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Choir to Ensemble: Trend?

I'm fortunate to work for a midsize congregation in a large city. We have somewhat balanced our books and we are embarking on a very large building project - taking our huge mammoth old building apart, keeping some of the good architectural bits, and shrinking our square footage by three-quarters. They love music, are moving a world-class pipe organ and want good acoustics so they can share their new worship space with local music groups - since there is nothing in the immediate area.

The current music program that I found in tatters a few months ago is beginning to reinvent itself. No, not in the form of a fifty voice SATB choir (that they had) but as small ensembles. "Small group ministry" - remember this buzz word from the late 90's? Is there any relation?

What I am seeing:

A quintet of woman, that I started by inviting to a single rehearsal, now sing difficult unaccompanied rep. at a once-a-month late evening vespers service we created. Will they join the main choir?… NO! not with regular rehearsals and regular Sunday services. I shoehorn rehearsals around their busy professional careers in the legal system and local university.

Six young musical moms joined and committed to one rehearsal following Sunday morning church. They then agreed to lead the music, joined by the jr. choir, at the next Sunday service. (I gave the SATB choir the Sunday off.) One rehearsal, one Sunday per month - they are fine with that. They are all great musicians in some respect and the jr. choir gets to experience more than just piano accompaniment for their little anthems. I even do paino/organ hymns - gasp!

Our latest interest group is five families in our congregation: so… we are proposing family-choir (with a catchy name of course). The only stipulation is that we arrange it in a similar fashion: no regular rehearsals and no long-term commitment. The dad's can't wait to work with a professional percussionist (symphony) who has agreed to come along for the ride.

I hear you bemoaning the general lack of interest in programs that suggest long-term commitments. I know you cannot accomplish the Mozart Requiem in one rehearsal - this isn't the goal. Yes, the need for instant results is being cultured in so many aspects of our modern world. Well if it is a fact, a reality, how are you harnessing this phenomena in your progam? It is way more work and certainly not how I was trained to run a church music program - but if it works who cares.


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