Bridges to Praise: Three Songs in the Praise and Worship Style

For this theme issue we are breaking with the tradition of presenting three hymns for singing in three different months. Rather, in keeping with the style of Praise and Worship music, we include three songs that are presented in a medley fashion. The intention is for the congregation to have access to the words on overheads while the musicians play from the music. The transitions and the accompaniment for "Father, We Love You" were composed by Marie Elzinga.

What is Praise and Worship music and where did it come from? In a very real sense P&W music is the baby-boom generation's attempt to use their own instruments and music style to get "in tune" with God. It is generally contemporary, scriptural, and often more like a prayer than a theology lesson.

Most churches have at least tried P&W music in their worship, but often, I am afraid, with less than encouraging results. Why? Sometimes because churches try to put new wine into old wineskins. For example, if a church wants to sing the popular praise song "He Is Lord" {Psalter Hymnal 633), the traditional way of getting it off the ground is for the pastor to announce the number. While the people thumb through their hymnals, the pastor says a few words about the hymn. Finally the organist plays a bit of an introduction. The congregation sings, and the organist concludes the number with a "finisher" as the congregation sits down. The problem is that this song only takes twenty-three seconds to sing. Setting up the song and taking it down may take twice as long as the actual singing. Another barrier to the success of P&W music is the strict adherence in many of our congregations to using the organ, the traditional instrument for worship. Many P&W songs, especially the faster ones with a beat, get muddled with the organ. These songs were designed with drums, guitars, and synthesizers in mind.

Churches that use P&W music successfully will often sing five, ten, or even fifteen songs in one block of time—with no breaks, no mini-sermons, and no page-turning in between. Such a progression eliminates dead time between songs and permits people to get warmed up to singing. Because the words are on a screen up front, heads are not down in a book but up where the voice can project and the eyes can see the body of Christ singing together. Hands, too, are free to respond to the music.

In our church a worship team, consisting of four singers and a variety of instrumentalists (synthesizer, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, trumpets, and drums) lead the singing. We begin with a few upbeat songs and then sing slower and quieter hymns as we begin to focus our words and hearts on a more prayerful atmosphere. The three songs on pages 30-32 would be typical of the slower, more reflective part of our worship.

Give Thanks

In 1985 my wife and I were one of six thousand households to receive a tape in the mail from an outfit called Integrity Hosanna Music. Today more than 175,000 people receive Hosanna Music P&W tapes every eight weeks. If you visit a typical Christian book-store, you will find more tapes produced by Hosanna than any other organization. Why? Because Hosanna's P&W music is orchestrated well and recorded on a par with what we are used to hearing in the secular world. "Give Thanks" is a song we borrowed from the Hosanna tape by the same title.

At our church we first introduced this song by having the choir sing it during a Thanksgiving Day service. The majority of people in our choir do not read music, so we often have them listen to a tape recording to aid them in mastering the song and its rhythms. In that way they can learn very difficult songs quickly and easily.

"Give Thanks" is quite simple, but by listening to the tape we developed ideas for instrumentation. The choir performed "Give Thanks" as follows:

verse: women in unison
verse repeat: all in unison
chorus: all in parts;
complete song: all in parts.

We added a violin synthesizer for the repeat of the song and a trumpet joined in for the last chorus. On the following Sunday the worship team led the congregation in singing the song.

Notice that the words of "Give Thanks" are directed not to God but to fellow worshipers— reminding us that we come to God as a family, not just as individuals. From this song we moved into "Father, We Love You" by replacing the fourth measure of the coda of "Give Thanks" with a bridge followed by the introduction of "Father, We Love You" (see pp. 30-31).

When moving from one song to the next, the rest of the band is silent while the keyboard player plays the bridge and introduction to the new song. In this way, tempo and key changes can be made easily, and the mood for the following song is set.

Father, We Love You

This song (Psalter Hymnal 634) comes from Maranatha! Music, one of the pioneer producers of P&W music. The song starts out quietly but grows in intensity with the third and fourth phrases.

After the congregation knows the song, the keyboard doesn't necessarily have to play the melody line. Perhaps start with keyboards playing only basic chords (Psalter Hymnal 634) and giving the guitars (picked, not strummed) center stage until the second half of the song where you build it up. Or play broken chords in the bass to make the song smooth and flowing (see example).

