Below are the notes from my Presentation at this past summer’s conference. If you are interested in the full PowerPoint presentation which includes videos, please email me.

NCDA Summer Conference Improving our craft and community, Worship Interest Session- July 2017

For the Beauty of Worship: Selecting, preparing, and performing choral music in worship

Taking 3 examples of choral music to be used in worship, For the Beauty of the Earth- And the Glory of the Lord- and Festival Piece on St. Anne arr. by Eugene Butler, we will discuss in an open dialogue format how to plan, prepare, and use choral music in worship. There are effective and practical ways to use choral music in worship both as a “special music” anthem of the day reflecting the themes/ sermon/ readings/ liturgy, and also unique approaches that can be taken to enhance the experience of worship. This does take advanced planning and preparation by directors and choirs to have success. We will explore ideas on effective use and hopefully enjoy a lively discussion on what directors are doing in their own settings to enhance worship through choral singing.

Programming “For the Beauty” of Worship: Selecting, preparing, and performing choral music in worship

Presenter: Jason Horner, Music in Worship, R & R Chair

Director of Music Ministries, St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Omaha

Artistic Director, Lincoln Choral Artists, Lincoln

What are You Doing in Your Church? What is your Role? How do You See Choral Music and Choirs used in worship in your setting or other settings?

For the Beauty of the Earth

(borrow from a friend J) or rent from Oxford, organ or piano, can be cross generational with kid’s choirs

  • Where in worship could it be used?
    • Offering anthem, prelude? (band), classic definition of prelude?, As a congregational hymn? Yes!, maybe transpose down a step or 3! Special music in response to reading or sermon, during communion- why not?, other ideas?

Scripture References

Hymnary.org

Score and Rehearsal Preparation

  • Conduct in 2, not 4- adds flow and connectivity in the voice
  • Add altos and/ or children’s choir to Sopranos at the opening in measure 9
  • Measure 24 Altos can drop out if range is too high
  • Note the divided scores for SATB in mea. 43, allows for doubling in outside and inside voices, then women unison followed by men unison
  • Even with Rutter, altos have a color more similar to men or boys, but Cambridge Singers Sopranos sing a more mature color. So, choose how to add Children or boys voicing carefully.
  • In the B section voices hand off the melody from bass clef to treble clef voices (SATB version); Treble splits in mea. 73
  • The section labeled C (85-104) is more hymn like, with a Soprano descant, this could be a place to add congregation, of course Congregation could also sing verse one, if the melodic content has been introduced either earlier in worship or was taught. “Preservice Practice for the Congregation!”
  • Special note: If Rutter has note tied across a bar line to the down beat with an eighth note attached and the word ends in an unvoiced consonant, he is telling you to put that unvoiced consonant on the beat, not after.
  • Teach this song to your choir by starting with the “This Our Joyful Hymn” sections
  • Have all voices (in a comfortable range, this is brain work not voice work) sing in unison measure 24-31
  • At measure 55 have Tenor and Sopranos sing their part (octaves)
  • Teach Bass/ bari their split, then add altos (almost octaves)
  • Then all voices together, then add accompaniment
  • Measure 77-83 requires breaking down parts a little more, but don’t spend too much time on any one voice, keep them all singing as much as possible
  • La piece de resistance: 100 – end
  • The 3/8 bars are NOT scary, conduct in 1. This is a great time to use speaking in rhythm and frankly a little rote learning. Start with Alto and bass, have them count sing if short changing the tie. Have them speak text in rhythm, then add pitches. The do the same with Sopranos and Tenors. Do all of this at a much slower tempo. Speed it up, go back to speaking in rhythm with all voices if needed. Add pitches, then add accompaniment.
  • 60% of the song is now learned!
  • You can then go back and teach verses with unison singing, a cappella sight reading, and even solfege, this is a great song to sing on solfege! I do a lot of count singing as well. I emphasize brain work over vocal work. It’s easy to OVERSING on this one.

Performance (Visual/ Audio) Experience in worship

  • Where will the choir be? Are there options?
  • Do you use screens? Could the screen include key lyrics, visual ideas, scriptural references, pictures of congregation in service and social settings (off site)?
  • If you use a generational choir, where will the kids be? Could they be centered in the middle or front of congregation with the adults surrounding the congregation? Where will you conduct from? (I always forget this one!)
  • What about other visuals? Banners in the aisles? Dancers? Ribbons and flowing cloth? Choir Physical movement “Choralography”?
  • Other visual ideas?

Festival Piece on “St. Anne”

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home; Alleluia!

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received her frame,
from everlasting thou art God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home. Amen.

  • Gender neutral and less archaic options:

http://hymnary.org/text/our_god_our_help_in_ages_past/fulltexts

  • When during the year could it be used?
    • Lectionary 33 (Year A) Next observed: Sunday, November 19, 2017
    • Lectionary 28 (Year B) Next observed: Sunday, October 14, 2018
    • Reformation, Thanksgiving, Special Celebration Services or events/ concerts, to me this is a fall piece, other ideas?
  • What Themes could it tie into?
    • Confirmation, Hope, Faith Journey
  • Organ, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani
  • Where in worship could it be used?
    • Offering anthem, prelude? (band), classic definition of prelude?, As the psalm, As a congregational hymn? Yes!, definitely as the final verse has the instruction for congregation but also Stanza 1, Special music in response to reading or sermon, during communion- why not?, other ideas?

