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John L. Bell

Enabling congregations to sing

In his previous book in this series, John Bell outlined the case for congregational song. Here he deals with the ‘how to’ issues, the techniques of teaching songs to congregations and groups. Describing this process as ‘an exercise in communicating truth through personality’, drawing on both his own and colleagues’ extensive and devoted practical experience, John crystallises the distinctive WGRG approach which has inspired and enthused countless folk to sing, often despite their own misgivings over the last 25 years. A crucial resource for those interested in helping God’s people find their voices.




144 pages

ISBN 9781905010325



1. Lion-taming for lambs or sheep-rearing for tigers
    … something to do with the difference between a choir and a congregation

a.    The choir believes it can sing and the congregation knows it can’t
b.    The choir performs, the congregation listens
c.    The choir’s music is perceived to be more important than the      congregation’s
d.    A choir rehearses
e.    A choir reads music, many pew occupants don’t
f.    A choir sits together, a congregation sits apart
g.    The choir has a music leader, the congregation hasn’t

2. Sunday morning showers and weight-loss through music
    … something to do with teaching technique

a.    Forget everything that works with choirs
b.    Believe in your own voice
c.    Always teach at the right time
d.    Only teach what you know
e.    Teach without instruments
f.    Teach tunes to ‘la’ unless the text is short
g.    Outline the tune in the air
h.    Never tell people the number
i.    Always teach with expectation and encouragement

3. Nailbitingly important issues for loose-fitting denture wearers
    … questions and answers to clear up any confusion

a.    What if all the people don’t get the tune after I’ve taught it?
b.    What’s with this humming?
c.    Should people never get staff notation in the teaching process?
d.    How many new songs should you teach at a time?
e.    Should you sing a newly-learned song on the Sundays following?
f.    Shouldn’t you get the choir to demonstrate the new song first?
g.    What if the congregation is resistant?
h.    What if the organist won’t play new songs and the minister is reticent to teach them?
i.    Can everyone teach?

4. Advanced trapeze technique for beginners
   … tricks of the trade for willing apprentices

a.    How can I teach in four parts if I don’t know them all?
b.    Should I get all the men to sit together?
c.    Does this technique work for everything in four-part harmony?
d.    When should you teach this type of music and for how long are short songs sung?
e.    How do I find the right key?
f.    Do I continue to sign the pitches throughout the song?
g.    How is it possible to sign two lines at the same time?
h.    But will people remember?

5. Typing for beginners
    … odd things to do with the odd tune

a.    Veni Creator Spiritus
b.    Tallis’s canon
c.    Lobe den Herren
d.    Old 100th
e.    Sussex carol
f.    Passion Chorale
g.    Bunessan
h.    Holy manna
i.    Were you there?
j.    Ode to joy
k.    Eventide
l.     Sent by the Lord
m.   Siyahamba
n.    Take, O take me as I am
o.    Gather us in
p.    Shine, Jesus, shine

6. Morphing the muse
    … how to find the sex of a text


7. God’s worldwide church
    … some liturgical perspectives


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