I’ve spent a lot of time considering children's’ choir in light of this performance culture. As a music director, it’s most important to me that those involved in music ministry really encounter God and learn to pray through the music. As I evaluated the children’s choir program, it became apparent that working with such a wide variety of ages together at once and pushing them through preparations for regular Masses was not accomplishing that fundamental goal. As I looked at what had been successful, where the students came away the most excited and thoughtful, the time of adoration we had during Lent last year came to mind. We didn’t end up singing for a Mass during Lent, so I was free to just select music to learn for the sake of singing and praying it, not in preparation for any event. Those were the songs the students loved the most and begged to sing again in later rehearsals. We had a relaxed time of Eucharistic adoration where we sang the music we’d been able to learn in the last few weeks, and it ended up being one of the highlights of the choir year.
Based on those moments, I decided to move the focus away from constantly preparing for a Mass to sing, and instead toward facilitating encounter and prayer. We had the most fruitful rehearsals last year when there wasn’t a stressful agenda to maintain. Students are already pressured all the time to be on a schedule and do something for the sake of the grade, win, or award rather than for the sake of the thing itself. Therefore, I’m restructuring children’s choir to revolve around prayer and music at a simpler pace. For the Fall, I’ve structured three basic units where we’ll learn music in two separate age groups relevant to encountering God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit uniquely. For the first two units, we’ll have a third week where we’ll come together for Eucharistic adoration or simply prayer and music. During December, we’ll be preparing for the Christmas Eve Mass.
In summary, the children’s choir will still sing for 3 major Masses this year: Christmas, Easter, and First Communion. The other months will be centered more simply around learning music that helps the students understand God and learn to communicate with Him through music. The sessions will run October-December and February - April (plus the first weekend in May for 1st Holy Communion). I’m hoping this allows for greater flexibility for families, as I know how busy the various times of the year can get, and that it makes choir less of another task students have to accomplish and more a place where they can just come and sing for the sake of doing it.
In light of the whole vision for music ministry, it is essential that we don’t lose sight of the ultimate goal: to give glory to God through the music we sing and play. I don’t ever want our program to become too wrapped up in a performance mentality. Music should give people a breath of freedom from the chaos of life, whether that is experienced by having an hour a week away from it all to sing in one of the choirs or to simply close your eyes and take in the music as a member of the congregation.
As always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or feedback. I’m excited to be in the midst of my third year here, and ask that you keep me and the whole music ministry in your prayers.