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Music Notes from Anne

Anne Scott, Choir Director

Music In Worship

As your Choir Director, my primary role is to select music and prepare the choir for singing in worship and special events. Have you ever wondered how I select choir pieces? Or maybe pondered on how music impacts your worship experience? Then this blog is for you!

Let me start at the beginning. Rev. Carol and I met near the beginning of the year to discuss general worship themes, special worship events (Easter’s flower communion, Bridging, etc.), and the overall direction of our congregation. From there, I take those broad ideas and dig through tons of music – music already in files at Westside and Oak Ridge UU Church, music I’ve performed with other choirs, music suggested by congregants and choir members, music from a national database provided by our UU Musician’s Network, and even music just by searching some common repertoire sites (JW Pepper,, etc.) for key words. I ask myself a ton of questions as I look through pieces. Here are just a few:

  • Does this piece fit with a worship theme?

  • Would this selection add value to the worship experience?

  • Do the singers in our choir have the vocal range and enough voice parts to sing this piece?

  • Will this music expand the depth and breadth of our choir? (I’m always looking to challenge our choir members to increase their musicianship.)

  • Does this piece help to increase the variety of genres, styles, tempos, and emotional “feel” of pieces to keep the choir repertoire fresh for the congregation over the year?

  • About how long will this selection take for our choir to learn?

Once I’ve answered those questions (and more!), I’m ready to get to work on scheduling the choir pieces and our rehearsals. Believe it or not, choir selections through June have been “on the books” since early January. It usually takes our choir about a month to learn a piece, so we have to plan ahead!

Now, take a moment to think about the benefits of asking these questions to select music based on the worship themes and events as well as our choir’s level of expertise. My hope is that you, as a congregation, experience a sense of unity and continuity in worship – that the music enhances and reinforces the words of readings and the message. Maybe it’s an emotional boost of energy to take action for social justice. Maybe it’s a melody that stays with you to remind you that you are not alone. Maybe it’s a time in worship to just breathe and meditate while enjoying the beauty of the sound.

I once heard Rev. Jason Shelton explain that the ideal UU church music is both excellent and eclectic. I would add that it should also enhance and advance the worship experience. Roll all of that together and you’ve got my goals for music at Westside. How am I doing so far?

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