FROM CHAOS TO COMMUNITY: Legacy
Song of Love (CCLI #3607983)
Beginning this week’s service with a song of Trinitarian praise turns the page from the setting of despair last week. The text appropriately addresses all persons of the Trinity (which is not as common as you might think in modern worship music) in a song of adoration and praise. The ideal accompaniment is full band, but piano, guitar, and a smaller ensemble can work well. The original key of B is a good choice for congregational singing, but you can also sing in the key of C if that is more helpful for your instrumentalists. If you are using CCLI Songselect, you will notice a triplet turn in the chorus on the word “rejoice.” Feel free to omit this for the worship leader, and replace it with a C# eighth note only.
O God, Our Help in Ages Past (Watts/Walker, CCLI #2335500)
This modern reworking of an old Isaac Watts hymn and tune by William Croft leaves most of the widely known hymn intact but adds a chorus that offers different images of God, ending appropriately with the Ancient of Days. The key has been lowered substantially from other settings in hymn collections because of the range of the refrain. This puts the range of the stanzas in a much lower range for congregations than many will be accustomed to. Accompaniment can work with a band, but to accommodate the sound and texture of the band, the chords have been simplified in CCLI’s setting of this. A piano and light instrumental ensemble will also work well. Despite the range issue mentioned earlier, I recommend the original key of this specific setting in G because of the range of the refrain. To read the two History of Hymns articles on the original Isaac Watts text, see C.Michael Hawn's article here or Rozanna Goocey's article here.
Jesus, Joy of Our Desiring (UMH 644)
If you have ever attended a wedding, there is a good chance you have heard this hymn text and tune because of the famous setting of it by Johann Sebastian Bach. The United Methodist Hymnal does not contain Bach’s recognizable accompaniment but leaves us with the chorale setting that, interestingly enough, does not directly serve a purpose specific to weddings. My recommendation would be for the choir to sing in four-part harmony if using the chorale setting. If you are feeling adventurous, try this setting with the well-known keyboard accompaniment. Note, however, that the score is in German, and it would take some preparation time to write in the English for your choir. It is also in the key of G, not F as found in The United Methodist Hymnal.
O God, Our Help in Ages Past (Watts, UMH 117)
Regardless of the style of your worship, many people may be familiar with this standard Isaac Watts hymn, which is found in an endless number of hymnals. The setting of the common-metered hymn provides enough brevity to sing all six stanzas in most contexts, along with some creativity in assigning stanzas to different groups, and even multiple modulations. A plethora of musical settings for various ensembles exist for this tune. Here is a recent setting for handbell ensembles. Lastly, this hymn is so beloved that even two History of Hymns articles were written to explore this hymn more deeply. You can find them here and here.
Your Love, O God (UMH 120)
This hymn is recommended in this service to enhance the reading of Scripture and provide a framework for the proclamation of the word. The language is strikingly similar to the hymn, “This Is My Song” (The United Methodist Hymnal, 437), and the tune FINLANDIA works for either hymn. No matter the tune, I recommend playing a line of the hymn tune before the first reading to signal the congregation they will eventually be singing and present the tune they will be using. The ideal accompaniment for GUDS KÄRLEK would be piano and/or guitar, and the best setting for FINLANDIA is organ or piano.
Prayers of the People (CCLI #7039048)
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.
Prayers of the People (The Faith We Sing 2201)
Also a wonderful choice for liturgical singing, this short piece by Bonnie Johansen-Werner enhances intercessory prayer with an easily singable refrain and response. I recommend singing the refrain multiple times (in the manner of the songs of Taizé) before the petitions begin. Follow each petition, whether voiced separately or as a group, with the response. Finally, end with a reprise of the refrain before ending. If your choir is able to sing four-part harmony, instruct them to sing the parts gently as the congregation sings the melody in unison.
All Glory Be to Christ (CCLI #7008232)
This rousing hymn is a call to offer praise to Christ in the midst of trying circumstances. Set to AULD LANG SYNE, many in your congregation will sing this modern work because they will be familiar with the tune. It may even be possible, with a confident worship leader, to sing a cappella with the congregation! Be willing to step out on this one and enliven the singing with whatever works in your context.
