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The Thesis: Contemporary Worship Singers

Conceptual Framework

After many months of patiently waiting, I am pleased to be able to direct you to my doctoral dissertation which is now available for download online –

It is my sincere and humble hope that this document proves to be helpful to Contemporary Worship Singers and those who work with them.

Don’t hesitate to contact me ( to discuss and/or comment on any of the material contained in the research…and of course comments below this post are most eagerly encouraged!

Task and Context

A few posts ago (Thai Duck and the Impending Doom) I made a commitment to disseminate many of my research findings through my blog; highlighting the various unique facets of the Contemporary Worship Singer. I am still committed to that promise but alas I have not yet received my examiners results. It is therefore prudent that I exercise restraint and only present a brief introduction to my work at this time. I maintain my commitment to release the body of the work once the examiners have had their say and I have responded to their requested changes.

The Task

What’s so special about the Contemporary Worship Singer? Good question. At first glance it appears that the modern church singer is like many other vocalists who sing repertoire that is categorised as ‘contemporary’. Prior to the study I had contented myself with the misnomer that today’s church singers predominantly sing choruses. The modern church chorus stylistically vacillates between pop/rock to pop ballad and rarely strays to other genres. My research has revealed that the minority of churches (18%, n15/83) use only choruses. The majority of my research participants indicated that their church use a balanced amount of choruses and hymns. This is perhaps the most fundamental (but certainly not the only) challenge facing the Contemporary Worship Singer: the vocal task must address repertoire that is technically different. Hymns are best sung with a classical discipline, while the modern chorus is best served with a pedagogy that is contemporary. This poses the question: Can a singer learn to do both? Moreover, can the singer learn to switch between the different styles (classical and contemporary) all within the confines of one worship service? As many of my vocal students would tell you, it’s difficult enough to learn proficiency in one discipline without the heightened task of freely activating either/or. For the volunteer church singer who has little to no vocal training the modern church environment creates a difficult vocal task. I can hear many of you sighing, “Sure, that’s an interesting feature of the modern church singer…but it’s not enough to declare them unique!” I agree. I made the same observation at the conclusion of my Master’s Degree. The vocal task in and of itself does not separate the Contemporary Worship Singer from their vocal peers in the wider community of singers. So what does?

The Context

Reviewing the singing task of the Contemporary Worship Singer reveals what the singer does, but it stops short of identifying who they are. Herein lies the challenge facing my research. The context of the Contemporary Worship Singer has a multiplicity that other singers do not need to grapple with. At a superficial level it is helpful to separate the contexts into traditional and contemporary. The traditional church environments are typically conservative in their theological orientation. This conservatism is observed in the architecture of the worship space, the manner in which modern equipment (PA and Video projection) is used and the presentational modes of those presenting the worship service. The alternate mode of church presentation is as its namesake suggests: contemporary. The Contemporary Worship Singer who practices their craft in the contemporary environments are more exposed in their presentation with both PA and video projection used to enhance their audial and visual leadership. This heightened exposure can lead to a cultural dilemma: if the general purpose of worship is to corporately direct adoration to God, how then does the Contemporary Worship Singer ensure that they are striking the balance of necessary encouragement to the worship participants without drawing undue attention to themselves or their performance? This is a unique feature. No other singer in the wider community has to draw attention to their task without drawing attention to themselves. This has broader ramifications for such considerations as excellence and how the individual singer might develop their craft. Again, I need to stop short of unpacking this until I have been given the ‘all-clear’ by my examiners…but I think you can gain the general picture. What makes the Contemporary Worship Singer unique is both the task and the context combined.

I’m looking forward to delivering a more in-depth account of my work and its findings in the coming months. I can assure you no one wants the examiners comments more than I do, but wait we shall. Once I have a definitive indication of the work and it’s approved finality I will step us through the outcomes/findings of the research and disclose the conclusions including the ‘Contemporary Worship Singer Assessment Tool’ accompanied by the nineteen distinctive features which collectively form a detailed role description of the Contemporary Worship Singer. I can’t wait to reveal all.

Thai Duck and the Impending Doom!

I haven’t been sleeping well these past few nights. At first I thought it might have been a dish of fabulous Thai Duck curry (HOT) disturbing my sleep patterns, but this possibility has passed (pun intendedJ). Having contemplated the possible cause of my temporary insomnia, I have settled on the notion that the impending submission date for my doctoral thesis is fast approaching and thus I am experiencing last-minute jitters. It’s not the date per se – everything is in hand and the last chapter is being written. What I have started to wrestle with is the inevitable empty nest. My baby, my research and subsequent writings, is about to leave home after 5 years of gestation and care; and I will no longer hold any control over its welfare. Once submitted the thesis will be placed in the care of the state (I’m stretching the analogy – but run with me) and decisions about my baby’s worth will be made by people who I hardly know. In time my baby will be returned to my care with suggestions covering how I might better develop its formation. Succinctly – I think I am working myself up to the ‘loss of control’ which will take place in just under two months (Submission date: 15th April, 2012).

Inevitably this will leave a big hole in my life and the life of my family. I have spent about 15-20hrs a week for the past five years reading, thinking, writing and editing. So, what to do with all this new-found time? At this stage my life will continue much the same as it has for the past few years. I will continue to read (albeit at a reduced pace), I will continue to think (hopefully good thoughts) and I will continue to write. The fulfilment of placing one’s thoughts on paper is an activity I have grown to enjoy; so I will continue to write for Voice in Worship and my voice coaching business, Djarts. This being said I ask for your patience over the coming weeks…I will not write another article for Voice in Worship until after my paper is submitted.

Once my commitment to submission is achieved I intend to write a number of entries for Voice in Worship covering select topics that have arisen from my research into the Contemporary Worship Singer. These articles will be intentionally designed to tease the reader (hopefully you); creating an appetite for the real thing. That’s right! I would love to share my doctoral paper with you once I have been awarded the A.O.K! For many of you it will be the first ever doctoral paper you have read…don’t worry…it is the first ever doctoral paper I have written; so we will make good companyJ. To make sure you don’t miss out on the worldwide release of my work you can subscribe to Voice in Worship either by email or through Facebook’s Networked Blogs (right-hand side of screen →).

Voice in Worship was originally developed to fulfil a component of my doctoral course work. Admittedly, I had only intended to write a few entries, achieve a good mark and move onto more pressing concerns. But many of you have encouraged me to continue the writing. I hope that as Voice in Worship remains with me into my post-doctoral life that it will continue to educate, inspire and challenge all of us. Yes, me as well! The comments left by readers are often challenging to my point of view and as a result I have grown. Please subscribe and engage – your comments make Voice in Worship rich and diverse.

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