Music

Singing Our Faith: The Power of Musical Theology

Singing Our Faith: The Power of Musical Theology

We gather together on Sunday mornings, in churches old and new. In "Sunday best" and casual attire. In old wooden pews and folding chairs. No matter where or how we worship, we come together for the same reasons - to feed our souls, to shape and strengthen our faith, to be reminded of who God is.

We retell the stories of our faith, we remember God's promises, we claim God's victory over the world, we pray and praise and recite what we believe.

And we can do it all through singing. This is the power of musical theology.

Theology is "the study of the nature of God and religious belief." Musical theology refers to hymns and songs with rich, meaningful text that speaks to who God is and what we believe. 

How to Stay Connected As a Music Professional

How to Stay Connected As a Music Professional

The years I spent in music school were some of the most challenging, rewarding, and inspiring years of my career so far.

My technique was in the best shape it's ever been, I knew all the rules of augmented sixth chords (I need to brush up on these!), and I felt very connected to the music world and my network of music peers.

In the months following graduation, I realized the crucial need to stay connected to music as I developed my professional career as a church musician, teacher, and arts administrator.

In music school, we're automatically connected; outside of school, we have to work at it. But, the rewards are great.

By staying connected, you'll continue developing your musicianship throughout your career, have access to more opportunities, grow and change with society, and be better prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century music world. 

Here are a few ways to stay connected - to music, music-making, and the music world, in general - as a music professional: 

Around the World: Music and Prayers for Children's Choir

Around the World: Music and Prayers for Children's Choir

Several years ago, I planned an “Around the World” theme for my children's choir (1st-8th grade), incorporating music, dance, and singing games from different countries.

I've had lots of questions since then about music selection, hymns, prayers, and resources, so I thought I'd put together a more complete planning guide for those of you looking to do something similar with your group.

In this post, you'll find songs, hymns, singing games, and prayers in Spanish (Spain, Mexico, Argentina), French, German, Hebrew, African (Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa), and English (Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland). I'm also including a few relevant Scripture verses and ideas for tying in a mission focus.

Here are some of my favorite resources for an "Around the World" theme for children's choir:

UMH = United Methodist Hymnal
NCH = New Century Hymnal
GTG = Glory to God Hymnal (Presbyterian)

21 Inspirational Quotes for the 21st Century Musician

21 Inspirational Quotes for the 21st Century Musician

What does it mean to be a musician in the 21st century?

SD and I talk about this often. From where we stand, the 21st century requires musicians to be flexible, creative, and versatile, possessing a wide variety of skills that can be used in a wide variety of settings. Instead of doing just one thing, we (and many of our friends) have built careers doing many different things - teaching, performing, writing/blogging, presenting, directing, and working in arts administration.Some call it freelancing, others call it "music entrepreneurship," or being a "portfolio musician."

Regardless of the label, we feel being a musician in the 21st century means you are your own business. It's more than just playing your instrument or landing a dream job. It's more than just "being the best." Being my own business means curating great opportunities, managing my time well, and adding value through several types of work. This gives me creative liberty to use my unique skills and experiences in meaningful ways.

Whether you're just getting started or you've built a successful music career, here are 21 inspirational quotes for you, the 21st century musician:

The Most Important Question I Ask In Teaching

The Most Important Question I Ask In Teaching

As teachers, we ask a lot of questions. But, did you know there are different kinds of questions (or ways of asking questions) that can actually promote learning? A good question does more than assess student learning or mastery of a concept; it can actually foster a deeper level of understanding, open a space for productive dialogue, and promote self-reflection.

This is important because, as music educators, we love nothing more than seeing people learn and grow, as individuals and as musicians.

There are two main types of questions: closed-ended and open-ended.

Here is a bit more about each one:

Closed-Ended Questions

These are questions that have a yes/no answer. This doesn’t promote a lot of deep thinking, as the answer is typically given in the question (e.g. "Is the bottom line of the treble staff an E?") and the learner has a 50/50 chance of getting the answer right. These types of questions work well for younger students when you're comparing things, though I would rephrase the question to, “Were those the same or different?”

