When we have a new hymn or song to learn, we each read a verse aloud.
One person reads verse 1, then the person next to them reads the 2nd verse, and so on.
This has two purposes:
1. Separating out the text from the music helps the learning process.
(It’s a bit like practising a piano piece with hands separately, before putting them together; it allows security for each separately, before combining the two.)
2. But it’s more than just security of the text reading; for example, ensuring that similarly-spelled words with different meanings – e.g. through, though and thou – are pronounced and understood correctly.
Reading each verse separately, while everyone else listens, helps us to see the meaning of the text – and we can then think about how the music can best express that meaning.
Psallam spiritu et mente
I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding also
(Motto of the RSCM)
(3. There’s a third purpose:
Getting the singers to say a verse aloud, right after their neighbour, is also about building a singer’s confidence and their diction. But that’s for another post.)