by Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
Pondering on specific things related to our CGS choirs while preparing for the upcoming liturgical seasons and when we start rehearsing again, a certain topic came to mind that has been a center of discussion in the past: Where should the choir stand when singing an anthem? Should it be in front, where the choirs have been singing in the past couple of years or so, or should it be at the back, more specifically the choir loft, where the organ is located? I believe this particular argument is more relevant in the past than in our present situation, because of the combination of inevitable and conscious turns our church has gone through in recent times.
Naturally experiencing physical changes, it is a challenge for our choir members to go up the 15 steps of stairs to get to the choir loft. We tried to address this by putting together a task force to look at installing a chair lift, but it was a big budget commitment that we didn’t have in our resources at the time. Another factor is the change in choral music choices. Over the years, we’ve accumulated quite a number of choral music in our library, of which I am currently in the process of organizing and updating. Slowly and methodically going through them all, I see a lot of music that requires a full choral sound, involving more singers to successfully fulfill the scores' requirement. And most of these pieces require organ accompaniment. This means having the choir members getting up the choir loft, which brings us back to the first challenge we have. So, when looking for new music for our choir, I consciously choose songs that are accompanied by a piano, or sung acapella, which takes the choir singing in front.
A valid argument about standing in front to sing is that it seems more like a performance, an act of entertainment, rather than an honest musical offering. My view on this is that, every time someone or a group of people stand in front to either sing, deliver a message, or even simply make an announcement, to do it more effectively, there is part of performing involved. But a performance doesn’t necessarily compromise the authenticity of the message or the act of offering, and I honestly believe our congregation can discern sincerity.
For me, what matters is whether the heart is in the right place. To perform with a clean heart and the desire to renew a right spirit within us, through the messages we share with our music. To bring the good news of our Redeemer, uplift who are going though difficult circumstances, bring healing to suffering emotions, restore the broken. Whether standing in front, or up in the choir loft, these remain the principles of our choral ministry.