Resources for church musicians, choirs, and worship teams.
Perkins Piano Tuning - David Perkins, from First Baptist Church of Delavan, WI
Contact: Travelingperkins2@yahoo.com; 928-202-8224 (cell)
Singing in a Foreign Land
On Singing During Times of Social Distancing…
Baptist people are a singing people. We join our voices in praise of God, to share our prayers, and to proclaim salvation through Jesus. When we sing together, we are sharing God’s story with those who gather and actualizing the Body of Christ – one voice raised in song. Singing together expresses our love for God and our love for each other, creating community with song. It is hard to imagine worship without singing but here we are facing the prospect of worship without congregational song.
Why are we not singing during in-person worship? The research is clear and comes from many sources – the Centers for Disease Control, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the American Choral Directors Association, the Calvin Institute for Worship, and many others. All have come to the same conclusion – singing expels aerosols which can carry Covid 19. These aerosols can linger in the air much longer than droplets and possibly infect a person. Multiply these aerosols by the number of people in worship and you can understand that singing might be a source of infection. Out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must follow the solid advice of the scientific community and refrain from singing in our worship. That is going to be difficult and painful for us.
As Psalm 137 says, “How can we sing the songs of our Lord while in a foreign land?”. It seems like we are living in a foreign land with things we don’t understand and things that make us uncomfortable. We are like the Israelites – removed from our sacred places and sacred spaces. One of our most dearly held worship practices as Baptists and as musicians has come to a screeching halt! I know we all feel very disconnected and maybe even a little fearful. What are we to do in this time of change?
We need to hold tight to what Jesus has directed us to do – love your neighbor as yourself. We need to follow the science and lead our congregations through this time with love. Singing as a gathered community may be on hold for some time, but singing will not stop! Instead, it will move to our homes and be carried in our hearts as we navigate this new land. Our love for our brothers and sisters who gather to worship with us compels us to refrain from singing in order to protect each other. It is an act of love. It is the way of Christ.
Each church has to discern what path they will follow in these uncertain times. The logistics of in-person worship with social distancing, masks for all, and sanitizing requirements are almost overwhelming. Plans have to be made and people have to commit to carrying out those plans with diligence. Our responsibility as Christians is to love our neighbor. If that means not singing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, then our path in this matter is quite clear.
Remember, the song of salvation through Jesus will never be silenced. Its expression may change but it will never stop. We need to apply our gifts and talents to figuring out and designing other ways to include our beloved song in our worship. Our worship may need to change in significant ways for a time, but Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The call to love each other may require us to make a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice made in love.
Links to explore:
Wisconsin Council of Churches
Orthodox Church in America
So Many Choices!
Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of music – liturgical, performance, and congregational. Discussion about whether to use contemporary or traditional music is focusing on the wrong questions. When the music was written is irrelevant and so is the instrumentation. Instead of asking ourselves these questions we should be questioning ourselves concerning the purpose of the music.
Liturgical music is that music which moves the liturgy along. This category includes the parts of the Mass in the Catholic church, the Gloria Patri and Doxology in churches that sing those responses or the sung Lord’s Prayer. These musical pieces remain the same because their purpose remains the same – to move the liturgy forward. There are some small changes at certain times of the year but essentially liturgical music remains the same.
Performance music is relatively obvious – it is music to be performed by a soloist or group and usually requires a certain amount of musical training. Performance music can be more melodically and rhythmically complicated than liturgical music. The range of the song can be quite large. In many cases, it requires instrumentation that is not readily available in the average church. Music in the Contemporary Christian arena is essentially performance music.
Congregational music is music that is intended for the gathered community to sing together. It can be hundreds of years old or it can be written in the present day. The very structure of congregational song is designed to make it accessible to the average person with little or no musical training. It includes less complicated rhythms and more predictable melodies.
This is a very brief explanation of these musical categories. Perhaps I will go into more detail at a later date. Why am I pointing out these categories? Because I think that we need to evaluate our musical choices based on the musical purpose. All three types of music have a place in our worship – all three accomplish different goals. We need to find the best fit for the spiritual formation of our congregation. Our job is to be sure that we are not ignoring any of God’s wonderful creation to the exclusion of others.
