Friday, July 30, 2010

Contemplation on Choir Directing

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I was at a music concert for my college. The choir was singing very well. But, what really caught my attention was the conductor. She was gorgeous and expressive, though her feet moved very little. I was amazed by they way she could lead such an assembly by merely moving her arms. I was struck by the beauty of it, and I cried.

That was the day I first knew that I wanted to be a choir conductor.

Not long after that, God gave me my first opportunity to lead a small church choir. Paul was the associate pastor at a medium-sized church in Quincy, IL. I spent hours every day preparing for the next week's rehearsal. It was sheer joy for me to sit at my piano (an enormous, old upright) and pick out one line at a time until I could sing them all in my sleep. And, trust me, I did hear them in my sleep. I always looked forward to Wednesday night rehearsal, when I would get to hear my guinea pigs faithful choir practice!

I will never forget our Easter Cantata! That first year, they did not allot any money in the budget for me. So, I went through the annuls of cantatas buried in the youth building. We practiced about a dozen songs until I decided which six we did best. Then, I wrote a narration to compliment those six songs. (The others would be used as "special music.") To say that I had butterflies in my stomach that day would be the understatement of the year! It did not help that my lead soprano pulled a no-call-no-show. My fiend, Kori, came over from my home town just to support me.

It was worship. It was pleasure. It was exhilarating.

My friend Kori said that she enjoyed watching me leading the choir more than anything else. She told me that she could see joy in my eyes. Not everyone shared her sentiment. One old, cantankerous gentleman said, "I've never seen a choir director dance before." To be sure, I blushed from such a verbal blow. But, in Baptist church if you shuffle your feet from side-to-side, and it just happens to be in rhythm to the music, you are guilty of dance. But, while I remember his sharp comment, it did not bother me. Because, I knew that my energy, enthusiasm, and joy helped to lead the choir as they led the congregation in worship.

The last time I led a choir was at our small, rural church in IL - where Paul had his last pastorate. It was a small choir. But, we had a great time. We worshiped together. We prayed together. And, just as before, I spent all week waiting for, planning for, and looking forward to rehearsal. It was so neat to see how God took a small assembly and brought forth such a big sound.

As I write today, my heart is breaking with the thought (fear?) that I might never again lead a choir. I have to labor to keep my hands planted at my side during corporate worship. My instinct is to throw my arms in the air and keep time. My heart wants to lead a choir. But my head is still confused. I cannot make sense of the arguments for or against a woman taking part in leading worship. My feelings might be leading me astray. But, maybe God is working in me - causing the turmoil I am feeling, to show me that I am not using my gifts to serve Him.

I have turned off comments just for this post, because it is not my intention to start a debate on the role of women in the church.... or, whether or not we ought to have choirs in church....or, whether or not the institutional model church is biblical at all.... etc.

(UPDATE 08/17/2017): I am thrilled to say that I was able to lead my first youth and children's choir at a small, church in rural mid-MO (in 2016). And, now, I am leading an adult choir in a church in IL. I am so happy to be using my gifts!