The Cathedral Choir
Cathedral choirs in recent times have demonstrated seriousness and commitment to God through singing. They reflect, represent and reposition the singing culture of the church at the diocesan headquarters. From indication members are drawn from various singing groups within the cathedral, selections are equally made to ascertain the singing range and voice parts of intending members which include soprano (Treble) alto (contralto), tenor (baritone) and bass to arrive at a formidable foundation. As a standard choir, attention is never denied especially when necessary; they meet within the days of the week for rehearsals in preparation for Sunday service, mid-week service and cathedral fellowship.
Negligence to attend rehearsals arising from any chorister will jeopardise the chances given for participation in the weekly services. The yardstick for Sunday renditions is really determined by the regular attendance to choir rehearsals. In essence cathedral choirs being the church singing group of standard reputation are capable of sustaining the edification of the gospel of Christ in the lives of Christian worshippers through ministration by singing. Renditions should be accompanied hence the conductor (choirmaster) and the accompanist (organist) are expected to be sound musically.
Sometimes, there are few choristers in cathedral choirs, which in the eyes of a layman pose challenges to ministration as well as rendition. It happens especially when choristers have been screened to ascertain their voice parts such that the number reduces to the size the choirmaster feels satisfied and musically comfortable. Unserious choristers should not be entertained at all; they either become serious or be pushed to the other choirs. Good renditions are rich in musical elements (arpeggio or chords) necessary in a choice piece. Where there are problem of stage freight amongst some choristers, where majority of the choristers are students and have gone back to school upon resumption and many others should not be the reason why unserious choristers be allowed to be in the cathedral choir.
So many Christian brethren are not in the choir and this calls for concern. They complain so much about their busy schedules, difficulties at their places of work and the fear of coming to learn how to sing with the use of notations. While they assume that they cannot cope with it, others are of the opinion that choir practice days coincided with other activities in the church. I have listened to conversations where some have this to say “ I have a bad voice right from my school days” ’ I am still a student for now yes and I will join the choir when I graduate and start working’. Whichever way it is, whatever problem or challenge we have now or thereafter singing praises to God is with or without season.
Some churches and their leaders seem to neglect the choir and her host of problems especially where the attention of the church is severally needed within units, arms, house fellowships etc. The money needed for evangelism and other kingdom needs may not be spread to the choir internal matter hence choristers are to make use of any acceptable plan in order to move forward. The church may skip to provide training and retraining of choirmasters and church organists, organise workshops and seminars as at when necessary for choristers especially in a cathedral, provision of choir robes, outing uniforms and other logistics because the choir as members can still forge ahead in their services and weekly renditions as expected with or without these inputs.
Some Cathedral choirs have no organist or accompanist, they squeeze ideas together in order to teach classical pieces, and most times they fail to observe modulations or change of keys necessary for such renditions. Organ symphonies of some classical pieces are omitted and with such an old method of teaching and learning, the cathedral choir may not do better as expected.
Cathedrals should not neglect the services of conductors (Choirmasters) and accompanists during singing ministration. They are charged with the responsibility of teaching and accompanying every edifying rendition and other singing activities for the sustenance and reflection of the gospel in the cathedral. If deficiencies exist amongst them, it should be such that should lie unnoticed from the layman’s point of view and even if the choir has an unhealthy formation, the onus lies between both of them to correct and do away with every dead element. When our hymns are sung unaccompanied during worship, there are lots of flaws arising; tone deafness, loss of interest, skeletal time disparity and others flaws. The singing satisfaction that one expects at the end of the service does not manifest rather ministration comparison between church choirs of other denominations comes to play. No wonder cathedral administrators are trained to be versatile to accommodate and give solutions to avoid loss of membership.
We expect to have matured and experienced men, women and young people as choristers singing in a cathedral choir in a good number in their various singing parts, we welcome their weight and wealth of experiences used in addressing some challenges affecting the choir. Sometimes we are left with a situation where choristers are juveniles, students and job seekers, we are not comfortable when morals decadence and juvenile delinquency becomes an issue in cathedral choirs. We are also in the picture of drawing the attention of the resident priest as a spiritual father for his fatherly advice. Setting up a committee of committed brethren whose primary function is to provide the basic needs of a cathedral choir is necessary for the growth and optimum performance of the cathedral choir.
Chikaodiri Ibekwe, Diocesan Choirmaster Methodist Church Nigeria Diocese Of D/Line Port Harcourt