It’s a very nice room—about the best I can imagine for a church of this size and type. If you are traditional enough to have pews, this is the best arrangement for them.
The photo isn’t actually wide-angle enough to show what I mean, but the structure is octagonal, and one can see faces in other sections no matter where one sits. In this room, it’s possible to feel as if you’re part of something larger than the pew-sitting group on your own row, plus the neck you might be breathing down in front of you.
The song/worship leader where we visited this morning was quite capable; I would say he’s easily in the top 1/4 of all the CofC song leaders I’ve sung with in two decades. His planning was apparent; his manner, leaderly yet unassuming; his execution, relatively decisive yet not distracting; his voice, pleasing and not overbearing.
He led a three-song medley to begin, and this very fact clearly manifests forethought. In churches with non-organ instruments, medleys routinely occur by default: leaders may plan songs in the same key (D or G are favorites for guitar-driven music) and move from one into another without pause. And/or keyboardists or guitarists may play chords lightly in the background, helping to transition to the new song while the leader makes a connecting comments. In this a cappella church, the songs had lyrical connection and were sung without pause, but there were a few attendant issues related to key:
|Song||Written Key||Actual Key
in which sung
|∴ had flatted by this much
|How Majestic Is Your Name||C||C|
|I Will Call Upon the Lord||D||C (- ¼ step||1+ steps|
|I Will Enter His Gates||Eb||B (ish)||2 steps (ish)|
The planning was good, but the execution needed a boost. By the time we were near the end of what should have been the most energetic song (“I Will Enter His Gates”), I was about to get on the phone to the ER docs to request a heart monitor, because the congregation’s vitals were slipping. Said it before; saying it again: key does matter, and especially so if you want to reap the greatest possible congregational benefit from participatory singing (whether instrumentally accompanied or not).
Two bits of sound-board wisdom from today’s experiences
- The levels may need adjustment for each new person. The first announcer this morning needed more volume or gain and a bit of treble. The worship leader pictured below was just fine. In another place in the evening, both the speaker and the songleader’s volume were way too much, resulting in a bellowing effect.
- One may never know that adjustments are needed if one is sitting in an isolated booth behind glass and closed doors. Get the mixing board into the main hall so the operator can actually hear what the rest of the people are hearing.
Now for an unexpected bit of learning. Believe it or not, this was a new sighting for me in the context of a church gathering.
First, a backstep. . . . Nearly a quarter-century ago, a friend named Richard was the first I saw doing it. This man probably has genius-level IQ and had patents on microwave technologies. He regularly brought his Mac laptop to church and used the Bible software during Bible classes and sermons. This was of course long before many churches boasted open wireless with access to Net-based Bibles. It was conspicuous at the time, but I thought Richard was cool. I still feel a little conspicuous myself in church halls and Bible classes and small groups with my Android devices, but I do it because it makes sense these days.
Well, what I saw this morning was this, and it does not make visual sense, in my estimation:
If you look closely (and/or enlarge the picture), you’ll see this that leader is using a smart phone to read the words. At first blush, he seems cool. With-it. Hip. Chic. Whatever. And he’s not likely to lose his place or stutter when the PowerPoint operator falls asleep at the helm and doesn’t change the slide in time.
But it only took me a few seconds to realize why this struck me negatively.
Look next at the pics below and tell me what you see. . . .
As with-it as those people seem to be, all engrossed in their technologically delivered data . . . as attractive and contemporary as they appear to be, they are all oblivious to ambient realities.
I am not, repeat not, saying this particular leader was oblivious. I am saying that the sight of him looking just like all the other robots you meet on the street, in the hall of your office building, on your campus, in Walmart . . . that visual image is not desirable in one who is purportedly serving as an exemplary worshipper and usher into The Courts.
This is not a visual persona that a worship/song leader should aspire to. He ought to be connecting visually with the people he’s actually with, in the room, in the moment.
Who knows what will be possible in the next decade? Based on the little I know about “Google Glass,” it offers improvements over smart phones in terms of posture and what other people see, but it doesn’t rise as a beacon of hope in its potential for worship leaders. (See here to get an idea of Glass’s use. If you watch from about 1 minute in to 6 minutes in, you’ll get enough. It’s cool, but I’d still rather it not be on the person’s head if I’m listening to her/him.)
For the present, leaders should probably just look at the people and the music, as needed.