Accompanying the vocalist is so different from playing for congregational singing. For the most part, a steady rhythm is maintained for congregational singing.
Not so for accompanying the vocalist. I would encourage all church pianists to sing along mentally as you play. Doing so will prevent the pianist from rushing the vocalist. So many vocalists over the years have expressed their concern over pianists that rush their singing…not allowing them time to breathe and freely interpret the hymn. It’s so easy to do! Think about it…the pianist doesn’t have to physically breathe at the end of a sentence…so he or she just moves right along…forgetting that the poor vocalist would like to breathe! I know…I’ve been guilty many times of this very thing 🙂
Just focus on the message of the hymn and allow the singer to lead you. I understand some vocalists feel more comfortable following the pianist. Please encourage them to take the lead once they have learned the song; allowing them more freedom of interpretation.
In the future, I hope to provide a video with helpful tips for accompanying the vocalist.