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!

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 in Summer

In one practical way, the call of a church musician resembles that of a teacher. Summers mean a little less activity, or at the very least, a different pace to your work. It would not be fair to say that church musicians have summers “off”—plenty of important work gets accomplished during the summer, especially looking ahead to the next year. Yet in many congregations, choirs and other ensembles do not keep a regular rehearsal schedule during the summer.

If your choirs and ensembles take a break from June to August, how can you use others to help lead assembly song in these months?

  1. Consider a partial summer break. Instead of a choir breaking for the entire summer, schedule them to sing selected Sundays each month. This may not work in every setting and might mean a smaller group, but it can provide some continuity in the choir’s leadership of assembly song.
  2. Consider different arrangements of voices. Could you have a men’s choir sing one Sunday and a women’s another? Prelude Music Planner offers many selections for treble or male choir. St. Olaf Choirbook for Men, Augsburg Choirbook for Men, and Augsburg Choirbook for Women provide a variety of selections for these voicings (include link: and ) Could a children’s or youth choir sing once over the summer? What about an intergenerational choir? One general piece that worked well in our setting was “I’m Gonna Sing with Over My Head” by Terry Taylor, available for download on Prelude.
  3. Consider soloists. Who in your congregation could be a cantor for a psalm? Could you also have she or he prepare a solo? (You can search for solos/duets using the “filter by type” setting on Prelude.) Do not limit such leading or solo singing to adults. Involve capable children and youth. This could be as simple as having a young person or adult sing a new hymn that you would teach to the choir and congregation at a later time.
  4. Consider instrumentalists. When they are not away at various camps, summer might be a good time to work with young instrumentalists as well as adults. This could mean solo arrangements for pre-service, offering or communion, but also enriching hymn-singing. If you have the numbers, try a summer instrumental ensemble. Remember, even a simple flute or trumpet on a hymn tune can enrich assembly song. Prelude offers many descants for easy download.
  5. Consider inviting musicians from the surrounding community. If your congregation does not have a budget for such invitations, perhaps members have family members who would like to share their gifts. You could also suggest that folks giving memorial money create a special fund to bring in guest instrumentalists or soloists.
  6. Consider being “up front” a little more in the summer. If you have ever considered leading more with your voice, summer might be a time to venture into “paperless” song leading. Visit Music that Makes Community for more about this style of song leading. Collections published by Augsburg Fortress such as “Songs and Prayers Around the Cross” lend themselves to this kind of leadership, as do hymns in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, such as “Come, Let us Eat” (491) or “Send Me, Lord” (809). If your congregation is not ready for this style of leading in worship, summer potlucks, vacation Bible school, and outdoor services might be a way to plant the seed.

Enjoy being creative as you plan for the summer. Pay attention to the gifts present in your worshiping community and beyond. Perhaps a quieter ensemble schedule will both help you focus on other aspects of music ministry and give you space to reflect and prepare for what lies ahead.

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.

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.

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

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.

Still Waiting For Inspiration? Several Seasonal Suggestions

Many of our Prelude users plan their musical offerings well in advance, but there are many still waiting for inspiration to strike. We polled some of our editors and other folks about their favorite pieces to play in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. May you gain some inspiration from these suggestions!

From Norma Aamodt-Nelson, keyboard acquisitions editor for Augsburg Fortress and Minister of Music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood WA.

From Andrew Heller, Director of Music at St. Paul’s Lutheran in Ardmore, Pennsylvania

  • One of my favorite postludes to play on Christmas Eve is Timothy Albrecht’s Angels We Have Heard on High from his Grace Notes Volume II. Also from Tim Albrecht – Go Tell it on the Mountain from Augsburg Organ Library: Christmas.
  • Variations on From Heaven Above by Walter Pelz is another favorite of the season.
  • For Epiphany I love “Prelude sur l’Introit de l’Epiphanie” by Maurice Durufle in Augsburg Organ Library: Epiphany

John Schlobohm, Cantor at Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, Minneapolis MN

Karen Kester Areheart, Cantor at Nativity Lutheran church, Arden, NC

Some anonymous suggestions:

Carol Carver, Acquisitions Editor at Augsburg Fortress and Director of Music at Trinity Lutheran in Stillwater, MN

**Note: Augsburg Organ Library collections are not yet available on Prelude due to permissions issues, but we are working on this and hope to offer them in the coming year. Meantime, the collections are available at the above links.

Need Inspiration for Lent and Easter? Attend one of our free Music clinics in the New Year, or consider the National Conference for Sacred Music.

Blessing on your music ministry!

