Free Music for Church Choirs

Free Music for Church Choirs

Maybe you’ve been there, or maybe you’re there now - the choir director who’s trying to piece together a music library on a shoestring budget with anthems that are interesting and relevant to your choir and congregation.

As we all know, music is expensive ($2-4 per octavo for most choral pieces) and there isn’t always room in the budget for those kind of expenditures throughout the year, especially if you’re looking to build a music library and purchase more than 1-2 new anthems per year.

The struggle is real.

But, there’s good news. Some music is free! That’s right. Music published before 1923 is in the public domain (in the USA), which means it is free to obtain and use. 

It can be a bit overwhelming to sift through all the music that’s out there, so today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite go-to resources for music in the public domain along with some anthem suggestions that might work for your choir.

Spies, Shepherds, and Starry Nights: Christmas Musicals for Children's Choir

Spies, Shepherds, and Starry Nights: Christmas Musicals for Children's Choir

We've all seen it: Children dressed in sheets with rope belts and felt beards, carrying shepherds' crooks and reciting the oh-so-familiar lines of the nativity story. 

The Angel Gabriel, with a halo made of twinkly lights and holding a cardboard star wrapped in tin foil shares the good news. 

Mary and Joseph enter as everyone sings "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and let's not forget the darling 3-year-olds dressed like lambs with felt-ear headbands and cotton-ball-covered shirts.

There's no denying it - children's Christmas programs are pretty adorable.

There are dozens of children's Christmas musicals out there, with topics ranging from the Wild West to outer space to the 1950s, most with some sort of modern spin on the original Christmas story. 

Some include production notes with ideas for set design, staging, and costumes. Others can be put together in less time with just a small group of children. Many include familiar carols of the season along with original music.

8 Valuable Resources for Music Teachers

8 Valuable Resources for Music Teachers

You can never have too many teaching resources, right?

It seems I'm always looking for a piece of sheet music for this student or a fun concept-based game for that student. I'm also continuously searching for ways to streamline the business side of my teaching with helpful studio management tools, bookkeeping support, and email shortcuts.

Whether you're a studio teacher, K-12 music teacher, or children's choir director, I hope you find at least one thing on this list that's helpful to you!

Here are eight of my favorite resources for music teachers:

Wave Accounting

This all-in-one online accounting system that features free (unlimited) invoicing, ability to accept credit card payments, automatic billing and reminders, accounting support, and more. Wave is the perfect small business tool!

A New-and-Improved Worship Planning Worksheet for Church Musicians

A New-and-Improved Worship Planning Worksheet for Church Musicians

Summertime, for me, means lunchtime walks through our new neighborhood, trips to the lake, farm stands, lots of fresh tomatoes, fuzzy peaches, happy hour on the porch, and fireflies at twilight. (And painting. Lots of painting.) But, it also means planning and getting organized for the new year (and buying school supplies, because I will never out-grow that)!

A few years ago, I shared a worship planning worksheet, based on a system I was using at the time. It worked for a few years, but thinking ahead to this year and trying to organize my music for efficient practicing sessions, I knew I needed a new system. I mean, spreadsheets are great and all, but the rows are solong and looking at music through Christmas every week is a lot to take in. Am I right?

For the Church Musician: A Music Program Budget Worksheet

For the Church Musician: A Music Program Budget Worksheet

New year, new budget, right?

Most churches run on a January-December fiscal year, which means it's time to pull out your budget worksheets and start fresh.

Then you remember your budget worksheets are boring, black and white Excel files, with lots of black grid lines, Arial font, and pages that run on forever, which sort of puts a damper on the whole happy "fresh start" thing.

If this sounds familiar, then you're in for a real treat today!

Here is a beautiful, color-coded, auto-fill budget worksheet for your music program, with pretty pie charts and bar graphs to boot!

Adventures in Bell Ringing: Free Handbell Acclamation!

Hooray!  I am so excited to share this with y'all today!

As you know by now, SD and I have been directing a beginning handbell choir at church these past two months. 

We've been working on a few reading pieces but we've also enjoyed doing some improvising (read more here) and teaching a few things by rote.

SD wrote this acclamation for our bell choir to play in worship last week. 

I thought it was too good not to share and he was gracious enough to let me give it to you as a free printable! 

Glorioso - free handbell acclamation by Steve Danyew

Free Handbell Acclamation

Download "Glorioso" for Handbell Choir (16 bells) and print as many copies as you need for your choir.

The piece is designed for a smaller group (16 bells) and is simple enough to teach without notation.  Each player has a rhythm pattern that is repeated throughout.  The piece is gradually built from the bottom, with two parts entering at a time.

Since we had been practicing rhythmic reading in our rehearsals, I wrote out index cards for each player with their rhythmic pattern and bell position to help them keep track of their own part.

This piece works really well as an introit - something short but joyful to begin worship.  It was well-suited for the third Sunday in Advent but it really could be used any time of the year!

Get Your Free Copy

Download "Glorioso" for Handbell Choir (16 bells) and
print as many copies as you need for your choir.

See more music for small handbell choirs here. Enjoy, and happy ringing!

P.S. I'd love to hear from you if you end up using this with your bell choir.  Please leave a comment below or email me and let me know how it goes!

Starting a Bell Choir
Improvisation Activities

For the Church Musician: A Planning Worksheet

As a church musician, you know that once the church year starts, there seem to be fewer and fewer days between Sundays. 

It can be challenging to get ahead and stay ahead in your planning and keep everyone (staff members, choir, etc.) on the same page week-to-week. I always found summer to be the best time to find new anthems, order music, and sketch out ideas for the fall/Christmas. Also, using a spreadsheet like this one helped me easily keep track of month-to-month planning and made it easier for our administrative assistant to prepare the bulletin each week. 

So, I designed a simple downloadable worksheet to help you plan for the year.

Download the 2013-2014 [download id="3" format="6"].  Open it in Excel and save it to your computer.

The columns are customizable so you can fill in the specific components of the service that you need to plan - I added a few place holders that I've used in the past to help get you started. The 2013-2014 dates (September-June) are filled in for you, including the most common non-Sunday services like Christmas Eve and Good Friday. There's also a pre-filled column for seasons of the church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, etc.).

Once you've done a little planning, you can print a hard copy to keep on file or send electronic copies to others on staff. Hope this is helpful to you as you prepare for the coming year.

Happy summer and happy planning!