The Lord Is My Shepherd
This song by the late Keith Green is intended for solo purposes only because of the nature of the vocal melody, the rhythms, and the long spaces between phrases. It can be a powerful statement of the 23rd Psalm, but it can also be a great way for worship bands to immerse themselves in a longer, alternative song form.
I Will Trust in the Lord
A standard in African American hymnody, this hymn of trust is also a statement of faith. This hymn highlights the distinct characteristic of songs as a means of teaching and building theological vocabulary among churches. “I will trust in the Lord till I die” is a very bold proclamation, and one that merits some discussion in how it affects the prayer life of Christians who sing these words. You can approach this hymn with a more traditional spirit, as arranged in The United Methodist Hymnal by William Farley Smith, but it is important to keep the pulse heavy and steady at the piano or organ. Swinging the eighth notes is a good practice here. However, if you would like an alternative approach to a more modern, jazz-influenced accompaniment, I recommend using the arrangement found in the collection, Swing a New Song to the Lord, which can be purchased here. This setting is a quicker tempo and uses some elements of funk, which also add to the intensity of the accompaniment. The vocal melody from The United Methodist Hymnal can be sung with this same accompaniment, without the swing feel.
Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather
This beautiful text and tune have found a marked place in The United Methodist Hymnal as a proclamation of our unity in Jesus, boldly acknowledged in this hymn as the Way, Truth, and Life. The tune is very singable, but even though it is strophic (contains the same music for each stanza), it is also through-composed, which means there is no repetition within each stanza. This can make it more difficult for congregations to learn, so church musicians need to find a creative way to teach it. If your congregation is very skilled at reading music, the hymnal may be enough. However, an alternative possibility would be for the congregation and choir to sing a drone (a sustained note throughout the hymn) on a C and G while a soloist sings the stanzas. You can create a brilliant texture here by also adding a flute or solo string instrument (violin or cello) on the melody with handbells playing a random ring or an arranged rhythm incorporating the following bells: Bb, C, D, F, and G. The beautiful thing about many pentatonic Asian melodies is the options available for creating a memorable and interesting accompaniment. Should you choose to accompany with the TOKYO tune found in the hymnal, notice the wind-chime quality by the lower notes in the right hand of the accompaniment. Read History of Hymns: "Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather" »
Rise to Greet the Sun
Another great pentatonic melody, this hymn by Chao Tzu-ch’en offers similar possibilities to the hymn, “Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather.” This hymn, however, is a little easier to sing because there is a small amount of repetition between the first and second phrases--just enough to help the ears of the congregation. See the previous hymn for possibilities for accompaniment (the same can apply here, but on a drone of F and C with handbells on F, G, A, C, and D). One notable handbell setting of this hymn that can be used to accompany congregational singing can be found at handbellworld.com »
Come to the Water
Composed by a veritable “who’s who” of modern worship songwriters, this call to the waters of baptism also mingles with the allusions to the waters of justice and mercy. The verses conjure up both the hope of the work of the Spirit as a help in times of trouble and the expectations of the baptized. “Come to the water” is not just an invitation, it becomes a realized understanding of the responsibility of discipleship. The melody is quite singable, and the pre-chorus (“Oh, let justice roll…”) effectively drives energy into the chorus, which is as exciting to sing as it is memorable. The ideal accompaniment is a band or rhythm section, but a solo piano or guitar with light percussion will also work.
Come, All of You
In the continuing trend of pentatonic tunes for this day, “Come, All of You” is another example of a through-composed tune. I would recommend this hymn to be sung on this day by a soloist in the key of F, with an immediate transition into “Touch the Earth Lightly.” The melody line will get lower than is usually recommended for congregational singing, but a soloist with a low range would be able to make this successful. It might even be a great approach to have the soloist sing one stanza only, with an instrument following one time through before transitioning to the next hymn.
Touch the Earth Lightly
A perfect pairing of text and tune, Shirley Erena Murray’s hymn and Swee Hong Lim’s tune (AI HU) embody the image of a light touch. When leading this hymn, it is imperative for the worship/music leader and/or choir to sing dolce, that is, very sweetly. Invite the sought timbre and effect by serving as a shepherd and guiding people in singing the music. This hymn uses opposing images of death and life, desolation and hope, to create a dramatic effect of paradox, even embodying the death and life found in the waters of baptism. Accompany gently on organ, piano, or guitar.
