I have just spent an exciting and interesting three days at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta attending a conference with the cool--yet oddly familiar--title "The Singing Church: Current Practices and Emerging Trends in Congregational Song.” I will be processing all I learned heard and sung for many weeks and months to come and my thoughts stimulated by this conference will spill out on this blog.
One of the highlights for me was the session led by John Bell from the Iona community. I read his book The Singing Thing: a case for congregational singing several years ago -- many of the ideas in his book have percolated into my own attempts at leading singing. I was pleased to discover that the sequel, The Singing Thing too, was on the GIA bookstall. In this book Bell gives a practical guide to teaching congregations to sing. In his workshop on the Tuesday night he gave a demonstration of his skills -- particularly teaching songs without using written notation (an unusual experience for western white churches). Instead, as he teaches he signs the pitches in the air with his hands. It takes him several pages in his book to describe this technique. It helps to see him in action. You can see how quickly he teaches a congregation a short song in three parts in this video: