What a great beginning to Fall Choir we had last night! Almost all of our regular attendees were there to prepare the music for the upcoming season. We accomplished almost all of my objectives last night — which mainly had to do with getting through all of the new music. We did that with much grace and aplomb!
It is fabulous to hear how well this choir sings. They are very talented and it’s an honor to be in front of them. It is quite amazing to experience healthy community and that is what this Chancel Choir has . . . healthy community.
Community connection is what most of us strive for in our lives. It is tough to find in a group – healthy community, that is. After all, we crave a place to belong. We are desperate for respectful and nurturing affirmation in most things that we do. In a rehearsal, tough to do when you really can’t talk, you can’t write notes to your friend next to you, and you’ve got a limited time.
So, how does healthy community happen in a rehearsal?
Address Rehearsal Behaviors
1) Strive for connections outside of rehearsal time – At the end of rehearsal, a group of ladies all had their iPhones out and were calendaring time to get together. Loved this. I heard several people making lunch plans. Nothing is better than getting smaller group time with choir friends. Encourage smaller points of connection within the whole group. And, this will help you avoid some conflict. Chances are that if there is problem with an attitude or behavior, small group dynamics will intercede on behalf of the community. Throw a party . . . go out to movie . . . connect.
2) Correct issues but don’t humiliate – How many times in a choir rehearsal have we experienced a director that needs to embarrass a person to make themselves look better? Never try and injure someone’s ego for your own gain. But, don’t be overtaken. I cut a wide birth of grace for singers. God brought them into my sphere of influence to make whole through music. Even if a singer can’t sing a note, is high maintenance, has a diva ego, or can hijack a rehearsal dead with one comment, how can I find a way that they can have a self-correcting realization through grace? It may not be the fastest way but fostering grace is the best way.
3) Catch things quickly – Sometimes, people can monopolize the energy in the room by asking too many questions, talking, or constantly trying to have the snappy comeback. Focus your community by keeping the rehearsal tempo moving, so that those factors don’t become energy killers in the moment. Don’t leave constant dead time or long pauses . . . but, do give people a moment to catch their breath and communicate. Move tough conversations to the after-time . . . post rehearsal.
4) Laugh – Studies show that our blood pressure decreases when we can find joy and levity in the things that we do. Laugh as often as you can. Don’t be an Eeyore. Be a Tigger. Don’t ever take yourself too seriously. Plan for a pause in-between anthems, let people take their light-hearted shots at you . . . and dish it back, too. But, be light-hearted and not cynical . . .
5) Make the preparation of the music the Focus – people gather because they like to sing, so have them sing . . . a lot. Excellent preparation of the ensemble is the best way to foster a healthy musical community. Give the community every tool to succeed, within reason. And, strive for excellence . . . not perfection. I tell my groups all the time, that if we wanted a perfect offering of an anthem or worship piece, we would just play a recording. Rather, enjoy the aspect of presenting live music in worship. Anything can happen and let it do so. Not saying you don’t rehearse and prepare every note. Of course you do that. But, don’t get hung up making it sound like the CD. Live in the moment of a graceful and artful offering — a snapshot of us, offered to the Holy, imperfect or perfect as it may be.
6) Listen. Toughest thing for me to do. I want to fix it. I want to move on. But, making sure that you hear the community crying out for help . . . whether for a note or for an appropriate moment to express joy or sadness is critical, pause and let your ears hear those “voice crying in the wilderness.” Prepare ye the way! (Isaiah 40:3)
7) Prayer, Joys and Concerns – Last night, this took quite a while. But, this group hadn’t rehearsed together for a couple of months. I heard things about people that I didn’t know had happened . . . and I had seen them ALL summer! Let people praise and pray for all the struggles and celebrations in their lives. Knowing what’s going on with a community can enlighten you as to where to spend your rehearsal and post rehearsal time.
What’s the value in all of this? This was best expressed by one of our newest couples said last night. Happily, they had recently gotten married in the summer but sadly had moved to another side of town because of their jobs. Recently, we had begun to talk with them about good churches in their new community. So, needless to say, the community was quite surprised that they were even at rehearsal. The young woman shared that they were both going to new jobs right now and they just couldn’t see leaving a church choir right now that meant so much to them. She shared that this group had welcomed her and she just couldn’t add one more transition to her life at this moment. So, they made the decision to drive back each week.
That’s holy community.
Lord Jesus Christ,
while on earth you had close and devoted friends,
such as John. Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
You showed in this way that friendship
is one of life’s great blessings.
Thank you for the friends that you have given me
to love me in spite of my failures and weaknesses,
and to enrich my life after your example.
Let me ever behave toward them
as you behaved toward your friends.
Bind us close together in you and enable us
to help one another on our earthly journey.
(Photo is of a worship altar at First United Methodist Church, Missouri City, TX. The photo was taken by Chris Crabb. Prayer is from http://community.birdsandblooms.com/forums/p/320574/3645599.aspx)