(The power of story)
As we’re racing through this year toward December and are currently in the process of planning how we will impact the church and our community during the Christmas season, we may do well to stop long enough to really think about exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. The answers could be:
“Create a memorable worship experience for attendees”
“Create an effective outreach to the community”
“Plan a program/event of significance that will draw visitors back to our church”
“Entertain and evangelize”
Over the years, I’ve had dozens of musicals sent to me which were an original Christmas production at some church. Upon listening to them, my first reaction was to feel sorry for the poor audience who had to sit through forced rhymes, cryptic lyrics and mangled syntax. The fact is that most people who write songs, never seriously study the craft of songwriting. They mimic what they hear on the radio or try to copy some similar song with no real grasp of the fundamentals of songwriting. (The same thing holds true for praise and worship songs foisted on unsuspecting congregations – but that’s for someone else’s worship blog).
Writing a song without understanding the fundamental craft of songwriting is like looking at a beautifully constructed house and saying “I can build one of those”, when you know nothing about structural support, how to use a miter saw, or which type of fastener to use on the joists. You can just jump in and might get something that resembles a house, but the quality would be questionable at best.
(Bad Christmas Musical Choreography)
I am not a dancer, but I’m going to talk about choreography. Bad choreography.
Bad choreography in church. I find it curious (not to mention agonizing) that churches who are passionate about high quality musical productions at Christmas, will insist on great music, beautiful costumes, exquisite, detailed sets and a wonderful story, but will think that grade-school- level choreography fits right into the mix! Bless their hearts. I know they’re not dancers, but choreography is more than just dancing and not every song needs it. Nothing is more painful than to see a soloist singing a nice pop-oriented theater song while a group of people behind him are “do-si-do-ing”(like a barn dance from “Oklahoma”). I’m sorry, but that makes my skin crawl just to watch. What does that choreography have to do with the song? And it doesn’t even match the music!
Now that summer is officially here, it’s time to start thinking (if we haven’t already) about Christmas. As my former boss used to say “It’s the day-after-tomorrow”. Figuratively speaking, of course. It will be here before you know it.
Most of us, instinctively start into our Christmas musical search routine without really reflecting on what we want to accomplish with a Christmas production – other than to tell the story in some way that trumps last year’s telling. As believers, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Our desire to celebrate, and the joy we feel in doing so, comes from within because we have a personal connection with baby who was born in that manger. He has transformed our lives, so his coming was the very thing that was responsible for connecting us to God himself. That is worthy of celebration. But what about those who don’t know Christ? What dothey celebrate at Christmas? Are they celebrating this “feel good” time of year? Peace on earth? Time off from work? Christmas parties and presents? Family gatherings? Why does this question even matter?
Now that you’ve chosen your musical, here are the next steps:
1.Set your rehearsal schedule all the way up to the performance.Be sure to start early enough to allow plenty of time to not only learn the dialog and music, but to rehearse the scenes, and to block and stage the musical in your actual performance space. You’ll also need time to build sets, rent (or make) costumes, gather props, etc. You’ll obviously have to allow down time for holidays like Thanksgiving.