Sunday, June 30, 2013

If art is about taking risks . . .

They say all the time that a true artist doesn't stick to doing the same kind of work over and over. All real artists look to break new ground, take on challenges, take risks with their art.

When was the last time you tried something with your craft you’ve never tried before? . . . If your answer . . . is, 'I don’t remember' or 'Never' then I guarantee you are not growing.”

How does that apply to your choir? How do you feel about taking on music that is adventurous, ground-breaking, challenging?

And I believe this really matters when it comes to choir ministry. If a choir only knows a few songs and sings them over and over and over, after a while people are going to tune out (no matter how good a sermon your pastor preaches, you wouldn't want to hear that same sermon twice a month all year long).

And if the choir brings in new songs that sound almost exactly like the old ones, that's just as dangerous. Breaking new ground may be risky, but staying in the same old rut is risky, too. You risk becoming irrelevant.

But of course, there's something we don't like about taking on new challenges. When we challenge ourselves, there is a possibility of failure. The new things we try might work, or they might not. If you make a regular practice of taking risks, it's guaranteed that you're going to fail sometimes.

The only certain way to avoid failure? Say nothing. Do nothing. Be nothing.

So how do we handle the possibility of failure in a choir ministry? We want to be a blessing to every service and not a detriment. Does that mean that failure is not an option?

Here are some ideas for how to balance out the risk:
  • Take your biggest risks during rehearsal times. Bring a new song with the understanding that it may or may not work out well enough to end up being included in a church service. It's OK for a director to try to teach a song and then have to drop it because it's not working. Go ahead and try and maybe fail. And if the song fails, learn from the experience, examine what didn't work, what the choir wasn't ready for. That's a part of growing as an artist. But don't be too quick to scrap a song. Just because you don't get it perfectly doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Waiting for “perfection” can sometimes turn into an excuse for never taking a chance. If you wait until everything is perfect, you'll be waiting forever. Decide when it's good enough and then go forward with it!

  • Then comes the time to sing that challenging song during service. I recommend that if your choir sings two songs during service (the classic “A & B selection”), you can pair the challenging song with a familiar old favorite. Sing the new one first and then the old one.

  • Remember, most of the congregation doesn't know what the song is supposed to sound like.

  • Also remember that the message is more important than the messenger. If you start to feel like you're faltering, tune in with the message of the song. Sing it with focus and with fervor. It will still be a blessing.

So that's the WHY about doing challenging music. For more ideas about HOW to do it, look here: How to teach difficult songs to your choir.

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