During my youth and young adult years (1970s and 1980s), I was a church choir member. During this time, the tradition of my church was for the choir to march into the church down the aisle, and into the choir stand. As the choir marched in singing, while rocking or swaying from side-to-side, the congregation would stand up and look towards the back of the church to watch the choir processional.
When the senior choir in my childhood church sang and marched down the aisle, I would always look at their shoes and would pass judgment in my mind as to if the shoes were pretty or ugly. I think that most of the children in my church did the same thing. I did not realize how much I missed and valued the choir march tradition until last month when I visited a family church.
Since the early 1990s, I have not been a member of a church where the choir marched into the choir stand. Instead, these church choirs simply gather in the choir stand prior to the beginning of service and stand up together before the opening song. I have, however, visited churches since the early 1990s, who still do the choir march.
Last month, when I visited my father’s family church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA, I realized how much I missed the choir march tradition. On that 4th Sunday in April, the youth choir marched into the church. As they marched in, a thought hit me as I watched and recalled that some churches, which formerly practiced the choir march tradition, no longer did this. I got excited as I watched these young people march and sing. For more on my 4th Sunday in April visit, click here.
In the second service that afternoon, the mass choir marched into the church. I was thrilled and excited by the upbeat music and their marching! I took several pictures instead of video, but later I wished that I had thought about my digital camera video instead. I promised myself that I would remember to videoe the next time I visited Antioch.
Yesterday, I visited Antioch again and the service was spiritually uplifting. This time I made sure to videotape the choir march. Some choirs sing as they march in; but the choir at Antioch marched in as the musicians played. They began singing when all the choir members got into the choir stand. Like some marching choirs, the Antioch choir was escorted in by an usher. (See portion of video below)
I do not know when or where the church march tradition began in churches, but I love it, not only because it is a reminder of the church traditions of my youth, but also because I believe that it sets the tone of worship as the choir enters the church singing praises to God.