In contrast to "Give Thanks," this song addresses God directly. "Father,We Love You" is a very simple song that gives us time to feel God's presence in three Persons. The words and music focus our attention on a God whose glory shines over all the earth.

Change My Heart, O God

This song comes out of a third influential source of P&W music: the Vineyard phenomenon.Vineyard songs are generally very personal, heart-to-heart worship of God.

Over the last ten years Vineyard churches, sometimes called "the third wave of the Charismatic movement," have spread all across North America. Many Reformed people have found a new home in the Vineyard movement, and many others have been influenced by it.

This song is in the same key as the last, so the transition is simple. Simply play the introduction at a slightly slower tempo. When using P&W music, remember that a smooth transition is vital for leading the singers into the next song without breaking or disrupting their train of thought. When picking songs, try to choose songs that are in a compatible key. Look for a song in the same key, or one that modulates a step up, or one in a relative key (as is "Give Thanks" to "Father, We Love You"). If the song you choose is not in a compatible key, simply finish off the first song and move directly into the introduction of the next song.

In "Change My Heart" we move from focusing on the God who is glorified in all the earth to this same God now entering our hearts and lives. From here we are ready to move into the congregational prayer.

Excerpt

SOURCES FOR P&W MUSIC

The Song Goes On (1990,Convenant Publication ,3200 W. Foster Ave.,Chicago,IL 60625 ,1-800-621-1290)is a supplement to the Convenant Hymnal, the denominational hymnal of the Evangelical Convenant Church .This excellent hymnal supplement of 177 songs features continuity with the past, openness to the future, and a very broad but discriminating selection of currently popular styles.The ethinc flavor and universality of the church is represented by songs from all over the world.Contribution come from such diverse authors/composers as Timothy Dudley Smith ,Michael W.Smith ,Margaret Clarkesen ,Bill Gaiter ,Brian Wren ,and Twila Paris. This may give you some idea of the scope of this remarkable collection. Start with this collection if you are looking for P&W songs that are carefully selected and well-edited. Unfortunately, the book includes no index of sources, but it does offer an index of medly possibilities.

Other collections

Communion Vol. II
Birdwing/Cherry Lane Music
10 Midland Ave.

Cry Hosanna
Hope Publising Co.
380 S.Main Place
Carol Stream,IL 60188

Master Chorus Book
Great Is the Lord
Lillenas Publising
P.O. Box 527
Kansas City ,MO 64141

Praise and Worship ,Vol. 1&2
Unity Music Ministries
Box 216 ,station R
Toronto,On M4G 3Z9
CANADA
0r
P.O. Box 215
Station A
Mississauga,On L5A 2Z7
CANADA<br />

Praise and worship (4 volumes)
New Songs for Worshipping Churces
Integrity Music
P.O. Box 16801
Mobile ,Alabama 36616
or
10 Newgale Gate,Unit #4
Scarborough,Ontario M1X1c5
CANADA

Scripture in Song ,Vol 1
Songs of Praise
The Benson Company,1979
365 Great Circle Road
Nashville ,TN 37228

Scripture in Song ,Vol.II
Songs of the Kingdom
The Benson Company ,1981
365 Great Circle Road
Nashville, TN 37228

Scripture Praise
Lexicon/Greenmeadow Music
Copyright Management Inc.
1120 17 th Ave. S.,Suite 400
Nashville ,TN 37212

Songs of Fellowship
Maranatha!Music (Thank You Music)
P.O. Box 31050
Laguna Hills, CA 92654

Song of Rejoicing
Selah Publishing Co., 1989
P.O. Box 103
Accord ,NY 12404

Songs of Zion(Afro-American)
Abingdon Press, 1981
201 8th Ave.S.
Nashville, TN 37202

Worship Songs of the Vineyard
Mercy Publishing
P.O. Box 65004
Anaheim, CA 92815

Marie and Steve Elzinga are church planters with Christian Reformed Home Missions in VAncouver, British Columbia. Marie Elzinga (mcelzinga@yahoo.com) is music coordinator at Pathway Ministries, Byron Center, Michigan.

 

Steve and Marie Elzinga are church planters with Christian Reformed Home Missions in Vancouver, British Columbia. Marie Elzinga (mcelzinga@yahoo.com) is music coordinator at Pathway Ministries, Byron Center, Michigan.