Musical roadblocks (1 – the trifecta)

Obvious ineptitudes of church leaders may still manifest themselves, but they are less embarrassing when the “congregations” are

in familial-feeling living rooms, on couches and chairs

instead of

in institutional-feeling sanctuaries, with pews and microphones and PowerPoint

Further:  if a church meets in formal setting and has a pool from which to select leaders, it ought to select them based on talent/gift.  When leaders are used, they should actually be able to lead in the given sphere of activity.  On the other hand, leader ineptitude is forgivable when the leader is doing the best he can, and when the other options are limited, and/or when it’s an informal setting.

Given that most Christians go to “church buildings” for Christian gatherings, though, we ought to do better with our institutional technicalities, so people aren’t distracted by dismally daft leadership issues as they are purportedly trying to reach to God.

A few months ago, I experienced each of the three major elements of a song — words, rhythm, and melody — being destroyed by inept leadership.  This leader’s abilities far exceed most in a cappella churches, in terms of overall impact and “class,” and I happen to know that he once had some top-shelf choral and congregational training.  The distractions he perpetrated on this occasion were rampant and altogether avoidable, had he simply prepared better.  I’d guess that half the church was feeling some level of uncertainty and distraction, and some of us were barely able to keep ourselves from looking around and shrugging, having no idea what was going on.  This “leadership” was effectively a roadblock, not a ramp.

Somewhat later, I began to be subjected to some of the most flabbergasting flatting I’ve ever heard.  I’ve never been one to look down my nose at the lady next to me who can’t carry a tune, and I get that voices without a stable pitch instrument will rarely hold the pitch constant.  But this is beyond bad.  When it’s difficult to get through two lines without feeling like you’re singing in a new key, it’s pretty distracting.  This is a musical roadblock to congregational worship.

Now, before someone takes me to task for focusing on something relatively unimportant like pitch standards, and before I get too enamored of fun expressions like “dismally daft” and “flabbergasting flatting,” I should say that the leaders to which I refer do have a fair amount of talent.  At least one of these guys can do much better, and he proved it in most of the other songs he led that day.  He simply should have prepared better by learning the tune and rhythm on that one song, so he wouldn’t distract several hundred with unskilled execution.

This is not me being mean to marginal leaders; I’m saying that we ought to be accountable for doing our best, whatever that best is.

Next:  other roadblocks, including lyrics-only projection, poorly timed slide changes, inaccurately pitched songs, and amped-up mic levels

4 thoughts on “Musical roadblocks (1 – the trifecta)

  1. Anne Boyd 11/05/2013 / 11:46 am

    I hope a cappella song leaders and elders are reading your blog. As to singers who sing off key, once a friend said he could not sing…and he was RIGHT! We suggested he sit next to Dan and listen and follow Dan’s bass voice. After several months, he was singing the bass well. Later, he became a fine song leader…because it was important to him to serve the Lord to the best of his ability. He worked on improving his ability. It’s that simple. 😉


    • Brian Casey 11/05/2013 / 6:32 pm

      This is as inspiring as it is unique. It’s pretty rare that someone can actually improve at singing as an adult — we have so many ingrained, bad habits. This man’s interest in doing something worthwhile is to be admired.


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