Piano Music for Wedding Ceremonies

How many weddings have you provided music for over the course of your career? I stopped counting at fifty, but I would estimate I have played for over 200 weddings. Over the years, I have compiled a list of my “go to” repertoire, as, I’m sure, every church musician has done. In this post, I list tried and true piano pieces that I play often for wedding ceremonies. Some are easy, while others are more difficult. Consider adding some of these pieces to your own wedding repertoire, if you do not already include them. All of the sacred pieces are available for download through Prelude Music Planner. Most of the classical pieces are in the public domain and are available for free through the International Music Score Library Project (www.imslp.org). Hyperlinks are included to IMSLP webpages where you can print PDF files of the music.*

Sacred Prelude and Postlude Selections

I always like to include some sacred music in a wedding prelude or at other times during the ceremony (candle lighting, Communion, etc.), and hymn tunes from folk sources are especially nice. Playing directly from the hymnal or playing an arrangement are equally effective. A number of fine settings for each tune listed are available through Prelude Music Planner. Search by tune name and filter your results by instrument (piano) to find available downloads:

  • Beach Spring (ELW 712)
  • Nettleton (ELW 807)
  • Nyland, or Kuortane (ELW 313)
  • O Waly Waly (ELW 644)
  • Schönster Herr Jesu (ELW 838)
  • Sicilian Mariners (ELW 545)
  • Slane (ELW 793)

Sacred Processional and Recessional Selections

Sometimes a couple chooses “traditional” processional and recessional music (e.g., Pachelbel, Wagner, Mendelssohn, or Handel), but often couples prefer something different or unique. When a couple would like to process or recess to a hymn, here are some tunes I recommend:

  • Ellacombe (ELW 521)
  • In dir ist Freude (ELW 867)
  • Lasst uns erfreuen (ELW 835)
  • Lobe den Herren (ELW 858)
  • Nun danket alle Gott (ELW 839, 840)
  • Wie schön lechtet (ELW 308)

Classical Prelude and Postlude Selections 

Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. These three great German composers wrote so much beautiful piano music, but here are three selections that I find particularly useful as prelude selections:

Debussy, Satie, and Ravel. I love French piano music from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. When I play these pieces in a prelude, I feel as though I am adorning the wedding venue with beauty just as the florist does with flowers. The second movement of Ravel’s Sonatine may be a stretch harmonically (and technically), but this Minuet works so well as a joyful postlude selection.

Liszt, MacDowell, and Granados. From German and French composers to a Hungarian, an American, and a Spanish composer, here are three additional prelude pieces. Granados’s charming “Melodioso” is a lovely choice for the seating of the parents or grandparents.

Classical Processional and Recessional Selections

As mentioned above, sometimes a couple prefers an unconventional processional or recessional. In these cases, here are a few classical pieces I like to recommend:

Do you have a favorite piano piece you include often in wedding ceremonies? Share your repertoire suggestions in the comment section below!

*Please obey the copyright laws of your country. IMSLP does not assume any sort of legal responsibility or liability for the consequences of downloading files that are not in the public domain in your country.

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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.

“Let’s Go to Camp!” Planning A Summer Choir Camp for Children and Youth

A focused choral camp or retreat for young musicians is a great way to get a program year off to a healthy start. Consider a music camp Monday through Friday for 2-3 hours each day, or a daylong retreat on a Saturday before the school year resumes.

With lots of rehearsal time over just a few days, you’ll have a chance to start on music for the year. Children will retain more than they do with a week in between rehearsals. If you do a large production like a musical, it’s a perfect chance to get to work on that. A summer music opportunity is also an excellent way for new singers to try out choir, or a chance to participate if during the school year isn’t an option. Have participants sing in worship the next Sunday, giving children a first chance for a “performance” before the busy-ness of the school year sets in. A choir camp can be practical and helpful for parents, too, who might be searching for activities for their children over the summer months.

Teach good singing habits, like posture and breathing, right from the beginning. Have children sing for you individually or in pairs to place them in soprano or alto sections, and for you to hear their musicianship level.

Use a weeklong choir camp to teach a (possibly abbreviated) morning or evening prayer, depending what time of day the camp is held. Recruit older children to learn the leader parts, and give them the chance to lead worship in a small, non-threatening situation. Kids do not think of themselves as cute. They want to take on adult roles. Encourage them to be leaders, not entertainment.

Young children often do better with syllabic, rather than melismatic tunes, and will have more success with a stanza full of words than with a repeated text and varied melody. They memorize easily and rapidly – encourage them to do so! Teach them a strophic canticle setting, if you’re also teaching a daily office, like Blessed Be the God of Israel (ELW 250) or Canticle of the Turning (ELW 723). You know the slap-slap-clap pattern to “We Will Rock You?” It’s tons of fun with the Canticle of the Turning.

