Q&A with Carol Cymbala, Director of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
Why did you make "PRAY" the title of the new CD? “Pray” is a ballad sung by Timiney Figueroa and it inspires people to look away from their problems and give them to God at the throne of grace. We chose the song as the title of the CD because the bible says God’s house shall be called a house of prayer. Teaching, music, and worship are all important, but I truly believe we need more prayer in our lives and in our churches. Through prayer, anything is possible and we want to encourage everyone, everywhere to pray.
Talk about some of the new songs. “At The Cross” is a new praise and worship chorus we have been singing with our congregation. It lifts up the greatness of what Jesus did when He came and died for our sins. I believe this song will inspire a deeper love and spirit of worship in churches which will help us all overcome the anxieties and fear that are so prevalent in the world today.One of my favorite songs is “Come to Jesus” by Brandon Camphor. It's a song that invites people to come to Him just as they are. It doesn't matter what pit they found themselves in, what they've done, or where they come from, Jesus is always there with open arms to receive them and to love them. Time and time again, I see people in our church that come to Him and I see their lives changed dramatically. It is just a beautiful thing to see. Another one of my favorites is “He Loved Me.” I can't think of any greater love than what Christ did for us. His love is for all of us. It is unconditional, and I am so thankful that we were able to record a song that can speak of the great love of our Savior. “Christ the King” is sung by Onaje Jefferson. It is an upbeat, uplifting song about surrender and trusting in Jesus. Generally, songs of surrender are written as ballads, but this song communicates just how exciting it is when Jesus becomes our everything.
Church choir worship is becoming less prevalent in many churches today. What is the key to sustaining and maintaining a vibrant choir ministry? I've been directing the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir for many years, and week after week, I look up at about three hundred people singing with all of their hearts to the Lord, and every time I am moved and the congregation is touched. I see them lift their hearts and their hands and their voices to God in worship and praise, and I see how their hearts are stirred by music. I really believe that it's very important that in the church today, if we are going to have a choir, that the people in the choir need to be committed members, who have a heart for God and a heart for ministry. I also believe that the choir directors need to focus on seeing lives changed through the power of the Gospel in song. There's just something really beautiful and powerful about seeing so many people lifting their voices to the Lord in praise in one accord. I pray that there would be more choirs that would be raised up in the day that we are living in so that we can sing a song of praise and victory to our God because He is worthy of all our praise.
Why is corporate worship so important to a church service and how do you motive the congregation to participate? Corporate worship not only lifts up God and glorifies Christ Jesus, but it invites the Holy Spirit to come into our lives. Jesus said the Spirit would glorify Him. When we truly worship, we open ourselves to the power of the spirit, which helps us open our hearts to hear from God. The praise teams should never perform praise and worship. If we simply perform, our congregations become spectators instead of worshipers, and it is vital that we worship from our hearts in spirit and in truth. Worship is contagious, and when we worship as a choir and praise team, the congregation, in turn, begins to lift their hearts and worship God. I also believe our song selections should be simple enough that young and old, the diverse body of Christ, can lift their hearts in praise and worship together as one.
What events are coming up for the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir this year? We are very excited about premiering the new CD in February. We are already planning a very special Easter production that we put on every year. We have many outreaches during the year, and one of our most anticipated outreaches is when we can bring in the homeless of our city and are able to minister to them. We have a lot on our schedule and we're really excited to see what God is going do.
What keeps you motivated as a choir director to find new songs? I love the old hymns. I love so many songs that were written the past, but I'm so grateful to the Lord that he can give people new and fresh music that can minister to those that do not know Him, and those that know him can be blessed and renewed. Thankfully, God has used many of these songs to be an incredible blessing here in our congregation and around the world.
What excites you most about the new CD? One thing that is so special to me about the Pray project is that it focuses on the Gospel. The bible says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” There is an eclectic mix of songs on this album-- from contemporary Christian to praise and worship to gospel-- but the one thing we’re really excited about is that on this project, there are songs reminiscent of the traditional Brooklyn Tabernacle choir sound. As I look at the condition of the world today, I see so many people who are hurting and looking for answers, and we know that Jesus Christ is the answer. Our prayer is that this new CD will point people to Him.
Ten things you may not know about the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
They do not use and have never used sheet music to teach songs to the Choir. It is all by ear.
Director Carol Cymbala doesn’t read music, yet has been blessed to win six Grammy Awards and multiple Dove Awards.
The Choir’s first album was recorded in seven hours from start to finish in 1981. No overdubs, stacking or effects.
When the Choir did their first concert at Carnegie Hall, Carol played the piano for the entire concert. She was the first musician for the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Carol is married to the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Jim Cymbala.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir started with nine people, all of whom were untrained vocally.
The Choir has recorded over 200 songs.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers, which is the primary traveling group for the Choir, is made up of many of the Choir’s soloists and strongest vocalists.
The Choir has sung in almost every major venue and theater in New York City including Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and many more.