How Church Choirs Are Changing

For literally hundreds of years, back to Bach, choirs led and performed church music in SATB four part harmony: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass.

This SATB format can be seen in your hymnal. If you’ve ever read my “HymnCharts manifesto” you know this was one of the first problems I discovered when I became a music director for the first time – praise bands (specifically guitars) can’t play SATB music because the chords usually change on just about every beat.

Pop music has drastically changed the musical landscape of the Church in the past twenty years. Chord progressions propelled music in the past, rhythm propels today’s music. And that’s why guitars can’t play out of your hymnal – a pop song will linger on a single chord for as long as a measure or more while the guitars rhythmically push the song along.

SATB choirs are found in traditional and blended churches. They’re made up of fairly experienced choir members who have grown up in grade school and college choirs and they can sight read at a decent level. These choir members enjoy learning a challenging anthem and performing it for special music.

A new type of pop choir has been born in recent years, emerging from contemporary Churches using modern worship methods. This pop choir will have a mix of “proper” sight-reading choir members and untrained singers who have no clue what those dots on the page mean. But that’s ok, because the pop choir’s purpose is not to perform a complicated anthem but to lead and bolster the congregational singing.

Next week: More about Praise Choirs.

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