The handbell choir may be the ultimate expression of music-making as a community of believers. The ensemble cannot function without each individual; at the same time, the contribution of each individual is meaningless apart from the whole. This reality, however, makes supporting a handbell choir difficult for churches that simply cannot enlist enough qualified ringers to rehearse on a regular basis.
Whether you know it or not, your church likely has the potential for creating an orchestra or instrumental ensemble among your own congregation. Why should you consider doing so? As the psalmist so exuberantly proclaims in Psalm 150, because tambourine and trumpet, strings and flute—even loud crashing cymbals—offer fitting praise to our Lord! You’ll find that using the talents of church members is an excellent way to add variety and interest to hymn accompaniments and other music, as well as involving more people in the ministry of the church.
Ours is a singing faith! John Calvin says that the human voice is the most God-glorifying instrument, for it is created and given breath by God. We could add to Calvin’s observation that even more God-glorifying than the human voice are human voices singing praise to God.
We are fortunate to live in a time when worshiping communities can share musical gifts anywhere at any time through the medium of compact disc recordings. Recordings can bring us right into the middle of a community of voices singing God’s praise.
The organist seeking fresh ideas appropriate to Lent, Holy Week, and Easter worship has a wealth of recent compositions from which to choose.
An abundance of new materials for church pianists was published in the last twelve months, with many different repertoires and styles from which to choose. Because of space constraints, I have chosen to list no more than three representative titles from each volume. You can find more information, including complete tables of contents, at publisher’s websites, your local print music dealer, or website stores such as burtnco.com or pianolane.com. Within great latitude, volumes are graded E=Easy, M=Medium, and D=Difficult
Percussion in worship presents the same promises and problems as any other art. Played well, percussion can offer a wordless prayer, a lively conversation, an expression of sorrow, or an infectious call to praise. Performed poorly, it is an annoying, noisy distraction. How can a congregation learn to offer percussion as a skillful, powerful part of the pulse of worship?
This article is addressed particularly to congregations without a tradition of using percussion in worship and rests on these assumptions:
We are fond of quoting Psalm 150. All those instruments —trumpet, harp and lyre, flute and strings, even tambourine and cymbals—paint a sound-picture of orchestral dimensions in Old Testament worship.
I saw a cartoon the other day that most church musicians would find amusing. It was a two-paneled drawing depicting the gateways into the afterlife. In the first, an angel greeted the new arrivals with "Welcome to heaven. Here's your harp." In the second, a devil carried out similar duties by saying, "Welcome to hell. Here's your accordian." That cartoon reflects what most musicians know—that opinions on what constitutes appropriate music and appropriate instrumentation for church music are highly charged.
Last year RW provided lists of organ music based on hymn tunes. The compositions listed were found in all sorts of publications. No organist could possibly get his or her hands on all those publications without spending a fortune—not to mention putting in a lifetime of practice to prepare the pieces.