I Got Circles of Rhythm

From Ted-Ed and contributor and educator John Varney:

“In standard notation, rhythm is indicated on a musical bar line. But there are other ways to visualize rhythm that can be more intuitive. John Varney describes the ‘wheel method’ of tracing rhythm and uses it to take us on a musical journey around the world.”

The following are just a few of the titles available for instant download in the Prelude library that explore various aspects of global styles and rhythms:

“ChildrenSing Around the World”


“God Who Watches Over Me”

God Who Watches Over Me

“Here is Love”

Here Is Love

And for a bit more rhythmic inspiration…

Continued blessings to you and your music ministry.

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.

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:


Continued blessings to you and your music ministry.

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.

New Choral Titles for Lent, Easter, Spring 2015

Sometimes we confuse somber with slow, penitential with plodding. Although the pace of worship and music matters, and in some ways tempo and piety are intertwined, they are not as formulaic as their use in Christian worship sometimes might suggest. Faster does not equal more joyous. Consider popular music. Some of the quickest music around—bluegrass and death metal—can be both dark and penitential, often in the extreme.

If you are the musician planning worship this season, review the tempo at which you are leading worship, particularly the hymns. It is easy to get into a rut. Remember that you play the music not for yourself, or even for the music itself, but for the assembly. Your call is to lead the assembly in song. An excellent read that explores this concept in greater detail is Paul Westermeyer’s The Church Musician (Augsburg Fortress, rev. ed., 1997). Every musical choice, however complex or artistic, should be in the service of the church singing with one voice.

From the seasonal essays for Lent, Sundays and Seasons 2015 (Augsburg Fortress, 2014).

All instrumental and choral titles in the Lent, Easter, Spring 2015 line from Augsburg Fortress are available for instant download. Consider these choral titles for use throughout these seasons:

God So Loved You

Here Is Love


I Know That My Redeemer Lives


We Walk By Faith


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

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.

Music Sourcebook for Lent and the Three Days

In 2006, with the publication of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, a trajectory of worship renewal that had begun generations earlier and had already become quite clear with Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) continues. Among the primary markers of this path are a renewed emphasis on the sacraments in general and baptism in particular; encouragement of shared leadership in worship, including prominent roles for laypeople; the recognition that music in worship—and especially song—needs to belong at heart to the worshiping assembly; and a recovery of the Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter as the very center of the church’s year. These last two points, particularly, find expression in this collection of music for Lent and the Three Days.

The core of this collection resulted from a gathering of composers in the summer of 2008. They were charged with writing music specifically for the liturgies as set out in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, using, in most cases, the texts that are there. The pieces were to have assembly involvement. The musical styles were left up to the composers (and range from chant to blues), but they needed to be accessible. The results are on display within these covers. Even though the pieces were written for the Evangelical Lutheran Worship services, they promise to prove useful also in the worship of other churches and faith traditions, especially those that are also celebrating or rediscovering the riches of the liturgies at the heart of the year. Supplementing the newly written pieces are some previously composed ones that seemed well suited to use in these services.

This book is a companion piece to a helpful planning resource for these same times, the Worship Guidebook for Lent and the Three Days (Augsburg Fortress 2009). There may be found the texts of the services surrounded by commentary on how these services can be brought to life in a wide variety of worshiping communities. Included in the notes are many suggestions for musical leadership of these services, with frequent references to the contents of this Music Sourcebook.

An essential resource for music planning, content from Music Sourcebook for Lent and the Three Days (Augsburg Fortress, 2010) is available for instant download in the Prelude library.

MSB Image 1

MSB Image 2

Blessings to you and your music ministry during this time and throughout the year.

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.

Second Sunday after Epiphany-January 18, 2015

You have searched me out and known me. (Ps. 139:1)

All the baptized have a calling in God’s world. God calls not just the clergy but also the youngest child, like Samuel. The story of the calling of Nathanael plays with the idea of place. Nathanael initially dismisses Jesus because he comes from Nazareth. But where we come from isn’t important; it’s where—or rather whom—we come to. Jesus refers to the story of the vision of Jacob, who called the place of his vision “the house of God, and … the gate of heaven” (Gen. 28:17). Jesus says he himself is the place where Nathanael will meet God.

Sundays and Seasons, Year B 2015

Looking for last-minute music for the Second Sunday after Epiphany? Perhaps you are planning “Samuel Listens” by John D. Horman for your children’s choir, as suggested by Sundays and Seasons.

