Monday, June 4, 2012

Building a Choral Program with Wendi

Wendi has a “basic bare bones blueprint for building a choral program at your parish” that sounds ambitious, but do-able. I think it will also take a lot of patience and perseverance and vision.  You can read the whole thing at her blog; I’ve put the bare bones of her bare bones here, and she has plenty more details to share with you.

I'm making the assumption that you are starting from scratch. If you have some elements in place and can skip ahead...GREAT. Start wherever you are in the process.

I am also making the assumption that the Director of Music (DM) and the Pastor are on the same page in terms of the direction they want to take the parish. [And that’s an important point. If they’re not, you’ve got an uphill battle.]

Year One:

1. Set up a training program for your cantors…

2. Assess the music currently being used in your parish. If what you use every week is all GIA, OCP stuff...recognize that it's going to take some time to change, and that people will complain.

Decide what music you would like to use and start introducing it a little at a time…And please for the love of Saint Cecelia, rehearse it well. People are FAR more receptive to something new that sounds nice, as opposed to something new that sounds bad.

3. Assess your choir. Do you have one voice or thirty?...Is it a recruiting issue? …Is it a time commitment issue? …Is it a rehearsal issue?

4. For year one, everyone is starting at the beginning. Recognize at the outset that this is a years-long process. The idea the first year is to get your choir to listen to each other.

For the first month, have them rehearse singing unison hymns and concentrate on listening to each other.

Make sure you tell your choir that you'll be singing in unison for just the first few weeks, and why. If they know what you are trying to accomplish they'll concentrate on listening to each other and it may not take a month.

As soon as is practicable, start rehearsing hymns in parts…
Try very hard to foster a spirit of cooperation.

That starts with YOU. Be pleasant and helpful and welcoming, no matter how bad your day is going. Praise every little improvement in how they sound. Positive reinforcement works wonders.

You can also start in September, teaching them the basics of Gregorian chant. There are a number of written resources that you can use…There is a nice selection here...
Books on Chant
Consider asking your parish
 to invest in this.
Shoot for rehearsing the chants for the Christmas season and introduce them then.

That will give your singers time to learn how to do chant WELL. Badly done chant will turn people off, so don't be in a rush to actually sing it at Mass.

A major feast is a great time to introduce the congregation to something new, it fits the idea that it's a major feast so we have something special.

If this sounds really is. "Slow and steady wins the race" as the tortoise said to the hare.

Plan some really nice pieces for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

…Have a Christmas party for the choir members and their families...after midnight Mass has gone splendidly.

If at ALL possible the pastor should be there to thank and praise the choir.

He is the "father of the family" so to speak and if he expresses his appreciation and approval it's very likely to motivate the choir to try even harder for holy week and Easter.

Try it and see if I'm not right.

Ok, we're halfway through year one. I'll post tomorrow about what to start working on after Christmas.

Read Wendi’s entire post here.

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