-Jane Knappe, Event Coordinator, Worship & Music, Augsburg Fortress Publishers

In the Bleak Midwinter: arr. Mark Shepperd


Gustav Holst’s and Christina Rossetti’s classic Christmas hymn is wonderfully arranged by Mark Shepperd. The mood of the text is conveyed quite well through the music, with contrasting sections of rich textures and stark accompaniments. The optional parts for oboe and chamber orchestra give both an opportunity to utilize this as a large-scale piece or as a simple keyboard and choir presentation for your Christmas worship.

Download printable sheet music at or order print copies at

Mark Shepperd

Mark is currently Minister of Music at Woodbury Lutheran Church. He holds a B.A. degree in Music Education and resides in Woodbury, MN.

Interview with David Cherwien

This week: an interview with David Cherwien, Cantor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, and music director for the National Lutheran Choir. Jane Knappe, Event Coordinator, is interviewer.


What keeps you doing what you do?

Who knows? The spirit of God, I think. One thing – is the parish I currently serve. Everything we do is so deeply meaningful to them it really makes me want to work harder. It’s also very rewarding to know that the efforts I put out are greeted with such intense understanding and meaning. Paul Manz called it a circle of energy (and I think of it more as a spiral). I present to them thoughtful preparations, they receive and use them, which comes back to me and energizes me more and the spiral grows.

What do you do different today than 10 years ago?

It’s funny how recent 10 years feels to me now. 10 years ago I was exploring more various musical styles for congregational song. It’s what we were supposed to do. I find myself retreating from that a bit, and encouraging, nurturing, blessing the cultures from which I and many come which seems to be less popular right now – particularly European and Western classical music. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy other styles, or music of other cultures – those are also important for us to participate in, and to learn about – but I find that we tend to look over the fence first before nurturing and blessing the side we’re already on. I also felt that things were often more novelty and entertaining than true expression, although that isn’t something I would say is always absolutely the case. It just was where I was.

What are simple ways to grow a worship and music program?

I believe it starts with two very important approaches:

  1. Use the resources you have WELL – which usually translates to doing less, and doing that better. The greatest limitation church music has is preparation time with the church’s volunteer musicians – but if we plan for less, and plan the amount of time needed to adequately prepare better, they do better, and that is more enticing – both for its effectiveness, and for “recruiting.”
  2. The other: Bless memory – even if their musical/spiritual/worship memories are not what particularly twirl our turbines. When people feel their memory is blessed, they are more open to receiving encouragement to grow into new. If we plan on singing “What a Friend We Have In Jesus” once in a while, they may be far more open to learning “Alabare.”

Tell us about a worship event that made a difference in your life as a worshipper – one that was relevant, transparent, translucent, etc.

That’s an easy question to answer – it was a hymn festival by Paul Manz. At the time I was playing in a rock band – and had had pipe organ lessons, but had not yet discovered how those two backgrounds would converge. I heard this synthesis in what happened – Paul improvising, projecting deep meaning from the texts, and with music that was much more mature and deep than the stuff I was playing five nights a week. And the people were energized and responding from deep within them. Then we’d go back to the band, and pray someone would “break the ice” and dance. Oddly, I can remember many of the hymns from that ONE night, and can hardly remember any of the songs we performed night after night in the band. But at the hymn festival I saw in an instant that the improvisation and freedom from the band, translated into classical music of hymnody – and that people were responding with their souls and not out of a thirst for entertaining themselves away from reality.

How has the role of the choir changed since you have been directing (church) choirs?

I started out when LBW came out – 1978 – at which time we were encouraged to foster a liturgical role for the choir – leading the song, singing the propers, etc. But this was new to many of the singers – they were used to imitating the college choirs by singing big anthems, which were actually not something they could do well. The new role seemed more appropriate to me – we could custom design music that fit their capabilities like a glove – which is why I started writing things for them – week after week, and then I’d throw it away. Want to add one very important thing!!! I must include the choir’s role as leader of the assembly’s song as the most important thing. It’s really the leader of song and not the presenter of the big anthem that was different when LBW came out – and that the propers could also be custom composed.

How has the role of the organ changed – or not?

I think Paul Manz revolutionized this as well. Now days more and more organists are approaching their work as organists more creatively as song leaders rather than being historians, through the organ literature played, and placing little emphasis on the hymnody and liturgy. I’m grateful for this shift, although I am grateful for the academic knowledge some are passionate with. I find more interest in being creative because that’s my brain type.

What’s the most frustrating element of your work?

I’m thinking it’s safe to venture a guess that the one thing most church musicians will not miss once we retire is wondering who’s going to show up for church choir the next week. And we have to grin and bear it. “Hey – look who came tonight? I’m so glad you’re here! I remember when you came last year!” . . . . . Folks are busy, and choirs are not huge like we perceive they once were so when people are gone it really can hurt the sound. It’s hard for us to have a consistent roster of singers to develop. But that’s also the challenge – I usually find a direct connection between attendance regularity and the amount of work and preparation I put in myself. When I’m “winging it” during my own busy times, the singers get less interested. When I put a lot of effort into musical preparations, they tend to be more regular.