Canons are a great way to introduce part-singing. “You have put on Christ” (ELW 211) is a short canon and works well with children. The children could teach it to the entire assembly to be used as an acclamation every time there is a baptism.

“Sparkling Stars, Shining in the Night” by Nancy Raabe incorporates “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.” My elementary singers a few years ago loved this piece; it’s very usable for Advent or Christmas.

Songs with a call and response, such as Thomas Keesecker’s “Go Down, Moses” give an opportunity for individuals or small groups to have solos. Older children can be challenged to develop their leadership skills.

Lots of time together builds community, too. Enlist older teens or retired folks to lead crafts, outdoor games, demonstrate musical instruments, or prepare snacks. Children could do sidewalk chart art showing what they’ve learned during the day. You get a break, plus multigenerational interaction!

Hold a potluck for families at the end of the time together. Before supper, have the children sing for their families. Give them the chance to have a ‘dress rehearsal’ in the worship space with a more friendly audience.

Once the choir year begins, you’ll reap the benefits of this extra, intentional time with the children. If you have already completed your planning for this year, file the idea away for future years.

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Valerie Lefever Hughes

Valerie Lefever Hughes has served as Cantor to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina since 2007. There she leads worship and directs choirs for the congregation and for the Lutheran Campus Ministry to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Valerie holds the Bachelor of Music (Church Music) degree from Valparaiso University and the Master of Arts in Religion (Liturgy & Music) from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. She is a Column Manager for Prelude Music Planner.

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.

Devotions for the Church Choir

To you, God the Singer, our voices we raise,
to you, Song Incarnate, we give all our praise,
to you Holy Spirit, our life and our breath,
be glory forever, through life and through death.
~ When Long Before Time, ELW #861

When a choir sings together, it is united in breath, rhythm, and melody or harmony. When this choir’s primary function is to lead the song of the church, unity claims a spiritual dimension, an understanding of breath as the Holy Spirit at work among them.

Much of this understanding of God’s Sprit at work happens without comment; it is simply present in the texts of the hymns, psalms, and anthems the choir rehearses. At other times, you as choir director might feel led to unpack the texts the choir is singing, to root them into the biblical stories that have inspired them and to ground their ministry in a more intentional way.

This leads to the matter of choir devotions. Do you have them? What form do they take? When and by whom? What issues inform your decisions?

Why a devotion?

The benefits of including devotions at rehearsal are many:

  • preparation and reflection on the time of the church year.
  • creating an awareness of the themes present in the hymns and anthems you are singing.
  • providing a prompt for regular prayer, especially for those not able to sing with you.
  • establishing a reminder that the choir’s work is service done in and through the work of God’s abiding presence.

Possible formats

Including choir devotions can mean different things depending on your context and traditions. You may have noticed that Prelude offers a written devotion based on the Revised Common Lectionary each week under the Soli Deo Gloria section in the bottom right after you log-in. These are easily accessible for regular use to members of Prelude Music Planner.

You might consider a devotion based on a hymn you are singing that week. The Center for Church Music based at Concordia University Chicago has published devotions based on a number of hymns of the day.

Perhaps a devotion could be as simple as reading a hymn that you will not sing in worship because it is unfamiliar to the congregation. For example, O Blessed Spring includes the poetic and inspirational hymns of Susan Palo Cherwien.

Other resources from Augsburg Fortress include the devotional book, Bread for the Day and Gail Ramshaw’s collection of short writings for the church’s commemorations, More Days for Praise.

 

Of course, a devotion could be written each week by the choir director or a choir member. This practice would be the most time intensive, but it would be a very contextual discipline that would regularly engage you in spiritual reflection for your particular community.

When and Where? By Whom?

Some choirs have the practice of setting the tone for rehearsal with a devotion before or after the vocal warm-up. Others prefer to end rehearsal with the devotion as a way to send the choir out for rest of their week. If you have a tradition of extended prayers following the reading of a devotion, you may wish to schedule devotions after rehearsal to preserve the flow. If choir devotions are newer to you, you may decide to read a devotion on Sunday morning before the worship service.

It makes sense that choir directors lead these devotions, as they have often spent the time with texts in their preparation. They also have knowledge of the background information of the hymns and service music. Yet it would also be a way to encourage the choir’s understanding and sharing of their role as liturgical leaders by having members of the choir prepare or read a devotion.

Other Issues to Consider

Finally, as you continue or begin a practice of praying or reading devotions with the choir, pay attention to your community and their needs. In some circumstances, you may have folks of different faiths singing with you. You may have people that sing in the choir but are loosely connected to the faith community otherwise. Some may find that praying together is a rewarding midweek boost; others might prefer music alone to be their prayer. Yet even in varied circumstances, this is a church choir, and as the director, you are invited to remind those who sing that it is a gift of God to unite our voices in thanksgiving. Soli deo Gloria!

