Free Downloads? You Bet! — Maximizing Your Prelude Membership

It’s Wednesday at 5 p.m., two hours before choir rehearsal. You’ve just found out that an excellent soprano will be joining the choir for the following Sunday. Descants, something not often possible with a limited choir, would be a wonderful enhancement to the day’s hymnody, and with Prelude Music Planner, you have access to rich, soaring descants from Vocal Descants for the Church Year. Your Prelude membership to the rescue! Simply search by hymn name or tune in the title/theme/keywords search area, and filter “hymn/song” and “descant.” You can view and download the descants you need without using any of your Prelude points! Two possibilities for Christ the King are “Beautiful Savior” (ELW 838) and “Jesus Shall Reign” (ELW 434).

You just found out that a talented flute player in the congregation is home from college and able to play for Advent or Christmas. You could adapt vocal descants for use by a flute or other C instrument. Two suggestions for the Nativity of Our Lord are “Angels We Have Heard on High” (ELW 289) and “On Christmas Night” (ELW 274).

Another excellent way to get the most out of Prelude’s resources is by downloading choral stanzas from the two volumes of Choral Stanzas for Hymns. These work best when a choir can augment the singing of a hymn by singing a particular stanza in an alternate harmonization. For Advent, consider “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn” (ELW 242) in a setting by Thomas Pavlechko and “Savior of the Nations, Come” (ELW 263) in a setting by Michael Burkhardt.

Psalm settings abound on Prelude. Use your membership to download psalm tones and refrains, including responses to the readings at the Easter Vigil. If you don’t regularly use the Psalter for Worship collections and don’t own a copy, as a Prelude member you have access to these varied, reproducible settings for choir, cantor, and congregation.

You can also use Prelude for practical purposes, such as downloading harmony parts for a choir. Say you’d like to use a hymn from This Far By Faith. You own one or two copies of the hymnal, but not enough for the whole choir or a small group of singers. Prelude allows you to download hymns in various formats: harmony, melody only, or words only. When you enter the title of the hymn or song, limit your search to “hymn/song” and you will go straight to these versions rather than an anthem or prelude based on that tune. You can download a hymn in the version that best suits your particular need. Be aware that while some hymns are available in all formats, some have copyrighted harmonizations not available on Prelude.

LifeSongs is a fine children’s songbook published as part of an Augsburg Fortress Sunday school curriculum series. Perhaps you own the LifeSongs Leader Book but not enough copies of the songbook. A number of these songs can be downloaded from Prelude and used with music readers. An excellent example of a piece from this resource is “In the Bulb, There Is a Flower” or “Go Now in Peace,” both by Natalie Sleeth. If you reproduce or project copies of a copyrighted hymn, whether for the choir or for the assembly, be sure to report the usage under your church’s copyright license (OneLicense, LicenSing Online, CCLI) covering that hymn.

Get the most out of your Prelude membership with points-free access to hundreds of worship music items—including descants, stanzas, psalmody, and hymnody—to enrich your music ministry!

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Singing on September 11

As worship planners, you consider multiple threads when weaving together assembly song: scripture, season of the church year, congregational life, world events, and more. A hymn might be especially relevant to the lectionary texts, but is unfamiliar to the congregation. A celebratory hymn might have been planned, but then unexpected disaster shakes the community. It takes clarity, wisdom, and sensitivity to make the best choices in each circumstance for each context.

A prime example of weaving together these many threads occurs next month, as the fifteenth anniversary of September 11 falls on a Sunday. sundaysandseasons.com and Prelude Music Planner offer hymn suggestions for Proper 24 and Holy Cross Day, two possibilities for scripture texts. Sundays and Seasons also offers guidance on the juxtaposition of September 11 to Lectionary 24 (see p. 278 of the print edition).

