By Mark Cabaniss
There’s no question the pandemic changed church choirs. At least for now. Maybe forever? Well, perhaps that’s up to you and us all. This blog post makes a case to find a way to do a cantata (or musical) this year. Even if your performing forces aren’t back up to pre-pandemic levels yet.
- The Event Factor. Since cantatas aren’t performed on a regular basis, whenever they are performed, they’re an event. And events generally bring out more people to see them than a regular worship service (if they’re promoted correctly). They can build excitement and a real positive “buzz” in a church and community. And nothing says “We’re back!” more than a cantata.
- Growth. Cantatas offer the opportunity for choirs (and individuals) to grow in a number of ways: musically, numerically, and spiritually. They occasionally attract non-choir members who want to “try out” the choir on a short-term basis (and sometimes, those people become regular choir members).
- Bonding. An event tends to “rally” a choir and focus its rehearsals for the period leading up to the presentation. If there are a few extra (“bonus” as I call them) rehearsals to pull the work together, those offer an opportunity for greater bonding between director and choir and among choir members. If there’s a church-wide fellowship or reception following the presentation those events can promote even more bonding and unity among the choir and entire church.
- Attract more men and younger members. There’s no question that, in general, many choirs today are lacking in men and younger members. Cantatas often require men to participate in speaking roles (Jesus, the disciples) and with a little creative and gentle arm-twisting, the resourceful director can use a musical to recruit new men to the choir.
- Memories. Ask any church or choir member what anthem they sang on a particular Sunday a year ago and they’re likely to scratch their head and draw a blank. But ask them what musical they did when they were in high school, college, or last year in the adult choir and they’ll likely rattle off the title immediately. I’m not saying the weekly anthem isn’t the choir’s bread and butter, but this is further evidence cantatas are worth it.
Not enough people in your choir to pull one off? Join forces with a neighboring church(es). Suddenly, your group has doubled in size. The camaraderie that is developed (and opportunity to perform the work not once by twice at each participating church) is priceless, and unforgettable. Jubilate Music Group has several easy cantatas that are perfect for smaller and “coming back” choirs, such as There’s a Song in the Air and How Great Our Joy! both by Stan Pethel. Also, The Gift by Lloyd Larson.
Bottom line: Cantatas – when carefully chosen, prepared, and performed – can create a lasting (and sometimes life-changing) impact on those who experience them.