For Further Reading: Preaching to the Choir: The Care and Nature of the Church Choir by Wayne Wold (Augsburg Fortress, 2003) 

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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.

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”!

How to Re-harmonize Hymns

Used in moderation, playing hymn re-harmonizations on selected hymn stanzas can enliven an assembly’s singing, renew interest in older church repertoire, and draw attention to the text by musically underscoring certain words. Many hymn re-harmonizations are available for download through Prelude Music Planner—search by tune name and filter your results by instrument, this will allow you to see alternate harmonizations available for download. And here are some other resources for you to consider adding to your music library:

Have you ever tried writing your own hymn re-harmonization? It can be a rewarding exercise, and it is a way to begin learning how to improvise at the keyboard. Choose a hymn you love, one your local assembly enjoys singing, and set a goal to write your own setting of it.

I use a five-step process when writing hymn re-harmonizations, and you may find it useful to adopt a similar approach. To demonstrate, I am using the tune Gethsemane (Redhead), which appears twice in Evangelical Lutheran Worship: “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (ELW 347) and “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” (ELW 609). Here it is in its original harmonization:

Step 1: Play the hymn in the parallel minor mode. Here is Gethsemane in E-flat minor:

This has an entirely different sound, of course, and this is a great first step in opening your ears to different harmonic possibilities. Of the 42 melody notes in this tune, 29 of them can be harmonized with chords from the parallel minor mode (this is called “mode mixture”). Chords with ‘G’s and ‘C’s in the melody are not options since these tones are lowered a half-step when placed in the minor mode—these chords have an ‘X’ above them in the example. Chords marked with stars are ones that strike me as good candidates for inclusion in the final version.

Step 2: Consider other harmonic (chromatic) possibilities.

Play the tune in its original mode and look for opportunities to insert applied chords (sometimes called “secondary dominants” or “secondary leading-tone chords”). Here is an example of measure one, where an applied dominant progresses smoothly to the subdominant on beat one of measure two:

In addition to applied chords, make note of chords where you could insert added notes, or chord extensions: 2nds, 9ths, 11ths, etc. In the end, you won’t use everything—but keep your options open at this point!

Step 3: Write a strong alternate bass line.

The bass line is crucial to a successful hymn re-harmonization. Even the slightest change to the original bass line can have a huge payoff in your setting. I have found that descending (or ascending) scale patterns are especially useful. Pedal tones (despite their occasional overuse) can also effectively reshape bass lines.

Step 4: Add embellishing tones (sometimes called “figuration”).

While there are many types of embellishing tones, the three basic types can add a lot of interest to your hymn re-harmonization: passing tones, neighbor tones, and suspensions. They can help propel the music forward and fill in rhythmic gaps caused by longer melody notes.

Step 5: Review steps 1-4, decide what goes and what stays, then write your final version. Here is my setting of Gethsemane, with annotations (S = suspension, P = passing tone, N = neighbor tone):

One last thought about hymn re-harmonizations: they do not always have to be used in the final verse of a hymn. Playing this highly chromatic setting of Gethsemane on verse two of “Go to Dark Gethsemane” may help to capture musically these ideas in the text: judgment, wormwood, gall, pangs, suffering, shame, and loss.

Download a printable PDF of examples from this post: “How to Re-harmonize Hymns” Examples

Get a free download of my re-harmonization of Gethsemane that you can use in upcoming Lent and Holy Week services!

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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.

Two- and Three-Part Choir Music

Choosing repertoire for church choirs is one of the most difficult, time-consuming tasks of all choir directors, whether they direct larger or smaller choirs. There are some unique challenges facing those who direct smaller choirs, though. To support you in your work, this blog has many helpful posts on the subject. Find some time to read any one (or all!) of the following posts for inspiration and ideas:

To assist you even further, in this post I provide a list of 25 anthems for 2-part or 3-part mixed voices, arranged according to the liturgical calendar. I focus on mixed voices, since repertoire for SSA and TTBB are substantial topics in themselves. Not all of the pieces on my list are easy, so approach them as you would SATB anthems. Also, in my estimation, these anthems sound “complete”—you, your choir, and your assembly will not miss those other one or two vocal parts. Follow the links to the publishers’ websites, where you can listen to demo recordings and view sample pages. When you find something you like, most of these titles are available for download through Prelude Music Planner!

Advent

Comfort, Comfort Now My People,” arr. Richard Proulx. SAB, finger cymbals, and tambourine. MorningStar, AE-110.

Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” arr. Sam Batt Owens. SAB, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-0203.

Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers,” arr. John Ferguson. SAB, organ. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451401684.

Stir Up Your Power, O Lord, and Come,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-0205.