The themes present in both Lectionary 24 and Holy Cross Day offer much richness paired with the remembrance of September 11. Psalm 51 is a cry for hearts continually made new set next to the Gospel promise that God will find the lost. The cross stands as healing for the nations, a sign of God’s suffering in love for the world. These texts are certainly a strong starting point for your hymn choices, but what other themes or threads could play a role?

Lament

While September 11 is a past event, we continue to lament the loss of human life from terrorism and violence. Consider using a hymn from the lament section of ELW, perhaps especially “Bring Peace to Earth Again” (700) or “Once We Sang and Danced” based on Psalm 137 (701).

Healing

We tend to think of healing as an individual rite, yet on this national anniversary, we can cry out for healing in a larger sense, for our communities and our world. Consider using “For the Healing of the Nations” from Singing Our Prayer or hymns “In All Our Grief” (615) or “Healer of Our Every Ill” (612).

Protection

We trust that in all times and places, God holds us in protecting care. Hymns such as “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” (632), “By Gracious Powers (626) or “If You But Trust in God to Guide You” (769) convey this, as do many others.

Many of our hymns contain imagery of Christ as our foundation, that in the midst of crumbling walls and temples, Christ’s power holds firm (see ELW 727, 757, 796, for example). Congregations will have to decide if this metaphor is the right one for this day. While meant as metaphor, singing such imagery on the anniversary of buildings being destroyed might veer in a literalistic direction.

Service and Justice

Many congregations will also observe “God’s Work. Our Hands.” Sunday on September 11, which brings another layer for consideration. We remember by doing, by living in service to the neighbor. The ELCA website offers worship and hymn suggestions for this day.

It might be tempting on September 11 to focus inward, yet the connection of this anniversary with a day of service directs our energy outward, much like those who risked their lives to care for their neighbors. Hymns such as “Goodness Is Stronger than Evil” (721), “Let Streams of Living Justice” (710) and “This Is My Song” (887) direct our song in remembrance of God’s reign of justice and peace for all.

Sing for Now

As you plan or refine plans already made, remember that worship calls us to remember the Spirit of Christ at work in the world now. Grieve as needed in your particular context; be united with the communion of saints of all time. Yet sing in hope and longing for God’s present and future work of mercy and resurrection.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

The Splendor of the Earth: Worship Planning and Ecological Stewardship

On the fifth Sunday of Easter in our congregation, we, in company with many other lectionary-based Christian churches, sang Psalm 148. In this cosmic song of praise, all ages are invited to join the earth with its sea monsters, fire, hail, snow, fog, wind, mountains, hills, trees, wild beasts, and birds. “The splendor of the LORD is over earth and heaven,” we sang as a refrain. What a marvelous testimony to the fullness of God in all things!

When you sing psalms such as 148, do you pay attention to the way the earth is celebrated? What about when you plan assembly song? Even more, how much does care for the earth and ecological justice guide your worship planning?

We are nearing the summer solstice. This can be a time to reflect upon how ecological concerns find a place at our worship planning tables. What follows here are first, a few general observations and second, questions to spark conversation and reflection in your planning context.

Have you noticed . . .

  • the abundance of creation imagery in scripture, particularly in the psalms? The notion that heaven is our true home and the earth is simply a stopping point on the way does not have solid grounding if we are singers of the psalms. (And believe in a God who became flesh and walked the earth!)
  • the earthiness of sacramental theology? At the heart of our experience of God’s grace is bodily connection with water, bread, and wine. God’s word is made flesh and dwells in and among us.
  • the ways in which newer hymnody (and older as well) call our attention to themes of eco-justice? Remember, the psalter is the womb from which church music bursts forth.
  • the way the seasons of the church year can root us in deeper understanding and care for the earth? For example, the “greening” of Pentecost, calling our attention to the Spirit’s work in all that grows; the baptismal focus of Lent leading us to the waters; or the longing for light in Advent, awakening us to our dependence and use of energy (and of all that life forming in dark places, unknown or unseen by us).

Could you ask . . .