Choir “We Are Called” by David Hass, Arr. by Mark Hayes #11165123, 2 part, Available from JW Pepper. This beautiful and powerful song was the closing number at the annual meeting of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin in 2019. The text has hints of Micah 6:8 and is a straightforward challenge to us as children of God. The parts lie well within the voices and are easily learned. It could be taught to the congregation and used as a closing hymn. The accompaniment is light and joyful and easily accessible. This one should be in everyone’s repertoire.
Handbells “Five Hymns for Twelve Bells: Familiar Hymns in F Major, Arranged by Bill Ingram, Choristers Guild, CGB770. Have a set of bells or chimes but only have 5 or 6 ringers? Then this series will help you put those bells to use and give your congregation another way to enhance your worship and serve as well. Level 2 settings make these very accessible for most ringers. The settings include “When I Survey,” “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna,” and other Lent/Holy Week hymns.
Organ “Dynamic Hymn Introductions for Organ” by Jason D. Payne, Lorenz. Congregational singing is a critical part of our worship. Encouraging and enlivening the song of the church is accomplished through exciting accompaniments that set the mood, key, and tempo of the hymn. This collection contains introductions for some of the most often-sung hymns including “Joyful, Joyful,” “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Come, Thou Almighty King,” and others. These will require preparation time but it is worth it.
Piano “Keys of the Kingdom.” Edited by Angela Tipps, Abingdon Press. This is a series of books that contain 12 – 15 arrangements of familiar songs. Easy to moderately difficult, these arrangements can be used for preludes, postludes, communion, or for personal development and enjoyment. Various styles are represented and make this a great series to own.
Book The Worship Architect by Constance Cherry, Baker Academic, ISBN 13 9780801038747. This is a wonderful book to use whether you plan the worship service alone or with your team. It provides solid theology, artistic creativity, pastoral sensitivity, and cultural connections. Worship is not about style – it is about engaging in a meaningful conversation with God and those who gather. This book provides the help that we all need as we plan for our weekly encounter with God in worship.
Praise Team https://essentialworship.com/ This is a great resource for finding new songs. There are audio clips available as well as lead sheets. Their library of songs includes many of today’s leading worship leaders. Great resource.
Just imagine – every seat in the sanctuary is full. Standing room only! Isn’t that something we all strive for as we prepare our worship and its many parts? We want people to come to worship and experience the presence of God. We want people to come to worship and feel that they are part of the family of God – the body of Christ. We want people to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior and to live a life of service. That is the reason we do what we do – to further the kingdom of God through our music and our worship.
When it doesn’t happen – when there are empty seats in the sanctuary we wonder why? Where is everyone? Why aren’t they here? How can we change their hearts? I don’t think we can – that is the work of the Holy Spirit. But all is not lost – there is much we can do to plant a seed or light a spark in someone’s life.
Our first point of contact with visitors is our worship service. What happens during that hour will have an effect on how that person experiences the presence of God. The songs and hymns we sing, the prayers we pray, and the readings we share will have an impact on those who gather. Scripture tells us we are to “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs” (Psalm 100:2). We also need to come before him with a servant heart – one that seeks to plant a seed or light a spark in someone’s life through our songs, readings, and prayers.
There may be room in the pews for more people but lets concentrate on who is sitting in the pew today. Let us worship with so much gladness that those who gather will feel God moving among them.
Organ: Masterworks for Organ Arranged by Robert Lau,#10527501. This collection of pieces by Bach, Gigout, Boellmann, and Mendelssohn is very useful. The setting of Psalm 19 is especially festive. Intermediate level.
Piano: Everlasting Praise: 10 Arrangements of Enduring Hymns by Cindy Berry. This collection of early advanced pieces has something for everyone. Titles include “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “Praise to the Lord,” and “To God Be the Glory.” Useful for prelude, postlude, communion or personal improvement.
Choir: Every Knee Shall Bow by Lloyd Larson, SAB, #10956073. A wonderful setting of Phil 2:5-11 with a flowing melody and limited ranges. There are plenty of opportunities within this song for working on pitch, blend, and interpretation.
