Music plays, or should play, a most important part in the large city evangelistic campaign. It is necessary and is a wonderful help, even in a small meeting in a rural section. But when we consider the large task of city evangelism—how it has to compete with the attractions the world has to offer—music is seen to be indispensable. Next to good, strong preaching of the Word, music has its place in softening hearts for the reception of the truths of the third angel's message. It prepares people to hear and heed the entreaties of God's Holy Spirit, which, after all, is the only power able to change men's lives from sin to righteousness.
Central Location for Rehearsals.—In laying plans for the music of a large city program, the first consideration is the choir. This is of prime importance. In order to encourage a choir to be regular in attendance at both public meetings and rehearsals, a central location should be chosen. If at all possible, it is well to have the rehearsals in the same building in which the meetings are held. Where this can be arranged, greater success will come to the music director and the program as a whole.
In the city of Cleveland, where I recently had charge of the music in a large metropolitan evangelistic campaign conducted by R. A. Anderson, of the Ministerial Association, we had our choir rehearsals in a small hall in the Masonic Temple where our public meetings were held. This is really the ideal plan.
Why is a central place better than the church for the rehearsal? Usually, in a large city our churches are located in different sections of the city—the north side, east side, and so forth. The folks on the east side do not want to go the long distance to the north side for the rehearsal, and vice versa. The central location forestalls disputes before one comes to them. But, you say, it costs something for that central location, whereas we could use the church without cost. Let me ask: What is the slight cost of a few dollars compared to having a successful choir that will stand by you for months at a time? I believe the dollars spent for such rent in a central location are about the most profitable investment of the campaign. They can spell the difference between success and failure in your choir program. It warrants study.
At least one choir rehearsal should be planned for each week. Extra rehearsals can be called before the time of meeting, and usually the members will respond if you show them that you know where you are going, and convince them of the high value of good, consecrated music in the program. If you bring to them a clear-cut outline of what you plan to do in the meetings, they will respond heartily. A special rehearsal can be called for a few minutes after the service of the evening is over—provided it is not too late, and provided you show them how singing to the glory of God will help to win souls to His cause.
It is well to open the rehearsal with prayer. This prepares the way for a spiritual blessing for all, as they contemplate the responsibility they have in making the music a successful adjunct, in the soul-winning campaign. Every choir leader is acquainted with wise plans for conducting his rehearsal. We do not have space here to go into the details of the rehearsal, as that is not the object of this discussion.
Advantages of a Robed Choir.—I find that the robed choir is more successful than the choir that is not. Why? In the first place uniformity in the dress of the members adds simplicity, dignity, and beauty to the service. A choir without robes, displaying all colors of the rainbow, is distracting to the audience. The result is variety to the nth degree. The robed choir, therefore, has qualities that make for success, so far as wearing apparel is concerned.
Possibly the strongest reason why the choir should be robed is the psychological effect it has upon the choir members themselves. When a member has a particular robe that he wears, and is responsible for keeping it clean and pressed, he takes added pride in being present promptly at every rehearsal and service. In a group organization everyone seems to like a uniform, even a choir member.
Sining as the Curtain Goes Up.—Now let us turn to the place and work of the choir during the service of the evening. It is well to have the members come early, put on their robes, and be seated in their places, with songbook and any other special music in hand, a few minutes before the curtain goes up.
When the choir is ready, just before beginning the song service, have a word of prayer, asking God for His blessing upon the choir and the approaching service of song, that hearts may be touched. It is well to have the choir standing, singing a song, as the curtain goes up. It can be any hymn, or your campaign theme song, or a chorus song.
Vary the opening. The music director can be on the platform, singing the stanza, and as the curtain goes up, the choir joins in singing the chorus. A cheery "Good evening," and a cordial welcome, is given to the audience. Then the song service begins. It is well to plan something for the choir for each service. This makes them feel indispensable.
Every Sunday night a special can be offered, and the same is true of other nights—if you can prepare them. But on nights other than Sunday a chorus can be rendered by the choir. Often they can be called upon to sing a stanza, with the audience joining in on the chorus, and so adding variety to the program. By keeping the choir busy learning new songs, and by having them participate in each service, you will keep them coming and gain their strong support all the way through.
Choir's Part Throughout Service.—When it is time for the minister to come onto the platform, the music director should ask the audience to stand and sing the next or the last stanza. The service is made more worshipful, if just at the close of the public prayer, before the evangelist says "Amen," a choral response (such as 'With Thy Spirit Fill Me," by B. D. Ackley) is sung by the choir, while the audience remains standing. This not only adds to the worship of the service but is another Way of causing the choir members to feel the necessity of being there at each service.
We pursued the following plan in the Cleveland meeting : The choir selection, or whatever special music was prepared for the evening, was rendered during the taking of the offering. This conserved time and kept the audience interested every moment. Usually the offering was taken up long before the special number was completed. The audience was usually quieter during the offering than otherwise. Then at the close of the special music, the minister announced a hymn—not a gospel song, but a hymn of worship, such as "Abide With Me," or "My Faith Looks Up to Thee." As the audience stood and sang, this gave them an opportunity to have a more intimate part in the program. Then, when they sat down, they felt refreshed and ready to give good attention to the sermon. This closed the work of the music director and the choir for the time being.
The careful music director listens attentively to the message of the evening. He is not only praying for the speaker, but listening to his words and thinking of a song that will fit in with the theme of the sermon, for the closing or appeal song.
Appeal Songs and Decisions.—After the meetings have progressed for some time the music director can, just as the minister comes to his apppeal, signal the number of the song to the choir members. The pianist, working very closely with the music director, gives the chord and the choir begins to hum softly, for example, "Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling." Possibly the minister will ask the choir to sing a stanza. Then he may make a call for those who want to follow the Lord all the way to come forward, as the choir continues to hum as a background.
If the music director is on the alert, he can come in at the right time with the right song, either hummed or sung by the choir, or even a solo may be sung that will just meet the need at that solemn moment to help men to decide for Christ. A song planned and prepared for the middle of a sermon would not be out of place. All plans can be amplified or varied to suit the occasion.
I believe in the power of music. The Bible is full of recitals of its power. Before the world was created heaven rang with'music. Songs were sung at creation. And when Christ was born, angels sang the good news to men. Through eternity the redeemed will sing of God's goodness to them.
As the minister makes his appeal for people to stand, the choir can stand and be a strength to the minister and those in the valley of decision. We are all like sheep that must be led. The choir members can help lead men and women into the paths of righteousness.
Strains of the Parting Song.—When the service is over and the benediction is given, have the choir sing an appropriate song as the audience leaves. The last words that ring in their ears will be the message of the song the choir is singing as the people go out the doors. A song such as "Redeemed ! How I Love to Proclaim It !" and others of that nature will sow seeds in hearts that will bear fruit.
In order to make an evangelistic service "go over," much time and preparation must be spent in making it a success. The successful music director will spend hours of time in preparation for each service. If it is necessary for the evangelist to spend long hours in preparation for his part, is it not proper for his associate, who appears on the platform with him, to be just as careful in his preparation for his part of the united program?
People are accustomed to the best today in the entertainment world. If our standards in evangelism are not high and our program is not interesting, we lessen our chances of catching the interest of those whom we are seeking to bring to God.
Yes, when the music director has prayed, planned, and worked hard to make the evening a success, he can go home and to sleep with a quiet assurance in his heart that his is a noble work. His efforts are a great strength to the minister and will build confidence as people come night after night to the meetings to hear the message sung and preached. Truly the evangelist and his music director should work most closely together, and plan definitely to make music a greater part of our soul-winning program.