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Good Arrangements of "Contemporary" choral music for Episcopal Church

Colleagues,
I am the Organist/Choir Director of an Episcopal Church that does fairly traditional music. We have an aging and diminishing congregation and change is necessary. Luckily, a new minister has been hired that has a more youthful outlook and will want music of a more contemporary feel to be included in the service, although he is relying on me to help him in that direction.
 
Our church uses the 1982 hymnal, along with the "Lift Every Voice and Sing (LEVAS)" hymnal. There is also an "Alleluyah" hymnal that is used for mid week services that I am not involved in. While these are good resources, I do think they are a bit dated and will not attract younger people, which is important.
 
I am looking for recommendations of good choral arrangements of  (for lack of a better term!) "contemporary" sacred music  in anthologies, hymnals, choral octavos that we can blend into the worship service. A good choral arrangement for me is one in which there is some attention to interesting voice leading, tastefully and properly realized accompaniements, and worthwhile text.
 
I know this is the age old debate about traditional vs contemporary music, which I really am not interested in re-igniting. I am interested in obtaining quality music to round out the worship service to help this church move forward and grow. Your recommendations of tried and true repertoire would be greatly appreciated.
 
Thanks in advance!
Replies (15): Threaded | Chronological
on May 6, 2014 6:50am
Hi Patricia - 
 
At St. Marks in Shreveport we've had a great response to the SATB+organ version of this new piece (commissioned by the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese last year).
 
Phos Hilaron (O Resplendent Light)
 
 
on May 6, 2014 7:39am
I can also vouch for music written by Costas Dafnis.  He's fantastic!
 
Dustin Oldenburg
on May 6, 2014 7:28am
I also serve in an Episcopal church, but we use a wide mix of music from a variety of sources, from contemprary collections to the EH82.  I recommend the Celebrating Grace hymnal as an excellent resource for contemporary hymns and choruses.  It is organized loosely around the liturgical year, and has exceptional resources, including hymn anthems and orchestrations.  (And their chidren's curriculum is great!)  Their website: https://www.celebrating-grace.com/ click on Accents.
 
One writer that I've enjoyed lately is Keith Getty.  Though contemporary, his hymns reflect spiritual depth and good musicianship.
 
Each summer I attend the Alleluia! church music conference on the campus of Baylor University in Waco, TX.  It is attended by leaders from many different denominations, with anthem reading sessions that reflect an electic music style.  http://www.baylor.edu/alleluia/
 
And, I'm sure you know about Hymnary.org.  There are contemporary hymns you can download in bulletin-ready formats, assuming you have a subscription to CCLI, etc.
on May 6, 2014 7:37am
Patricia,
 
Is your choir SATB?  Do you sing a cappella music?  I have a few SATB a cappella settings of biblical texts that I would encourage you to listen to.  If there is anything that peaks your interest, I'd be happy to send you some perusal scores.  Have you considered having custom arrangements of contemporary worship music written for your choir's use?  I'd be happy to discuss this option with you if it is something that you are interested in.  There are some pretty decent contemporary church choir arrangements out there.  My church choir has enjoyed performing arrangements by Russell Mauldin on a couple of occasions.  
 
Here's a link to my SoundCloud page.  I encourage you to listen to my settings of "The Lord's Prayer" and "Psalm 23."
 
 
If you would like to request perusal scores or discuss the possibility of custom arrangements for your choir, feel free to email me at doldenb(a)gmail.com.
 
Thanks, and best of luck!
 
Dustin Oldenburg
on May 6, 2014 7:48am
Please be aware of having too much pressure put on the music program to "save" the church.  We see this happening everywhere, and usually it's a way to deflect attention  from the poor leadership in other areas of the church.  At the end of the day, well done music in any kind of style is what a healthy church needs to support well done liturgy, well done outreach, well done ministries of all kinds.  Whether it's contemporary or traditional music simply becomes a matter of personal preference.  I applaud your willingness to work with a new Rector in developing more vibrant worship - we all need to do that - but  I don't want another colleague to get blamed for a church's slow death because music is such an easy target.  
 
To answer your actual question, there are so many wonderful arrangements of spirituals, which is music that I find speaks to everyone.  There's nothing more "contemporary" than music written in the last few years by composers like Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo, Gary Davison, Robert Lehman, (I could go on and on).  Getting the congregation involved in singing the refrains of Taize chants while instruments and soloists create beautiful harmonies around them never fails to move people.  There are lots of ways to maintain your own sense of musical integrity while creating music that energizes people. Showing how much you love something and the energy you bring to it is what will draw people in at the end of the day.  And that goes for preaching, youth education, architecture...as well as music.
 
My two cents. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2014 11:20am
Look at the music of Charles Rus, much of which is available for free on his website:
 
Also, the St. Gregory of Nyssa "Music for Liturgy" contains many tasteful items:
 
I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Sutton on here. Key is to do the music well. It is very easy to get contemporary music wrong.
on May 7, 2014 9:11am
I recommend Rachel Fogarty's Alleluia. It's beautiful but retains that modern feel and can be acappella or accompanied.
 
Score and audio samples below: 
 
Best,
Fahad
on May 7, 2014 3:33pm
Hi Patricia,
 
I want to echo Sonya's comments about not having too much pressure be put on the church to "save" the church. IMHO, it is not the pastor, the music, the programs, etc. that grow the church, but rather God. However, as a church musician, I believe that I'm called to provide music that is theologically sound and excellently done, as well as share the gifts of those in the congregation.
 
What exactly do you and the pastor mean by "contemporary"? Are you looking for non-classical music? Christian Contempory Music? World Music? Something else? 
 
