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A Star Shone Bright (W&S 3051)
F. Richard Garland has created an expression of Epiphany that links with this service, especially through the plea to “reveal to us your holy way.” Since most Christmas and Epiphany hymns are very Christocentric, this text provides an option, too, to focus upon the role of the Holy Spirit in our observation of this holy season. The setting of this text with O WALY WALY brings a tune not usually associated with Christmas and Epiphany, but the use of this familiar tune will help the congregation focus solely on the text. Accompany with any keyboard instrument or guitar, along with a solo or duo instrumental group playing an improvised descant or the soprano and alto parts up one octave. If your church has a choir, it would also be possible on the last stanza to have a two-part canon by having the second part echo by singing their first three eighth notes on the “and” of the downbeat in the first full measure. This places one part on a sustained half note while the other part sings the moving eighth notes in every phrase. Read our "A Star Shone Bright"hymn study »
View and download the musical score here or find it in Worship & Song.
Jesus, the Light of the World (W&S 3056 or The Africana Hymnal, 4038)
There are two versions of this song you can choose from in your preparation: Worship & Song, 3056, or The Africana Hymnal, 4038. The W&S setting incorporates a text by Ken Bible (who wrote “Love Has Come”) and focuses upon the imagery of the star. This week we recommend the version from The Africana Hymnal, which uses the text of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” along with the familiar refrain. Don’t sing this song too quickly. It must have a slow, rocking character, which can be accomplished at a metronome marking of about 100-104. An organ (especially a Hammond!), piano, or gospel band can accompany this song with style. Should your choir want to sing this as an anthem or use the piece itself as the congregational song, see this arrangement by André Thomas, published by Choristers Guild (CGA1063). It has a fairly advanced piano accompaniment, but you won’t regret using it if your pianist can play advanced repertoire. View our "Jesus, the Light of the World" hymn study, or the read History of Hymns: "Jesus, the Light of the World" »
Once in Royal David’s City (UMH 250)
One of my personal Christmas favorites, this hymn focuses on the humanity of Jesus and his ability to understand our human condition in the midst of his divinity. Following the lead of musicians like Sufjan Stevens, one of the best ways to accompany this hymn is with a folk, “grassroots” ensemble of guitar, mandolin, banjo, and brushed snare drum with a unison or harmonized melody. See this chord sheet for a setting in this style and read History of Hymns: read History of Hymns: "Once in Royal David's City" »
Prayers of the People (TFWS 2201)
Bonnie Johansen-Werner’s simple setting of this intercessory prayer can be very powerful in its direct prayer to usher in the reign of God and the connection of that prayer to the needs of the local community and the world. Even though there is a caesura (complete cutoff) written in the accompaniment score, it would also be possible to hold a soft Eb pedal point underneath the spoken intercessions and prayer requests. The recommended form in The Faith We Sing is as follows: Refrain, Petition 1, Response; Refrain, Petition 2, Response; and so on. Ideally, the leader of the prayer should also serve as the cantor. The accompaniment can range from organ to piano, to an arpeggiated guitar or other plucked instrument.
Prayers of the People (The Brilliance)
A wonderful addition to the modern worship music catalogue, this service music represents what is possible when combining modern music and liturgy. Short, cyclic choruses become responses as a part of congregational prayer. The A and B sections (“You hear us calling” and “Lord, have mercy”) are both equally usable as prayer responses. If you listen to the YouTube link in the worship order, you will notice a rolling accompaniment with many different instrumentalists. This kind of accompaniment gives a pulse to the prayers and is encouraged. However, keep in mind that whatever kind of accompaniment is possible with the musicians in your church is OK! Again, simpler accompaniments are oftentimes the best. For a keyboard, play simple chords on each beat. For a strummed instrument, something light, slightly syncopated, but steady is the best option.
This song is a great example of modern music created to serve a liturgical purpose, and it is very accessible to churches with any instrumental accompaniment. The song is not meant to stand alone as a song; it will require some intercessions to be created from the context of your community. Respond to each intercession with either the A theme (“You hear us calling”) or the B theme (“Lord, have mercy”). This poignant piece works with organ, piano, guitar, or any other simple accompaniment.
My Master, See, the Time Has Come (UMH 226)
The tune MORNING SONG lends itself to being sung in creative ways because of the quasi-pentatonic nature of the melody. You will see quickly the presence of more than five notes, but the function remains similar. There are a number of ways to approach the canon as a choir, and different approaches are listed below:
- Have a soloist sing the first stanza unaccompanied and rubato.
- Have a soloist sing both stanzas unaccompanied.
- Have no soloist, and sing all as a choir, either in unison, parts, or in canon.
- After a soloist sings the first stanza, instruct the choir to sing a canon on the second stanza.
For the canon, see these options:
- Bring in the parts of the canon every 2 beats (beats 2 and 4)
- Bring in the parts of the canon every 4 beats (beat 4)
- If your choir only has enough people to sing in a 2-part canon, that is ok! If you need another part to fill out to 3- or 4-part, simply add a treble instrument as a different part.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
As we were preparing resources for this series, we encountered the Scripture passage from Simeon, where he exclaimed, “my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk. 2:30). It seemed a rewrite of this classic hymn was in order. The text is set to the BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC tune, and many in your congregation will be familiar with the tune itself. However, this text is not about battle at all--it is about witnessing the presence of Christ, the hope and prayers of peace to come, and flinging wide the doors to invite all people into the love of God. Download the hymn setting Download the hymn setting here »