I’m always a bit confused when, having just been talking to a worship leader with a normal voice and normal word pronunciation, he proceeds to lead worship and sing with a completely different voice and with strange pronunciation. What just happened? Is that the same person I was just talking to? Is he trying to be cool? Does he have a speech impediment that you can only hear when he sings or prays?
Where we might say “open the eyes of my heart, Lord”, he says: “ohhhpin de ahs of my hearrrt, Lird” (with lots of vibrato for special effect).
Or instead of “better is one day in Your courts” it becomes “bedda is a one deh in yir kirts”.
In some cases when he prays he might alternate between a ultra-breathy and halting whisper or a Shakespearean/Charlton Heston-esque bravado.
I’m not talking about when people with different accents pronounce words differently than my American english (i.e. Kristyn Getty pronouncing “power” as “par” in her Irish accent). I’m talking about when someone takes on a completely different and unnatural voice when a microphone is placed in front of their face.
Some worship leaders don’t realize they’ve developed a “worship leader voice”. It’s just a bad habit they’ve picked up over time and no one has had the boldness to break it to them. Maybe you’re this kind of worship leader. Or maybe you need to break the news to someone who is!
Other worship leaders do it on purpose – thinking that it’s how a lead singer is supposed to sound, it makes them come across as more emotional, or that different pronunciation rules apply when you sing versus when you talk. If you’re this kind of worship leader, may I plead with you to consider leading worship with your normal voice?
When you take on a different identity when you lead worship (which is what I would argue is going on when you change how you talk or pronounce words when you’ve got a microphone in front of you), you are making yourself a much larger presence in the room than you need to be. Some people might not notice what you’re doing – but a lot of people will. And to those people, they will spend half (at least) of the service trying to figure out what’s bothering them, realizing it’s you, and then trying to get past it.
You’re also sending the signal, whether you intend to or not, that you’re up front to perform. Why else would you be pretending that you talk or sing a certain way when in reality you don’t? It gives the impression that there is an aspect of your singing or praying which is artificial or contrived.
Worship leaders should be seeking to be as minimal a “presence” in the room as possible. Not distracting people with a sudden linguistic transformation is one way to do that.
Just be yourself when you lead worship. Don’t take on a different persona or change how you talk or pronounce words with mangled vowels or drawn-out “r’s”. Be the same person and use the same voice when you’re on stage and off. And watch the vibrato.