Handbells: Keep It Simple 3 by Lloyd Larson. This collection of Level 1 pieces are quick to rehearse and ready for worship. Titles include “America, the Beautiful”, “Were you There?” and “Amazing Grace.”
Don’t have a full choir? Only have 5 ringers? Then Bob Burroughs’ Five or Less offers settings of familiar tunes for worship. There are a number of volumes in this series that provide music for small groups and/or ensembles.
Praise Team/Worship Band: Check out the recordings of Jadon Lavik. Quite an accomplished guitarist, his arrangements of familiar tunes are fresh and interesting. Also check out worshiptogether.com. This website has free songs available as well as a paid area. Videos highlighting certain songs are also available.
Remember – if you want to talk worship, give me a call at 414-531-0717.
Music Matters – It’s Back!
Romans 12:4-5 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all part of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.
I am happy to announce that Music Matters is back. This is a place where church musicians can come for practical suggestions for music of all kinds, reading suggestions, and a little bit of encouragement.
Sometimes as musicians, we can feel a bit on our own or disconnected from other musicians in the church. As the Scripture states, we are all part of the body of Christ and we need all the others. We all have our own musical situation. It may include choirs, organ, piano, a small ensemble, or any number of configurations. We may be the organist, pianist, singer, and/or director or maybe all of them! None of that matters because we are all called to serve the body of Christ through and with music, to enable people to worship through the music we offer.
One of the most important things a musician can do is to know and understand their musicians/congregation. If we allow our congregations into our lives, we will be able to make appropriate choices that are accessible as well as challenging. This is applicable to choir music as well as congregational song.
In the future, we will discover ways in which we can enliven the song of our church with the resources we have on hand. We are all in this together!!
All musical suggestions are available at jwpepper.com
Organ: Loud Praise to Christ, Our King, Lillenas MB-934, ©2004. This collection contains 9 joyful hymn tune settings that are very useful for preludes or postludes. It includes a setting of “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow” with “Come, We That Love the Lord.” The tune is in the pedal and alternates with flourishes on the manuals. It is rated moderate difficulty so will require some practice.
Piano: Meditations for Quiet Worship, Hope Publishing, #8320, ©2007. These hymn settings are designed for those times when reflection is the goal. They would work well during Lent and Holy Week, communion, or in a prayer service. This volume includes settings of “Be Thou My Vision,” “Were You There?” “What Wondrous Love,” and Amazing Grace. Very useful for all pianists.
Choir: “God of Grace and God of Glory” by Keith Getty and Jonathan Rea, arranged by Lloyd Larson, 2 part mixed with optional violin (part included), Lorenz 10/4512L, ©2003. Keith Getty is one of the most prolific hymn writers of the 21st century. This setting contemplates the sacrifice of Christ in a folk-like setting. Divided between women and men, the well-constructed part writing and a comfortable range support the text. The accompaniment quotes “Amazing Grace” very briefly towards the quiet ending. Useful for general worship services as well as Lenten services.
Hand bells: "Bring a Torch"arranged by Ron Mallory published by Sound Forth, 20/1993SF-2, ©2017. If you like using multiple techniques with your hand bells, this is the piece for your group! Mallets, stick clicks and shakes add excitement to this arrangement of this French Christmas carol. Written for 3-5 octaves, it will be a bright addition to your Christmas concert or worship service. Available at http://jwpepper.com
Contemporary Praise and Worship: "Alive in You" by Jesus Culture. Not only is this song great to listen to, it is accessible for the average congregation. This song I a testament to the saving power of God through Jesus Christ. The video includes the guitar chords which cuts rehearsal time for everyone. It is also available on http://www.worshiptogether.com/songs/alive-in-you-jesus-culture/.
Book Alert: I will Sing the Wondrous Story: A History of Baptist Hymnody in North America. Baptists have always been a singing people and this book traces that tradition. Beginning with our history in England, the story continues in America, examining our song during the nineteenth century and through the Civil War. Sunday school and gospel songs are also included along with descriptions of various denominational hymnals. This is a thorough reference that offers a glimpse into the development of the song we sing today.
If you have any questions, contact me at email@example.com or at First Baptist-West Allis, 414-258-7400.