Different ways of singing

I beg to differ that a cappella four-part harmony singing is “a dying art form” (Letters & Comments, May 26). When our congregation began in-person worship after the COVID shutdown, our singing did sound quite weak, because we were out of practice. Attendance was not what it had been, and our worship space is large.  It has taken many months of creative leadership, congregational willingness and enthusiasm, purposeful changes in approach and patience, but over time our singing is truly a vital part of our worship.  We are using Voices Together, learning new songs as well as singing traditional favorites, and yes, new texts to familiar melodies. Although I’ve been hearing four-part harmony all my life, beginning in my mother’s womb, and enjoy a cappella singing, I also know that not all songs lend themselves to this style. Expecting a congregation to sing all songs well in that style is inappropriate and discouraging. Not everyone has the same level of musical training and ability, so the use of guitar or piano accompaniment for some songs has helped us immeasurably. 

In the past, I fear we idealized four-part a cappella singing to the point of idolatry and exclusion. And who does not swell with a bit of unholy pride when others comment about our beautiful a cappella harmonies! Let’s open our hearts and minds and raise our voices to make congregational singing such that all can participate and worship “in spirit and in truth.” 

Verna Zook, Iowa City, Iowa

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