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Church’s 89-member choir involves moms, dads & kids

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Some members of this choir can’t read music, and some need to stand on stools to see over the people in front of them. Some of the males sing soprano, some sing the melody.
But in the end, the family choir at Oklahoma City’s Western Hills Baptist Church produces beautiful music.
Other churches may have what they call a family choir, but at Western Hills the family choir is the Sunday morning choir once a month.
“I suppose most everybody wants a family church,” said minister of music Paul Boone, “but our pastor has a vision for the family to be involved in everything the church does.”
Pastor Jerry Wells, who has been at Western Hills 14 years, shared the vision of a family choir with him about three or four years ago, Boone said.
Boone, who came to Western Hills as minister of music in 1972, and served in that position until 1986, had been pastoral care minister and administrator until he started leading the music program again last year.
The church didn’t have a choir before Boone started the family choir, which now is composed of 89 members involving 26 families, including 15 children. Boone also has renewed the graded choir program which has been defunct since 1986.
“We don’t sing every Sunday morning because of the time involved in learning the music, and they have to be here early when they do sing to make sure everybody is in place,” Boone said.
On the Sundays the choir doesn’t sing, Boone uses a praise team for worship.
All family members who want to be a part of the choir are encouraged to participate, Boone said, although he usually cuts the age limit off at 12 and above. “However, if parents come to me and say they have a younger child who can read music, wants to sing and they don’t see any problems, then we let them join.”
As a result, Boone said there are a couple of 8- and 9-year-olds in the choir who are “real singers.”
The choir practices every Wednesday night, and last year did a couple of presentations outside the church, including a Christmas program for a fellow church and an appearance at the 100th anniversary celebration of another church.
Wells said he would like to see the choir perform at other churches and include testimonies from families in the program.
Boone admits directing a choir of all ages is a little more challenging.
“I do a lot of writing for the children’s parts,” Boone said. “I wrote another line for the children in ‘Always the Same,’ and I wrote a line for the children to sing with the choir in ‘The Majesty and Glory of Your Name.'”
He said he has a couple of boys who are singing soprano and some fathers who sing melody because they don’t read music, the pastor being one of them.
Boone noted he hopes those who are singing melody now will learn to read music, or realize they read better than they think they do.
There are no problems with discipline in the choir, Boone observed, because the parents have control. “I don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “One of the rules is that the child’s parents have to be in the choir. We can have a parent without a child, but not a child without a parent.”
He said at one point he arranged the choir by families instead of by parts.
“It was wonderful,” Boone said. “You could hear all the parts. It was really something.”
“One of the pluses of a family choir is that if I just had an adult choir, I would lose moms or dads who have to take care of the kids,” Boone pointed out. “But now the whole family is involved.”

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  • Dana Williamson