How To Take Your Group Christmas Caroling And Actually Sound Good

If your choir, praise team or other group has never gone Christmas caroling you absolutely must. Our church choir has done this for several years now, and I can’t even begin to put into words here what a rewarding, absolutely wonderful feeling it is to go out and do this once a year. We have arrangements with about 4 or 5 locations who expect us to come out once a year and have scheduled our visit. (It’s very important, by the way, that you call ahead and get permission from the locations you’d like to visit ahead of time.)

We simply pile into our cars and follow each other from location to location, visiting  nursing homes and other chosen locations that have been arranged in advance. If your ministry has a small bus or van, that would be even better. But I can’t tell you what it’s like to see the faces of people in Wal-mart when we begin to sing and the sound starts to carry throughout the store. Or the smile on the faces of the residents at the nursing homes when we finish singing and begin talking and visiting with them. Often we have trouble leaving a particular location because people keep asking us to come to their section or department and sing.

One main reason, I believe, that it touches people so much is because we actually sing songs that lend themselves well to being sung a cappella. the nursing homes actually get a lot of people coming by to sing, as you can imagine. But it’s very common for both residents and staff members to comment to us about how much better we sound than most who come through. The secret? I carefully chose the songs we sing every year to insure that they are songs that actually sound good a cappella. Then we just learn pretty basic 3 part harmony and actually rehearse for our caroling outing. I note which keys we do each song and then at the location I put us in the right key using a simple pitch pipe.

The mistake many groups make when going out to sing is that they simply choose Christmas songs from their Sunday morning song list, or songs written to be sung with music. These songs were written around heavy musical arrangements, so they don’t often transfer well to being sung a cappella.

The worse thing when you’re singing a cappella is to have large spaces where nothing’s really happening except this awkward clapping and stomping where music would normally be playing. So the key to going out caroling and actually sounding good is to choose standard Christmas carols that have constant lyrical movement and no dead spaces or required leaders. With minimal effort I was able to find a handful of these and easily create simple 3 part harmony arrangements for them.

[youtube 6fBFjbCGoZo]

Here are my top 5 Christmas Carols that sound great A Cappella.

1. Joy To The World

2. Oh Come All Ye Faithful

3. Hark The Harold Angels Sing

4. Angels We Have Heard On High

5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

 

Now, here’s how to go out caroling with these songs and sound so good they’ll want you back every year. The first 3 tips definitely need to be done by the musician and/or parts instructor/director.

1. Assign a key to each song.

Keep these keys as close in proximity to each other as the vocal arrangement will allow. This way it’s easy to quickly identify the key with a pitch pipe or even the little piano app on your I-Phone

2. Create a simple 3 part vocal arrangement for each song, soprano alto and tenor.

Do SATB if you have that luxury. Writing the arrangements should be as simple as taking the well-known melody line from each song, assigning it to Soprano or Alto and then writing harmony around that. We just use SAT every year and it sounds just fine for caroling.

3. Dedicate one rehearsal to learning the vocal harmony.

The entire rehearsal should be done a cappella with only a pitch pipe or your piano app to give the key.

4. Use lyric sheets!

This is the one time it’s perfectly acceptable and even expected for the choir or group to sing with lyric sheets in front of them. It makes everything that much easier to perfect, and it actually looks more christmas-y, lol . One of our administrators usually puts our lyric sheets into nice red or green folders so it looks good as we stand and sing.

5. Coordinate your colors.

It never hurts to look good out there, and when you’re all wearing similar colors it’s very easy to identify you as a group. We usually simply wear red tops and denim bottoms.

If you guys can put this together this year- even as few as 3 songs- try going out caroling this year. This is an annual event for our church choir. Attendance is not “mandatory”, per se, so we usually have a small group of 10 people or less. But with the right songs and just basic 3 part harmony, it really makes an impact every year. You really haven’t understood the true meaning of music ministry until you take it outside the walls and do something like this. It’s an amazing feeling, and once you do it you’ll be hooked.

 

How To Plan Engaging Christmas Worship Services

I found this article on ChurchLeaderInsights.com. It’s one of several sites I’ll be telling you about in a future blog post that I believe can be really beneficial to you as you strive to grow and improve your worship team. What I love about this article is that while the title suggests it will include content specific only to Christmas, the content really covers the one thing most worship teams struggle with all year ’round; getting our audiences engaged in worship. I’ve never seen someone explain WHY they aren’t engaged as well as Jason does in this article:

 

…the congregation doesn’t experience the worship set the way you and I do.