  • Do we pay attention to the psalms and other scripture that exalts the earth? Is regular psalm singing a commitment of our congregation? How can it be revitalized?
  • Do the words, rituals and gestures around the sacraments uplift the earth? Are references made to local water sources in the prayers? Can local wine and bread be used? Are connections made in preaching and song between the communion meal and all our meals?
  • What new hymns can we learn that lift up these themes? Consider “Light Dawns on a Weary World” (ELW 726) or “Touch the Earth Lightly” (ELW 739). Remember, hymns focused on care for the earth can be found under almost any category, including the church year, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. “Now the Green Blade Rises” (ELW 379) and “O Blessed Spring” (ELW 447) come to mind.
  • How can seasonal worship planning always be rooted in our experience of the natural seasons as creatures of the earth?

Some congregations may choose specific Sundays or seasons to focus on creation. While this might be an option, paying close attention to scripture and hymnody will reveal that every Sunday gives us an opportunity to regard Christian worship paired with stewardship of the earth. Much of the time, it is simply being aware to the riches that we have overlooked.

Resources to dig deeper

A Watered Garden: Christian Worship and Earth’s Ecology by Benjamin Stewart

Lutherans Restoring Creation

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

What Is Your Philosophy of Worship and Music?

Anyone who has interviewed for a church music position knows some questions are almost guaranteed to be asked: “How do you motivate volunteers? What style of music is your favorite? What does the ideal relationship between clergy and church musician look like? How do you feel about choir robes?” Tough questions, but not too difficult to answer. There is that one dreaded question, though, which is seemingly impossible to answer: “What is your philosophy of worship and music?” Whether you have been asked this question directly or not, you do have a philosophy that manifests itself in how you practice church music. Spending some time developing—even writing out—your own philosophy of worship and music is a valuable exercise that can have a direct, positive impact on your music ministry. Try this on your own, or together as a worship/music committee.

Here is a two-step approach I have used to develop my philosophy of worship and music. First, I answer the fundamental question, “What is worship?” One of my favorite biblical passages is Exodus 15:1-21, which describes the Israelites’ impromptu worship after crossing the Red Sea. We read first the Song of Moses, and then we read the Song of Miriam, who quotes her brother’s song. From this passage, five foundational principles of worship emerge:

  1. Worship is focused on (or directed toward) God; it is not focused on us.
  2. Worship is communal. In worship, women and men, children and adults, recount the shared salvation experience of God’s people.
  3. Worship is participatory; it is not simply a performance of one or a few.
  4. Worship is language-based and culturally intelligible.
  5. Worship is didactic. Worshipers of all ages are both instructed and edified by worshiping God.

Each point could be fleshed out further, and more could be drawn from this passage, of course. But, this five-part description of worship helps to lay the groundwork for my second step. Now I answer the more practical question, “How do you choose music for worship services?” Here is my ten-part approach to this issue (in no particular order!):

  1. All texts sung in worship should reflect the theology of the local church. (Denominational hymnals—and their supplemental resources—are an invaluable help in this regard.)
  2. Music used in worship should be rooted in the historic Church’s vast repertoire of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, springing forth into new expressions from the present day.
  3. Musical selections should fit the season of the liturgical year and should relate to the scripture readings, sermon theme, and other elements of the worship service.
  4. Each musical selection should be well-suited to its position in the worship service (prelude, opening hymn, offertory, closing song, etc.).
  5. Music used in worship should be culturally intelligible.
  6. Musical selections should be within the performing capabilities of those performing them. (However, there is always room for growth!)
  7. Music used in worship should foster participation by the assembly—familiarity, performance style, key/range, tempo, and dynamic threshold are critical factors to consider when preparing corporate worship music.
  8. The entirety of music used in a worship service should, ideally, exhibit both variety (of key, tempo, mood, instrumentation, etc.) and continuity (nothing should seem jarring or out of place).
  9. In all musical selections, text and music should be well-suited for each other. (Metrical indexes can help church musicians find more suitable tunes when necessary.)
  10. Not all music need be language-based. Instrumental music free of any textual association can be an effective means of grace to God’s people.

