At Myrtle Grove, we are reaching across the generations through worship arts ministry. We currently have two fairly distinct generations of worship leaders in our church. We have those who have been leading worship for fifteen to twenty or more years who are now in their forties and fifties, and we have those who have been leading only a few years in their twenties and early thirties. With such diversity, we are taking steps to maintain unity between the generations for the benefit of the church and its ministry to the community by rotating our worship bands and by combining our worship bands with orchestra and choir.
Over the past several years, we have been utilizing a modern worship band format (guitars, drums, bass, keyboards) for leading worship almost exclusively. We have been rotating four worship bands, two groups made up of mostly older worship leaders at the early, more blended, service and two groups made up of mostly younger worship leaders at the late, more contemporary, service. However, we found over time that this separation of old and young was not conducive to a sense of unity among the congregation or among the worship leaders.
We recently took steps to become more unified and to become more diversified. First, we asked the worship bands to begin serving at both services so that both “congregations” could experience the diversity of the different teams and have a greater sense of unity between the two services. And second, we expanded the minstry to once again include those who play traditional orchestra instruments (cello, flute, oboe, trumpet, horn, timpani, etc.) and those who have sung in traditional choirs (soprano, alto, tenor, bass). This has presented certain challenges and is reaping some significant rewards.
Challenges of utilizing bands for both services:
1. For bands who are used to serving only at the 11:00 service, an 8:00 a.m. sound check feels verrrrry early! It’s hard for some of our younger band members to get out of bed and get to the sound check/rehearsal on time.
2. For those same bands, the early hour makes it difficult to sing some of the modern music with its high vocal range.
3. For all the bands, waiting around for the late service makes it a long day lasting from as early as 7:30 a.m. for instrumentalists to as late as 12:30 p.m. since we have a “discipleship hour” at 9:45 between the two two services.
4. The congregation must sing a wider “play list” and perhaps learn new music somewhat faster.
Benefits of utilizing bands for both services:
1. The congregation experiences the diversity of all four bands instead of just two and the diversity of both younger and older worship leaders.
2. There is a greater sense of unity between the two services. With the same music being played in both services, members of the congregation can attend either service and have a similar experience on a given day.
Challenges of an expanded worship team including band, orchestra and choir:
1. Finding music for such a diverse ensemble. Until recently, not much music has been available that combines band with choir and orchestra except perhaps full-length worship musicals.
2. Rehearsing the various sections of the ensemble. Is it best to rehearse them all together or separately?
Solutions for a worship team that includes band, orchestra and choir:
1. Music – PraiseCharts.com provides music arrangements for modern worship songs and hymn re-makes for various groupings of instruments and singers. The arrangements match exactly those found on modern recordings from most of the modern worship artists. However, other instrumental and vocal parts are added to the arrangements to allow orchestra instrumentalists and choir singers to join the band. Music is purchased by the song via internet download – chord charts, piano/vocal files, mp3 files, orchestrations, files for choirs and vocal teams and even Finale files.
2. Music – Travis Cottrell and Brentwood-Benson Music. Cottrell’s musicals are sometimes seasonal, but also offer non-seasonal music for band, choir and orchestra. For example, we are currently using his Glorious Day: A Modern Worship Choir Collection which has eleven modern worship songs or hymn arrangements for band, choir and orchestra. Products can be purchased from Brentwood-Benson that include traditional songbooks for choir, a CD-ROM that has the full orchestration, and separate CDs for soprano, alto, tenor and bass. The only product they should add are chord charts for the band that get the whole song on one or two pages for guitarists, etc. At this time, they only provide Rhythm charts which can be three or more pages long. So we have written out our own chord charts for the bands.
3. Rehearsals – We are finding that it’s best to rehearse each ensemble separately before putting them all together on Sunday morning or for a special event. Stan Endicott and others have said that the smaller ensembles can maintain better focus and remain less distracted by other parts when rehearsing separately. For instance, this week we are preparing the band, choir and orchestra for the services on Sunday, and they have five songs they’ll be doing together. On Wednesday, we rehearsed the band (guitars, bass, drums, keyboards) with just the two lead vocalists. On Thursday, we rehearsed the orchestra players with just the piano and lead vocalists. And we rehearsed the choir singers and vocal team with just the piano and lead vocalists. Each group reported that this was much preferred to rehearsing all the ensembles togther at the same time as we have also done recently. It gave the participants more opportunity to ask questions if necessary, they were better able to hear their individual parts, and they felt that their time was not wasted waiting for other parts to be played or explained.