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Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (UMH 216)
Many tune arrangements paired with this fifteenth-century text have been composed, but this harmonization by Michael Praetorius of the original tune remains the most prominent. This piece can serve as congregational singing and is also a wonderful way to introduce four-part, SATB singing with your choir. Somewhat of a musical image of the theotokos (Mary, mother of God), this hymn is replete with metaphors that can present many teaching moments within the birth narrative and the passages that precede it. The ideal accompaniment is organ, but I also recommend listening to a recording of this hymn as arranged by Sufjan Stevens to get some other creative ideas with rhythm and instrumentation. It is possible to accompany with instruments you may not be used to using! Read History of Hymns: "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" »
Wait Right Here (Africana Hymnal 4032)
This interesting short song from The Africana Hymnal creates a sense of holy stubbornness in its presentation of this text. One can easily get the feeling that the singer is indeed going to “wait right here until he comes” because of the prominent quarter note rhythm (and successive eighth note rest) every time the words “wait right here” are sung. The second stanza emphasizes the need for Christ’s presence, through the Spirit, to do the work of God. Approaches to singing this simple song are either to sing it through, or better yet, allow it to be a continuing thread throughout the liturgy, interwoven at specific times as a short song that works to tie everything together. Either way, sing it a cappella, being led by a confident voice.
Holy Spirit (CCLI #6087919)
This song from Jesus Culture (Bethel Church) has a strong connection to Pentecostal worship. Its imagery draws on the idea of Mary being overshadowed by the Presence of the Most High in Luke 1:35, and it invites us all to join her soul’s delight at that moment, also expressed later in her song, which we sing today as the gospel reading.
Canticle of the Turning (URW 18)
This paraphrase of the song of Mary (the Magnificat) served as the primary centerpiece for our planning in this service. It can be found in the Upper Room Worshipbook, and it is also avaliable for purchase for choirs here. The text embraces the boldness of the Magnificat in modern language that communicates the paradox and deliverance found in this Scripture text. The tune itself is a reworking of the tune KINGSFOLD, which is found paired with many texts throughout our United Methodist collections. Accompaniment works best with a piano, guitar, and percussion.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (UMH 211)
One of the most well-known ancient hymns of the church, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is based upon the “O Antiphons” contained on the second page of the hymn in The United Methodist Hymnal. These antiphons were chanted refrains used in worship, one per day, during the last eight days of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve. Like the original antiphons, this hymn sings of the longing and somber nature of the Advent season. We have recommended its use within the liturgy for the lighting of the Advent candles. All are welcome to sing the opening phrase in the liturgy, but it is also possible to have a soloist sing it in a very legato (smooth and connected) manner with a brief pause on the last note of each phrase; all should sing the concluding phrase: “Rejoice! Rejoice!...” Remove the plodding nature of the accompaniment and allow the melody to stand on its own as the stanzas originally did — as a haunting, unaccompanied chant. Or for a different approach, play a low E pedal point on an instrument such as organ, piano, cello, or bass, and bring in harmonies (with voices or instrumental accompaniment) on the refrain. Read History of Hymns: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" »
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.
Like a Child (TFWS 2092)
Originally written with no capital letters and no punctuation, this hymn is one of Dan Damon’s most well-known texts and tunes. As surprised as Joseph may have been from the dream and the fulfillment of it, we may also be surprised in whom we see Jesus, and who we have to become in order to welcome in the reign of God. Whatever the accompaniment, keep it simple to allow the childlike nature of the tune to support the text. Read History of Hymns: "Like a Child" »
Star-Child (TFWS 2095)
Shirley Erena Murray and Carlton R. Young have teamed up to create a most poignant hymn of the Christmas season. This hymn is a proclamation of justice and reminds us that we are all children of God, no matter how old we are or in what situation we find ourselves. A wonderful setting of this hymn is available through its publisher, Hope Publishing Company, and features multiple instruments for accompaniment, including handbells, winds, and piano. Read History of Hymns: "Star-Child" »
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy (TFWS 2098 or AH 4037)
This West Indian carol creates a stanza-by-stanza view of the nativity story, with different characters (Mary, angels, shepherds, wise men) in each repetition. This feature makes the song especially effective in engaging young children. If your congregation is unfamiliar with the song, teach it to the children first, and then allow the children themselves to lead! The accompaniment is intermediate in difficulty, so be sure to practice well beforehand and be ready for the intensity, range, and fullness of the piano score. Several handbell settings of this hymn are also available here, many of which also feature percussion instruments.
Toda la Tierra (UMH 210)
The continuation of language centered on justice that echoes the Magnificat can be found in this Spanish text. As with other hymns that might be unfamiliar to your congregation, it is often effective within a primary English-speaking congregation to have a soloist sing the hymn through once in Spanish before inviting the congregation to sing in English. If, however, your context is blessed with the diversity of a non-English-speaking community, allow the people to sing in whatever is their heart language, even if that is not the same for everyone. The ideal accompaniment is piano and/or guitar, but a variety of instruments can support the singing of this hymn. Read History of Hymns: "Toda la Tierra" »