A Funny Thing Happened When the Choir Sang
22 Nov 2006
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Back when I was studying music at Samford University in Birmingham, AL, I had the privilege of working as a music minister at some small churches in rural areas. It was a great training ground to work with choirs of limited resources and I met some of the most wonderful Christian people. There were no fancy children’s programs at these churches in those days and most of the time everyone, including the youngest children, would be in the services.
I’ll never forget what happened one night at one of these churches when I was directing our choir for the big Christmas musical. We had a choir of around twenty who had worked very hard preparing for this night. (While twenty is not a lot in some churches, it was an impressive group here.) All of the rehearsing was coming to a climax on this December night and everyone wanted to give the most excellent performance possible. Holiday excitement was in the air as the birth of Christ was celebrated!
One of the big numbers was “O Holy Night.” We had a soprano who had worked diligently on the solo. She would sing the verses and then the choir would join in the refrain “Fall on your knees…” in grand fashion. This was to be the highlight of the night.
However, something happened when the choir came in on the second refrain. I heard this awful wailing sound. Immediately, I assumed that one of my tenors had completely lost it. I glanced around frantically trying to see what was happening and threatening to derail our whole production.
It was then that I saw a sight that I will never forget. While we were singing the anthem, a little three year-old boy left his pew in the small church house and wandered into the choir loft to be with his mother. I think at this point his mom held him in place in front of her just to keep him from going anywhere else. When the choir joined with the solo, this small child opened up his voice and sang as loud as he could with his mouth wide open and beaming with pride.
Every one in the audience was laughing as they could see everything that was happening. The poor soprano had no idea what was going on because of where she was standing and wondered what she had done wrong.
Although the little boy’s voice was not even close to the correct pitch, much less the right words, his voice was probably one of the purest sounds heard that night.
My first response was to ask, how could all of our hard work on the Christmas production be so easily ruined. However, as I watched this preschooler sing from his heart in innocence and sincerity, I realized that the people involved are much more important than achieving a perfect performance and the process is more important than the product.
While we should always desire to give our best in our worship services in any music or ministry we perform, we need to allow for the little imperfections and mishaps that are bound to happen. There is no need to judge our music programs by comparing them to the best church programs we see on TV or the fine CCM CDs we listen to. Nor should we worry about a lack of resources and people that might be available in our local churches. Let’s just give to the Master our best with the resources and people that He has provided.
God loves people and not productions and performances. God is more concerned with the hearts of those who worship him than with the gifts they bring or how well the performance turns out.
James M. Stevens
Senior Music and Culture Advisor
Dr. James Michael Stevens is a prolific musician and published composer of over 200 songs. Winner of numerous ASCAP Standard Awards for Composition, he has formally served as President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee as Chairman of the Music Department at Free Will Baptist Bible College.