10 Practical Collections for Church Organists

10 Practical Collections for Church Organists

Earlier this week, I shared some of my all-time favorite church music collections for piano. Today, I'm adding to that with a list for organ! These collections are particularly well-suited for new organists, or those of you may not have played for a while and are looking for a way to ease back into all-out, full-pedal-work playing. As someone who's getting back on the bench this year after a few years away, I'm with you! These are some of my go-to resources right now:

1. Five Preludes on Familiar Hymns (Hopson)
Accessible writing makes this book a must-have. Five hymn preludes you can pull out and play with little preparation!

2. Baroque Music for Manuals #1 (Wolff)
A great series of books with a wide variety of (Classical) music (with optional pedal). Great for weddings or service music.

Tried-and-True Favorite Collections for the Church Pianist

Tried-and-True Favorite Collections for the Church Pianist

As all church pianists know, good piano arrangements are a necessary part of what we do. From preludes to postludes (and everything in between!), having collections that you can pull out and play from over and over are golden! I've collected several books over the years that I go back to again and again. The arrangements are fresh, accessible, and versatile, they fit well in various parts of the worship service, and they're fun to play! Looking for something new to play this year? Look no further. Here are my top 10, tried-and-true favorite collections for church pianists:

1. Classic Hymns We Love (various)
Twelve favorite hymns arranged by arrangers such as Mary McDonald, Pepper Choplin, Mark Hayes, and Ruth Elaine Schram. A go-to for preludes, offertories, and postludes!

Fifty (More!) Favorite Anthems for the Small Church Choir

Fifty (More!) Favorite Anthems for the Small Church Choir

I love discovering new choral anthems, especially ones that are musical, have great text, and are accessible for small church choirs. A few years back, I wrote this post with my top 50 favorite church choir anthems. Today's post is a follow-up, with 50 more anthems to consider adding to your choral library!

General

1. All Things Bright and Beautiful (Rutter)
2. Answer to the Call (McDonald)
3. Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel (arr. Emerson) - SAB
4. Do Not Be Afraid (Stopford)*
5. Hiding In Thee (Berry)
6. I Believe (Miller)
7. I Must Tell Jesus (arr. Shackley) - SAB
8. Keep God's Light (Patterson)
9. More Love to Thee (Shaw)*
10. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need (arr. Culloton)*

50 Pieces for the Small Handbell Choir

50 Pieces for the Small Handbell Choir

Ever since we started directing handbell choirs, we've struggled to find music that is accessible and appropriate for worship for small groups of ringers. Sure, there are plenty of beginning pieces (Levels 1 and 2), but much of the literature calls for 15 or more bells (2+ octaves), which is hard to manage with a group that has as few as six players (especially if they're beginners). 

First, a quick word about collections: Over the past few years, we've come across a few collections that work great and pieces that are not only playable but also meaningful for all involved. Patricia Sanders Cota has written several arrangements for twelve bells (4-6 players), organized into various collections: 

Twelve Bells for Worship (Vol. I and II
Twelve Bells for Christmas (Vol. III, and III
Twelve Bells for Praise and Worship (Vol. I and II)

How to Start a Church Choir

How to Start a Church Choir

This fall, SD and I are starting an intergenerational (youth and adult) choir at our church. The church has a strong children's choir program (through 6th grade) and a good size adult choir (30-40). Our program is a short, 8-week session designed for people who love to sing - no prior experience necessary. We meet once a week for an hour and at the end of the session, we'll combine with the adult and children's choirs to sing an anthem in worship.

We created this group for people that like to sing but feel uncomfortable jumping right into the adult choir, those who can't make Wednesday night rehearsals or don't feel they can make the year-long commitment, and those who've never formally sung in a choir but want the experience.

It sounded good on paper.

We gave the invitation by email, print mailings, and the weekly bulletin. We made an announcement in church one Sunday. We shook hands with people we didn't know at Coffee Hour.

One week before our first rehearsal, we had four people signed up.