Tag Archives: choir

Lessons and Carols for Small Churches

Lessons and Carols for Small Churches

Someone asked for a hymn based lessons and carols format for churches with small or no choir. Here is a template of one that I have used in the past.

Welcome
Entrance Hymn “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful”
Opening Prayer
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
First Lesson Genesis 3:8-5, 17-19
“Once In Royal David’s City”
Second Lesson Isaiah 11:1-3a, 4a-9
“Away In A Manger”
Third Lesson Luke 1:26-38
“The Snow Lay On The Ground”
Fourth Lesson Luke 2:1-7
“Angels From the Realms of Glory”
Fifth Lesson Luke 2:8-16
“What Child Is This”
Sixth Lesson Matthew 2:1-12
“We Three Kings”
Seventh Lesson John 1:1-14
“Silent Night”
Blessing
Recessional “Angels We Have Heard On High”

Other carols to consider: “Joy To The World,” “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” “Lo, How A Rose E’re Blooming,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” any Advent hymn or, you can substitute any solo or a choral anthem the choir is working on.

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Halloween Organ Recital Q&A

When?  Before everyone else, on October 18th, 3:00 p.m. 2015

Where?  Trinity Lutheran Church, 42 Guy Park Ave, Amsterdam, NY 12010 (the United States one, not the other one where pot is legal).

Is there a Cost?  Only my blood, sweat and tears.  All others, free.

Will there be refreshments?  I wouldn’t play otherwise.

Is the church handicap accessible?  Yes, there is a spacious elevator located on the parking lot side entrance. If need be, I will carry you up the stairs (I’ve done it before). Watch the end of the demo video, I show you how to find it.

What kind of organ are you playing?  It is a newly installed three manual tracker, built by a local builder. There will be a dedicatory recital in the upcoming months.  Come to find out when and all the other pertinent deets.

I hate organ recitals, they are boring, arcane, esoteric, stuffy, recondite and they all sound alike.  What are you playing?  I hate organ recitals, too.  I will be playing the ubiquitous, standard “scary” organ music such as the Chopin Funeral March, Bach’s (sic) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Boëllmann’s Toccata  plus a few novelty songs and pieces arranged by me.

The organ is currently lounging in it’s summer tuning estate but, here is a demo video of me at my first practice session getting to know the instrument and finding my arm weight. Here I demonstrate the en chamade and the full organ (which distorted my camera’s microphone).

See you then.

-Malcolm (The pastor wants a bio) Insert pretentious crap about myself here)).

Malcolm, a true Capricorn, is actually not funny. He is just really mean and people think he is joking.  He is a lover of ice cream and a runner – because of all the ice cream.  Malcolm is a Nomad in search for the perfect burger and is an especially gifted napper with killer abs (want proof, check out “Mount Baker Glacier Clips.”  Do not judge him before you know him, but just to inform you, you won’t like him.  He is not on Facebook and most likely wouldn’t friend you anyway so this is all you are ever going to get.  Malcolm feels sad for seedless watermelons because, what if they wanted babies?  The humanity.

Do you think organ recitals are long and boring or that organists can be uninspired, uncreative, they play safe or all sound alike? Are you afraid the music will be stuffy, long haired, or worse – like Sunday church organ music? Then you should come to this one which I promise will be unique, fun, engaging and filled with surprises. Come experience “The Scary and Fugal Side of Nursery Rhymes” May 3, 3:00 p.m. at the Foothills United Methodist Church on 17 Fremont Street, Gloversville, 12078. The price is freeeeeeeee! So that you won’t suffer from organ indigestion, in addition to the organ solos there will be guest singers, singing bowls and instrumentalists. Here are two samples of what I will be playing (the second half of each video BTW, is of Len Anderson who took my collection of arrangements and improvisations then rearranged each piece for his saxophone quintet): http://youtu.be/0GMUG7Wr5RA BINGO in Fugue http://youtu.be/h-ZWaiXVnLY Old MacDonald Had A Farm Did you know that there are dozens of diseases a human can catch from a lamb? There are orphan children buried alive in the pillars of the London Bridge? Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague? The original lyrics to “Ten Little Indians (which is still not politically correct)” was also racially offensive? Come discover what other creepy, rapey and phobic topics our joyous childhood songs are really about. The church is handicap accessible with an elevator but it is squirreled away in a closet. Here is a short video tour showing where the elevator is hidden within the building: http://youtu.be/qXO5NFGKo9c -Malcolm. After watching his parents murdered by a mugger in a back alley, Malcolm Kogut grew up vowing to become the world’s greatest crime . . . wait, that’s Batman. Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Mr. Kogut stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator . . . no, that was Sam Beckett. After being bitten by a radioactive spid . . . uhm, Malcolm suffers from nefelibata. Truth.

