September 20, 2016
Over the past few months I've been gently encouraging our singers to stretch themselves and get beyond singing just what is on the printed page (or on the confidence monitor screen), to help our congregation learn to sing what is on their hearts.
For us on the platform, this has meant times during songs when there is an instrumental interlude happening, and we all sing something different along with that, lifting in song the names of the Lord, simple praises or thanks to Him, a simple melody line without specific words, etc. It's a mix of the planned and unplanned.
We *can* and *should* practice the unplanned! Such as, what do we do when things go wrong... we should be prepared and know how to handle ourselves when things go sideways. For example: I'm on the vocal ensemble and I jump into a vocal part a half measure before I'm supposed to, and none of the other singers are there with me... what should I do? Awkwardly choke off the note and make it really obvious that I wasn't supposed to sing then? Or hold it out boldly and passionately and just own it, as if it were planned?
Hopefully, we all know the better answer is the latter. The latter serves the moment, the song, the team and the church, by taking a unplanned moment that could distract and turning it into an unplanned moment that inspires.
But that's just an example of the unplanned in a negative light – we do need to plan for mistakes and how to deal with them effectively, but we also need to prepare for the unplanned positive moments as well!
So how do we plan for the unplanned with regard to our spontaneous singing? And does practicing spontaneity really take away from it being spontaneous?
As many instrumentalists know, practicing scales and rudiments, and indeed practicing different solos leads to the ability to truly improvise on the spot, to create a heartfelt instrumental interlude that is unique and spontaneous and might never be repeated.
When it comes to spontaneous singing, we need to practice that in the same way. To take time to sing what is not on the page and make it sound good. Being intentional about being able to improvise is as important to musicianship as being able to play what’s on the sheet. Just as we can practice singing the words we know we’ll sing, we can practice different words we might sing, so they’re an option that we know we can do.
When we’re well practiced up, we’re confident, and when we’re confident in what we’re doing, we inspire confidence in others as well. Practicing spontaneous moments for the platform can truly lead to moments where we are able to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, getting off the page and expressing our hearts – something the Lord tells us He longs for.
Some folks have wondered aloud to me, "when we’re all singing something different spontaneously, all different words and slightly different melodies, does it actually sound okay when we do that?"
I want to answer a resounding "YES!!!!"
Here are a few examples that have been delightfully captured on recording:
From Bryan and Katie Torwalt’s “Praise Will Be My Song,” take a listen starting at about 2:40 into the song to hear them transition from singing a well defined chorus into spontaneous singing, becoming especially strong right around 3:35
In Paul Baloche’s Live version of “Our God Saves,” the song begins flowing out of a time of spontaneous praise
Also check out Paul’s song “Glorious,” where in the ending, he leads the church through the ending of the song into some spontaneous singing then into an unplanned song (“Holy Holy Holy”), with that transition starting to happen at around 5:00
There is purity in the spontaneous lifting of our voices together in praise. A beauty. An art. God deserves such warmth and expression.
So... singers: in your personal practice times, think about what you might sing out during these times! Practice singing to the Lord a new song, as he tells us to do many times in Scripture! Be prepared to do boldly so when prompted by the Holy Spirit (and when we plan these spontaneous moments as well!)
May you be blessed as you serve the Lord and each other with your gifts.
Brendan Prout is a husband, dad, pastor and worship leader. He loves training and equipping others to do the work of ministry they are called to, all things geeky, good food, cars, and not driving off cliffs anymore.