Scripture References

  • O God Our Help in Ages Past (TUNE: ST. ANNE)
  • Considered to be one of the best Psalm paraphrases ever composed – Isaac Watts
  • 1 = Ps. 90:1
    st. 2 = Ps. 90:1
    st. 3 = Ps. 90:2
    st. 4 = Ps. 90:4
    st. 5 = Ps. 90:5
    st. 6 = Ps. 90:1
  • org

Score and Rehearsal Preparation

  • Start with the unison sections
  • If you have the option, run the men’s and women’s parts in sectionals separately, lots of 3 part women’s divisi that needs a balanced voicing
  • This is easy to over sing in rehearsal, encourage softer singing until volume is really needed in performance with brass and organ
  • 4 stanza mea. 47 minor mode, can easily get “robotic”, work on flow, lyric singing with rich, deep, warm tone. Pyramid tuning, bass up. Swell (cresc. decresc.) in 51-52 very important for upper voices

Performance (Visual/ Audio) Experience in worship

  • Where will the choir be? Are there options?
  • Where are the brass and organ? Are there options? Where will you conduct from? (I always forget this one!)
  • Processional Anthem/ hymn with Pastors, Asst. Ministers, Acolytes, and Cross?
  • What about other visuals? Banners in the aisles? Dancers? Ribbons and flowing cloth?
  • Do you use screens? Could the screen include key lyrics, visual ideas, scriptural references, meaningful imagery? If used as a congregational hymn where will words and music be located for the congregation, screens? Bulletins? Could an image be used in the bulletin or on the screen near the sung text/ music?

Other visual ideas?

And The Glory of the Lord

  • When during the year could it be used?
    • Advent 2, Year B, Dec. 10, 2017
    • Special Christmas Cantata/ Concert
    • Christmas Portion of Messiah in December
    • Messiah/ Holiday Audience-congregation sing-a-long
    • Eastertide Performance
  • What Themes could it tie into?
    • Prophecy, preparation, expectation, King Vs. Baby in a manger, other?
  • Voicing: SATB, Piano or organ, strings and harpsichord, piano and cello/ bass
  • Where in worship could it be used?
    • Offering anthem, prelude?, classic definition of prelude?, As a congregational hymn? Special music in response to reading or sermon, during communion- why not?, As the reading, Responsorial refrain to reading of Luke 1 Christmas Eve
    • other ideas?

Scripture References

There is a responsorial refrain available for the congregation that could follow the anthem in worship.

  • This Handel Movement is the final chorus in the opening section of Messiah dealing with Prophecy
  • Glory for Handel refers to “resplendent radiance of light such as will surround the person of the Messiah.” – A Practical Guide for Performing, Teaching, and Singing. Leonard Van Camp
  • Hemiola- a musical figure in which, typically, two groups of three beats are replaced by three groups of two beats, giving the effect of a shift between triple and duple meter.

Performance (Visual/ Audio) Experience in worship

  • Where will the choir be? Are there options?
  • Where are the strings and organ/ harpsichord? Are there options? Where will you conduct from? (I always forget this one!)
  • What about other visuals? Banners in the aisles? Dancers? Ribbons and flowing cloth?
  • Do you use screens? Could the screen include key lyrics, visual ideas, scriptural references, meaningful imagery? Bulletins? Could an image be used in the bulletin or on the screen with the text?
  • Other visual ideas?

Sources:
 For the Beauty of the Earth, John Rutter, Oxford Publishing Company, 1980, HMC-550
https://www.jwpepper.com/For-the-Beauty-of-the-Earth/1418599.item#/

Festival Piece on “St. Anne”, Eugene Butler, Alfred Publishing Company, 1976, DMC 1119
Available for eprint: https://www.jwpepper.com/Festival-Piece-on-Saint-Anne/978411.item#/submit

Handel Messiah Score: “And the Glory of the Lord”
http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Messiah_(full_score)_(George_Frideric_Handel)
http://web.archive.org/web/20070731213915/http://www.singharmony.com/samples/01.And_the_Glory_of_the_Lord.pdf

Van Camp, Leonard. A Practical Guide for Performing, Teaching and Singing Messiah. Lorenz Publishing Company, 1993. ISBN: 0-89328-104-2

Hymnary.org- excellent source for Hymn information
http://hymnary.org/text/for_the_beauty_of_the_earth

Sundays and Seasons- Lutheran, ELCA, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW)
https://members.sundaysandseasons.com/#plans
YouTube videos:

For the Beauty of the Earth (J. Rutter) Score Animation
King’s College Cambridge
https://youtu.be/MTvAnkNijIc

Festival Piece on “St. Anne”
Old Stone Church, Dr. JR Fralick, Conductor www.oldstonechurch.org
https://youtu.be/2kIdb-2zw6g

“And the glory of the Lord”  from Messiah, G.F. Handel
The Choir of Clare College, Freiburger Barockorchestra, René Jacobs, conductor
https://youtu.be/4egNeuAf0Bg

Contact info:

Jason Horner

(C) 651-285-0971

(W) 402-894-2040

jhorner@stlc.org

lca.artistic.choral.director@gmail.com

About the Author:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.