Church musicians, this is the episode you have been waiting for. One of the most respected directors in the field, Terry Price talks with Ryan about the unique challenges of directing a church choir. This episode is packed with wisdom and actionable advice, but the one about the label maker…we’ll just say that if you don’t already keep one in your choir room, you’ll run out to buy one as soon as this episode is over.

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Highlight to Tweet:         “Church music is a functional art. It has a purpose” – Terry Price

“If you want quality singers, you need to do quality music.” – Terry Price

Show Notes:

  • Mr. Price has spent some time as a public school choir teacher, some time with the Dallas Symphony Chorus, but most of his career has been spent as a choir director in a christian church.
  • What’s special about church choirs…
    • Church choirs are unique because they are primarily amateur sings; they are there out of love. They want to be better singers. Terry’s job is to find creative ways to help them to be better.
    • Church music has a purpose; it is not music for music’s sake.
    • A church choir allows us to gather weekly with people we care about and read and sing sacred poetry and scripture; this uniquely beautiful opportunity is not common for non-choir members.
    • Church choirs perform most often, with the least rehearsal time. And there’s a Sunday every week!
    • At the times we need our best singers the most (Christmas and Easter), they are most likely to be absent.
    • Churches are about the business of serving people in a lot of different ways. A great music program can bring people into the life of the church, strengthening it in many ways.
  • Keep in mind…
    • Programming a variety of quality music will be satisfying to your singers and congregation. But both are important: quality, and variety.
    • If you are doing contemporary music in a worship service, make sure you are doing it very, very well, otherwise it won’t compare favorably to the music people normally consume throughout their week.
  • In rehearsal…
    • Warm ups are important! Listen to John Yarrington’s episodes. Make warm ups specific to the music you will be working on in rehearsal.
    • Talk less, sing more
    • Don’t assume people know what you are talking about, especially when using music terms.
    • Be encouraging. You don’t know what kind of day your singers had when they came into rehearsal.
    • When you are learning, learn…when you are practicing, practice…and when you are performing, perform.
    • Keep things moving, and keep things light. Write down jokes if you can’t remember them…it gives singers a momentary mental break and helps them refocus.
    • Always have new music in your folder. Again…variety is key!
    • Start rehearsal with an easy win, so they can begin with a success.
    • Don’t tailor your rehearsal to the weakest singer. You don’t want them to determine your rehearsal techniques. But you do want to bring them along with you. Find a great singer who can sit near and mentor them.
    • There is no need to embarrass someone by calling them out individually; address sections together.
    • Choir members do not get to correct each other. That is the director’s job alone.
    • Planned social events and parties are important.
  • Let them know they are valued…
    • Terry made sure there were always a few extra folders prepared each week. If someone new came to rehearsal, a volunteer would use the label maker so they could hand them a folder with their name already on it, telling them they were already a welcomed choir member before they even sang a note.
    • A “choir buddy” sits with them during rehearsal.
    • Specific gifts to choir members for every 5 years of service.
    • There needs to be a specific dream ahead of you at all times. The choir should always be working towards some goal, milestone, or achievement for inspiration.

Bio:

Terry Price has served at some of the largest mainline churches in the US. Each of the choirs experienced considerable growth under his leadership while he instilled musical excellence among the singers. He directed the Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem and has conducted at major church music festivals in the Vatican and across the UK and Europe. He has worked closely with such conductors as John Rutter, Sir David Willcocks, Bob Chilcott, Paul Leddington Wright, Mack Wilberg and Ryan Murphy. He served as Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Chorus ad interim for 2 years. He was awarded the Texas ChoirMaster Award by the Texas Choral Directors Association, and was the first church musician to be so honored. He was involved in 4 recording projects that were nominated for Grammy Awards.

Resources/links Mentioned:

  • John Yarrington on Choir Ninja:

Leave My Christmas Carols Alone

Vocal Athletes, Start Your Engines

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