They aren’t hearing what we hear (or should I say feeling what we feel).

We’re actually playing the music, feeling the connection with other musicians, onstage and amplified.  In short . . . we’re fully invested.  Whereas the congregation can oftentimes feel like bystanders, simply observing what’s happening onstage.

Ever heard it explained that way? Me either, but that makes so much sense doesn’t it? So anyway, check out the rest of the article here. I think it’ll bless you!

Do We Have To “Urbanize” Everything We Sing?

I’ve often pondered this privately because it’s one of those things that can easily spark a bunch of debate, and I’m really not too fond of that. Especially regarding faith and the things of God. But a blog is a different story. You almost NEED a little controversy now and then on a blog, or it’s just boring. Sooo, let me ask a very frank question here. Do we have to “Urbanize” everything we sing?”

First of all let me say that I realize and greatly appreciate the fact that I have readers and followers from several countries, nationalities and ethnicities.  If you all would be so kind, please talk among yourselves for a moment.  I need to chat with my Gospel groups, praise teams and churches for a bit.

I often say if you’re a Gospel praise team and you’re not doing any of the wonderfully beautiful praise and worship songs being written in the Contemporary Christian Music genre you’re doing your team and your congregation a great disservice. Some of the most beautiful worship songs can be found down the dial a bit. Ditto for praise songs. Great up-beat, up-lifting songs.

There are indeed a growing number of Gospel music ministries that have figured this out and are adding CCM praise and worship songs to their roster. But what I see quite often is that when they do they feel the need to somehow “make it more black”. They change chord progressions, add vamps and fancy bridges, etc.

I think this is rather unfortunate, actually. And really, unnecessary. I suppose the general thought is “if we do this song just like it is our congregation won’t like it or won’t receive it because it will sound “too white” or “too plain”. I definitely understand the concern, but I think it’s perhaps a bit of over thinking.  So I’d like to offer two thoughts for you to ponder the next time you’re considering “doctoring up” a CCM song to make it sound more “gospel-y”.

1. Your concern about whether or not your congregation will accept the song done the original way is probably misplaced. Many, many people who grew up listening to Gospel music actually love the fresh, clean sound and pure message of CCM praise and worship songs. Not only would many of them embrace these songs, many of them would think it a welcome change.

2. The fact is, if you’ve been eating, sleeping and drinking Gospel music all your life, anything you sing is going to have that flavor. The same goes with the musicians. So even if you do a CCM worship song as is with no changes, it will take on a Gospel feel just because a Gospel group is doing it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that these modifications don’t work. Many of them go on to be big hits. But Contemporary Christian praise songs have a sincerity and purity that frankly is sometimes lacking in Gospel. The focus with CCM writers is  on pure, authentic worship and praise. The musical arrangement is often understated so that it’s not the focus. The song arrangements are kept simple (we can get pretty complex sometimes, making it more about the musicianship than the message).

I could go on here, but the point I’m making is that adding CCM songs to your roster and just doing them straightforward could be just the thing to help your ministry widen it’s appeal, add depth, variety and balance. So don’t always feel that the only way you can do CCM songs at your church is to somehow make them blacker and more gospel. A great worship song is a great worship song, just the way it is. Going out of your way to add stuff to make it sound more like a Gospel song can actually detract from it if you’re not careful.

Just one more point of view.

Best Easter Songs For Gospel Choir

A while back I was searching the internet for something related to Gospel Choir and I stumbled upon this Squiddoo page. The author, Joan Hall, goes by the name of Joan The Choir Lady. Her Squiddoo page was full of tons of great information for choirs. I got to know her on Facebook, and she recently told me that Squiddoo no longer exists! But Joan has transferred all of her awesome articles and lists for Choirs to her website, ChoirParts.com.

But the one I want to share with you today absolutely blew me away. Joan  has put together one of the most exhaustive, complete references I have ever seen on Gospel Choir songs for Easter. You have got to see this thing!

Not only did Joan put together an amazing list, but she also included YouTube videos where available, song keys and even level of difficulty! I was amazed. I’m not even going to post any of it here because I want absolutely no credit whatsoever for the work this young lady has put into this.

So please, please go right now to Joan’s website and check out  Best Easter Songs For Gospel Choir . I need you guys to do me a favor when you