Christmas and Epiphany

A Christmas Roundelay,” Austin Lovelace. 2-part, keyboard. ECS, 7316.

O Lord of Light, Who Made the Stars,” Daniel Schwandt. 2-part, organ. MorningStar, 50-9932.

On Christmas Night,” arr. Hal Hopson. 2-part, keyboard, optional handbells. MorningStar, 50-1204.

We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, piano. Concordia, 98-4170.

Lent and Holy Week

At the Cross,” arr. Patricia Hurlbutt. 2-part, solo. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451479317.

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God,” C. F. Mueller. SAB, organ. G. Schirmer, 50303010.

Deep Were His Wounds,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, piano. MorningStar, 50-3125.

Out of the Depths,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-3410.

Easter

Christ Is Risen,” Ronald Arnatt. SAB, organ. ECS, 7050.

Now Is Christ Risen from the Dead,” Frederick Frahm. 2-part, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9780800678920.

The Day of Resurrection!” arr. Brian Wentzel. SAB, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451451665.

Ascension and Pentecost

Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me,” arr. K. Lee Scott. 2-part, organ. Augsburg Fortress, 9780800646134.

Jesus, My All, to Heaven Is Gone,” arr. Howard Helvey. 2-part, piano, oboe. Beckenhorst, 1562.

Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart,” Robert Buckley Farlee. 2-part, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-5555.

General

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Timothy Shaw. SAB, keyboard. MorningStar, 50-5310.

O How Amiable Are Thy Dwellings,” Carl Schalk. SAB, organ. MorningStar, 50-6204.

Praise the Lord, God’s Glories Show,” David Schelat. SAB, conga drum. Oxford, 9780193865518.

Psalm 150,” John Harper. 2-part, organ. Oxford, 9780193511200.

Put on Love,” Lee Dengler. SAB, keyboard. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451420784.

The Beautiful Land,” Scott Perkins. SAB, piano. Augsburg Fortress, 9781451485752.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” John Rutter. SAB, piano. Oxford, 9780193416598.

Do you have a favorite 2-part or 3-part anthem? Share your repertoire suggestions in the comment section 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.

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.

Five Tips For Children’s Choir Planning

As a church musician heading into October, you may be fortunate to have your entire choir year mapped out. For children’s choirs, advanced planning is key to a successful year. If you haven’t yet charted the course for your choir year or want some guidelines for future planning, consider these five tips.

Choose a Theme

If your congregation follows the Revised Common Lectionary, you might be wondering how a theme for a choir year is beneficial; the church year provides its own pattern. While this is true, I have found that a broad theme can both enhance the lectionary and create excitement and cohesion for a particular year. Themes we have used include “Walking with God,” “Grace Abounds,” and “All God’s Children Sing.” The latter would be well served by the ChildrenSing Around the World collection available on Prelude or the Sing with the World songbook edited by John Bell. As you choose a theme, reflect on your particular context, what kinds of music you’d like to introduce, or what theological emphases you might want to share in song.

Sing the Psalm

Each time your children’s choir sings, plan to have them lead the psalm. Prelude offers accessible anthem settings of the psalm through the ChildrenSing Psalms collection. If you have a choir with a wide age span, consider teaching the older children to chant the psalm verses and teach the refrain to younger children, using Psalter for Worship, also available in Prelude. Better yet, teach the choir to collaboratively compose a psalm refrain during rehearsal.

Lead New Hymns

Take the long view with hymnody and children. The children’s choir can serve as excellent teachers of a new hymn if you plan in advance. Look at the year as a whole and choose three to five hymns that you will teach the children that they will, in turn, teach the congregation. Try to choose a hymn that can be sung more than once so that the assembly gets to know it. (A hymn very specific to a gospel text, for example, might not be the best choice). Consider an anthem setting of a hymn as one way to introduce it. Prelude offers many quality hymn anthems such as “Open Your Ears, O Faithful People” by Robert Hobby and “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” by Shari Anderson.

Take Care with Anthems

Consider the skill level of your singers and the arc of the choir year as you select anthems. If your choir sings monthly, can you learn one anthem each month while also leading the psalm and a hymn or two? Perhaps select a challenging anthem to learn over three months as well as some simpler refrains or liturgical music. Repeat favorite anthems that the older children will greet like a long-lost friend.

Plan a Retreat

If your rehearsals are like mine, you have much you would like to accomplish during a brief time. Once you have chosen a theme, psalm settings, hymns, and anthems in advance, you know what you can teach in one or two rehearsals and what requires more focused time. If you can, set aside a date in the fall and spring for a one- to two-hour retreat. Employ a variety of music and learning activities such as games and play. And of course, have food!

The hymns and songs your children’s choir sings forms their faith now and well into the future. Enjoy this labor of love for the sake of your own organization and for the benefits the children will receive.

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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.

avatar
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.