All our Treasures: A Musician’s Care for the Visual Arts

“Poet, painter, music-maker, all your treasures bring …”
—David Mowbray, “Come to Us, Creative Spirit” (ELW 687, st. 2)

Throughout this anniversary year, many of our congregations have been invited into deeper engagement with aspects of the Reformation’s musical heritage, both in thought and practice. Venerable chorales have been clothed in fresh arrangements and gathered in collections such as Anne Krentz Organ’s Piano Reflections on Chorale Tunes and Karl Osterland’s A Wittenberg Collection: Lutheran Chorales for Organ. In the 2017 edition of Sundays and Seasons, Mark Mummert reminds us how the Hymn of the Day originated and why it remains central to the assembly’s proclamation. Those who participated at this year’s Institute of Liturgical Studies met around the theme, “Liturgy Serving The Life of the Church: How Worship Re-forms Us.” The Association of Lutheran Church Musicians will hear plenaries at their July 2017 conference about “Re-forming Congregational Song” and “Re-Membering the Role of the Cantor.”

Though this is a blog devoted to musical planning, we musicians do well to remember that a thoughtful anniversary commemoration should also engage the Reformation’s artistic heritage. In addition to musical decisions, many of us carry some responsibility for choices about visual art—bulletin covers, posters, Facebook banners, newsletter articles—seen by both lifelong congregation members and first-time visitors. While we like to cite Luther’s musicianship and his awareness of music’s pedagogical and formative power, we sometimes forget that he was equally attuned to how the Word is proclaimed in ways that engage the eyes. In Wittenberg, he was a close friend of the artist Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472–1553, and heavily involved in the production of his writings by the Wittenberg presses. In 1518, after receiving proofs for one of his publications, Luther complained to a friend that, “it is printed so poorly, so carelessly and confusedly, to say nothing of the bad typefaces and paper”!(Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation, 140)

The print revolution of Luther’s time is not unlike the digital revolution of our own: decisions about the placement of words and images in blogs, e-newsletters, bulletins continue to require thoughtful care, for each offers an invitation to encounter the holy. In her 2004 book The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community, Robin M. Jensen reminds us that “no matter how we respond” to visual cues, we emerge from those encounters “slightly or significantly different” from simply having given them thought. In his 2007 book Graphic Design and Religion: A Call for Renewal, Daniel Kantor places decisions about visual elements alongside the monastic tradition of manuscript illumination. He writes that both illuminators of generations past and graphic designers of the present “teach us that the communications of one’s faith are still worth of our best efforts and brightest talents,” that “the hospitality of visual grace can become prayer for both maker and viewer.” (There’s also a great story about the physical design of Evangelical Lutheran Worship in Kantor’s introduction!)

Like our musical selections, we are blessed with an abundance of visual choices that assist proclamation of the gospel across Sundays, seasons, and festivals of the church year. As you prepare to enter the time after Pentecost, perhaps you can give thought to ways in which the Spirit has worked through visual art, be it oil paint on cardboard or bronze sculpture. These are not mere decorations, but essential tools for drawing focused attention to the central symbols in our midst and images in the lectionary. In addition to resources such as the Evangelical Lutheran Worship Graphics CD-ROM and Eileen Crowley’s A Moving Word: Media Art in Worship (a contribution to the Worship Matters series), you might consult some of the following books, articles, and websites in order to build a library of visual art that speaks best to your context. And if choices about visual art are not part of your “official” responsibilities, perhaps you can share these resources and begin a conversation with other worship planners and leaders in your setting. Like Bezalel and Oholiab, let all of us be filled with “with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft” (Exodus 31:3–5). Or, as we sing in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, “in our worship and our living keep us striving for the best” (ELW 687, st. 4).

