It’s that time of the year: The days are getting longer, the grass is growing taller, and we can (finally) leave the house without putting on a coat - summer is almost here!
As people are wrapping up their school-year commitments and making plans for those lazy, hazy days of summer, now is the perfect time to start organizing a summer choir at your church.
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“That’s not in my contract!”
"We all deserve a little break, don’t you think?”
"No one would come if we had rehearsals in the summer.”
I get it. Summer choirs may work really well in some churches and not-so-well in others.
The good news is, there’s not a one-size-fits-all model. That means you can create something unique that works for you and your choir members and adds value to your congregation and their worship experience during the summer months.
If you’re willing to experiment and try something new this year, there are several key benefits to having some sort of choir over the summer. You can read about some of them in this post: The Case for the Summer Choir.
Today, I’m sharing three unique ways you can organize and structure a summer choir at your church, plus some helpful strategies for making the most of your time together each week:
Three Ways to Have a Summer Choir
No. 1 - Pick-Up Choir
Also known as a “y’all come” choir, this option is as simple as extending an invitation to your current choir members and congregation to come at a certain time on Sunday morning to learn an anthem and share it in worship.
There’s no commitment required - people can come once, every other week, or every Sunday throughout the summer.
Also, no RSVP is necessary. Simply pick anthems in unison or with simple part-writing that can be adapted to the group you have on a given Sunday.
Here’s a list of 12 easy anthems that are great for summer choirs.
A few examples of churches that use this model:
Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Here’s what they say about their June Summer Choir.
Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church in Maplewood, NJ - see their announcement here.
Covenant Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. Here’s their invitation to join the summer choir.
No. 2 - Regular Choir Without Wednesday Rehearsals
If you have a dedicated group of choir members that are interested in singing throughout the summer, consider keeping your regular choir going, but without mid-week rehearsals. This will give everyone a little break while still creating a meaningful way to participate in and contribute to worship over the summer.
During these last few weeks of the church/school year, begin adding in some summer anthems during your regular rehearsals so you can start the summer choir session with 8-10 anthems already in the folder.
Have everyone gather a little earlier than usual on Sunday mornings, so you have time to rehearse that day’s anthem, plus one or two other things for the coming weeks.
Looking for some fresh inspiration? Here are a few anthems you might consider:
No. 3 - Intergenerational Choir
Consider putting together an intergenerational choir for one month this summer (usually July or August is a good time - whichever month more people are in town). Invite your current choir members, people from the congregation, youth, and older elementary-age children to join you.
Choose music that has simple part-writing and is accessible for those not used to singing in a choir (and having to sing something other than the melody!). Encourage people to sign up in advance and commit to a full month (rather than just one Sunday), so you know what kind of group you’ll be working with.
Meet on Sundays before worship to learn and work on the anthem together and consider sending out a recording and copy of the music the week before so people can begin preparing the piece on their own.
Looking for some ideas of what to sing? Here’s a list of 25 of my favorite anthems for intergenerational choirs.
A few examples of churches that use or have used this model in the past:
St. Richard’s Catholic Church in Richfield, MN (here’s the announcement they used for their summer choir).
Grace Church Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn, NY - see their announcement here.
How to Make the Most of Your Time Together
Now that we’ve talked about a few different models you might use for your summer choir, let’s talk about how to make the most of your time together each week. Here are a few helpful tips:
Choose accessible music.
When working with a summer choir, keep in mind that you may have people that don’t really read music or that aren’t used to singing in parts. You may not have as many strong readers and singers as you do during the choir year and you may not have an equal number of singers on each part.
Also, you’ll have a limited amount of time to introduce and teach the anthem, so make sure it’s something that has a singable melody, simple part-writing, and an easy-to-follow form (not too many repeats or turn-backs). Choose music that is within the realm of your volunteer’s capabilities - something that they can learn quickly and sing with confidence.
Use your rehearsal time wisely.
Study the music ahead of time and identify any sections that may be challenging. Is it a difficult rhythm or an unpredictable melodic pattern? Is it the text? Think about a few strategies you can use to teach this concept quickly and effectively.
Look at how the parts are constructed and have a plan for how to simplify this on Sunday morning if you end up with a smaller group or the parts just aren’t coming together. Decide where you want the choir to breathe and have these places marked in your score.
Start your rehearsal right on time and keep everyone focused and on-task. Encourage your choir members to arrive a few minutes early so they can get their music and folder and a pencil and be in their seats, ready to sing by whatever time you want to start rehearsal.
Have rehearsal materials available during the week.
It may be helpful to some people in your summer choir to have access to the music and maybe a recording prior to arriving on Sunday morning. This is particularly helpful for families who may be participating, or those who’d like to practice on their own and become familiar with the anthem ahead of time.
Set out a stack of octavos for people to pick up a week ahead of time and make a simple recording (or point people to one online) that they can use to practice with at home.
In the end, a summer choir is a great way to keep your current choir members involved in music ministry over the summer, while also providing a good opportunity for those who enjoy singing, but can’t commit to rehearsals during the year to participate.
Having a choir lead the music in your summer worship is a helpful way to provide leadership for congregational singing and add to the experience of your congregation members. Plus, it can be a fun way to bring people of different ages together to sing - an opportunity they may or may not have during the year.
Do you have a summer choir at your church? How is it structured or organized?