song class will greatly accelerate the learning process.
In order to coordinate everyone to your arrangements, we urge everyone to use projected musical notation. We urge them to incorporate real dynamic volume changes in their singing, which can easily be facilitated by singing verses softer and choruses louder, for example. Additionally, when the song leader dominates the volume for the duration of the song, it dwarfs the contribution of the congregation, and unintentionally moves the focal point on the worship leader. This is why we encourage the use of a hand held microphone so the leader can “mix himself out” of the overall sound, and only take charge when necessary to drive the tempo and facilitate changes.
In this video, “God Of Wonders,” notice how the congregation is sitting in sections by voice part; lower voices on the left and higher voices on the right. By being “immersed” in each section, beginners find it much easier to learn to sing harmony by ear. Secondly, notice how we are working to sing the chorus, “God of wonders beyond our galaxy” louder than the unison verses. I am using the microphone to take myself out of the mix so that the leader is only heard when necessary, and the bulk of the experience becomes a culmination of every voice present. One voice (or voices) should not consistently dominate the congregational experience.
For those interested in hosting a Praise & Harmony Workshop, find out more here. We strongly encourage churches to send their gifted song leaders to the annual advanced training “bootcamp” available at the Worship Leader Institute. If your church would like to participate in a professional worship recording, find out more here. The video below provides more information from the volunteers who participate in the recording process, which happens at least once a year.
Does God want every Christian to sing?
It depends. If singing were an issue of training, technique, vocal range, comfort, or preference, most of us would be wise to keep our mouths shut. The world would be a more pleasant and happier place. Why sing when so many are more gifted and seem to enjoy it more than we do?
Here’s why. Your voice, along with all the other voices in your church, has been redeemed by the Savior. As we sing, he presents our song to the Father for his glory and our joy. “The human voice, given over to Jesus, and found in company with other voices given over similarly, produces a dignified and worthy song from storefront church to cathedral,” says Harold Best. “Singing is not an option for the Christian; no one is excused. Vocal skill is not a criterion.”
No one is excused. Not even those with zero musical ability. The critical question is not Do I have a voice? but Do I have a song? And if you’re a true worshiper, forgiven and reconciled to God through the atoning work of Christ, the answer is a a resounding yes. It’s not a song we originated or created. We can’t add to it, change it, or improve upon it. It’s the song of the redeemed for their great Redeemer.
It’s a song we were never meant to sing alone. And it’s a song God’s people have been singing together for thousands of years. —— Bob Kauflin, author of True Worshipers
Of all the post-coverage of the Iowa presidential debates, I was fascinated by an intriguing analysis from two physicians whose commentary focused on the inflections and tones of the human voice. Their discussion centered around a tool that presumably could determine the various stress levels of the human voice while speaking, revealing a more accurate picture of a person's actual thoughts. In fact, one of the specialists made the statement that, "The human voice is like a mirror of the heart."
Immediately, my mind went to the emphasis that God has placed on singing. What does it say about us when our singing is passionless or non-existent? If we do love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, will not that authenticity be detected in our voices? Yes, the voice is like a mirror of the human heart. He deserves to receive the fruit of our lips, so let's offer him authentic, heart-felt praise!
I believe that the human voice is the greatest instrument of music ever created. Harmonizing hearts and voices in praise to the Creator is the highest calling of mankind. Host a Praise & Harmony Workshop for your church and sponsor leaders to attend the Worship Leader Institute