Books and Articles

Databases and Collections

Individual Artists

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Chad Fothergill

Chad Fothergill is a graduate student at Temple University, Philadelphia, where he researches the Lutheran cantor tradition in both its Reformation-era and present-day contexts. Outside of coursework and research, he is active as a substitute church musician in the greater Philadelphia and New York City metropolitan areas. He has served congregations and campus ministries in Minnesota, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

One License and LicenSing Online Merge

As of January 1, 2017, these two principal providers of hymn and song licensing for mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic communities merged, retaining the One License name. What does this mean for Prelude Music Planner subscribers who reprint or project music covered by these licenses? Those who held only One License may have already noticed that more content is covered than before, especially from copyright holders like OCP Publications, whose works were previously only covered by LicenSing Online. Those who held both licenses will find it less complicated to report usage in one place rather than two.

As of March 17, 2017, LicenSing Online will be removed from the Prelude Music Planner Library Search area (under Copyright Licenses) and from the My Account area. The My Account area will populate the One License license number field with your One License account number or, if you held only LicenSing Online, the account number assigned by One License when the services merged. Remember that it is your administrator’s responsibility to keep your licenses in force and your license information up to date.

This is a good time for a reminder also about the need for One License account holders to report to One License every time you reprint or project a hymn/song element covered by One License. Prelude Music Planner does not “automatically” report for you. We are currently working with One License to improve the ease of reporting hymns and songs from Augsburg Fortress published worship books. It’s also important to remember that One License covers the reproduction only of materials intended for congregational singing (melody and singable harmony), and not the reproduction of choral/vocal music, keyboard/instrumental music, or hymn accompaniments that are not intended for singing.

Questions about copyrights? Sign up for our free, archived webinar “Churches and Copyright: How to Be a Weekend Publisher without Going to Prison”!

20 Time-Saving Tips for Church Musicians

Get organized. There is an old saying: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Being organized will, indeed, save time and limit frustration.

Reduce! Clutter can be overwhelming, and its very presence can eat up a lot of time. Clean out your music library. Once you have chosen new music, throw away catalogs from publishers and distributors.

Reuse! Church members have their favorites—program these pieces again and again . . . and again. Once you’ve found a composer/arranger you like, look for more titles by that writer.

Recycle! Donate unwanted music to another (perhaps smaller) church.

Be prepared. Try to sustain a plan for 12 months out (general ideas only), 6 months out, 3 months out, and 1 month out (very clearly defined).

Keep records. Maintain an accurate list of all the music you use throughout the year (preludes and postludes, anthems, interludes, etc.). This will make it easier to plan next year’s selections.

Update your files. Keep current items most visible in your filing system, and keep both your actual desk and your computer desktop clean and clutter-free.

Know what you like. Prepare a tabbed notebook (or a PDF to load onto your tablet) of repertoire you like to play for weddings, funerals, and communion. (Be sure to observe applicable copyright laws!)

Use technology effectively. Don’t be a slave to technology; make it work for you. If necessary, take a computer or software training course.

Become a better web surfer. Bookmark sites you visit frequently, keep multiple tabs open when browsing, and perfect your ability to search (place titles in quotes, use the minus sign to eliminate certain words, etc.).

Plan online. Take advantage of online planning tools like Prelude Music Planner. Make use of publishers’ websites containing liturgical planning calendars, demo recordings, and repertoire suggestions.

Respect other people’s time. Begin and end rehearsals on time—always!

Have a rehearsal plan. Know your “plan of attack” before you walk into rehearsal. List the anthems you’ll rehearse, so choir members can get their music in order. Before moving to the next piece, make notes on your score so you’ll remember what to work on next time.

Think like a parent. Choose your battles. Remember that perfection is not a reasonable goal—growth and development are, though. Anticipate problems before they arise and come up with possible strategies for solving them.

Be wise. Build on past successes and learn from past mistakes.

Learn to say no. Busy people always make time for more projects, but being able to say, “I’m unable to take that on right now” is a great skill to have. Another good response is, “That’s an excellent idea. I don’t have time to do it by myself, but maybe you’d like to help!”

Delegate. Don’t take advantage of other people’s time, but remember volunteers love to help—allow them to share some of your load. If someone is good at data entry, ask her to be your librarian. If someone enjoys social events, ask him to be your party-planner. Instead of photocopying the last page of your prelude, enlist a middle-school student to be your page-turner for the day.

