If you’re a church musician, chances are high that the way you’ve performed music (or haven’t) at church has been completely different from “normal” circumstances. Maybe you’ve switched to pre-recorded services, or livestreamed services with limited groups of musicians accompanying. In some cases, the organist and a soloist might be the safest options.
With fall practically here and Advent around the bend, you may be ready to ease back into choral singing at church. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! There are helpful tips to get you and your singers started on the right note. Most importantly, there are two downloadable PDFs with selected choral and handbell music for Sundays now through May 2021 available below. The choir music selections offer a few options for each Sunday, along with the date, composer, and voicing (SAB, 2-pt. mix, U, etc). Ready, set, sing!
Performing Choral Music with Social Distancing
If you and your church musicians are considering a choral reprise, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the comfort level of the musicians involved, while following safety protocols. Here are a few tips to safely restart small choral groups:
- Gauge the comfort level of the singers and the director. If a choir member is uncomfortable participating, graciously remind them that it is completely understandable, and encourage them to join if and when they feel ready. For those who are ready to sing, inquire how long they are comfortable practicing together. Are they okay wearing a mask for a 30-, 40- or 60-minute worship service?
- Find a large room that is well ventilated and allows choir members, the director and accompanying instruments to be at least six feet apart. The room size will likely vary depending on your church and rooms available. Each singer should have his or her own music stand and sheet music, and rehearsal times should be limited as much as possible. Consider practicing in a conference room, the worship space, or even a large, wide hallway. The parking lot also might work in a pinch. If you and your singers plan to rehearse for more than 30 minutes at a time, take breaks so air can flow and circulate.
- Use fewer singers. A soloist, duet, or three to five singers is a great place to start. The choir list included below is designed for really small forces: unison or two-part; in some cases, three-part. If you have many choir members who want to sing, draw up a schedule and have singers rotate each week so that everyone can take a turn. Group family members together when possible.
- Use simpler music. This will keep practices short, and singers are more likely to be familiar with popular hymns and classic tunes. The choral music list below includes music for every Sunday between now and Pentecost in May 2021. It includes suggested composers, and forces.
- Singers should practice wearing different kinds of masks and singing and talking through them. These days, there are tons of mask options: N-95; cloth; and disposable surgical masks. Singers should practice taking deep breaths and singing through different materials, then choose whatever feels most comfortable to them. Encourage your singers to speak louder and sing louder than they normally would. With fewer singers and masks covering mouths, it may be harder for singers to hear each other. It may be helpful to mic female singers, since their voices are naturally quieter and have a higher pitch than their male counterparts.
- Follow safety guidelines as stated by local authorities. Take temperatures before rehearsals, wear masks throughout practice and performances, sanitize hands before, during, and after rehearsal and worship services. Sanitize music stands and other equipment before and after use.
Lastly, it may be a good idea to run your plans to resume singing activities by your pastor, elders, and other church leaders so that they are aware of the situation. With a little time, effort, and safety measures, you and your choir members will be up and singing smoothly.
Considering resuming your choir practices? Download the PDFs below with Sunday music suggestions for Sundays through May 2021