Do You Really Want A Singing Church?

Far too often we hear these disappointing words, “We used to be a singing church.” Churches which once echoed with vibrant singing have slowly declined to become a meeting place of unengaged worshipers - which sounds like an an oxy-moron. In order to fill the void of paltry participation, the most musically gifted are asked to step up, claim center stage and become the focus in providing the bulk of singing on behalf of congregational spectators - in other words, the few taking on a role on behalf of the many. However impressive the few may be, there is something very tragic in witnessing the demise of full-throated congregational singing along with the subsequent joy that cannot be experienced any other way. The Bible is clear that God wants every believer to sing. The benefits of congregational singing are far too numerous to reiterate in this post, so let’s assume that you genuinely seek to develop a bona fide “singing church.” How can this be done? Are there quantifiable steps?

Praise And Harmony Singers encourage Four-Part Harmony and Training for Beginners

Praise And Harmony Singers encourage Four-Part Harmony and Training for Beginners

We’re glad you asked! Unfortunately, there is not one silver bullet, nor is there an overnight solution. This comes as no surprise, since most worthwhile endeavors are the result of discipline, hard work and long-term commitment. So, if you are truly sincere in seeking the steps to outstanding congregational singing, consider this proven approach:

  1. Intentionally emphasize and teach the clear commands and benefits of every believer participating in passionate singing and worship.

  2. Seek professional training for leaders who will make it their primary goal to elicit full-participation in worship — virtually turning the entire church into the choir.

  3. Promote musical literacy for every member through regular classes — teaching new and old songs along with the theology they impart, while equipping everyone to learn four-part harmony “by ear.” It’s also amazing how quickly people can learn to read music through the right methods.

  4. Supplement the education of singing classes with daily review and repetition on the part of everyone, as they daily listen to ear-training recordings to reinforce what they’ve learned.

    These steps provide the easiest way to transform a mediocre tradition into a spirited atmosphere of singing renewal. If you are fully committed to this goal, insist that your church leaders check out this video which addresses the need for training leaders, along with an opportunity for enthusiastic volunteers to become more involved in reviving congregational singing.

Now for the nitty gritty. Here is a proven method that works wonders, especially when coupled with the daily reinforcement. Begin by assigning everyone to sit by voice part with all the basses together, all of the altos, etc. Immersing beginners into the middle of others singing their same part makes it easier for them to clearly hear the part they are trying to learn.

Next, explain the process to everyone and build expectations. Even with a song they have never heard before, the speed of progress can be stunning.

Step One: Listen (and watch) the training video of the song you have chosen. A pre-requisite to this step is an explanation of where to look on the musical staff to identifying the soprano and alto above the lyrics with the tenor and bass below the lyrics. It’s important that they incorporate their vision and hearing simultaneously to proactively “absorb” the new song with intense concentration. No singing is done while listening.

Step Two: Sing along softly while listening to and viewing the training video. Help participants avoid the mistake of singing so loudly that they only hear themselves and not the training video, causing them to be unable to determine when they sing the part incorrectly. And, by so doing, they are virtually reinforcing the wrong part, requiring countless steps to “undo” the mistake. In other words, the listening instruction is the most important aspect of step one and step two. It’s paramount that everyone can clearly hear the training video (this is the video with only 4 people with the higher voices isolated in the left stereo channel and the low voices on the right.) By sitting in sections, singers can also hear and absorb the sound of others surrounding them with the part.

Step Three: We call this “taking off the training wheels.” Turn off the training video and invite every one to sing using only sheet music or powerpoint musical notation slides. It’s important to encourage everyone to read the music and listen to their section. We have employed this method all over the world with unbelievable results.

If you have the time and wish to proceed at a more methodical pace, results can be enhanced by repeating step two. Also, you can appoint “section leaders” who have previously mastered the song, giving them instructions to sing louder than others during step two, while encouraging and guiding others to correctly learn their parts.

The Praise And Harmony Ministry is dedicated to providing training materials to equip every believer to sing in harmony and worship passionately. Training videos are produced to teach new songs and help everyone learn to sing harmony “by ear.” Praise And Harmony Powerpoint musical notation slides are ideal for churches to use during their assemblies for congregational singing. Sheet music is helpful for individuals to learn to read music. Training CDs and mp3s mixed with high voices on the left and low voices on the right are necessary for every individual to continue their music education on the way to work, school, jogging or at home.

Churches who seek professional guidance may schedule a Praise And Harmony weekend for their church or region. Also, leaders from around the world are attending the annual Worship Leader Institute for a week of highly practical, graduate-level training that is specifically designed for a cappella song leaders.

Do you really want a singing church? What will you do to make that happen?

Posted on June 17, 2019 .

Jerry Rushford on Timeless Hymns

If you've never heard Jerry Rushford share the historical backgrounds of favorite hymns, you have missed a special treat. My bucket list includes joining a trip to the U.K. with Dr. Rushford, who hosts hymn tours to the U.K.  Recently, Rushford appeared on CBS's Sunday Morning in this clip:

Our children were blessed to be in England at the same time that Jerry was conducting one of his hymn tours. They share the special experience of visiting the very place where "Amazing Grace" was written, and my son-in-law, Allen Brantley, led the entourage in singing the hymn in that very place.  Sharon and I visited the Handel House museum in London, but nothing compares to Rushford's retelling of the special moments that took place at that location.

