Our singing weekends for churches, known as Praise & Harmony Workshops, are based upon the principle that ear-training is a powerful way to teach entire churches, especially beginners, how to sing in harmony. Ear-training CDs have become essential for this purpose, as well as arranging everyone into voice parts -- sitting in sections while learning to harmonize. We regularly witness stunning results as churches greatly improve their congregational singing. This is a beautiful and rewarding experience!
Here is an example, featuring Acappella, that goes well beyond outstanding learning-by-ear skills. The setting for this video was a rehearsal for a concert in Michigan. On the day this video was shot, Wayburn Dean had never sung "Glory And Honor" before. A few minutes after we asked him to try singing the lead vocal, we handed him the lyrics -- and amazingly, here is what happened:
There are churches in which virtually no one can read music, yet their singing abounds in four-part harmony. I am a strong proponent of emphasizing musical literacy while equipping churches (not just a choir) how to read music; but from an early age, my personal experience has been to learn "by ear" first, while tackling the music theory afterwards.