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Monday, June 4, 2012

In Harmony

Have you ever sung in a choir where you didn't really know your part? You just kind of listened to the person behind you and followed along? And then, the director asks all the parts mix in together…uh oh.

No one really knows their part until they can sing it surrounded by the harmony of others. Yet, as Edgardo Colon-Emeric observes, many of us “want to join the hallelujah chorus in paradise but refuse to leave our ethnic section rehearsals on earth.”

By moving beyond the safety of our own sections, we gain the capacity to be instruments of God. We understand our context, how we fit in, and the beauty of voices around us. Yet, most of us spend our entire lives in section rehearsal, only making music with those singing the same part.

For too long in our world, one section has drowned out the music of the other voices, but “it is hard to be in tune with Christ when so many of us have tuned out our neighbors.” In a choir, we learn to blend, to support others, to yield the spotlight. We don’t race ahead, but learn to finish together. We learn the value of listening to others, and how to adjust our own behavior in response to what we hear.

As worshipers of the Triune God, we understand the beauty of three-part harmony. No two choirs are ever the same, because each benefit from the unique voices they include. The contrasts in color and texture give the ensemble life!

In the Ubuntu Choir for All People at UM Church for All People, we sing in many styles and languages, while remaining sensitive to the heart-songs of the participants. We try not appropriate or homogenize, but rather respect the culture of the song’s origin, to the best of our ability. Thus, we invite a ‘salad bowl’ rather than a ‘melting pot’ of diversity, highlighting the many voices of the body of Christ.

Our goal is to be accessible for all, while remaining challenging for those with music experience, so that we engage a variety of ability levels. To this end, we use music with layered complexity that offers simple melodies, supported by more complicated countermelodies and descants.

Every voice is important to the group, and therefore solos are rotated amongst anyone that wants one. Featured parts are tailored to an individual’s ability/vocal style and may include improvisatory solos over the chorus, solo introductions of the refrain, drums solos, or speaking parts. 

Singing together affords the opportunity of mutual dependence. Unity is not a charitable endeavor, but one that is fundamental for own souls. Unless we have an attitude of equal partnership, we bring discord to the harmony of Christ.

And so, let us not hesitate "to leave the safety of the section rehearsal. Do not be afraid to submit to the baton of Christ. Do not put it off until heaven."

Bless, O Lord, us your servants who minister in your temple.
Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe with our hearts, 
and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives. 
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
-The Chorister's Prayer 

What does worship look like at your church? How do you make sure that all are welcome at your services?


  1. Thank you, choir, for the opportunity of your friendship, for leading me to the cross, for your grace, your forgiveness, and for your music.

  2. I thought this cartoon was really funny and so true!: 

    Also this choir director's flow chart:


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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