God is Speaking! — Transfiguration | RISE UP!
We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder (UMH 418)
In addition to being unseen for this week, I recommend a choir sing this where the hymn is muffled (as in backstage or just outside the sanctuary). In other words, do not amplify the choir as they sing. Allow the spiritual to have a foreboding quality to it, inviting the congregation to explore what is found when “climbing higher.” If possible, have the choir sing a cappella. If this is unrealistic in your setting, try to have a small keyboard wherever they are located to accompany, and do not use the instrument in the sanctuary. This will preserve the effect of all music coming from an unseen location. Swinging the quarter notes is an acceptable practice with this spiritual, but there is enough room for interpretation based upon your context. Allow each stanza to build toward the climax in the third phrase and decrescendo back down for the last phrase for a sensitively sung musical arc. For continuity with the songs to follow, I recommend singing in the key of D, which is just up one half-step from the written key of Db. The accompanist could then play the notes as written (imagining a new key signature), with only a few accidentals (flats and naturals, in this case) needing to be adjusted.
Shine (CCLI #4831435)
Matt Redman has crafted a hymn that radiates light as much as the Scripture does this week with the Transfiguration. We decided to use this as the opening of worship at our first Fusion conference (Fusion: The Future of Worship in The United Methodist Church) in 2016, and it served as a beautiful expression related to this scriptural narrative. The words, “living for your glory,” seem to point to our response to the story of Jesus bathed in light on the mountain. The song in its entirety is singable, but if it is unfamiliar to your congregation, you might want to teach them the refrain and instruct them to sing it only. The worship leader, choir, or soloists can sing the stanzas. Accompaniment can be as simple as piano or guitar, but this song will truly shine when played with a full band. The ideal key is G.
O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair (UMH 258 or https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/o-wondrous-sight-o-vision-fair-henry)
One of the classic hymns on the Transfiguration, this selection recalls the narrative from Matthew 17. Be sure to keep the tempo lively for this tune with strong emphasis on the first beat of each measure, no matter the instrumental accompaniment. It was obviously scored for four-part singing and keyboard, but I have also composed a new setting of this hymn that uses the existing tune, WAREHAM, with a refrain to be sung between stanzas. Read History of Hymns: "O Wondrous Sight! O Vision Fair" »
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (UMH 349)
Sometimes simpler is better. This hymn illustrates the need for less accompaniment and frills to increase intimacy and poignancy. Sing this one-stanza text and tune with accompaniment as written or lightly arpeggiated on guitar or piano. Choirs often love to sing this hymn a cappella, so if this is possible where you are, make it so! View and download a full version of the hymn, complete with stanzas.
Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory (TFWS 2102)
In an interesting hymn that moves us from Transfiguration to Christian perfection, Thomas Troeger gives a vivid recounting of the story from the mountain. The hymn moves us from building our own shrine in worship within the church into the world, where we live day-to-day by following Christ. While there are numerous choices for a hymn tune for this meter (87.87 D), a couple of choices are GENEVA, which is already contained in The Faith We Sing, or NETTLETON (commonly associated with “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”). Geneva is a fairly traditional hymn tune setting best accompanied by organ or piano, but NETTLETON may open some more possibilities with a band or ensemble.
Let It Rise (Africana Hymnal 4017 OR CCLI #2240585)
This modern praise chorus is energetic and joyful. Its setting in The Africana Hymnal, while well written for pianists in local church settings, is somewhat reserved compared to the chord progression found on CCLI, which is more band-driven. Keep the tempo moving forward, but with a steady, commanding beat. Accompaniment can vary from piano and/or guitar to a full band. The range is quite small, which will assist finding a reasonable key for the transition into the next song. A suggested key for both range and ease of transition would be F.
My Tribute (Africana Hymnal 4080)
The chorus of this song by Andraé Crouch can be found in The United Methodist Hymnal. However, if you have never encountered the verses, refer to this song in The Africana Hymnal and assign the verse to a soloist, inviting the congregation to sing the chorus only. Your congregation is very likely familiar with Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory,” but this work presents thankfulness in a slower, thoughtful, and very different way. If your pianist is able to improvise, give him or her the freedom to do so with this selection and fill out the accompaniment. A full band or rhythm section can also make the singing of this hymn memorable. Read History of Hymns: "My Tribute" »
I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light (UMH 206)
In The United Methodist Hymnal, this hymn is placed within Advent resources (“Promised Coming”), but it can be used at other times throughout the calendar when the image of the light of Christ is prominent. Transfiguration is one of the days when it is the most appropriate. Kathleen Thomerson wrote this hymn from a folk background, but oftentimes it is sung with a large and magnificent organ accompaniment. Either approach works well, and accompaniment can vary from organ to a guitar or folk ensemble (guitar, bass, flute, etc.). Since the accompaniment is written in Db, it might be advisable in your context to invite the instrumentalist(s) to play in the key of D. They should be able to read it from the page as is (while thinking in the key of D), and just turn the two G naturals (measures 15 and 27) to G sharps. Read History of Hymns: "I Want to Walk As a Child of the Light" »