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From Memory or From Music in the Worship Band?

A question on the Worship the Rock forums had me pondering (and pontificating) on whether I should be aiming to do away with the music stand when playing at church.

I’ve done plenty of gigs without music but those have been in the context of bands who spend a long time “off stage”, rehearsing a relatively small pool of songs, compared to the actual time performing in front of an audience. The nearest I’ve come to the church set up (large pool of potential songs, changing combinations of musicians and perhaps more time playing than rehearsing once the core of the band has established itself, is in the world of jazz, with a combination of fake books and improvising (in neither case is the audience expected to participate more than nodding heads, tapping feet and smiling encouragingly at the stage).

In church, with a varying pool of musicians of varying abilities, a large pool of potential music and the need to involve the (largely unrehearsed) congregation, I don’t think there is any shame in having some music on a stand. Those big events are back towards the relatively well-rehearsed rock band end of things (and I can’t imagine many “punters” at large worship events sending in a complaint that there were too many new songs that they didn’t know).

If leading, I like to know the song well enough that all I need is a lyric sheet, printed suitably large in case my mind goes blank on the fourth verse and perhaps some chords if the song isn’t entirely straightforward. If I’m a backing musician, then I’ll take all the props I can get (although it is vital to look at the leader as well as at the music).

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