In Random Neural Firings
      I think I may have had an epiphany recently.  Or at least a vague realization.  Maybe it was just a dim light beginning to glow in the recesses of my brain.  It is this:  We in the choral music biz are spending a great deal of time and effort producing contemporary choral music that is neither contemporary, nor is it choral.
    All the many arrangements of the latest Praise & Worship songs are, at best, watered down versions of music that in its original form is, for the most, derivative pop music.  By the time we smooth out the choir parts to make them easily sing-able – the music is anything but “contemporary.”  And because the underpinnings – the accompaniments – are all about the groovy track (the rhythm section, the band, etc.) – the music really isn’t all that choral.
    I’m not saying this music has no place in worship.  Sometimes it can be a lot of fun to sing.  Fun to play.  But as pop music goes – this music is far from cutting edge contemporary.  And after experiencing the Alleluia conference last week (where there were no tracks, no bands – just people singing traditional choral music with a piano), it  was made apparent to me that much of what we’ve been producing for the past decade or so really isn’t very “choral.”
    Who knows – maybe time will prove that we’ve created a viable “hybrid” music.  To be honest – I have my doubts about that.  In the meantime – I am re-examining my approach to “contemporary choral” music.
Showing 4 comments
  • Darrin Gowan

    You’ve had six months to re-examine. Any further epiphanies that might reward us with even greater projects from you?

    • rsterling

      Sorry to be slow in responding….

      I still feel pretty much the same way today. That’s probably why most of the choral music I’ve been writing these past six months has been what would be described as “traditional” – SATB choir with piano accompaniment. I continue to think most P&W music is fairly empty – and poorly crafted. And the whole P&W music world isn’t being helped in particular by the show biz elements that have attached themselves to the genre. It’s hard to take worship music seriously that is being hyped and promoted like rock and roll music.

      That said, I am still a fan of fun pop-style choral singing. Maybe I should call refer to that as vocal ensemble music – because it’s not all that “choral.” It can be fun, challenging, and musically rewarding. However, so few people will buy it that no publisher wants to go out on that particular limb any more.

  • Charlie Briggs

    I like the way you think, although being an amateur I’m not sure I understand the difference between “vocal ensemble” and “choral”.
    Without a good pianist we are pretty much tied to accompaniment tracts, and I’m sure you know that it can be difficult to find good songs with good tracts. (Not overdone with the rhythm.)
    As far as the hype like rock and roll, I know that “showmanship” sells but,often I question if what is claimed as being “caught up in the spirit” is no more than ‘caught up in the groove/hype’

    • rsterling

      Charlie – Traditionally, “choral” music is written for choirs. A choir can be large or small, but most choral music is designed to accommodate a large group of singers (20+). Because a large group cannot move about as deftly as a small group, choral arrangements of contemporary pop-styled songs are often “watered down” rhythmically. Vocal ensembles, on the other hand, are usually smaller (6-10), and are often more experienced singers. As a result, these groups can usually tackle contemporary pop-styled music with greater ease.

      As for being “caught up in the spirit” versus being “caught up in the hype” – I’ll leave that determination up to the individual listener. 🙂

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