What would you add from your own philosophy of worship and music? Share your comments below!

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Tim Shaw

Timothy Shaw studied theology and music as an undergraduate and graduate student, and he has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as composer, college professor, music engraver, and church musician. He has presented workshops, academic papers, hymn festivals, and reading sessions at numerous conferences, churches, and universities throughout the United States. His publishers include Augsburg Fortress, Beckenhorst, Choristers Guild, Concordia, Hope, Kjos, MorningStar, and Shawnee.

All Hymns Were Once New: New Hymns for This Church Year

The radio program Composer’s Datebook regularly signs off with the phrase, “Reminding you that all music was once new.”

Sometimes it’s hard for us to imagine the time before “A Mighty Fortress” or “Amazing Grace.” Like a friend who has been with us as long as we can remember, these songs accompany us for a lifetime. At one point, however, “Amazing Grace” was new and unfamiliar. Not unlike a budding friendship, only quality time together allows us to call another a friend.

With Advent we begin a new church year. As you look ahead, it can be helpful to plan what hymns and songs you will introduce in your assembly between now and next Advent. Some congregations can handle ten or more new hymns; others may do better with five or six. Whatever the number, be intentional about which hymns you’d really like the congregation to learn. This may be the result of individual brainstorming or collaboration with other church staff and laity, or better yet, a combination of both.

What new hymns will you introduce? First, take stock of what the assembly knows. If you don’t have the practice of marking a hymnal with the date of when a hymn is sung, consider that. If you are new to an assembly, take a hymnal to someone who has been singing for years and find out what they know well, a little, or not at all. After all, it’s awkward to introduce someone only to find out they’ve been friends for years.

After surveying what is known, consider what you’d like them to learn. Reflect upon the faith these hymns and songs express and form in us as we sing together. What theological strains are missing from the body of hymnody that is well known? What eras or places around the globe? Does your assembly know any Asian hymnody, for example? What faith matters are particular to your community at this time?

Beyond the theological, consider practical leadership concerns. What would work well with your acoustics, space, and instrumentation? What are the skills of the musical leader(s)? For example, if you want to introduce a hymn that would work best on piano and you only have an organ, does the keyboardist have the necessary skills to make that adaptation? If you’d like to sing unaccompanied, do you have a singer with the skills for that kind of leadership?

When we encounter newness, we may readily embrace it or slowly warm up to it. You know your context best, but in most if not all situations, intentional planning will allow you to use all the resources at your disposal to make a successful introduction. If you are well prepared in your teaching, you will see results. (See Musicians Guide to Evangelical Lutheran Worship for help as well as the resource “Ten Tips for Introducing New Music” in Leading Worship Matters). The assembly is also helped by learning about the hymn or song. Who wrote it and when? Under what circumstances? Be sure your congregation has access to Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship for this important aspect of teaching. If you do not own a particular hymnal, Prelude Music Planner allows for licensed download of many hymns and songs from a variety of print resources.

Some of these new hymns may become favorites; some may not. Such is life among a community of diverse people. We can’t all have the same best friends. Yet together we are opened to new texts and tunes that will shape and share our faith in this new year, and in the years to come.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Thanksgiving: The Antidote to Worry

When it comes to church music ministry, there is plenty to worry about! Will enough singers show up on Sunday morning? Will the assembly be pleased with the music I’ve chosen? Will the organ cipher sound during my prelude? Will my choir members notice I’m not well prepared for rehearsal? Will the sound system work right? Will next year’s budget be cut—again? Often, we who are in charge worry too much, and our worry spills over to our volunteers. But, is it healthy to approach our service to the church in this way?