David Crowder has taken a traditional hymn text and tune and added a refrain that incorporates vocal flourishes on the word “Amen.” Building upon the OLD 100TH tune, your congregation will be able to sing this doxological hymn, even if it only the praise team who sings the Amens. However, it is singable enough that the congregation will more than likely sing them after a couple of repetitions on the stanza. I recommend accompanying this with any number of instruments, with the piano and/or guitar being primary, in the key of G.
Doxology (Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow; LASST UNS ERFREUEN)
This doxology has been found in The United Methodist Hymnal since its printing, and is often referred to as “Number 94” or “the new doxology.” Despite the historic tune and the fact that the text has now been contained in Methodist collections since 1989, there is a certain newness to this that continues to make it speak boldly as a statement of praise. Gilbert H. Vieira sought to create a work of praise that embraced the fullness of the Trinity without an overwhelming number of masculine references. Each person of the Trinity is instead called by name: God (The covenantal God, or YHWH), Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit. Many instrumental settings of LASST UNS ERFREUEN can be found with a variety of publishers, so finding options for musicians, from organists to handbells to bands, should be quite accessible.
Asian-American Doxology (Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow)
What a wonderful way to offer praise to God in a simple, a cappella setting! This should be taught to congregations without the use of a printed format. The best approach to teaching it would be in a call-and-response style in two-measure phrases. The leader must be very confident and deliberate, especially considering the constant rhythmic shift from 7/8 to 6/8. Do not let these time signatures intimidate you, however, because the tune is worth singing and, in the right hands, can be very celebratory in worship. Also allow it to be a cyclic song, singing it three times as another way to frame the theological concept of the Trinity. Including a hand drum would also be appropriate as a rhythmic accompaniment.
The Bread of Life for All is Broken
The melodic contour of this particular hymn is very lyrical, and it encourages good singing even in its compositional style. The notes appear to be graceful amidst the simple harmonies, despite the through-composed melodic form. Do not sing the rhythm too rigidly because the nurturing character of the tune will not have the opportunity to shine through. Add a solo treble instrument such as a recorder for textural variety. Any of the pentatonic approaches to accompaniment of the other hymns this week can also be used in the singing of this hymn.
Dear Lord, Lead Me Day by Day
This Philippine folk melody creates a beautiful setting for this discipleship prayer. There is no avoiding struggle or adversity in this hymn; rather, the prayer is to give strength and wisdom in trying times. The refrain and last stanza combine to make a beautiful song of praise that connects the church and the world. The best accompaniment for this hymn would be a folk guitar, but it obviously works well with piano and/or organ, too. Provide a contrast between the stanzas and the refrain to allow the prayers of the stanzas to function as an intimate prayer, while the refrain creates more of a joyous statement of praise and thanksgiving. On the last stanza, be sure to sing with confidence and joy so the first line of that stanza is authentic!
Love Let Loose
Don’t let the techno pop setting of this video make you think this song is inaccessible! It would be easy to take that approach with hearing a song like this, but I assure you that many of these songs originated with a guitar or piano in the songwriting process. I encourage using a guitar with light percussion and other instruments as available to accompany this song. For congregational singing, offer this in the key of F for the range comfortable for most churches. I would discourage singing the word “wild” with two syllables (as in “wi-yuld”) as it is done in the video. One syllable for “wild” and one for “fire” are all that is necessary.
Christ Loves the Church
It is difficult to find a statelier hymn than this creation by Brian Wren and Jane Marshall. This hymn setting seems to resemble “Lift High the Cross,” which is often used as a processional. However, the call is placed here upon the body of Christ to be the church in the world, and so it can fittingly be placed as a closing hymn for that reason. Be sensitive in the leading of this hymn to find an appropriate gesture before the beginning of the second phrase. The quarter rest can be somewhat deceptive in the singing of this hymn because it is the only phrase that begins with a rest. Because of the inherent strength in the tune, the ideal accompaniment is organ.