Do you think organ recitals are long and boring or that organists can be uninspired, uncreative, they play safe or all sound alike?  Are you afraid the music will be stuffy, long haired, or worse – like Sunday church organ music?

Then you should come to this one which I promise will be unique, fun, engaging and filled with surprises.  Come experience “The Scary and Fugal Side of Nursery Rhymes” May 3, 3:00 p.m. at the Foothills United Methodist Church on 17 Fremont Street, Gloversville, 12078.  The price is freeeeeeeee!  So that you won’t suffer from organ indigestion, in addition to the organ solos there will be guest singers, singing bowls and instrumentalists.

Here are two samples of what I will be playing (the second half of each video BTW, is of Len Anderson who took my collection of arrangements and improvisations then rearranged each piece for his saxophone quintet):
http://youtu.be/0GMUG7Wr5RA                BINGO in Fugue
http://youtu.be/h-ZWaiXVnLY                    Old MacDonald Had A Farm

Did you know that there are dozens of diseases a human can catch from a lamb?  There are orphan children buried alive in the pillars of the London Bridge?  Ring Around the Rosie is about the plague? The original lyrics to “Ten Little Indians (which is still not politically correct)”  was also racially offensive?  Come discover what other creepy, rapey and phobic topics our joyous childhood songs are really about.

The church is handicap accessible with an elevator but it is squirreled away in a closet.  Here is a short video tour showing where the elevator is hidden within the building:

-Malcolm.
After watching his parents murdered by a mugger in a back alley, Malcolm Kogut grew up vowing to become the world’s greatest crime . . . wait, that’s Batman.  Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Mr. Kogut stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator . . . no, that was Sam Beckett.   After being bitten by a radioactive spid . . . uhm, Malcolm suffers from nefelibata.  Truth.

How To Warm Up A Choir

I am not a fan of “warm ups.”  Any athlete or pianist will tell you that isolating a single part of the body to “warm it up” is not effective.  The whole body must be warmed.  A pianist who plays in a warm room will play much better than one who attempts to “warm up” his hands by blowing on them in a cold room or playing an hour of scales.  Warming up is a whole body experience.

Vocal exercises are excellent tools if used for educational or instructional purposes but “warming up” comes from a different place.  A choir director who runs meaningless scales is just wasting everyone’s time, especially if there is no educational purpose behind them.

Warming up the voice and the vocal apparatus is much the same as warming up the whole body but with a few additional parameters.  First, many choir rehearsals are held in the evening and the singers have already been walking, talking, breathing, eating and drinking during day.  Most likely, their voice is ready to sing.  However, there are usually a few components missing.

Imagine that a child is about to run out into the street and a car is racing toward him.   In an effort to save his life you would yell “STOP!” or “NOOOO!” or “Billy!”  Did you need to warm up to do that?  The force, confidence and conviction for that vocalization came from your brain because you knew little Billy was about to get smooshed.  It also came from your heart (the emotional one) because you knew little Billy was about to get smooshed.  Your diaphragm naturally rose to the occasion and your soft palate also raised in sympathetic response to the brain and heart in order to convey the message as fully, open and forcibly as possible.

What if your dog were to pee on your new $1,000 carpet?  If you are an owner who believes in negative reinforcement, you might yell “NO!” or “BAD DOG.”  Did you need to warm up first?  No, because it came from your brain that the dog was about to soil your new carpet, it came from your angry heart because your dog was about to soil your new carpet and as a result, your diaphragm and soft palate unequivocally made your angry intention known to your pooch.

A friend has a new born baby and it is sleeping in her arms.  With your best stage whisper you comment on how it is the most beautiful baby you’ve every seen and you ask to hold him.  You can whisper loudly because your brain knows the baby is sleeping and your heart doesn’t want to wake him so your diaphragm and soft palate do what it takes to convey your message with delicacy in hushed, dulcet tones.

You go to a birthday party and everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” The whole gathering of well wishers erupt into a rousing and full throated rendition – including two or three part harmony.  Did anyone need to warm up first?  No, because the brain and heart automatically engaged the diaphragm and soft palate with earthy bon ami.

