Worship Choir

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 Secrets” 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 thirty 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 has a mix of “proper” sight-reading choir members and untrained singers who have no clue what those dots on the page mean (in a megachurch praise choir I once worked with, only a single tenor out of the entire bass and tenor sections could read music!) 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.

The truth is, as the styles of church music change, so should the style of choirs. Choirs are mentioned multiple times in the Bible (2 Chronicles 5:13, Psalm 68:25) so they’re not going away anytime soon – but we’ve got to adapt them to fit modern worship! Pop choirs are the perfect solution. They can incorporate the driving rhythms and simpler chord progressions of contemporary praise music while still supporting and encouraging congregational singing. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Choirs have been leading God’s people in worship for centuries, and with a little creativity and flexibility, they can keep on doing just that – no matter what style of music is popular at the time. Let’s embrace the change and make sure our choirs are always ready to help usher in the presence of God, whether it’s through a majestic SATB anthem or a simple, heartfelt worship chorus.

Continued: More about Praise Choirs.


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