Monthly archives "December 2014"

TAO January 2015

Practical Organ Music
January 2015

I have given up on New Year’s resolutions–simply given up! I don’t need another To-Do list. Instead, I am making a list of Aspirations—reminders of my best, most cherished ideals. Who I want to be and how I want to live–these are the qualities I need to touch upon before diving back into the fray of daily routines. In many ways, we organists are idealists; so give us a goal, and we will get there, one way or the other. People like us are rekindled by listening to beautiful performances, renewed by heartfelt music, and inspired to service out of our love for people. Our aspirations help us bring our hopes and dreams for a better world to life. What are your aspirations for 2015?
The New Year is here. I invite you to join me in aspiring to make my service music more engaging for my congregation this year. Of course, there are many aspects to service playing: anthem accompaniments, interludes, POP’s (preludes, offertories, and postludes). What touch the heart of the congregation at worship, though, are the hymns they sing. This year, let’s aspire to make them the best they have ever heard! Wayne Foster’s new book of essays, “Hymn Playing” (Morningstar Music 90-44), is rich with ideas and inspiration. So is “Let the People Sing” by David Cherwien (Concordia 991666WEB). This book, however, is much more practical with written and recorded illustrations to go along with his words of wisdom about how to encourage the congregation to sing with deeper meaning. Just as useful is Michael Burkhardt’s “Creative Hymn Playing” (Morningstar 10-380). The gift in this volume is his warm invitation, with easy to follow exercises, to begin creating your own introductions.
Over the past decade, written hymn arrangements have accumulated into an embarrassment of riches. Why not take advantage of them? Do you already know Janet Linker’s five volumes of “The Last Verse” from Breckenridge Press (OC-12, 16, 19, 22, 25)? Richard Van Auken has spent years writing his three volumes of “Hymn Introductions and Verses” (Frog Music Press). They are models of solid, conservative creativity that will fit into any service. Another interesting offering from the same publisher is “An Organist’s Book of Hymns” and “A Catholic Organist’s Book of Hymns,” which are available by annual subscription for download, as well as in print. Noel Jones has provided easy three- and four-part arrangements of hymns with a short chorale prelude for each one. Another set of flashier arrangements comes from Samuel Metzger in “The Festival Hymn Collection, Vols. 1 & 2” (MorningStar 10-211, 10-225). Even though they sound much more difficult than they are, they are definitely worth a little extra practice time.
Creative hymn arrangements, whether your original work or the work of others, will go a long way toward creating dynamic, engaging worship. I hope you enjoy exploring the ones I have mentioned. If you would like easy access to ordering information, log into my blog, where I have linked each book to the publisher’s web page. While you are there, take a moment to share your favorite hymn playing resources. More people are joining this on-line community each month.

Aspirations express our deepest desires, but resolve gets us to them. Maybe resolutions aren’t so useless after all. Let’s aspire to best the best musicians we can be and resolve to improve our skills this coming New Year–one hymn at a time.

Dr. Christopher Cook is Director of Worship, Music and the Arts at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church in San Diego, California. He also maintains an active ministry to church artists of all media, especially adults transferring from piano to organ. Chris invites you to offer your own favorite organ pieces, ask questions and make comments on his blog, “Practical Organ Music,” XXXXX