Is there an absence of male presence in your church vocal music ministries? The following article explores this topic, its causes, and how to effectively support the male vocalist in your church.
It’s not a stereotype issue, if that’s what you’re thinking.
I’m talking specifically to gospel music ministries, those who focus on that rich, three-part harmony gospel sound.
I’ve spent just about my entire life singing in church ensembles (choirs and praise teams), and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. These experiences and ministries have played a major part in who I am today. At age 20, I began directing my college choir, which led to leading and directing my church youth/young adult choir back home in Raleigh, North Carolina. After graduating with a B.A. in Music Education, my vocal experiences continued in gospel choirs, praise and worship teams, and also with singing and leading contemporary Christian worship. However, as a male vocalist in the church, I began to grow weary. I was tired of losing my voice each week, feeling inadequate because of an unreasonable expectation placed on me to sing songs out of my natural range, and vocally trying to survive songs rather than ministering the lyrics. It became too much.
I know I’m not alone in this, so my intention here is not to degrade the art of gospel music. Rather, I’d like to focus on how we as musicians and vocalists choose to execute our vocals in the church. I’m primarily addressing choir directors, music ministry leaders, and worship leaders and sharing my thoughts on ways to support our male vocalists. We need our male vocalists in the church just as much as our female vocalists, but in so many instances, they’re missing. Supporting the male voice in the church has truly become a passion of mine, so I want to share with you what I’ve experienced and discovered, in an effort to impact how we as musicians and vocalists can strengthen our ministries.
“We need our male vocalists in the church just as much as our female vocalists, but in so many instances, they’re missing.”
In gospel music, the vocal makeup usually consists of a three-part harmony, as stated earlier. I believe it’s a beautiful sound, a style that works with just about every lyric written in the church. This rich three-part harmony can be sung in a variety of ways, but in many cases is sung using a vocal style called “belting,” a full, exciting vocal sound that uses much of your vocal strength. However, have you ever considered how we’ve limited singing to only three voice types (soprano, alto, and tenor)? In a standard church gospel choir we assume/audition our female vocalists into soprano or alto, and in some cases tenor. However, for our male voices there’s an assumption that they can or must all sing tenor, no matter what their range may be. Is that fair?