I Thank You, Jesus (W&S 3037)
This rousing hymn from Worship & Song has quickly become a favorite in many congregations and serves as an effective expression of thanksgiving. The repeated text, “You brought me from a mighty long way,” is a sung Ebenezer of sorts and echoes to numerous Scriptures of God’s deliverance, including 1 Samuel 7:12 and 2 Samuel 7:18. Be sure not to sing this hymn too fast. Allow the music to swing, which can easily be done in this 12/8 meter. Any number of instruments can accompany this selection, including organ, piano, drums, bass, and electric guitar. View the "I Thank You, Jesus" Hymn Study »
You Are Holy (Global Praise 3, 40)
You might not think you would encounter a great Brazilian bossa nova by a Swedish composer in the ever-growing repertoire of congregational song, but Per Harling has written one of the most enjoyable songs in this style you will encounter when singing praise to God. This hymn has two parts--A and B sections--that are built over the same chord progression and can be sung simultaneously. However, I recommend singing the entire hymn through at least once before trying this. If you have a choir, simply divide them in a two-part arrangement (men and women, SB and AT, ST and AB, etc.) to help support the work of the congregation. Accompaniment can be varied, but piano and/or guitar should not double the melody. They should be played rhythmically, along with light percussion and a bass instrument (double bass, electric bass, etc.). A flute played one octave higher is the recommended instrument to double the voice in this piece. God is holy, so let the overall tempo and feel inspire you to move with the leading of the Spirit!
You Alone Are Holy (Sólo Tú Eres Santo) [TFWS 2077]
Obviously, I am opinionated here, but this short chorus is one of the most valuable gems in The Faith We Sing. It is not, however, in the same character as “Holy, Holy, Holy” or another similar hymn. It is gently rhythmic and requires some finesse in the singing and accompaniment. The song is in a perfect range for congregational singing, so place a lot of emphasis on the shape of the musical line. Create crescendos and diminuendos at powerful moments. Along with the accompaniment, which can either be piano or guitar, add a shaker and a light set of bongos or congas to enliven the pulse. Do not sing too fast, however. This should feel relaxed and quietly reverent.
Sing of the Lord’s Goodness (W&S 3010)
The influence of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” becomes apparent when the accompaniment of this hymn begins. The rhythms and chord progressions are interchangeable, but the melody is different. Most ensembles play this hymn and “Take Five” together as a pairing within jazz services, and we recommend your church do the same, if it is possible. Singing this hymn takes a good bit of rhythm and confidence because playing and singing in 5/4, especially for congregations, can be challenging. If the leadership is well-prepared, however, the congregation will be able to catch the pulse and sing along. The range is very friendly for congregational singing. The best accompaniment is piano, bass, and drums, along with a saxophone, trumpet, or other jazz combo instrumentation.
I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry (TFWS 2051)
This classic John Ylvisaker hymn fittingly bears a good bit of feminine imagery within its title, for who is indeed present for the birth of a child? The mother. God here is represented as a caring parent who nurtures throughout life--from birth through childhood, and all stages of adulthood. Accompany with piano, organ, or guitar. Read History of Hymns: "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" »
10,000 Reasons (CCLI# 6016351)
One of the reasons this song sits at or near the top of the CCLI Top 100 is because of its melody, which has found its way into the hearts of people around the globe. The text sings like a modern-day Psalm, with elements of time and eternity throughout the song, and the tune carries with it a large amount of aural recognition (the tune is very memorable) and is quite singable. The melodic lines have a variety of contours, with the chorus serving as the climax. The range reflects this change of dynamics throughout the song, and the congregation will be quick to sing along. The ideal accompaniment is a full band, but a solo piano or rhythm section will also suffice. The ideal key is F.
All My Days (W&S 3011)
Laurie Zelman and Mark Miller’s creation is very reminiscent of the Jackson 5’s “Give Me One More Chance” (and if you have ever heard Mark Miller lead this song, you might have heard the famous intro of that song as the lead-in to the congregational singing) and offers a statement of celebratory praise to God. I recommend integrating Mark’s anthem setting of this for choir and congregation. In the same fashion as the Jackson 5 song, feel free to add bass, drums, and guitar to the piano accompaniment. Do whatever is most effective in sending the congregation out, singing this vibrant song of praise!