Pepperdine Bible Lectures

It is no surprise that vibrant congregational singing is highlighted at the annual Pepperdine Bible Lectures, which Rushford directed for many years and is now led by Mike Cope.  In traveling the nation to conduct our Praise & Harmony Workshops, I often hear of people including attending the Pepperdine Lectures on their bucket lists.  Leading worship for this crowd is an exhilarating experience! But as much as I enjoy leading for the large crowds, experiencing congregational singing in the intimate atmosphere and soaring acoustics of Pepperdine's Stauffer Chapel is an unforgettable blessing.  Here is an HDR photo I took of the chapel one year:

"In Christ Alone" is one of my favorite contemporary hymns because it is chock-full of the Gospel message. This song encourages us to reiterate and declare the tenants of our faith, which is one of the reasons that God intended for Christians to sing.  We recorded "In Christ Alone" on our Praise & Harmony "Only God" CD which can be purchased here.  We are passionate about equipping non-musicians and untrained singers in how to hear and sing harmony on these precious songs.  That's why every Praise & Harmony album includes two discs: the primary CD featuring all the songs along with an additional "vocalist training disc," which isolates the harmony parts.  This disc helps individuals sing along in harmony "by ear."   Sheet music and powerpoint music notation slides for use in worship are also available at The Acappella Company on-line store.

Sharon and I pictured with Jerry Rushford in Falls Church, Virginia

Sharon and I pictured with Jerry Rushford in Falls Church, Virginia

Those who enjoy singing classic hymns along with contemporary worship songs will thoroughly enjoy our Singing Cruise Vacation. Information on how to sign up is available right here on our Praise & Harmony site.

If you'd like to learn more about how to host a Praise & Harmony workshop at your congregation, find out more here.  Also, consider sponsoring your gifted song leaders to attend this year's Worship Leader Institute.

"Take The Lord With You" singing mission in Grand Cayman

Here's another aspect I love about a cappella congregational singing -- if you encourage everyone to sing whole-heartedly regardless of ability, and if you invest time equipping people to sing harmony, the results can be stunning! Even small groups can produce a joyful sound that brings to mind the robust volume typical of a much greater number.  Check out this video taken by Randy Lamp in Grand Cayman. Notice how the singing comes across as greater than the actual number in attendance.

The singers traveling with us invested time in learning the harmony parts to the songs before the trip. The Grand Cayman churches who participated also worked on the songs ahead of time.  After the Praise & Harmony Workshop, Acappella shared an edifying concert with us.  I counted multiple cell phones taping most of the concert.

Follow our ministry here on to learn of future trips. We especially need basses and altos to join us on mission trips, including Germany and England in 2015.

Posted on December 10, 2014 .

Georgetown Praise And Harmony Workshop

Three congregations of Georgetown, Grand Cayman joined together to host a Praise & Harmony Workshop in December.

This opportunity was the very first time that a  Praise & Harmony congregational workshop was combined with an Acappella concert.

This particular mission trip turned out to be very special because of the singers from across the United States who joined us for this Worship Workshop.

Instead of flying to Georgetown, the Praise & Harmony singers and families met in Fort Lauderdale to board a cruise with a singular stop in Grand Cayman.  The rehearsal, fellowship and worship times on the ship were priceless.

Speaking of cruises, we are finalizing plans for a singing cruise in January 2016 to feature congregational singing and a variety of concerts.

Posted on December 8, 2014 .

2015 Schedule: Join us for Praise and Harmony

Plan a road trip to join us and tell your friends about the dates in their regions across the nation.

January 10, 11        Eustis, FL

January 21-23        Lubbock, TX

February 7, 8         Jacksonville, FL

February 14, 15        Gainesville, FL 

March 7, 8           Mesquite, TX

March 13-15           Pegram, TN

March 18-21        Tulsa, OK

March 28, 29        Cookeville, TN

April 3            Oxford, MS

April 8            Brooklyn Park, MN

April 12            Rapid City, SD

April 15            Omaha, NB 

April 25, 26            Cullman, AL

April 30-May 3        Fairbanks, AK

May 16, 17            Killen, AL

June 3            Carson City, NV

June 7            Salt Lake City, UT

June 10            Bozeman, MT 

June 14            Jackson Hole, WY 

June 20            Meridian, ID

June 28-July 1        Nashville, TN

July 1-3            Nashville, TN

July 25 - 31        Tulsa, OK

July 26            Tulsa, OK

August 27-29        Lancaster, England

September 12, 13        Baytown, TX

September 19, 20    Lubbock, TX

September 24-26    Silver Maple, KS

October 4            Edmond, OK

October 9-11        Virginia Beach, VA 

October 17-18        Plano, TX

October 24, 25        Athens TN

Oct 31-Nov 1        Middletown, OH  

November 7, 8        Hot Springs, AR 

November 14-15        Childress, TX 

November 21-24        Rothenburg, Germany

Posted on November 28, 2014 .

Audition for the Nashville Recording Session of Praise & Harmony Worship

The dates for the Nashville recording session are set for June 28 - July 1 at Lipscomb University.

This video was taken in Plano, Texas at the Righteous God recording with Mike Rogers directing.

Join hundreds of talented, volunteer vocalists who audition as SATB quartets. Those who are accepted agree to regular rehearsals and to learning the music before the recording session in Nashville, Tennessee.   Check out the recording FAQ for more information.

Posted on November 16, 2014 .