In Matthew 6:25-33, a reading for Thanksgiving Day, Jesus encourages his followers not to be crippled by anxiety. He says, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear” (v. 25). He tells us to look at the birds and consider the lilies—God takes care of them, and God, who knows everything we need, will take care of us. Jesus speaks directly to the issue of worrying, asking pointedly, “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (v. 27). When we worry about things God has promised to provide, we doubt the sovereignty and goodness of God. What, then, are we to do? Jesus says, “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (v. 33). That sounds good, but what can we do practically to reduce anxiety in our lives and, in particular, in our church music programs?

First, we can plan ahead. Having a good plan is one of the best strategies for church musicians to adopt. But, even the best laid plans often go awry! Second, we can hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Anticipating problems that may arise and putting preventive measures in place can reduce last-minute complications. But, as you know from experience, something always goes wrong! We should do these things, for it is prudent to do so, but what else can we do to prevent worry from infiltrating our ministry?

Let me suggest that the most effective antidote to worry is thanksgiving—when we recount God’s blessings, we remember God is faithful and find renewed trust in God’s promise of future provision. Rather than working within a climate of anxiety, we can help to foster a culture of thanksgiving in our church music programs. Try taking these action steps:

  1. Choose a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to use as a choral warm-up. Sing the same hymn for a period of time (about four weeks) and then present it as a musical offering in a worship service. Here are some suggestions (these selections are also well-suited for use during a Thanksgiving service!):
    • For the Fruit of All Creation (ELW 679)
    • Praise and Thanksgiving (ELW 689)
    • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (ELW 858)
    • Soli Deo Gloria (ELW 878)
    • Let All Things Now Living (ELW 881)
  2. Write an article for your church’s newsletter (or Sunday bulletin) in which you acknowledge the gifts and contributions of your volunteer musicians. Select a different volunteer to profile each month. Your volunteers will feel appreciated.
  3. If you like to bake, prepare a tray of baked goods to share after a weeknight rehearsal.
  4. In all written communication to your volunteers, include a scripture verse or a word of thanks acknowledging their sacrifice of time and talent.
  5. Give thanks to God for your church and ask God to bless your ministry.

How else can you cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your ministry? Share your comments below!

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Tim Shaw

Timothy Shaw studied theology and music as an undergraduate and graduate student, and he has enjoyed a multi-faceted career as composer, college professor, music engraver, and church musician. He has presented workshops, academic papers, hymn festivals, and reading sessions at numerous conferences, churches, and universities throughout the United States. His publishers include Augsburg Fortress, Beckenhorst, Choristers Guild, Concordia, Hope, Kjos, MorningStar, and Shawnee.

Singing with the Saints: Commemorations and Music Planning

A hymn by William Irons (1812–1883) begins by calling us to “Sing with all the saints in glory.” We typically think of singing this and similar hymns on All Saints Day, but Evangelical Lutheran Worship contains a number of hymns under the topic heading, “Festivals and Commemorations.” What is a commemoration and how can our worship and music planning include them?

A commemoration provides the opportunity to recognize the faithful witness of a fellow member of the body of Christ. A brief listing of commemorations can be found in the front of ELW (pp. 15-17). Further information can be found in the ELW companion resource Keeping Time and at sundaysandseasons.com. You can also consult the Frequently Asked Questions portion of the ELCA website for more about commemorations.

How can we as church musicians mark these observances. Below are some suggestions to spark your planning.

October includes the commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4). Consider singing the hymn attributed to him, “All Creatures, Worship God Most High” (ELW 835). A hymn with numerous stanzas works well in alternation between different voices (men/women and children) or between different portions of the room (left side/ride side). Could the choir sing a choral stanza or descant? What about a festival arrangement? Note the especially visual metaphors of the hymn. Could an artist or a children’s Sunday school visually represent these images in some way?

