If video killed the radio star, then the comments section of social media is slowly killing a willingness to share one’s natural talent.
Social media has some wonderful benefits. It also has some terrible, long-term effects. I would like to specifically talk about the power the infinite sea of “so-called-experts” who hide behind the endless wash of the comments section has, and their ability to damage the psyche of others. In shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice” where audiences members are encouraged to vote for their favorite singer so that one is victorious and others lose, the viewers are in a small part judging themselves every time they vote. The “ultimate fail” phenomenon gets more people viewing and sharing their video and by doing so, the viewer silently says to themselves “I am so glad that isn’t me.” Over time, in my opinion, this creates a ever-growing, stronger divide among people that might volunteer to sing in front of others in a church choir or community chorus.
Think for a moment. Have you ever heard someone say any of these phrases?
- I can’t sing.
- I am tone deaf.
- You wouldn’t want me in the choir.
- I can’t stand the sound of my voice.
- My (family member) always laughs when I sing. So I don’t.
- I have no musical talent
What would make someone say these things unless it was explicitly made clear in verbal communication or implicitly conveyed in behaviors of others that these statements would start to become believable? As a child, did an adult figure say something to the effect of “O, so-and-so can’t carry a tune in a bucket”? The child then says to themselves, “if so-and-so can’t carry a tune in a bucket, then neither can I.” Parents, be careful what you say, your impressionable children are listening.
Too many times people expect to start singing without any thought to the development of the skill. If they do not sound like vocal gold on the first try, then they “can’t sing”. I usually compare vocal development to the first time you go into a weight room to execute reps on bench press. If it is your first time, you wouldn’t go straight for the 45 lbs. weights. You would work your way up and discover what you can do. Singing is no different. At one point in my life I could not match pitch. I played piano and viola but my vocal mechanism couldn’t match what my ear was telling my brain to sing. It took private lessons and years of singing in different scenarios before I was a section leader of a collegiate choir rather than “that baritone who is speaking rather than singing”. Through my own vocal development from someone who couldn’t match pitch to one who developed into a music teacher, I taught students who couldn’t match pitch at first to sing Palestrina. It took time and effort, but I can assure you that the above statements are 100% false and are a byproduct of today’s culture.
Regardless of what you think about musical talent, everyone can sing. I will say it again. Everyone can sing. Any sane human being can tell the difference between high and low: the bell on a child’s toy versus the bellow of a foghorn. It’s developing the ability to discern the subtle nuances in pitch and applying that to good vocal production where people fall short and arrive in the bulleted statements above.
Through my interactions with volunteer church choirs, I have also experienced first hand those who could not match pitch and yet still wanted to give their time and gifts to the church. Over time, they did match pitch and could contribute in meaningful ways but they first had to have an open mind, some resilience, and consistently come to rehearsal ready to work.
This arrangement of “In The Sweet By and By” was written in response to the sudden
and unexpected passing of a member of a choir with which I had recently worked.
This close-knit choir has a very long and rich history of singing challenging
literature in worship every Sunday. This particular choir member was very gracious with her time and always opened her home for large gatherings after the biannual Cantata. On the rare occasion that she missed rehearsal, I always found her on Sunday lightly playing her part on the piano before anyone would arrive. The beginning single line piano introduction of the piece is a nod to her diligence in learning her part so she wouldn’t let the group down. The piece ends with the single piano line returning playing “We shall meet on that beautiful shore”, a gentle reminder that life is short and greater things await those who place their trust in Christ as their Savior.
This SAB arrangement is well suited for adult choir but also would work well with a
Junior High choir, honoring the passion she had working with the conﬁrmands at her local church. Here is the recording of that choir singing this arrangement in the All Saints service in which that choir member’s banner was raised.
Is this recording worthy of the ACDA National Convention? Probably not. However, this is a recording of volunteers coming together for the sole purpose of remembering those that past by raising their voice in song. No comments section can take away from their experience that day or their memory of their friend. I encourage anyone that has the desire and opportunity to try choir to do so. As I say in my classroom: “If it matters to you, you will find a way. If it doesn’t, you will find an excuse.”