inform - inspire - unite
Macquarie Church Women's Singing Group
On the first Monday in each month for the past four years the Macquarie church building has rung out with the voices of women praising God in two, three, and sometimes four-part harmony.
For more than 23 years I’ve sung with a capella groups. They are: Endeavour Harmony Chorus and Sydney Vocal Project. I’ve learnt much about a capella singing from these two gold-medal winning groups. The sound of human voices blending in beautiful harmony is good for the soul, but even more so when the soul is raised in praise of its Creator.
I began to think about our singing at the Macquarie congregation when Keith Lancaster visited some years ago to run a one-day singing program. He mentioned the move to instrumental music in some Churches of Christ in the United States and stressed the importance of working to improve our a capella singing.
To that end, four years ago I began the Macquarie Women’s Singing group. At the beginning of the month I prepare the four harmony parts to a hymn. I put the tracks on CDs for those who want them in that format. I also email mp3 tracks to others in the group. We learn those parts and then on the first Monday in the following month we meet to sing that song together. We also sing others in our repertoire. Over four years, we’ve learnt more than 50 songs. Fifteen women from four different congregations attended our most recent gathering.
Many Macquarie members have commented on the improvement in our singing since the classes began. This has mostly been gained by the increased number of women singing the alto part. For each song I record, I also include the tenor and bass parts in the hope that some of the men will learn those parts. In doing so, I hope we can more fully realise Colossians 3:16 which tells us to ‘teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs’.
Our a capella hymns are often arranged so that the men’s parts reinforce the message of the song. This helps us to better teach and admonish one another. Take the hymn ‘Angry Words’ as an example. The tenor and bass parts rhythmically exhort us to ‘love each other’ because ‘’tis the Father’s blest command’. Often in our hymns the bass and tenor parts serve to fill the spaces that would otherwise be taken up by an instrument. Without the men’s parts, our singing can lose some of its strength and meaning.
Keith Lancaster in an article in The Christian Chronicle (29 July 2019) stated:
Churches need vibrant, meaningful…contagious worship that makes you want to be a part, to want to sing… And if we do that and we do it well, I think our churches would not be on the decline, and I don’t think people would be considering going to the instrument as a silver bullet of church growth.
Much of our Sunday worship assembly is spent in listening, reading, quiet study, and reflection. But singing is something in which we can take an active, visible, and audible part. Our song leaders work hard to prepare songs and to lead them but the response of the congregation can be lacking. Heads are buried in songbooks or eyes are focussed on Powerpoint slides. This is for songs we’ve been singing for years and surely know by heart. Instead, why not look around, acknowledge one another, and really share these songs of gratitude, hope and joy.
Often people tell me they can’t sing. If so, I ask them whether they’re attempting to sing the wrong voice part. Men who have bass voices will often have difficulty singing the melody part; women with alto voices find themselves screeching when they attempt to sing high soprano notes. When effort is put into learning the notes of the correct voice part, singing becomes the joy that God intends it to be.
Over the next several months, because of the pandemic many of us will be at home with a little more time on our hands. What a wonderful opportunity to work to improve our singing, as individuals or in family groups. If you’re keen to improve your singing, the suggestion below can help.
On the Macquarie church website (https://www.macquariechurchofchrist.org/singing.html) are several non-copyrighted hymns which I’ve transcribed into four part harmony. Choose the track that suits your voice part, learn the single part, then sing with the track that has that part together with the soprano. Finally, sing it against the soprano alone. If you’d like a copy of the sheet music, email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you. Please feel free to email me with any difficulties you face and I’ll be pleased to help.
Singing is an opportunity to give God a sacrifice of praise. Let’s do it to the very best of our ability.
Stephanie Klempfner is a member of the Macquarie Church of Christ, Sydney. email@example.com