Choral Music

Ep. 11: Musical Training for Priests and Other Topics in Orthodox Church Music, with Harrison Russin

Try This at Church: Use timbre to change your liturgical colors. Picking up on last week’s episode about using music to set Lent apart as a special season of the year, Stephen writes that he changes his musical “liturgical color” during Lent.

Interview: We discuss the musical training of ministerial students with Harrison Russin, Lecturer in Liturgical Music and Dean’s Fellow at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (Yonkers, NY). He also shares his experience directing a choir in non-metrical chants; surveys the (many!) kinds of Orthodox music heard in churches across the U.S.; and explains why some Orthodox churches have organs, but most don’t. Continue reading →

Posted by sarah.bereza in Choral Music, History of Church Music, Instrumental Music, Podcast, 0 comments

Ep. 9: 11 Essentials for a Choir Rehearsal Space

In the field: Choir rooms need a lot more than chairs and a piano to function well for musicians—they need storage for anthems, places for information (like a white board), and most important of all: a flat surface for cookies. Listen for 11 choir rehearsal space essentials, plus two bonus ideas.

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Posted by sarah.bereza in Choral Music, Church Music Administration, Podcast, 0 comments

Ep. 6: Music Organization Systems

In the Field: Should you organize your music alphabetically or by acquisition number? If you keep a spreadsheet, what categories should you use? Crawford and I discuss the pros and cons of various organization systems.

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Posted by Sarah Bereza in Choral Music, Church Music Administration, Instrumental Music, Podcast

Ep. 2: Planning Service Music and Recitals as an Organist-Choir Director, with Yun Kyong Kim


Interview: Dr. Yun Kyong Kim, organist and choir director at Christ Episcopal Church in Dayton, Ohio, discusses her approach to directing a choir while also playing the organ, planning her repertoire and hymnody, and crafting organ recitals to make the most of an instrument’s unique sound and acoustic space.

Check out Yun’s website, where you can listen to her play and see the albums she’s released, including her recent Wild Card.

In the Field: Crawford and I discuss our approaches to planning hymns, choir anthems (especially for a volunteer choir), and instrumental music.

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Posted by Sarah Bereza in Choral Music, Church Music Administration, Congregational Singing, Instrumental Music, Podcast

Are older people welcome in your choir? They should be.

Since giving birth a few months ago, I’ve had a wealth of quiet hours to ponder the prickly questions niggling at the back of my mind, at least once I was sleeping enough. One night back in June, I lay awake thinking about old voices, about how a certain timbre makes a person sound old. And I wondered why that particular sound isn’t welcome in choirs? Why do people tend to prefer young sounding choirs, not elderly sounding ones?

This isn’t about older vocalists being more likely sing flat or having a more limited vocal range. This is something about simply sounding old.

So I drafted a blog post about the topic and sent it to a friend who said it was “on the depressed side, but, then, the topic is not an inherently cheerful one.” I was, after all, pointing out that most of the younger members of a church’s volunteer choir would eventually become less and less valued for what they could offer the ensemble.

Think about it: if you’re an average amateur singer with a pleasant, unremarkable voice, your sound is eventually going to waver. When someone hears you sing, they will immediately pin you as an older person, not a young one. And because of that sound, your own voice will become undesirable, at least in the setting of a church choir. Continue reading →

Posted by Sarah Bereza in Choral Music, Music and Theology

Too Many Altos and Sopranos? Embrace it.

You’ve probably noticed that more women attend church services than men. The Pew Research Forum recently released a report confirming these observations and showing that women tend to be more religious than men in most places across the globe. In particular, American Christianity amplifies this tendency: Christian women report daily prayer at much higher rates than Christian men (75% vs. 61%), and the same holds true for weekly attendance at religious services (50% vs. 44%)—a greater than average gap for Christians in comparable countries.

Take these tendencies, couple them with the fact that American women tend to participate in social singing more than men, and what do you get for a typical volunteer, “come one, come all” church choir? More upper voice than lower ones.

While you may have heard music directors complain about the lack of tenors and basses in their choirs (or made those complaints yourself), I think we should embrace this tendency as an outworking of our faith. Continue reading →

Posted by Sarah Bereza in Choral Music, Music and Theology