Why Choral Singing?

This spring would have marked the twentieth year that the Faith Builders Chorale planned a singing tour.

Instead, we found ourselves dismissing all on-site classes and rehearsals in March, hoping we would be able to return before the end of semester. May has arrived, however, and we find ourselves still largely sequestered in our homes and local communities, recalling nostalgically—in what now feels like distant memory—that we once sat together in relatively crowded spaces, without protective face masks, and without fear of serious illness.

Facing an empty calendar that has radically altered a twenty-year-long annual rhythm can provoke serious reflection. Having once committed the unthinkable, are there lessons to learn? Does this unwelcome perspective offer us the chance to re-imagine our lives in some way? Today I will limit myself to an examination of what has been in hopes that it may clarify our purpose. What is the rationale for a choir that rehearses for a semester and goes on tour? And then second, what happens in the process of collective discipline, focus, and worship?

So what is our rationale for choir? At a functional level, choir is a significant part of the student and volunteer experience. Choir integrates the various facets of FB student life by bringing study, friendships, physical exertion, and worship into a meaningful whole. When singing together, we express our worship, gratitude, and prayer in ways that remind us of who we are, that bind us together in God through the beauty of music.

Second, choir builds on the experiences we’ve had singing a cappella in our churches. We seek to build on those experiences by teaching people to read music more proficiently, by working on healthy vocal technique, and by shaping our capacities for worship. These benefits are lifelong.

Third, singing in choir cultivates good taste in music appreciation and enjoyment. Choirs are one of the oldest forms of collective music-making in the history of the human race; the emotional rush of a beautiful chord or a deeply meaningful phrase can be an unforgettable experience that keeps us coming back for more.

What happens in the process of collective discipline, focus, and worship? Church musician John Bell points out that “singing is not a neutral exercise. It should carry a governmental health warning that it can affect minds” (The Singing Thing). When we sing we are not passive recipients. We bring ourselves to the activity of singing. This process is often inspirational and sometimes transformative since each person must control their own voice and blend with other voices. We develop personal awareness and learn meaningful ways to communicate more effectively. In addition, everyone matters: we contribute our very best, and we respect what others contribute. We feel connected to the people we sing with.

Singing is a whole-person exercise. Singing requires that we apply ourselves to the discipline of singing: alignment, breath, and emotional and intellectual engagement are all a part of it. We always begin by stretching, massaging tense or disengaged muscles, aligning for good posture, and breathing deeply. These processes continue in our singing, and students often leave choir feeling renewed and refreshed.
Studies have shown that the heart rates of people singing together eventually align!

Singing in choir can awaken in us the desire to be the best we can be. It can restore in us the feeling that life is worth living, that there really is a greater good and purpose in the world, that God is truly worthy of our praise. We want to do this again!

--Brandon Mullet, music instructor and choir director