Thursday, July 22, 2010

a cappella sunday

Imagine your faith community singing in four part harmony, without any instrumental accompaniment. Sound impossible? Don't you believe it - I've seen it work well. Engaging your community in harmony singing for an entire worship service is worth the effort, and not as difficult as you might think.

1. Enlist the help of others who are keen to promote the idea and get involved.
2. Organise a short rehearsal for the community after worship the week before your planned A Cappella Sunday, and have your helpful others encourage people to get involved. Be sure to emphasise you are not forming a 'choir'. A Cappella Sunday is about encouraging the whole community's sung voice.
3. Select songs (see note below)

Selecting Songs
A Cappella Sunday is not about using fully-fledged four part (SATB) hymns or anthems. This notion will not only ensure a focus on 'experts', but will fail to involve the whole gathering.On A Cappella Sundays I have tried to ensure accessibility by including one of each of the following:
- a round (canon)
- a short 3 or 4 part chant
- an echo song
- an old hymn in pentatonic tonality that can be sung in canon
- a familiar song in which people may invent their own invented harmonies.

Setup and Seating
Arrange your seats in a circular formation if you can, with soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts to be seated in section facing the centre. Have those who attended the rehearsal sit in the second and third rows, so that those who are less familiar with the songs are sitting in front of them, in amongst the action and not on the outer. This also means they will be 'hit in the back of the neck' with their vocal part.

On the Day
Ask rehearsers to arrive a little earlier so they can be seated in the appropriate seats. Enlist help from several people who can greet at the door and assist decisions about where to sit. Ask them whether they have a high or low voice, rather than use the terms soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Consider walking them to their seat so they don't feel too exposed.

The Songleader
The songleader plays an important role, bringing in each section as required, and perhaps running a teaching time prior to the beginning of worship. The circular formation enhances the feeling of community - we are all involved, and no-one is really up-the-front. It also assist the songleader in communicating with the whole community. For tips about intoriducing new songs see How to teach a Song in 4 Steps.

Give it a go, and let me know what you sang.

Resources for A Cappella Sunday
Use pentatonic hymns and songs like Were you there, Be thou my vision, Kum by Yah, Standing in the need of prayer, which all invite people to make their own harmonies. Delve into the vast resources available including the following publications: 
There is One Among Us
Many and Great
We walk his way

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