Monthly archives "April 2017"

TAO May 2017–Bridges

Playing Well with Others, Part 3


The lashing winter storms that are God’s answer to California’s prayers for drought relief have left quite a lot of devastation. An entire bridge was washed away! The Highway 1 is a world class drive with a bridge connecting Southern California with coast with Big Sur and Monterey. They say it will take a year to replace. It is a big loss to nature lovers like me. Because there is no other link to the other side, significant tourist traffic will die away. People are cut off from each other, businesses will lose income, and many community connections will be lost. Even though generous rains mean SoCal can forget about two-minute showers and dirt brown lawns, these losses cannot be replaced,
Bridges are important in our work as church musicians. Of course, our primary work is to bridge the gap between God and God’s people. Sometimes, we take our ideals for granted. As we slog through the week-to-week routines, it is easy to lose the link connects ourselves, our choirs, our soloists, and our congregation with the divine purpose that we are called to fulfill. It is equally easy to get caught in the trap of marginalizing others for the sake of our own need to play solo literature. When we see ourselves less as soloists and more as music ministers, opportunities for service compel us to make music in more inclusive, possibly humbler ways.
Whom do we serve? True ministers seek to make bridges with those who need to find a place in the church. Many are right there in front of you. Frequently, middle and high school students are quite active in their school music program. Here is a prime opportunity to bring someone into worship by inviting them to play with you. Empty-nester instrumentalists are often seeking opportunities to shine up their horn and start blowing again. The sharing of music helps you bridge several gaps: the age gap, the secular/sacred gap, the insider/outsider gap. Making music together is a natural way to create a relationship. As the relationship grows, more opportunities to nurture your new music partner will appear. The circle may grow to include one of their friends. Be ready with some duet literature for their enthusiastic response.
Any worthwhile church program takes vision, intention and preparation. Developing a small instrumental program that seeks to encourage faith through participation will depend upon your enthusiasm and willingness to sustain the relationships you are nurturing. Practically speaking, you will need to find engaging literature to supplement the solos students are learning at school or in private lessons. It is a challenge to find music for each of the many orchestral instruments our students play. One easy solution is to locate repertory that will sound well, regardless of the instrument.
The textbook for this strategy is Hal H. Hopson’s The Creative Use of Instruments in Worship (Hope 8071). This how-to book for arranging hymn tunes includes variety of solo and ensembles pieces. All the pieces are easy, and, like many of the pieces that follow, they are arranged for C (violin, flute, oboe) and Bb instruments (clarinet or trumpet). At 300 hymn tune arrangements, it’s a bargain!
Two other large anthologies come in spiral-bound editions with reproducible instrumental parts. Organ Plus Anthology, Volume 1 (Augsburg Fortress 9781451424256) is a treasure of 22 arrangements circling around the church calendar. There are a variety of moods from meditative to majestic. Organ Plus Anthology, Volume 2: Advent and Christmas (Augsburg Fortress 9781506413761) looks at an equal number of very useful pieces for violin, oboe and flute, including one for Eb alto saxophone.
Another turn around the old church year comes from Robert J. Powell in Reflections throughout the Church Year: Nine Pieces for Solo instrument and Organ or Piano (MorningStar Music 20-915). These easy pieces for C or Bb instruments include “Gabriel’s Message,” “Kedron,” “Llanfair,” “Prospect,” “Star in the East,” “Victory,” and more. Powell keeps things moving along with interesting, but conservative harmonies, and bouncy rhythms. Alan Mahnke offers a similar selection of British, German and American hymn tunes in Fourteen Pieces for Treble Instrument and Organ (Concordia 976547WEB) with C/Bb parts. He is quite good at laying simple instrumental lines within delightful counterpoints that move things right along.
Concordia Publishers has gone out of its way to provide three volumes of effective material in Instruments for All Seasons, Vol. 1 (CPH 97722WEB), arranged by Brian Henkelmann, Volume 2 (CPH 977255WEB), by Robert J. Powell and Volume 3 (CPH977297WEB) by Benjamin M. Culli. Volume 3 offers additional bass clef parts. A check of their website ( will help you decide which volume would best meet the needs of your young soloist.
You will find John F. Wilson draws from a wider range of traditional and more contemporary hymns in Solos and Duets for Bb Instruments and Accompaniment., Vol. 1. (Hope 1825). His Solos and Duets for C instruments and Accompaniment, Vol I, (Hope 1585,) include a variety of general and festival pieces, such as “Calm as the Night,” “Laudamus Te,” “Rondeau,” “The Heavens Declare,” “A Mighty Fortress,” and three Christmas tunes. Something for every occasion! Hi second volume (Hope 1791) offers a set of medleys, combining “Great is the Lord” with “Faithfulness,” “On Eagle’s Wings” with “It is Well with my Soul,” “Lauda Anima” with “Hyfrydol.” Wilson has also rearranged several of these pieces as Solos and Duets for Bass Clef Instruments (Hope 1744). Bassoon, trombone, and cello players will be delighted to play them.
Several other favorite composers have taken the time to add some interesting and useful arrangements to the repertory for organ and solo instrument. Charles Callahan included “O Sacred Head,” “Praise to the Lord,” “Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word,” “Ah, Holy Jesus,” in his Four Chorale Meditations for Organ and Solo Instrument (MSM 20-864). There are parts for C, Bb, as well as parts for F horn or viola. These pieces are very easy; a great choice for an inexperienced soloist. Callahan arranged C and Bb parts for “Crimond,” “Down Ampney,” “Kelvingrove,” “Break Bread Together,” and “Thaxted” in Come Down, O Love Divine: Six Preludes for Solo Instrument and Organ (MSM 20-618). David Cherwien’s offerings include two volumes of Organ Plus One: Hymn Preludes for Organ and a Solo Instrument (Augsburg Fortress 11-10758). Here are some lovely, easy-to-prepare arrangements of old favorites, “St. Columba,” “Kingsfold,” and “Cwm Rhondda,” as well as newer hymn tunes, “Hanson Place,” “Kuortane,” “Bicentennial,” and “Patmos.”
These composers, and several more I will survey next month, make it easy to bring amateur musicians of limited skill into the worship service. One success will surely lead to another player eager to make more music with you. Congregations love to hear orchestral instruments in worship. They especially appreciate seeing their friends and their children participating.
Encouraging the next generation is a big part of our work. As music ministers, we are given opportunities use the gifts of the Spirit to develop relationships, relationships that guide and nurture the faith of people. “Once I was a stranger, but now I call you my friends.” People need your invitation to become involved. You are the bridge for them. Playing well with others, including those who need your encouragement to become involved, is a call beyond the responsibilities of the console. It is a call to people-making. Someone invited you to join in the sacred celebration. It’s your turn to help someone over the bridge that you, yourself, once crossed. Music itself will do the rest.