Gospel songs suitable for choirs
There is something magical about a gospel choir singing their hearts out. So much so, that it can seem a little daunting to introduce a gospel number to your choir if they’ve never performed one before.
The first thing you may encounter is a lack of empathy for religious themes. I myself am non denominational but I simply love gospel music. There is something about all those suspended chords that just makes me shiver. My choirs are all mixed faiths and we manage to perform gospel numbers with gusto and dare I say it, feeling!
You need many things to perform a gospel song with your choir successfully, here are a few that are important to me.
- The ability to sing quietly
Sounds daft I know. Listen to The beginning refrains of some of Richard Smallwood’s wonderful arrangements (Total Praise is a great example and available in our catalogue). The first verse should be sung reverently and fervently, relishing in the modulations that only a gospel song can deliver.
- The ability to sing loudly
The dynamics in gospel are second to none. They soar, they plunge and they excite. Those quiet passionate passages are nothing without the drama of the crescendo. Let them be loud and proud. They’ll feel the joy, even if they don’t carry the faith.
- Hold pitch
Take a spiritual like Deep River (Moses Hogans arrangement is a dream to perform and available on Choir Player) and you are going to need pitch control. We’ve all checked a pitch at the end of a rehearsal only to find we are sometimes a whole tone below where we should be. Pitch exercises help enormously – although there isn’t too much you can do when serious fatigue sets in.
- Letting Go
It’s difficult to perform gospel if you are not used to singing from your soul. Whether you believe the words you are singing or not, conveying a feeling is something we can all do – given confidence and enough rehearsal and it is, in my opinion, and important part of gospel singing.
Finally, I would just say go for it. If you, as Choir Director, love the song you are teaching – your choir are bound to love it too…… eventually!