Mystery Worship Series — SILENCED
October 21, 2018
The following selections are congregational songs (most of which are chosen from this week’s Hymn Suggestions) with notes on key, tempo, and instrumentation, along with some practical and creative considerations in singing.
10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)
Source: CCLI #6016351
Recommended Key: F
Tempo: 68–74 bpm
Instrumentation: Band, piano, or guitar
Notes: This modern worship song is recommended as a theme song for the “Mystery” series. It contains themes of strength, hope, and blessing in the midst of tribulation; and among many other modern selections, it is widely known. It can be sung as a stand-alone song, as a part of a longer worship set, or the refrain only can be used as a Psalm response.
God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 150; Come, Let Us Worship, 64; The Upper Room Worshipbook, 84
Recommended Key: G
Tempo: 112–116 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ, piano, or guitar
Notes: The pentatonic (5-note) nature of the HOLY MANNA tune makes it very accessible for a variety of different accompaniments. The “older” feel of this tune stands in stark contrast to the text, which contains many references to modern images. Take a different approach with each stanza: Sing stanza 1 in unison, stanza 2 in a round, stanza 3 with a rhythmic drone on G and D from basses and tenors, and in parts for stanza 4.
Resources: History of Hymns: "God, Who Stretched the Spangled Heavens" »
Great Is the Lord
Source: The Faith We Sing, 2022
Recommended Key: C
Tempo: 50–54 bpm (dotted quarter)
Instrumentation: Piano, guitar, band, or organ
Notes: This song arose in the early period of Michael W. Smith’s career, but it is widely known and sung in many churches. A great choral ending is included in the Singers and Accompaniment Editions of The Faith We Sing. If you have a choir who can sing confidently in SATB harmony, add the choral ending for a strong flourish at the end. In this choral setting, there is a two-eighth-note rest that can sometimes surprise choir members. It can be sung either with or without that measure.
How Great Thou Art
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 77; Mil Voces Para Celebrar, 2; Come, Let Us Worship, 61
Recommended Key: B♭
Tempo: 56-64 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ, piano, or band
Notes: One of the most widely sung hymns of praise to God around the world, this is a hymn people love or dislike, both with passion. One cannot avoid, however, the fact that this hymn is sung “lustily and with a good courage,” as suggested by John Wesley. On a day when God is questioning Job about God’s power in creation, singing this hymn in worship is most appropriate.
Resources: History of Hymns: "How Great Thou Art" »
Many and Great, O God
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 148; Mil Voces Para Celebrar, 50; Come, Let Us Worship, 71; The Upper Room Worshipbook, 232
Recommended Key: Cm
Tempo: 54–60 bpm
Instrumentation: a cappella or organ with percussion and flute
Notes: This hymn, which is one of the most sung Native American melodies, should be known as a standard in all United Methodist churches as a hymn of praise from first nation peoples. It is our responsibility to make sure our congregations sing it as an affirmation of the presence of first nations in this land and the pursuits of justice and peace. In addition, the singing of this hymn is important as a way of embodying a spirit of praise and rejoicing in another character. Most congregations do not associate the key of C minor with praise, but this is a solemn statement of awe and wonder with a form similar to that of a traditional collect, embodying a certain stillness and reverence with its praise and petition. Accompanying with the written score in The United Methodist Hymnal is one option, but I recommend singing a unison melody with voice alone leading and one or two simple drums (hand drum, djembe, etc.). It is also possible to add a Native American flute or recorder to introduce the melody.
Resources: History of Hymns: "Many and Great, O God" »
O God Who Shaped Creation
Source: The United Methodist Hymnal, 443
Recommended Key: D dorian (see below)
Tempo: 92–96 bpm
Instrumentation: Organ or piano
Notes: I have listed the D dorian mode as the key based upon the melody only (start at D and play a scale only using the white keys on the piano). If your congregation knows this tune or has a teachable spirit, use this TUOLUMNE tune to embody the tension in the text. If another tune is needed; however, I would suggest PASSION CHORALE.
Resources: History of Hymns: "O God Who Shaped Creation" »