The church commemorates Teresa of Avila on October 15; 2015 marks the 500th anniversary of her death. Did she create any hymns of the church? An excellent resource to consult for this and similar questions would be the hymnary website. This is an extensive research tool for hymns and songs in numerous hymnals. A search on Teresa reveals that the song ”Nothing can trouble” is based on her writing. This short Taizé chorus could surround prayer or be sung during communion. It is included in the Augsburg Fortress collection Holden Prayer Around the Cross and is also available on Prelude.

Fitting commemorations for church musicians to recognize are those of hymn writers. October 26 is the commemoration of Philip Nicolai, Johann Heermann, and Paul Gerhardt. A quick search in the Sources index of ELW (p. 1189) or on Prelude will let you know which hymns the assembly knows by these writers. You can then decide if one or more of them might be a fitting addition to worship on the Sunday nearest their commemoration date. On Lectionary 30/Year B, Heerman’s “O Christ Our Light, O Radiance True” echoes nicely the prayer of the day: “Eternal light, shine in our hearts.” Evangelical Lutheran Worship includes nine hymns by Paul Gerhardt. “Evening and Morning” is a robust hymn that would be a fitting gathering or sending hymn this time of year. Philip Nicolai’s hymn “O Holy Spirit, Enter In” would serve as an excellent hymn on Reformation, particularly if confirmation takes place in your congregation on that day. A study of the text would be very fitting to those praying to learn God’s wisdom in all things.

When choosing a piece of music to coincide with a commemoration, consider educational materials in the bulletin or electronic media. Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship provides insightful background information on writers and composers.

Take note: the Church’s list of commemorations is not the final word. In your context, you will often be recognizing others for whom their faith has been a witness to Christ’s spirit moving in and among us. You as church musician have the gift and opportunity to sing with saints of all times and places.

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Jennifer Baker-Trinity

Jennifer Baker-Trinity is a church musician and Associate in Ministry who has served congregations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She has been a regular contributor to Sundays and Seasons (Prayers of Intercession, Hymns for Worship) and has authored Soli Deo Gloria: Choir Devotions for Year B (Augsburg Fortress, 2011). She leads assembly song at Beaver Lutheran Church (Beaver Springs, PA) and lives with her spouse and three children in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.

Ten Tips for Introducing New Music

There are churches in all denominations in this country where congregations do sing well, and it is always because there is at least one person who is actively expecting it.
—Alice Parker, Melodious Accord

1. Know your congregation’s threshold for newness.
Some congregations are willing to learn a new hymn each month, while others can handle a few new songs each year.

2. Let the assembly hear it first.
Consider playing a new tune as a prelude or during the offering. Getting the tune into the ears of the assembly can be the “getting acquainted” step in the learning process.

3. Utilize the choir or other vocal ensemble.
Have them sing a new song once or a few times before asking the assembly to join.

4. Teach the hymn or song to a small group first.
Can the song be part of Sunday school, a council retreat, or a confirmation event?

5. Sing a new text to a familiar tune.
For example, your assembly may know the tune beach spring, often sung to “Lord, whose love in humble service” (ELW 712). This same tune is paired with the texts “Come to me, all pilgrims thirsty” (ELW 777) and “Wash, O God, our sons and daughters” (ELW 445).

6. Teach the hymn before worship.
This can be done in a variety of ways: the choir may assist or the cantor may sing the hymn or song line by line. Such teaching can be by rote (for songs with simpler texts) or may use a hymnal, screen, or service folder.

7. Provide background information about the text and tune.
People may be more inclined to embrace something new when they know something about who wrote it, when, and for what occasion. Hymnal Companion to Evangelical Lutheran Worship includes information about every text and tune in the hymnal. That information could be shared orally or briefly summarized in the worship folder or church newsletter.

8. Introduce gradually.
This is especially true when introducing a new musical setting of the liturgy.

9. Keep it simple.
When learning a new hymn, keep musical introductions straightforward: a clear melody and a steady tempo are essential to any hymn playing, but especially for something new.