Included in Sing the Stories of God’s People: Thirty More Songs for the Youngest Singers, published in 2010 by Augsburg Fortress, “Samuel Listens” is also available in the Prelude library for instant download. Mary Nelson Keithahn (writer) and John D. Horman (composer) of Sing the Stories of God’s People, include the following performance note: “The phrase, ‘Samuel, Samuel, Samuel,’ in measures 13-15 (repeated at the end of each stanza) lends itself to echo-singing. Sing each ‘Samuel’ and have the children echo it. When the children can sing the whole phrase correctly, ask: Which ‘Samuel’ starts on the highest pitch? (#1) Which starts on the last pitch of the one before? (#2) Which starts on the lowest pitch? (#3) Which two end on the same pitch? (#2 and #3) True or false: All three start on one pitch and go down in pitch? (False)”


May the light of Christ shine in your music ministry during this time after Epiphany and throughout the year.


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.

Simple Pluses for Advent and Christmas Worship

All of us church musicians are deep into the seasons that are upon us, seasons when the hopes and expectations for wonderful music are even higher. Prelude can help you add an extra something to worship, to make this season of anticipation and the coming season of celebration even more special.

I know you have your anthems planned, and hymns, too. But what about a special setting of the final verse of a hymn? Go to Prelude and use the “Type” area of the library search (just click on the “Type” label and the area will unfold for you) to find either descants or choral stanzas — we’ve got lots of each! You can narrow your search by typing in the hymn name in the Title/Keywords field at the top. Add a descant to an opening hymn and maybe a choral stanza at the final one. Or, what about singing a wonderful hymn as the offering and include the choral stanza — quick and easy anthem! One more reason: all the descants and most of the choral stanzas are zero-point downloads from Prelude! Your choir will delight in the extra little challenge.

Don’t forget Introductions and Alternate Accompaniments — there are ten volumes for organ and ten volumes for piano in the Prelude library! Any of these can help set the key, melody, and atmosphere for any hymn, and offer an alternate accompaniment for the last verse. Easy way to make any service more special.

Prelude is great not only for creating great structure for music in worship, it also gives you ways to enrich the music that are simple and rewarding! Blessings to you during this busy time.

Preludes and Postludes with Robert Hobby & Jeremy Bankson

Over the summer we had the honor of Robert A. Hobby and Jeremy Bankson as guest clinicians for the Augsburg Fortress Summer Music Clinics. In October, Hobby and Bankson joined Jane Knappe and W. Zachary Taylor for an online web seminar to talk about their latest compositions. They also recapped and shared great insights from their 2014 summer music clinic worship Preparing for Festival Sundays.

Originally recorded on October 15, 2014, this 60-minute webinar is free and available for viewing now through December 31, 2014!

Watch Now: Free Webinar from October 15, 2014


For more information about free, live webinars offered by Augsburg Fortress, please visit www.gatherlearnlead.org.

Elissa Zoerb

Elissa Zoerb is the Customer Education Support Specialist at Augsburg Fortress and sparkhouse Publishers. She has over 15 years of experience in choral and instrumental ensembles, and music for ministry. Elissa has a degree in religion from Luther College.

How does Prelude Music Planner enhance your use of Evangelical Lutheran Worship?

Did you know that with Prelude Music Planner, you’re able to instantly preview and download hymns and service music from Evangelical Lutheran Worship at no extra cost beyond your $79 annual subscription rate?*

For example, let’s say your gathering hymn for Reformation Sunday is “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation” (ELW 645), as suggested by Sundays and Seasons. Search for that hymn in Prelude, and you’ll see you have access to this hymn in all of the following versions:


Also available for this hymn is a choral stanza, a wonderful hymn enhancement for featuring the choir during a festival processional. (Prelude also includes vocal and instrumental descants for many Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymns.)


Other service music for this festival day include the psalmody for the day, Psalm 46, as well as a gospel acclamation for the day’s gospel, John 8:31-36:


With Prelude, you can share your music plans with other music leaders at your church. And with no limit on the number of users, all of your worship and music leaders and church administrators can use Prelude to download your music plans and contribute their own ideas.

* Reprinting or projecting copyrighted hymns and service music requires permission from the copyright holder or ownership of a valid copyright license covering the material.


“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” —Martin Luther

Eric Vollen

Eric Vollen is the Marketing Manager for Worship, Music and Congregational Life at Augsburg Fortress, and leads a youth choir at Grace University Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. He lives in St. Paul’s Highland Park.

Stuck in the Middle with You

Ah, the youth choir: no longer children, not yet adults. The purgatory of musical ensembles, neither heaven nor hell…or is it?

At one point in my professional career, as many others have and still do, I directed youth choirs. I loved their energy, vitality, and spirit. Among the various challenges I experienced, however, was finding quality music that matched the collective abilities of the singers. It wasn’t easy.

What a treasure it would have been to have had access to something like Prelude back then. The ability to search, filter results, and (wow!) examine an entire piece of music from the comfort of my home would have been a God-send. I don’t care to know how many hours I spent at the local music store, combing through myriads of octavos, trying to find new arrangements of music that would (hopefully) work; or peering through catalogues, ordering several single sample copies, only to find one or two that I could use for the year.

