If I were to approach the clergy or vestry at any church and say, “Hey, I’ve got 50+ people who are looking to donate 3 to 4 hours each week to the church from September to June, is that OK?” I cannot imagine that they would not jump for joy in response. But perhaps you don’t realize that is what our choirs offer each week, and sometimes more.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer used the rubric “In quires and places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem” for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. This simple line allowing for the offering of choral music beyond just the Psalm and Canticles has helped to define the Anglican choral tradition. For over 400 years, composers in our tradition have been writing church music to help draw the listener into a deeper relationship with God. And our intent at Christ Church has been to do just that. Using music from a variety of time periods and styles, but always music of quality, the choir seeks to echo and reinforce the message from the selected Scripture readings for each Sunday.

Last week our choirs wrapped up another program year here at Christ Church. The choirs, all of them – children and adults – work hard. They make many sacrifices. They are not able to attend all of Sunday School or attend the adult forums. While many people are enjoying Christmas Eve dinner with family, the adults are singing for multiple services. To quote a friend, “Holy Week and Easter are Hell” with all the extra services and rehearsals. While being reminded to appreciate Advent and not rush towards Christmas in December, the choirs are working on Christmas music weekly starting in mid-November. Similarly, when the church gives up saying Alleluia for the Lenten season, the choir rehearsals become full of Alleluias as we rehearse the music for Eastertide. It’s kind of like living in a parallel world. The choir liturgical cycle is a little different from what the congregation experiences. 

I spend the majority of my time in rehearsals criticizing the choirs and pointing out imperfections that I think hinder our musical offerings. While I try to express my appreciation to them regularly, I acknowledge that I do not do it enough. 

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How fortunate we are to have such wonderful forces in our choirs. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, a range of tastes and preferences, new to Christ Church and long-standing members, and a vast geographical make-up. But they come, and they come weekly, to offer up praise of God in music. I am always aware that even if I were capable of the most brilliant conducting, inspired accompaniments, and perfectly selected anthems, it would all be useless if there were no singers to sing!

I appreciate the compliments that people give me on Sunday mornings regarding our choirs. I try to pass along those comments to the ensembles. Nevertheless, I do invite you to take a moment this summer and express your appreciation directly to those who sing (again, adults AND children) and tell them how their offering enhances your own worship experience.

Lastly, to the members of the choirs, many thanks for putting up with all of my shortcomings and still being such a devoted, fun, hard-working group of singers. I give thanks to God for each of you and for what you bring to our congregation. 

When in our music God is glorified, and adoration leaves no room for pride, it is as though the whole creation cried – Alleluia! (Hymn 420, vs. 1)