On congregational singing

I love singing, but I’m not particularly good at it. One of my favourite places to sing is in the car by myself. When it’s late at night or early in the morning, whether it’s been a long and horrible day or a day of celebration, regardless of my mood I will always be up for singing in the car.

However a few months ago, driving home late at night, I had an ephiphany about car singing. I was listening to The Cat Empire’s The Chariot, singing along boldly, when I noticed I wasn’t just following Harry’s melody and words. I was mimicking even the tone of his voice, broadening out my accent until I sounded more like an Aussie wog than ever before. The track finished and flicked over to something new – Josh Garrels – suddenly my voice was American, my tone and pronounciation changing to match up with the sounds coming out of the stereo.

It was a bizarre discovery that my own voice is discontent with itself! It’s like I am so subconsciously insecure about the sound of my own voice that I can’t reinterpret music to fit my own tone and accent.

Except, I realised later, at church, when we sing as a congregation. This insecurity doesn’t happen there! I’ve been paying more attention to what happens when I sing, and yes, church is one of the only places where it is easy to sing as me. There is a cacophony of mixed voices, joining together to praise God. There is no stand-out vocalist pushing me into insecurity, tempting me to trade my vocal identity to sound more like the talented performers I listen to. Up the front the people leading the singing are my sisters and brothers. Yes, they are very talented and their voices are louder than everyone else but they lead with love, humility and encouragement. They lead those of us in the congregation to open our hearts and sing with honesty and integrity. To sing and praise God with our own voices, whatever they sound like!

All the thanks goes to God for music, for such strong and faithful musicians at church, and for stirring up our hearts to praise him with joy!

17 thoughts on “On congregational singing

  1. nuranar

    Wow, interesting! I’ve long believed that I’m a strong mimic. When singing with a particular recording and/or artist, I’ve always tended to blend as precisely as possible. I also learn my music best from hearing it repetitively. I’ll use the piano to learn tricky things, but I’m not good with time, and learn rhythms and words – the whole thing, really – easiest by hearing it. But when I am singing in choir/congregation, I definitely have my own voice! A big part of that, of course, is the voice lessons I’ve had in the last several years. Having to sing alone like that, I have learned how my own voice works best, and then tend to transfer that when I’m group singing. I probably don’t blend very well anymore, at least when singing with volume. But still, with recordings, I mimic.

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