Laudio wrote:I'm interested in knowing if anyone has implemented any change like this (choir to ensemble), or if you've found that a particular stage setup works better than another for any reason.
Various thoughts from a rookie "Music Coordinator". All are, of course, IMO. I'll focus on stage setup (as opposed to choir/ensemble transition), as I have thought more seriously about that.
Stage layout - practically speaking - is dependent on the following:
Physical characteristics of the venue.
By this, I mean what can be done varies greatly between an open-air ampitheater, a "theater-style" stage, a traditional church sanctuary, and a church held in a rented facility.
As an example, my own church has a fairly traditional stage, fairly wide and not particularly deep prior to the stepped area for the choir space. As a result, our band location has to be driven to one or both sides, unless we're willing to tear down the choir seating, deal with stepped areas, or want to do more major construction in the area.
Composition and skill of the musicians
. By this, I simply mean (1) how many musicians you will have and (2) what kind of equipment and space will be required. A church with a pipe organist and a full orchestra will likely have very precise requirements on what space is allowable : while a church consisting of a guitar player or two has a great deal more flexibility in location and size.
At our church, we normally have a one or two guitarists, a bass, drums, and on occasion either a keyboard/piano player, saxaphonist, or harmonica player. When we use the piano, its fixed location tends to create challenges for the band.
Composition and ability of the equipment
. By this I primarily mean what kind or sound equipment is available and where it is located. The availibility of sound inputs, and location and quality of monitors, can really impact where musicians can practically be and still hear other musicians.
At our own church, the piano is located on one end of the stage (in a 'pit', and the majority of sound input/output (for mics, monitors, etc.) is located on the other end of the stage. As a result, it is difficult to use the piano in conjunction with the band while keeping both 'ends' of the stage together and on the same beat.
Flexibility of the congregation
, meant as kindly as possible. The best possible stage arrangement may not be the best, if it's arrangement is going to cause too many distractions to the congregation. Placing the electric guitarist "front-and-center" may be in some locations too distracting from a worship experience, despite any acoustic advantages it might provide.
What is allowable.
Simply put, needs of other ministries, desires of the staff, or other factors ( such as fire code, etc. ) may place constraints on what can be done where.
At my own church, the piano (as listed above) is on the "wrong end" of the stage from the I/O locations for the band. However, moving it is not an option, because of the impact it might have on other ministries (in this case, the traditional choir program).
From a personal perspective, about five months ago we did some stage re-arrangement as the summer months began. I sought input (and approval) from the staff as a whole, as well as input from the band members. We ended up moving the (electronic) drum kit and bass from the floor to far stage left, behind the guitar players (who were already on the end of stage left because of lack of space on the floor).
The move was not done to be more "showy" or performance-based, but strictly from a hearing perspective. Rearranging the band members moved them closer together. It increased their ability to hear one another (our monitor system isn't very good), and as a result we had a noticable improvement in the overall sound of the band.
And, quite frankly, a better-sounding band makes fewer distractions in the service, and helps people think more about the content of the music (e.g. lyrics) and less about the presentation (being off-the-beat, off-key, etc).
I'm certain we may have had a few who were unhappy with the change, but after the adjustment period it's no longer any kind of issue. I feel it was the right decision, and honoring to God. I'm still not particularly happy with the distance between the band and the piano, but haven't found an arrangement that would improve the quality of music without providing new challenges to other portions of the service.