What do you wish someone had told you at your first church position?

To be more patient, to bless memory more, and not feel like the weight of the entire realm of God rested on getting support for my latest idea of what would be best for them. They’re intelligent people (congregations), we should trust them more.
What do you get out of leading seminars, traveling to different events etc?

Seeing and experiencing what goes on in other places. Invariably, we’re all experiencing the same issues over time. In sharing that, we can find a lot of support for our trials. I also love meeting people. Some of my best friends I encountered in these kinds of contexts. I also love hearing stories of others’ parish experiences.

What does a musician need that they probably won’t learn in school?

All the things you just asked!

Psalm Meditations for Piano: composer John Carter

We hope you enjoy this Prelude visit with composer John Carter as he discusses his new collection of original piano works which include textual meditations written by his wife, Mary Kay Beall. Download printable sheet music at or order print copies at

Summer Clinic Leader Interviews, part 1: Jeffrey Brillhart

This is Part One of a two-part series featuring interviews with Jeffrey Brillhart and Zebulon Highben, summer clinicians for the Augsburg Fortress 2013 Music Clinics. This week, enjoy some of Jeffrey Brillhart’s thoughts on questions we posed.

How do you balance your work at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian church, Singing City and Yale?

To be sure, with three positions, some weeks can be positively insane! But, I try very hard to space concerts between Church and Singing City so that I’m not racing from one to another. With Yale, the stimulation of teaching brilliant students more than compensates for the extra work hours. Plus, the 7 hours spent on Amtrak on the round-trip commute actually is a blessing! It’s a great time to catch up on reading fiction (especially works by John Sandford and Michael Connelly!)

Will you be introducing the new Presbyterian Hymnal to your congregation? If so, do you anticipate any problems in that process?

That’s still a question mark for us. We are wrestling with the basic stewardship question of what to do with hundreds of hymnals that are still in basically great shape. With our copyright license, we can include new material without going to the great expense of replacing the hymnal.

What are you teaching your students about the organ that was never taught to you?

Improvisation, improvisation, and improvisation. Helping my students unlock their inner creative voice. And, happily, there’s a fair amount of non-lesson interaction with some of the students, when we can discuss all the non-musical aspects of working in the church (how to defend your music budget, how to deal with difficult members, how to run a committee meeting, and so on).

Got any new cool warm-ups?

The biggest warm-up breakthrough for me in the last six months is having singers block one ear with their finger during several of the vocalizes I use. This is a variation of sorts of the old trick of cupping one’s ear in order to hear others around you. I stumbled on this working with a young tenor voice student. It really helped free up his top!

Your key to working with clergy?

Working continually toward mutual respect and NEVER looking on the clergy as the enemy! I love our clergy … and we have a blast working together.

What stirs your creativity?

Non-musical activities! I love gardening (and Philadelphia’s a real gardener’s paradise), cooking, and museums. Philadelphia’s blessed with great museums (Barnes Collection – one of the great impressionist art collections in the world – and of the great Philadelphia Museum of Art). I have a subscription to The Philadelphia Orchestra that I cherish as well… so great to hear non-religious music!

Thank you to Jeffrey Brillhart for sharing his leadership insights and inspirations, and thanks again to all clinic participants!

Next week, part 2 of this article includes an interview with Zebulon Highben, one of our other clinic leaders.

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.

The Concert Band in Church

Part Two: Hymns

As discussed in part one of this article, the concert band can be a wonderful aspect of worship services, either regularly or for special occasions. Once the basic issues have been addressed—placement, instrumentation, volume level, equipment, and for what elements of the service the band will play—then it is critical to select appropriate repertoire.

In part two, we will focus on the role of the concert band in the accompaniment of hymns.

Creating hymn arrangements, with and without organ

My suggestions here are for hymns that are in the public domain. More recent hymns may need special permission to create arrangements.

I try to create hymn arrangements that give the greatest amount of flexibility. I like for them to have the ability to be used with the organ, without the organ, brass alone, woodwinds alone, and full band. (If I have enough percussionists, and access to sufficient mallet percussion instruments, I might even arrange for percussion alone.)