10. Repetition is key.
After singing a new song for the first time, do not wait too long before you sing it again. For example, if you are learning a new song for Advent, sing it all four weeks. Consider singing the same gathering hymn for a few Sundays during the summer months.

From Leading Worship Matters: A Sourcebook for Preparing Worship Leaders (Augsburg Fortress, 2013).

Introducing a new piece to your choir? Want to add some variety to rehearsals? Try some of these warm ups and rehearsal strategies as suggested by composer Zebulon Highben from a session he led at Augsburg Fortress Music Clinics in the summer of 2013:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua0ON0IeZEw

Continued blessings to you and your music ministry.

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Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen is Worship and Music Support Specialist at Augsburg Fortress and is a member of Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and lives in St. Paul.

Gospel Acclamations for Lent through Holy Trinity

The gospel acclamation is a high point of celebration in the assembly. It is the assembly’s opportunity to welcome the reading of the gospel in its midst, to rejoice for the great gift of God’s word, and to gather around the reading. It is an anticipation of the gospel reading to come and a response to the word it has already heard. The choir may have a role in leading the acclamation, providing a descant or singing the proper verse. However, on most days it is not advisable for the choir to sing the entire acclamation in the assembly’s place (the days of Lent and Holy Week may be an exception, when the proper acclamations are less easily sung by an assembly). This is the assembly’s response, and at least the alleluia needs the entire assembly’s voice.

Usually the gospel acclamation contains an alleluia, our most basic word of praise. In the Lenten season, we sing a less festive text without an alleluia, “Let your steadfast love come to us, O Lord. Save us as you promised; we will trust your word,” or another suitable text. In all other seasons, we may simply sing the alleluia or we may pair that singing with a proper verse for the day.

—From Using Evangelical Lutheran Worship: The Sunday Assembly, Lorraine S. Brugh and Gordon W. Lathrop (Augsburg Fortress, 2013).

Gospel Acclamations for Lent through Holy Trinity (Augsburg Fortress, 2006) offers choral gospel acclamations for Lent through Holy Trinity with one per Sunday or festival day in the church year, years A, B, and C. Download content for any Sunday instantly in Prelude simply by searching “Gospel Acclamations” and the calendar date of the Sunday you would like.

First Sunday in Lent B

Second Sunday in Lent B

Grace and peace to you and your music ministry this Lenten season.

 

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Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen is Worship and Music Support Specialist at Augsburg Fortress and is a member of Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and lives in St. Paul.

I Want Jesus to Walk with Me

“I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”
—Text: African American spiritual

The text

Teachers of creative writing often say that the first line sets the tone and essence of any work. This spiritual manages to capture the whole of the Christian message in the first three words: “I want Jesus.” The singers employ a repetition at the beginning and end, thereby stressing that only one thing is important, and that is to want Jesus. This spiritual is at once a song, a poem, and a prayer. The brevity in the song shows the pain of the singer and the singer’s trust in God.

The legend

One of the greatest signs of discipleship is the desire that Jesus journey with us. This spiritual may well have grown out of the Good Friday observances practiced by the early Christian missionaries or followers. In those days, the Lenten celebrations were more elaborate in some religions and the slaves might have seen reenactments of Jesus’ passion. They wanted Jesus to walk with them because they identified with him and believed that he could understand them. Another sign of discipleship is the desire to have Jesus be present with us in our pain. Note the maturity of faith: the plea is not to have Jesus take the pain away, but to have Jesus walk with them.

—Commentary from “Sing the Faith: Spirituals,” Mark Bozzuti-Jones (Augsburg Fortress, 2002).

This popular spiritual is available for instant download in Prelude in many forms. As a reminder, hymnal versions do not carry a point value, thus freeing up your Prelude points for additional music purchases.

Hymn

ACB.

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Grace and peace to you and your music ministry this Lenten season.

 

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Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen is Worship and Music Support Specialist at Augsburg Fortress and is a member of Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and lives in St. Paul.