Thursday, December 15, 2011

Military Wives 'Wherever You Are': Community, Choir, Connections

"If you couple the positive effect of music with recent studies of happiness - which repeatedly show that it is our relationships with family and friends that make us happier than anything else - it is not surprising that choirs can have such remarkable transformative powers for good. Combining singing with new friendships is a potent trigger for happiness.

Christmas is one of the times of year when even singing refuseniks are tempted to belt out a tune; only a true festive humbug goes through the entire holiday season without mumbling a single carol. I am not religious, but I love Christmas music; there are few experiences in life that rival the exhilaration of communal singing in a  packed church or hall with an organ or orchestra thundering away, the voices and instruments united." (Eleanor Mills, from the Sunday Times at the weekend, on the Military Wives song below)

Questions & observations
1. Would choirs be so popular if it weren't for Gareth Malone?

2. If Mills is right, how come church choirs have been in decline for decades? Have we missed an opportunity for outreach and community connection, or does the fact that church choirs are there to lead worship, rather than as a form of recreation and community, mean this is difficult?

3. A local singing teacher has just formed a Community Choir which based at our church and under the St. James name. Within a month around 40 people have signed up, and they debut this evening at Brimsmore Garden Centre for our Christingle service there. The age range is 16-70. Enthusiastic and well-connected leadership is a key part of this, but I'm amazed at how quickly it's engaged people, and how well it brings folk together across the age spectrum. 'why didn't we think of this before?' is a question that keeps occurring, but maybe this is just one of those things that has to be done at the right time.

4. The Military Wives song is composed of words penned by the wives themselves, and is being hailed as an authentic alternative to the manufactured dominance of the X factor bandwagon. X factor itself works very hard to personalise the connection between the audience and the contestants - lots of stuff about 'story', and 'journey', carefully leaked stuff to the press about contestants and judges alike, so that in the end the song itself matters less than the connection made between voters/consumers and the show. The trouble is it's all fake.

Reflecting on churches, do we sing any songs with lyrics written by members of our congregation? Does the whole process of expressing our faith to music work best when it's contracted out via the royalties system to people who do it for a living?

5. Just to note in passing the lyrics of the song above: prince of peace, prayer, hope, light and darkness. All sounds pretty familiar. This isn't a calculated raid on Christian imagery to beef up a pop song (cf Coldplay), and there isn't a million miles between spiritual language and love language


  1. We sing the occasional song written by congregation members, sometimes linked to the theme of the moment. Works fine, until overplayed! I agree, if you were at all suggesting it, that there is a need to keep an eye on what words we sing and why and, importantly, for whose benefit we think we're singing them! R

  2. In answer to Question 3:

    Because there's already a community choir in Yeovil?