Grandpa Taylor was an impeccable whistler. Legend has it, one time a church brought him in as a guest singer and assigned him one of the special seats on the dais until his performance. During the prelude he was casually whistling along, as he was wont to do. When it came time for him to “minister through music” the pastor introduced him and said,
“Pastor Taylor, I couldn’t help but hear you whistling earlier and it so ministered to my soul that I wonder if, instead of singing the song you prepared, you would whistle it for us instead.”
Grandpa accepted. According to the story, by verse two, one hundred souls had been added to the Book of Life.
(Grandpa Taylor sometimes exaggerated a little)
Family reunions on the Taylor side were marked by song. Meals opened with the Doxology, and soon devolved into mock-operatic soprano singing with a long-standing rivalry between Grandma and Aunt Lynda. Any phrase that could be matched to a song lyric was instantly sung (as children, we learned to religiously avoid the phrase “from a distance”) and we weren’t really concerned if we got all the words right. Singing was a social experience. It was a bonding agent. A catalyst for memories and close family feelings. I grew up in a family of seven, all of whom sang and played instruments. We played together in a variety of configurations but, much to the dismay of our future children, we never formed a true family band.
Family is one of the images we have for the church in the New Testament. And one of the things we read about these New Testament church families is that they sang! Now that I’ve mentioned the Bible, I feel a bit better about taking a completely non-theological approach to why singing is important. Here goes:
We should sing because families do things together.
In my own little family this policy is known as “vacations are for everyone” and our boys have learned it applies to a lot more than vacations. When we do things as a family everyone joins in. Not because everyone always likes what we’re doing, but because everyone loves the family. And, although we’re reluctant sometimes, if we’re all together the experience is usually a good one. Even when some of us are forced to watch The Sound of Music, which we truly dislike.
Somehow, without dictatorship or democracy, families do things together and it brings us closer.
This is how it should be with the church. When the church gets together to sing, we are like a family at a family reunion. Or even better, we are a Family Band with a sizable vocal ensemble. If you don’t feel like a member of the band, it’s probably because you’ve been neglecting your crucial role. Or maybe we haven’t been clear about your part. So let’s go ahead and fix that right now.
Guidelines for the Family Band vocal ensemble
Be on time – be sure to factor in details like travel time, parking and whatever has been arranged for the kids. Being on time also means getting to the right room on time. I know it’s tempting to chat in the lobby/hall/narthex, but the Family Band has a hard start time and the show must go on!
Sing – that’s right, we were actually hoping you would sing. In the words of Buddy the Elf, singing is “just like talking, only longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down.” It’s a fairly standard request at a family sing-along and we’ve found most people are able to make it happen if properly motivated. Now, we understand everybody is different, so we’ve divided the group into a number of tiers based on skills and experience, for further instructions:
Tier 1 – natural singers those of you who are good at your craft are to be commended. We appreciate your participation and look to you to set an example for the rest of the ensemble. A quick warning for the classically trained: if you truly have “mad pipes” let me encourage you to limit your volume and vibrato to about 60 percent. Blending is key to a good vocal ensemble.
Tier 2 – willing singers thanks for putting in the effort! We appreciate your willingness to stretch yourself by lending us your voice. There really is no wrong way to sing in this band, so relax, take deep breaths from the diaphragm and don’t worry if your neighbour can hear you.
Tier 3 – non-singers you really don’t sing. Ever. Maybe you can’t sing for legitimate reasons. If so, the Family Band understands. But you’re here and we don’t want you to get bored, so here are some things you can try:
1. speak the words – this is a great way to participate and actively internalize the songs. The bonus here is you’ll still look like you’re singing, which should allow you to escape the cruel judgment of those around you.
2. mouth the words – this option retains the shaming-prevention bonus of option #1, but requires even less energy.
3. whistle – maybe you’re a gifted whistler and you never knew it! Here’s your chance to pucker up and find out. Grandpa Taylor would be proud.
4. tap, clap, snap or flap something – there are any number of options for rhythmically engaging your body. If you’re willing to participate this way it will take the pressure off of having to vocalize. Tapping your fingers on the seat in front of you is a safe first step, but you would be wise to note the church’s denominational affiliation before engaging in anything too drastic.
5. smile – if our musical endeavours truly horrify you but you’re sticking it out for the sake of the family, the least you can do is let those around you know you don’t hate them. Smiling is still a sizable step up from frowning, looking around, or checking your phone.
Hopefully your role in the band is now clear. We don’t pay much, but we have a solid weekly gig. We’d love it if you joined us.
If you’ve read this post and you’re still not clear about your role in the Family Band, please leave a comment or email us.
Family Band management