Singing is an important part of the life of almost any church. In the article below, Rev. Deacon Tanis Kolisnyk, who is both deacon and organist at Saint Philip’s gives some of the reasons for why that is. She then goes on to talk about some of the techniques that help make it easier for anyone to join in with congregational singing. Singing is meant for everyone, and these tips will be helpful for everyone. Enjoy.
THE JOY OF MAKING MUSIC (Congregational Singing)
Rev. Deacon Tanis Kolisnyk
Congregational singing can be so rich when it is thoughtfully integrated into worship and used to enhance the sacraments and proclamation of the scripture. I believe the voice to be the most sacred instrument. I also believe choral music to have unmatched expressive potential. The Pipe Organ for me is close behind but it is hard to take the Pipe Organ on a trip with you, or to the lake.
Our individual voices are a gift from God, but when we sing God’s praises collectively,
this is one way we can give thanks to God for his many blessings in our lives. All of you
who worship here at St. Philip’s regularly know the power that congregational
singing can add to our worship services.
Biblical Precepts of Congregational Singing:
In Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, Christians were commanded to sing to one
another. Both the Prophet and Apostles make it clear that we are to sing praises.
THERE IS BIBLICAL PRACTICE:
Jesus and His apostles sang a hymn following the Last Supper in Matthew 26:30. Heavenly Beings fill heaven with their praises – Revelations 5:9-14; 7:9-12.
THERE IS BIBLICAL PRINCIPLE:
One purpose of singing is to praise the Lord
(inherent in the meaning of “hymn”). Another is to teach and admonish one another –
Colossians 3:16. Another is to be enriched by the Word and filled with the Spirit –
Ephesians 5:18-19 Congregational singing reaches upward, outward, and inward!
As a parish, we can strive to do the following:
Sing with their understanding
a. It is the words of the songs that express praise and provide edification
b. Melody is enhanced when we pay careful attention to the words
Sing with their heart
a. We are to make melody with our hearts, sing with grace in our hearts
b. Thus we should let the words of the song influence our emotions
Sing with their voice
a. The Psalmist wrote of praising God aloud with his lips, tongue and mouth
b. We are to teach and admonish one another; therefore we must hear each other!
Sing with presence
a. Practice makes perfect; sing with others whenever there is opportunity
b. Sit close to those who like to sing; you are more likely to sing louder
Praising God and edifying others should engage our whole being!
The Vocal System
The vocal system is made up of muscles. It has three main parts:
1) Power: breathing
2) Source: the voice box (larynx)
3) Filter: the vocal tract
A congregation should breathe as you need it, and without worrying about using some
special system. This may seem too easy, but in the world of music, something can be
easier and better at the same time.
How to Breathe When You Sing
1. Take in only as much air as you need for the oncoming phrase of the song.
• Pretend that air is really heavy as you inhale.
• Visualize it weighing 50 pounds and let it fall low into your body
2. Breathe with the rhythm of the song. For fast songs, take shorter, more frequent
breaths. For slow songs, take full, deep breaths.
3. Breathe when it makes sense in the lyrics. Breathe at the ends of phrases. Don’t breathe
between a noun and a verb, or in the middle of a word. There are always exceptions in
music, but these guidelines are helpful for learning. It is advised to watch the
punctuation of the hymns. This is often a good clue on where to breathe.
The Voice Box
Sound originates from the vibrations of the vocal folds, which are in the voice box. The
voice box is located just behind your “Adam’s Apple.” The name of the voice box is the
larynx (pronounced “lar-inks). When moving air is sent from the lungs through the voice
box, the air makes your vocal folds vibrate. The vocal folds, which are more popularly
known as the vocal chords, are two delicate muscles no bigger than your thumbnail. A
typical note, such as middle C, requires 262 vibrations of these delicate folds every
second! Warning: the vocal folds have no nerve endings, therefore there is no way to know when you are abusing them. When you inhale air in order to fill your lungs, your vocal folds are wide open. When you exhale they close slightly. When you sing, they vibrate close together.
The Vocal Tract
The filter is the vocal tract, which consists of the upper part of the throat, top and bottom
of the mouth, including the tongue, back wall of the neck, and the nasal cavity. By
manipulating various parts of the vocal tract you can change many characteristics of the
notes that you sing. Shortening the tract results in brighter and louder tones. Making the
tract longer results in soft, dark tones. Widening the vocal tract helps to release
constriction. We will cover this in the next section. Another strategy is to raise the back
of the tongue as you would in making an “ng” sound, when you inhale air to produce a
Mechanics of singing to take note of:
Open Your Mouth Wide when you sing: wider than you normally would when you speak. This is an important secret. However, do not open so wide that your jaw becomes tight. Visualize a shelf located about one inch below your jaw. Open you mouth to the point where your jaw rests on the shelf.
How To Stand:
Keep your bodies erect with your weight equally distributed on both feet. Stand with your right foot slightly in front. (Opposite if you are left-handed.) Congregational singing is a spiritual activity with great potential to bring joy at times in your life, and comfort in times of strife. It is important to remember that when we sing hymns of praise to God, this constitutes a spiritual sacrifice – Hebrews 13:15.
As a parish, whether we have a few voices or multitudes, our singing together is a beautiful offering to our Lord. It is important to remember that we are to sing with our whole being, mind, heart and voice. My prayer continues to be: Lord, help us have the attitude of David: Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 146:1-2