Monday, December 1, 2014

Why People Aren't Singing Along At Church - Kenny Lamm in Renewing Worship

Many of today's Contemporary Christian Music songs are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on the recording/stage).

Prior to the Reformation, church music was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language; Latin.

The Reformation gave music back to the people, including congregational singing which employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people.

Church music once again became participatory.  The evolution of the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased.

But within the past 15 years, a shift in church music leadership has begun to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation, pew potato spectators.  What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of music leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God.

Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participatory environment to a concert event.

We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. There are a lot of new church music songs today, but in the vast pool of those songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the trained, professional vocalist on the recording/stage).

We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.
The people we are leading in music generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out, and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D (more).

We have created spectator events, building a performance environment:  
A discouraging trend in church worship lately includes the use of fog machines, lasers, and sophisticated light shows.  This used to be the domain primarily of mega churches, but technological advances have enabled even the smallest churches to blind and deafen their congregations.  This performance philosophy calls undue attention to things other than corporate expressions to God.

The congregation feels they are not expected to sing. As music leaders leaders, we can easily get so involved in our professional production that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, introducing new songs properly, and singing in the proper congregational range.  Stay alert to how well the congregation is tracking with you and alter course as needed.

Vocalists ad lib too much. Keep the melody clear and strong. (It often helps a great deal to have a member of each gender singing the melody an octave apart from each other so that every one in the congregation has someone to follow).  The congregation is made up of people with limited ranges and limited musical ability. When we stray from the melody to ad lib, the people try to follow us and end up frustrated and quit singing.

The full article is available here