Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fighting Vocalists and Instrumentalists

I was recently asked, "How come the orchestra isn't playing the same weekends when the Mass Vocal Group sings?" Great question. There was simply too much bickering and fighting between the instrumentalists and vocalists. OK, really, I have a good answer. And it's not because of fighting. Having a choir and orchestra has been the standard for years in church music. It's the way I've set up music for the past 10 years as well. When the choir sang, the orchestra played. So why isn't TBC following suit? Great question. Having a choir and orchestra has been the standard for years in church music. So why doesn't TBC follow suit?

First, allow me to paint the picture with some background information for those reading that may not know it already...

Before I arrived at TBC, the choir and orchestra led worship together once a month. Soon after I came on staff, I restructured the vocal worship ministry and the orchestra. Instead of a choir and vocal bands — we now have one big "mass vocal group." While it doesn't follow the traditional church choir structure, it gives a wall of vocal sound. The orchestra was restructured into two groups — an "all-church orchestra" where anyone can play (age, level). The other group is a very small group of studio orchestra musicians — right now one violin, one flute, and one clarinet.

Now to answer the question...

There are four primary reasons why the orchestra doesn't play with the mass vocal group.

Reason #1. There's not even stage space for both groups. The mass vocal group of 50 singers and a full orchestra of 30 instruments take up double the stage space available to us. Both groups simply cannot occupy the space. Therefore, I've had the studio orchestra musicians give the instrumental foundation when the mass vocal group sings.

Reason #2. It's easier to program worship music tailored to one or the other. When both play, I have to pick either vocal driven music or instrumental driven music. Splitting them up allows more flexibility.

Reason #3. It gives me a chance as a leader to connect better when there's less than 80 people involved on the same weekend leading worship. Have you ever tried to walk backstage lately when the mass vocal group is singing? How about when the orchestra is playing? Spreading them out on different weekends allows me to focus on the individual groups.

Reason #4. The rule of balance is you need 4 vocalists for 1 instrumentalist. Since we have 30 in the orchestra, we'd need 120 singers. When God bring the singers and expands the stage, I'd love to merge the two.

So there you have it. The only fight is over stage space. The fact is that the mass vocal group is a great group that can stand alone. The same goes for the full orchestra. Both these groups have life that will sustain them in leading worship for years to come. What great space/number problems to have!

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