Posted by: rcottrill | March 5, 2010

Singing in Harmony

Music plays a vital part in the life of the local church. And singing the praises of God in harmony is an important fellowship activity for the body of Christ.

Most of us are not professional singers; we are “amateurs.” But never be embarrassed by that title. A professional sings and plays as a profession–it is his way to earn a living. But on the other hand, the word “amateur” is related to the French amour–the word for love. It speaks of someone who does a thing motivated by love. Surely that is a fitting description of congregational singing. We have a love for God and for one another, and perhaps for the music itself.

In recent years, the trend in many churches has been to remove the hymn books from the pews, or to leave them unopened. Overhead projectors, or computerized “Power Point” presentations flash the words on a screen instead. But something is lost in this change. The musical notes. Though not all in the congregation are able to read music, some have a rudimentary knowledge of how to do it. Further, it is a skill that can be nurtured and developed, to the great benefit of all. It is of special value with regard to part-singing. And singing in harmony can be a special blessing for those in the local church. Here’s why.

Singing in harmony is a tangible illustration of the “body life” of the church–God’s people working together to achieve a common goal (Eph. 4:16). When each sings his own part, in his own range, no one needs to feel left out simply because some notes are too high or too low to reach. Each part makes its own unique contribution.

  • The sopranos usually sing the melody. They reveal the profile of the song and play a major role in communicating its message.
  • The altos support and enhance the melody with beautifying harmonies.
  • The basses provide a foundational note for each chord and an anchor for the music of the song.
  • The tenors add richness of detail to the foundation and build a bridge that unites the men’s and ladies’ voices.

Singing in harmony is a reminder of the connection of believers today with those who have gone before. Part-singing is a great and time-honoured tradition in the church. And singing the songs that are the heritage of the church from other times, and other lands, reminds us of the oneness of the whole family of God (Eph. 3:14-15).

Singing in harmony provides and example of the kind of humility and mutual submission God desires in the body of Christ (Eph. 5:21). While each person contributes in a unique way, selfishness is out of place and independence is made subservient to the overall purpose. As with the playing of a great orchestra, there is a harmonious blending of gifts to create a “symphony” of ministry.

The creation of something of beauty is a God-like activity. We are made in the image of God, and we honour how He made us when we create a beautiful sound. Such songs offered up to God are true acts of worship. Some may be inclined to say, “But you don’t know our congregation! We’re not singers!” In response, let me offer a couple of encouragements. First, the greater number of people that are involved, the more it tends to minimize the flaws in any one voice. And second, this is a skill that will improve with practice. With diligent work it is possible for any congregation to create beautiful music. And be assured that even if the “experts” criticize, the praises of God, sung from the heart, will be beautiful to Him.

God’s Word instructs us to teach and edify one another in song (Col. 3:16). For this reason, our sacred songs should be strong in doctrine and biblical teaching. Then, as we beautify and adorn the message of our songs with harmony, we add to their effectiveness, and the uplifting influence of our ministry to one another. Such singing is a memorable experience. We will often find ourselves humming or singing the songs over, days later, recalling the experience of singing them together, and reinforcing the message.

Part-singing is training for mind and voice. The concentration and practice required are a good discipline for us–something that can carry over into other areas of life. The work is also a practical way to improve sight-reading skills, making the learning of new songs easier, and thus expanding our ability to honour and serve the Lord Jesus Christ in the future.

Someone has said that music is the only art of heaven we enjoy on earth, and the only art of earth that we will experience in heaven (cf. Rev. 15:2-4). The blended harmonies of sacred music can be a foretaste and a preparation for heaven. And this experience of fellowship, in the presence of the Lord, will leave a faint fragrance of the eternal in the air.


  1. […] will be their experience Sunday by Sunday. Take a look at the article on this subject below–Singing in Harmony. (This does assume that there are hymn books in the pews, with notes in them. Please don’t […]

  2. […] Singing in HarmonyThis is debatable, but some good points. […]

    • Anyone who has been in services where parts singing is common will likely be able to identify with the points being made here. I’m not sure what the blogger finds debatable, but all are welcome to their opinions.

  3. […] provides a dynamic example of body life, which both inspires and edifies believers. (See notes on Singing in Harmony.) What a trained choir may do with a piece is a little different. Practice makes a quicker pace […]

  4. Great to find these article! So so helpful to train our choir in serving the Lord not just singing but connect to the truth. Thank you!

    • Thanks for your encouragement. I’ve led various choirs over the years, and have found that background on a song can help singers to present it more meaningfully. God bless.


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