Whether you cough intentionally to get someone’s attention, sigh on “arrrgh,” in frustration, groan at a bad joke, say “awww” at a cute kitten, jump out at someone and yell “BOO,” “Ho-ho-ho” like Santa, or bark like a dog; your diaphragm and soft palate will naturally and fully engaged without warm up because the vocalization comes first from the brain and emotional heart.

All these body parts and mechanisms are already in place and will work on command if we beleive what we are doing, singing or saying.  The first job of any choir director is not to engage the choir in meaningless warmups but to give our text meaning and purpose which should be the primary task of any director.

I’m not saying that our church choirs don’t beleive but, if they need to warm up, something else is missing.  Why can’t we automatically sing songs of adoration to God the way we would vocalize the first time we see a loved one who we haven’t seen in ten years as they get off an airplane?  Why can’t we sing in contrition they way we would if we broke our mother’s prized antique vase and bellowed “I’m am SO sorry.  I WILL replace it.”  Why can’t we sing songs of thanksgiving to God the way we would profusely thank someone who just returned our lost wallet with all the  attendant money intact?  Why can’t we sing songs of supplication to God they way someone would beg for a significant other not to leave them?  If the answer is that we need to warm up first, something else is missing.

Why do so many choir directors have to trick their choirs into engaging their soft palates and diaphragms through the use of warm ups?  The answers can be many and varied.  Maybe we don’t beleive in God.  Maybe we don’t know how to beleive in God.  Maybe we are afraid to express our belief in public.  Maybe we don’t have the conviction to beleive in God.  Maybe we have directors who don’t beleive in God.  Maybe we have directors who beleive in music.  Maybe we have directors who are only regurgitating what they’ve been taught.  Maybe we have directors who just haven’t figured it out yet.  Maybe we have directors more concerned with the notes rather than the words.  Maybe we don’t know or believe that our music has purpose, meaning and power.  Comprehension does not imply belief and without belief we can’t fully activate our bodies.

The solution then, isn’t to do warm ups.  It is to network our emotions with our bodies and that takes effort not related to music but – is wholly related to music.  At a job interview once, a member of the search committee, who made sure I knew she was a Juilliard graduate and a soloist in the church, asked me if I did warmups and I spouted to her an abbreviated version of this blog and then I told her that I do lead sung prayer before every rehearsal and she asked, “What does any of this have to do with directing a choir?”  My reply was more advanced than a mere Juilliard grad could understand; I’m not a choir director.  I am a pastoral musician who trains the choir to be music ministers and, that music should not be their ministry but a vehicle to ministry.  Directing a choir has a great deal to do with reversing foreground and background.

First and foremost though is to support what the text and music itself is saying, not to necessarily inflict our own views and emotions on it.  The last thing we need to do is sing and play as if our feelings were being injected into the music.  That happens a lot in church choirs.

Ultimately, the universe has given us everything we need to vocally do what we need to do.  The only thing that stands in our way is ourselves.  I know many music directors will disagree with me and that is okay.  Just remember that no agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.  If you disagree that fervently, chalk it up to differences of opinion.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go warm up gravity because I am going jogging and I want to make sure every time I take a step, my foot will return to the ground.

The Passion of Christ according to Mark; A Cantata

Back in 2010 I composed a Passion Cantata based upon the Gospel of Mark.  I have uploaded a copy of the score and a sampler sound clip for anyone interested in performing it.  The excerpts from the sampler are Surely Not I; In Three Days; The Arrest – Release Barabbas; Simon; The Burial.

The entire cantata is fairly easy for the average four part choir and there are a multitude of solo and quartet opportunities.   Each section is short and is repeated two or three other times within the work making the entire cantata easy to learn in a short period of time.  It took my choir four weeks.

The free sheet music and audio expert are located here:
http://www.free-scores.com/download-sheet-music.php?pdf=59963
To hear the sample, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Interpretation.”  The other mp3 sample is a computer generated facsimile of the score.  I began and ended my concert with two congregational hymns: Crown Him With Many Crowns and Lift High The Cross.

When I performed this piece, it was for a choir concert.  I don’t see many acting opportunities with the work other than in tableau form.  Although, it would make a unique operetta.
 
–Malcolm Kogut.