Now Augsburg Fortress does not currently have a choral series specifically devoted to youth choirs nor does Prelude have a tool that filters for this type of ensemble, but you know your singers and you have the search and filter tools in Prelude which can help direct you to the perfect choral settings for your group.

Many of the results that will appear for you when you do a search for unison or 2-part choir will be from Augsburg’s ChildrenSing series or collections. I encourage you not to dismiss these from the list of the possibilities for your choir assuming that they are meant for children only. There are so many exquisitely crafted and beautiful choral settings in this series. At various time, I’ve even used a few of them with my adult choir when time and resources got tight.

A word of advice however: in the event you do find a few (or many) arrangements from this series you’d like to purchase for your choir, simply use some white correction fluid to eliminate the word “ChildrenSing” from the credit line at the bottom of the first page before making copies of the printed music for your choir. Nothing will sabotage your rehearsal efforts more than an astute eight-grader (or in my experience, an aging soprano) who wants to know what that “ChildrenSing” thingy at the bottom of the page means.

Mark Sperle-Weiler

Mark Sperle-Weiler works at Augsburg Fortress as Senior Project Manager--Music in the Worship and Music Department, with many years of experience as an instrumentalist and choral leader.

Seasonal Notes: Summer 2014

Music clinics are rolling along (Clinic Information Here)–now is planning time for the choral year! We provide quick updates whenever we add something new to Prelude via our Fanfare announcements, and I can never cover all of the great pieces we’re adding daily, but today I’ll go a little more in-depth with some recommendations for your choral year programming.

Wait–what was the name of that clinic piece?

  • Did you like something you heard at the clinic? Couldn’t attend this year? Everything featured at clinics is available on Prelude! New Releases from Augsburg Fortress, Choristers Guild, MorningStar…
  • Forget who wrote that one you liked at the clinic, or only recall a few details about it? Type “summer2014clinic” (no spaces) in the Title/Theme/Keywords box to bring up all the clinic music from all publishers. You can use Prelude in tandem with our webstore to help you find and order those pieces, too: New Music for Fall, Advent, Christmas 2014.
  • Remember: Prelude offers the Preview feature to confirm whether you’re getting just the right version of the song you’d like, to allow you to plan and print it at the best time of year for your choir and your congregation.

GIA latest material: Great Choral Year Pillars and Special Occasions, adding instruments to choral works

  • Magnificat for Advent (SATB, org, trumpet) or Night of Silence for Christmas (SATB, keyboard, optional winds/string/guitar) are two solid picks for a larger work for your Advent/Christmas choral season. All instrumental parts and scores available on Prelude!
  • Easter Proclamation by Ferguson is a festive Easter piece for SATB, brass, and organ. It’s lovely–but not overwhelming to learn for a small or medium sized choir; GIA’s website says “Despite all the substance of this piece, it is not beyond the reach of the respectable church choir.”
  • Special anniversary or church dedication? A Song of Hope is good choice–arrangement by John Ferguson, text by Isaac Watts, designed to include SATB, children’s choir, brass, and handbells.

Service Music

  • Gospel Acclamations for Autumn and Gospel Acclamations for Advent-Transfiguration are available for every week of the church year from September 7, 2014 through February 15, 2015 (the rest of the liturgical year will be loaded by January). Just search by the date you need, and your choir and/or handbells can be prepared to lead the Alleluia.
  • Remember to plan for Choral stanzas and Descants (free with Prelude subscription!): great for weekly variety in hymn-singing, adding to special festivals, or when you just don’t have the right anthem to match a Sunday, when an ELW text suits an occasion but that hymn could use musical augmentation. Launch the Planner and go to Filter by Type to click the exact category you need.

Coming soon to Prelude (July/August 2014): New content daily!

We hope you’ll have a great time learning and getting inspiration at clinics, meeting new colleagues and friends and catching up with familiar faces. We’re always happy to hear the kinds of things you’d like to see in Prelude, too. Have a great summer!


Michelle Hughes

In addition to serving as Prelude Project Manager/"Content Queen," I've served in various roles as a church musician throughout in my life--Saint Paul Area Synod Youth Representative, Augsburg College Choir Alto Section Leader and Campus Ministry Leadership, National Lutheran Choir Member (during Larry Fleming's time), ELCA pastor (internship Gloria Dei Lutheran, Williston, ND, called to First Lutheran, Janesville, WI), Middle School Choir director and Worship/Praise Band Singer (United Lutheran, Red Wing, MN), occasional Sundays and Seasons contributor/Augsburg Fortress Gospel Devotional writer, and last but most significant vocation: mother to three young musicians--twin girls plus younger sister.