Ideas for directing a men's gospel choir
Someone asked me about songs for a men's choir . . .
"Do you have any suggestions on easy songs for a male choir?"
That question was asked at my "One-rehearsal choir songs" page. As I thought about the question, my answer started getting longer and longer. So I decided to make a separate page that focuses on choosing music for a male choir.
I have only once been a director of a men's choir, but I have been the musician for a lot of male choir performances, so I participated in their rehearsing and I've heard a lot of their singing.
I offer my ideas which come from years of observing men's choirs and getting a sense of what works for them.
Anyone who has additional thoughts to share is welcomed and appreciated. Hit up the guestbook!
(photo of the Men's Ministry Choir from the Los Angeles Region of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World)
This page is a part of my collection of web pages about Gospel Choir Music.
Men's choir sampler
These are excerpts of some of the songs mentioned on this page. They're all available for download from Amazon.
How is a men's choir different?
A male choir will, of course have a different vocal range than a mixed choir. Most gospel choir songs give the melody to the sopranos, so a director revising songs for men's choir will usually need to change the key.
In my experience, a lot of church members who don't really think of themselves as singers will participate in men's choirs and women's choirs even though they would never sing in the regular church choir. This means that you have more inexperienced singers who will do better with simpler material. They may or may not be ready to sing in harmony. If a men's choir does harmonize, they might need to do just two parts instead of three because of their limited vocal range.
Keep in mind, though, that if you have a choir with a lot of inexperienced members, the congregation will tend to be extremely supportive and encouraging when they sing. Especially if the men's wives are in the congregation.
(photo is of the International Pentecostal Young People's Union Mass Choir)
A few song suggestions for men's choirs
These will spark other song ideas for you, I hope
Some songs that are done by male solo artists or small groups can work well with a men's choir also. Here are a few examples:
When the Spirit of the Lord - by Fred Hammond
"When the Spirit of the Lord comes upon my heart, I will dance like David danced . . ."
On the recording, this song is done in Ab minor, and that key will probably be about right for your choir, too (but if it's not, change it!). The main melody stays within a narrow range and is easy to sing. On the recording, they do harmonies that go pretty high on the chorus, but it would still sound good if you just stayed in unison all the way through. And the references to King David are perfect subject matter for a male choir!
There is also an instrumental version of When the Spirit of the Lord available from Saunders Music.
PULL OUT THE HYMNAL!
In a lot of churches they hardly ever sings hymns anymore. Get a hymn that the congregation hasn't heard in a long time. Practice it and sing it with fervor. For the older people it will bring back cherished memories, and for the younger ones it will be a brand new song! Also, no one will be comparing your rendition to some big-name gospel singer.
The best songs our own Brotherhood Choir used to sing back in the day
These were the favorites at our church
I remember two hymns and two contemporary songs that we loved hearing from our Men's Choir. (I hope the Brotherhood starts singing again sometime soon!)
Nothing But the Blood of Jesus - by Bebe Winans
"What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus."
A great old hymn. Our Brotherhood Choir did it in a moderate 6/8 tempo.
The Light Of The World Is Jesus - performed by Steven Anderson
"Come to the light, 'tis shining for thee
Sweetly the light has shined upon me
Once I was blind, but now I can see
The light of the world is Jesus."
This hymn is not sung as commonly in African-American churches, but our guys did a lovely job on it.
"God wants a man who's
Standing in the gap."
Another great old album that's come to Amazon! Hooray! Standing in the Gap is the ULTIMATE men's choir song. It was our Brotherhood Choir's very best jam. It has a hot beat and the manliest lyrics you'll ever hear in a gospel song.
Selecting songs for men's choirs
Now it's your turn to choose some songs!
When you're choosing songs for a men's gospel choir, here are some things for a choir director to consider:
- What kind of words does it have?
It goes without saying that any song you sing has to be spiritually sound. But beyond that, some lyrics might work better than others for a men's choir. Words that are very flowery and sweet (like in some hymns) could be uncomfortable to some guys:
This is my Father's world --
The birds their carols raise;
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker's praise.
I love this song. But, in my opinion, it's better for a women's choir. Keep looking through the hymnal. Can you find something that sounds more manly?
Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living word of God I shall prevail
Standing on the promises of God.
Along with songs of praise or worship which are always appropriate, I think songs that talk about determination and spiritual victory are wonderful choices for men's choirs. Speaking as a woman, it's so inspiring to me to see Christian men present themselves as examples of spiritual strength.
- What kind of music does it have?
When you examine the music, ask yourself: What makes this music appealing?
If an important part of the song's appeal is intricate harmonies (think "Total Praise" by Richard Smallwood), it may sound bland if your men's choir is only singing in one or two parts. Or if the melody is loved for its soaring high notes (think "How Great Thou Art") it may lose some of its punch if you try to sing it without the high notes.
At my church, the members who sing in the Men's Choir or Women's Choir are often a little older than the ones who sing in the Mass Choir. If it's the same way in your choir, then songs that have a lot of syncopated, new-school rhythms might be hard for them to learn.
If you have good musicians, that can be a big plus. Doing songs with simpler melodies that get a lot of support from the instruments is nice for inexperienced singers; they feel safe.
God Bless You!
May God richly bless the ministry of men's choirs everywhere.
We, the women of the church, give you our full support!
Share your choir experiences!