A sea of singers can overwhelm the Message.

A sea of singers can overwhelm the Message.

This Advent season, the choir at Florissant Presbyterian Church did something new. We joined the choirs of two other denominations to perform at a community concert at the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine.

When we had our first rehearsal at the shrine, it took some time for the director to arrange more than 40 singers at the front of the sanctuary. When she was done, the front of the room was awash in tenors and basses, altos and sopranos.

Then came time to sing. A big part of it was simply getting various elements of the audio set at the right levels. Could we hear the orchestration? And that means all of us and not just the handful of sopranos and altos with monitors pointed right at them. Could the congregation also hear the orchestration and the choir as well?

The latter is what most of us were worried about. Could we be heard?

We are used to singing in our respective sanctuaries – immense rooms containing not just people but also carpeting and upholstery. Even if your acoustics are good, these things absorb sound so we compensate. Compensate? We sing our socks off.

That doesn’t work at the Shrine. First of all, the acoustics are amazing with a curved ceiling and even a gently curved floor that mimic the interior of a violin. Add to this the fact that the aisles are uncarpeted and there are no cushions on the pews. The sound absorption is near zero.

To put it politely – yes, we could be heard. Because we are so used to having to give it our all, we could not be understood. The force of 40+ voices in an acoustically divine room that absorbs very little sound was overwhelming. Our voices bounced unintelligibly from wall to wall and floor to ceiling.

The director gave us an order that we almost never get. “You need to back down.”

Dialing it down.

Dialing it down.

Back down? You mean dial it down? Sing more quietly? But we’re here to praise God. We were singing the Hallelujah Chorus for goodness sake.

But did you know that the Hallelujah Chorus was written for 16-20 voices? Sixteen to 20.

Forty people would have to dial it down. Forty people in this room would have to dial it down a lot.

When we did the results were amazing.

I know it sounds like I am giving you contradictory advice. In my first Advent post, I told you to be ready to put the Adventure back into Advent. I dared you to create a Christmas full of the Might and Power of God.

There will still be times that you need to dial it down. Yes, God sends mighty angels to spread his word.

But he also sends tiny, little babies.