Bulletin Blurbs

join-the-choir

I once played for a church which required me to post a “Bulletin Blurb” in the weekly bulletin in an effort to encourage people to consider joining the choir.  I asked my choir to go home and write some and they came back the following week with over 500 blurbs.  In no particular order, here are a handful:

People can be divided into three groups:
1. Those who make things happen
2. Those who watch things happen
3. and those who wonder what happened.
Join the choir and make things happen.

Separate fact from fiction.
Fact:     Singing in the choir is the most fun way to motivate, educate and train in a results-oriented  musical ensemble.
Fact:    Singing in the choir is for everyone, regardless of age, gender or current IQ level.
Fact:    Singing in the choir delivers results that improve your health and overall quality of life.  You will be breathing deeper, more efficiently, and you will be oxygenating your blood which flows to the brain, stimulating the whole body and mind.
Fact:    Singing in the choir burns calories and melts inches off of your waistline (with plenty of exercise, a balanced diet, and a minimal caloric intake).

Over the past 40 years, the choir has had a variety of members:  doctors, nurses, teachers, homemakers, mechanics, computer programmers, students, cooks, accountants.  Each person has brought with them a wealth of friendship, spirituality, and altruistic compassion.  What “New Song” can you bring to our ministry and its timeless heritage?

Singing in the choir is so exciting that it will make your heart race.  But, don’t worry, one of our members is a cardiologist.  Join us this Wednesday.

On Thursday nights, the choir gathers in a delivery room unlike any other.  Here, people learn things about themselves, about God, and develop a special kind of confidence that comes from inside, and never goes away.  And when they leave, they’re different people.  Stronger, more confident, spiritual leaders.  Join us in the church basement at 7:00.

The Top Ten Ways to Join the Choir
10)  Call Malcolm at 555-5555.
9)    Leave a message at church.
8)    Place message in bottle, wait for next heavy rain, float to church.
7)    Take out a full-page color ad in the local paper telling your interest.
6)    Call our (900) number -warning – $50 per minute.
5)    E-mail Malcolm at: mkogut@
4)    During a Sunday morning sermon, leap to lectern, wrest mike from Fr. Bill and shout, “I HAVE to join the Choir RIGHT NOW!”
3)    One word: Searchlights!
5)    Tell any choir member.
And the #1 way to join the Choir:  (drum roll)
1)    Just COME, Wednesdays at 6:15!

Do you own a Jacuzzi?  How about a condo in Myrtle Beach?  A ski chalet?  If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then the choir wants YOU!  Even if you are not in possession of such worldly prizes, you are still encouraged to stop by on Thursday night and see what we’re about.

It takes twelve pages to tell you everything about the choir.  Surely you don’t think that we can do it in one small paragraph?  Come to rehearsal and begin find out what we’re about.

This l tt r is r ally hard to r ad.  Why?  B caus  it is missing a l tt r.  For want of a singl  l tt r, som thing do sn’t s  m right.  That is what it is lik  with th  choir.  If on  p rson is missing, th  whol  just do sn’t s  m to b  right.  Mayb  you ar  that missing p rson.  Join us on Thursday nights and compl m nt our compl m nt.

CHURCH.  The most important member of the choir is the same person that is the center of and is most important to the life and vitality of the church.  “U-R.”  Please join us.

Wanted
Tenors and Basses to join the choir.
Must be able to read music.
Must be available for one weekly rehearsal and one Sunday Mass.
Must also own fishing boat.
Bring a picture of the boat.

Peter left his trade and followed Jesus his whole life.  We are only asking for a few hours each week.  Join the choir.

For the want of a nail, a shoe was lost.
For the want of a shoe, a horse was lost.
For the want of a horse, a man was lost.
For the want of a man, a battle was lost.
For the want of a battle, a kingdom was lost.
All for the want of a nail.
Every choir member is as important as that nail.  Please join us on Thursday.

Music can change lives!  The choir is an excellent opportunity to reach our assemblies through music.  The choir meets every Thursday night and is an excellent opportunity to meet new friends and grow spiritually.  There are many ways that you can help us:  Come; Bring a friend; Pray for us.  If you support this ministry, God will bless you beyond your imagination.

Make a difference in your parish community.  We are now recruiting members for the season of Advent.  If you are interested, call Malcolm at 555-5555 or come to one of our rehearsals on Thursday evenings.

A one semester course on music theory at SCCC costs $450.  A bag of store bought cookies cost about $2.50.  Membership dues to join a health club is $30 per month.  Singing in the choir is still free, you get cookies, an education and a work out.

Have you ever wondered what the choir wears under those robes?  Join us on Thursdays to find out.