General Advice for Priests (I think these are important for just about all of us just about all the time):
- Develop and maintain a good relationship with your choir director, lead chanter (Dyak), and chanters. This involves listening to them and taking their concerns seriously. Remember: they have a vocation, too.
- Be positive and generous to your worship team; share your expectations and feedback with them – and solicit the same from them.
- Conduct “After Action Reviews” (AAR’s) for major services; these can be formal or informal. Make necessary changes to notes and service books immediately (our default is to skip this due to exhaustion; my advice is to get to it ASAP).
- Take stock of the strengths and weakness of the worship, singing, and chanting in your parish. Don’t just get the opinions of members, have friends from the outside come in and evaluate it.
- Have an idea of where you want the worship, singing, and chanting in your parish to be in the short, medium, and long term.
- Be intentional (and patient!) about moving towards that goal. This includes sharing (and shaping) your vision with your worship team so they can work with you.
- It is with chanters as it is with most things: two is one, one is none, many is “antifragile”! Always be on the lookout for new chanters. Set up a system for mentoring them.
- Take stock of your own musical/chanting strengths and weaknesses and be intentional about serving well. Get outside help on this. If you can’t read music and do not know the tones, put both on your continuing education plan for the upcoming year. A few minutes a day can make a huge difference.
Specific Advice for Priests (these are more controversial, but I wouldn’t share them if I didn’t think they were important):
- Lower the costs of entry for chanting services (especially smaller ones) by using and sticking with the same simple melodies. Protect against the “worst-case scenario” (i.e. not only is a service disastrously/painfully chanted… visitors come on that day; been there, done that and I work to keep it from happening again).
- Put service texts into everyone’s hands… and then USE THAT TEXT. Include music, when that is possible. As with the above point, congregational singing is anti-fragile. I recommend it as a norm, especially for the non-choir services.
- Make the “smaller services” a regular part of your parish schedule. Encourage participation at them, but doing them is the main thing. I’m tired of hearing of priests who stop serving Vespers because no one came. Are we priests or entertainers? Small services are great for training chanters and for identifying, equipping, and motivating the good leaven in your parish.
- Constantly work to improve your liturgizing (vocalization and movements). As with homilies, just because people are willing to endure your liturgizing doesn’t mean it is pleasant or edifying for them. Get advice and help from someone you trust … and then listen to them.
- Please, please, please don’t liturgize on the third! (unless you are Greek or know scales and music theory).