Don’t go it alone. Collaborate with pastors, staff, and church members who may have wonderful ideas you can use—a favorite anthem, a thematic idea for a program, or the name of a substitute musician. If a church member has a favorite piece of music, and they purchase copies for the church, use it!

Get away. Attend at least one conference a year. Church music conferences are held nationally and locally, so you may not have to travel far. You might think you’re too busy to attend a conference, but doing so promotes rejuvenation, networking, brainstorming, and refreshment. Consider National Conference for Sacred Music as well as the Augsburg Fortress Summer Music Clinics.

Redeem time. Benjamin Franklin, who was full of sage advice, once wrote, “Lost time is never found again.” When members of your praise team are running late for rehearsal, use that time to practice, to pray, or to take a nap!

What time-saving tips have you learned from your experience in music 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.

Register today for the National Conference for Sacred Music!

Leading the Church’s Song

January 6–8, 2016

First United Methodist Church | Corpus Christi, Texas

Featuring David Cherwien, Eric Nelson, Susan Briehl, Heather Williams Potter, Jackson Henry, and Ed Rollins

National Conference for Sacred Music is a unique conference designed to provide the practicing church musician with fresh new ideas to help create a vital, growing music ministry. The emphasis of this conference is to provide a wide variety of new approaches to revitalize and reinvigorate the church’s passion for music in worship. Sessions will include the following:

  • New worship planning ideas for your congregation and choirs
  • Choral technique classes with an emphasis on deepening the spiritual experience for the choir member
  • Reading sessions featuring new publications from Augsburg Fortress, Hinshaw, and MorningStar Music
  • Sponsored by three different denominational groups: the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, and the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts
  • Workshops for working with children
  • Handbells
  • Morning worship creatively crafted by Susan Briehl

Register now at AugsburgMusic.org/NCSM

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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.

How do I get my 20% Prelude discount when ordering music through augsburgfortress.org?

As you’re probably well aware, Prelude subscribers receive 20% off print music published by Augsburg Fortress (does not apply to hymnals and other core worship resources). But how does this work when ordering music online at augsburgfortress.org?

Your Prelude Subscription Number works like a promotion code. What is my Prelude Subscription Number, you ask? In Prelude Music Planner, go to the Account area, click Account Information, and locate your Subscription Number. (Your Subscription Number begins with the letters SBW, followed by a 7-digit number; e.g., SBW0123456.)

When placing your order online through augsburgfortress.org, your Subscription Number works like a promotion code, so just before you check out, enter your Subscription Number in the promo code area, and your 20% discount will apply to qualifying items.

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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.

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

“A[nother] biblical quotation about children is the “a little child shall lead them” in Isaiah’s vision of the peaceful kingdom (Isaiah11:6). When considering the practical aspects of children in worship, it is wise to ask how children can lead.

Beyond singing an anthem, children can lead verses of a psalm, sing a stanza of a hymn, or sing the leader parts to parts of the liturgy such as the Kyrie. In fact, children can sometimes be the most effective teacher of new music. When children teach a new hymn, for example, the assembly will often join them, encouraged by their ability.”

From Worship Formation & Liturgical Resources: Frequently Asked Questions – How do we involve children in worship? Copyright © 2013 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. www.elca.org/worshipfaq.

A church choir can and should be seen primarily as a leader in worship. Children’s and youth choirs should share in that responsibility when they sing for services. Too many times, they sing their anthem for the day and they’re done for the remainder of the service…often getting into mischief, I might add.

There are many opportunities during the liturgy of a service when children can take on the role as leader: have them sing the call to worship (gathering) or the psalmody or gospel acclamation of the day.

Also, children can add to the musical effects of the day’s hymnody by singing a descant with the adult choir, by randomly ringing handbells, or by being assigned to play appropriate percussion instruments on the final stanza of hymns.

Prelude can help you to find music that is appropriate for all of these times.

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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.

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.

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

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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.