I usually do this in a very simple manner. First, I make a list of the instruments in the concert band. Next, I assign each to the soprano, alto, tenor, or bass part in the music, making sure that each of the hymn’s parts is covered well. Then I transpose the parts for each instrument. Although this is a very basic formula, I always have to consider the specific ensemble. In other words, are there lots of one instrument and very few of another? Will there be enough instruments on each part to sound balanced? Can the performers play the highest and lowest notes in the part to which I am assigning them? Is the tessitura for each part appropriate, or will they sound strained, fatigued, out of tune, too loud or too soft because the part is generally too high or too low?

If the questions in the preceding paragraph don’t make sense, I suggest acquiring or accessing a text about arranging. You might use one of these keywords for your search: arranging, scoring, orchestration, transcribing, composing. My three current favorite authors on this subject are Alfred Blatter, Kent Kennan, and Frank Erickson. In the absence of a text, I suggest this rule of thumb: If you cannot remember the range of a particular instrument, write the part within the appropriate clef—usually treble or bass—in other words, no ledger lines. This rule doesn’t work for everything, but your players will be able to navigate fairly well, and they will be able to adjust octaves as needed. They will also be able to make suggestions for your next arrangement.

The text will also help you with transposition. If you are using music notation software to create the parts (e.g., Finale, Sibelius), transposition and appropriate clefs will not be a problem. If not, the text can remind you, for example, that all saxophones and clarinets are written in treble clef, that the alto saxophone sounds down a major sixth, so it must be transposed up a major sixth, etc.

Writing descants

Descants can be a wonderful way to add excitement to your hymn arrangements, and they can be created for any instrument or combination of instruments in the band.

One of the easiest procedures to create a descant is to make up a simply melody using only notes and rhythms that are printed in each chord of the hymn. Once you feel comfortable doing this, you might change some rhythms, alter some octaves, and add some passing tones and other ornamentation. Keep in mind that you want the descant to add an exciting element to the hymn, and not cause the congregation to be confused with a crazy new melody, harmony, or rhythm.

Other favorite descant creation procedures of mine include adding a melody from another hymn, or creating a melody out of some of the suspensions found in the music.

Leading the congregation

I find it especially exciting to accompany hymns with band alone, and with band and organ. Because the local organist knows the expectations of his or her church best, I usually ask the organist to set the tempo by playing the introduction. Using the tempo established by the organist, I then lead the band, organist, and congregation. This leadership role could just as easily belong to the organist, with me following the organist and leading the band. Either method works fine, but the decision on who is leading obviously must be determined before the service.


One of the important skills possessed by an excellent church organist is the ability to lead the congregation. The concert band conductor’s best resource in this regard is the organist. When I am conducting the band and leading the congregation on a hymn, here are my strategies:

  1. Maintain tempo
    Congregations often drag the tempo, so my job is to maintain the appropriate tempo of the hymn.
  2. Phrasing and breaths
    Most hymns have clear phrasing, including places for breaths, that are determined by the text and/or music. Although I might not add time at the end of a phrase, if I sing the text in my head, I can show the appropriate phrasing as I conduct.
  3. The breath before the next verse
    It is important for the congregation to feel comfortable starting the each verse. I try to maintain the duration of the last note in the music, then use the release as a beat of preparation for the next verse. This gives the congregation one count, in rhythm, to take a breath.
  4. Conducting the congregation
    In some situations—either for overall precision, or to add excitement to the hymn—I will turn to conduct the congregation. When a congregation is singing with a band for the first time, it may be necessary to at least turn and cue the congregation when they must enter. If not, congregation members might mistake the band’s music as something extra, and not the hymn accompaniment.
  5. Appropriate volume to hear the music and for the nature of the text
    The local organist knows the appropriate volume to use, both in general and when the text dictates louder or softer accompaniment. The band must do the same thing. In a smaller church, it is especially easy for a larger band to sound much too loud. On the other hand, the band must play loud enough that that congregation can hear. Playing too softy, especially for more than one verse, can cause the congregation to lose tempo, confidence, and pitch.

I welcome your suggestions and questions about the concert band in church, especially when accompanying hymns. The concert band can almost always be an important part of the worship experience, as long as the conductor and performers are sensitive to the needs of the service.

Jeff Doebler

Jeff Doebler serves as professor of music and director of music education and bands at Valparaiso University. He is also conductor of the concert band and handbell choirs for Lutheran Summer Music.

Jeff has been a church musician since sixth grade, and has served professionally as a church music director, brass soloist, and conductor of church ensembles, including: choir, handbell choir, concert band, Dixieland band, brass choir, and woodwind choir.

Dr. Doebler earned three degrees in music education: B.A.-Luther College, M.M.-Valparaiso University, and Ph.D.-University of Minnesota. Before coming to Valparaiso University, he served as a school music teacher and church musician in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and Shakopee, Minnesota. Dr. Doebler is president-elect of the Indiana Bandmasters Association, and state editor and former president of the Indiana Music Educators Association.