With that said, I have enjoyed the following the anthems. I'm not sure if any of them fit the bill since I'm not exactly sure what "contemporary" means. Hopefully at least one of these fits what you're looking for.
 
Praise His Holy Name - Keith Hampton
Walk in the Light arr. Andre Thomas
Keep Your Lamps arr. Andre Thomas
He Never Failed Me Yet - Robert Ray
God Is Our Refuge and Strength - Allen Pote
The Lord is My Shepherd - Allen Pote
The Glory and Majesty of Your Name - Tom Fettke
Down to the River to Pray arr. Sheldon Curry
Thy Will Be Done - Craig Courtney
 
Austen
on May 7, 2014 3:45pm
Patricia,
 
I think you will enjoy my "Dereva Ni Mungu" for SATB choir and percussion (optional piano). A setting of a Swahili proverb, it is a joyful and rhythmic work that engages all who sing and listen. Scores are available through JR Music.
 
 
I also have several other works that may be of interest: None Other Lamb, Peace Flows Into Me, and The King of Love.
 
Thanks!
 
Jake Runestad, composer
on May 8, 2014 8:38am
Hi,
I come to the Episcopal church from a UCC, Methodist, and ELCA Lutheran background, and have been an organist/choir director for 45 years. I am also a librarian, so researching is second nature for me.
 
I like the ELCA hymnal and purchased the new one when it came out.  I find it to have a lot of hymns usable with the choir and the congregation.  I also like the hymnal from the Calvin Institute of Worship (http://worship.calvin.edu/resources/publications/sing-a-new-creation/).  That one has been very helpful for my choir.  I like the new Methodist hymnal, especially with options for other instruments to be part of the accompaniment.  I have a lot of hymnals from a lot of different churches, and find that some have more verses than others.  There is a new supplement from the Episcopal Church:  Voices Found - which I like a lot!  I also use the 3 volumes of "Liturgical Music - Years A, B, C".  This suggests hymns and anthems based on the lectionary.
 
The publishers I use are:  Morningstar Music, Hope Publishing (for some things), GIA, Lorenz (for some things), Shawnee Press (for some things), Hinshaw Music, St James Press (http://www.sjmp.com/), and sometimes OCP.  I look for hymn-based anthems, and some easier arranged pieces from Hal Hopson, that are faithful to the original music, as much as that can be done.  We do some occasional "contemporary" music that is well written.  I am a bit picky about what I select.  My choir LOVES spirituals, and we do several in the year.  I find those at GIA, and some from the other publishers, but not as often.  I utilize JW Pepper as my main source of purchasing, with Morningstar as the next source.
 
I think I do a pretty good job of selecting anthems/hymns for the church & choir.  I take into account their likes and dislikes.  They tell me immediately if they don't like something.
 
If you have any further questions, please contact me.
 
Thanks,
Marianne Thompson
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 8, 2014 11:21am
I have been watching the responses to your question, and you've gotten some great replies, though I think a few people have the impression that you are looking for contemporary anthems, but I still think you are looking for good arrangements of contemporary 'praise & worship' songs.  (It's a whole 'nother thread, but I find it odd that CCM fans think they invented 'praise & worship.')
 
Here are a few good writers to start your search:  Keith Getty, Stuart Townend, Matt Maher, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Laura Story, Nicole Mullen.
 
Folks that are writing good arrangements of CCM:  Lloyd Larson, Robert Sterling, Heather Sorenson, Michael Barrett, Tom Fettke, just to start.  I agree with Marianne Thompson above about publishers, though I use Pender's since I am from Dallas and I know them.  
 
Anthems are a great way to introduce new music to your congregation, and I always get a positive reaction when we sing something that's being played on the local CCM radio station.  When it comes time to use them with your congregation, look for versions of popular contemporary songs on SongSelect by CCLI.  http://us.ccli.com/
 
No, I'm not a fan of 'words on the wall, waving your hands' rock & roll worship, but it is good to visit some churches that do.  Watch the people, and see what they're actually singing; watch for music with depth and meaning, not just repeated phrases.  (And you can slip out before the sermon.)  You may find some great songs.
 
The commentors above are right: Changing to contemporary music will not save any church, in spite of what many pastors may think.  But I think it's good to keep open minds and hearts, and don't think of new vs. old as good vs. bad.  My goal is to broaden musical styles to include new with the old, especially if it engages more of our congregation in worship.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 8, 2014 9:39pm
As Raymond mentioned, CCM (contemporary Christian music) radio is a way of getting familiar with this genre.  KLove.com is broadcast nationally and also available on-line.  Sirius XM has "The Message."  Sheet music for praise bands is available at praisecharts.com.  I agree about trying to keep open minds and hearts. 
on May 9, 2014 4:31am
on May 10, 2014 2:50pm
Hello Patricia,
 
I am currently working on creating a keyboard-accompanied version of Mass For The Caribbean (Anglican/Episcopal/United...), which I wrote a while back when working as organist with an Anglican church in the West Indies. http://www.choralnet.org/view/441474   It is presently performed at masses/communion services on the island of Carriacou (Grenada) where it was written and where it was first performed with sixteen steel drums, piano and flute, supplanting a somewhat starchy communion service setting that had been used for years (decades?). The Caribbean Mass is scored mainly for two voices (Women, Men) and at times with optional added voices to become SATB. Accompaniment is for piano with optional high steel drum (or flute), and there are several of the original movements for a full pan (steel drum) orchestra. There are some 'response' type movements (Sanctus for example), and a number of movements outside the Ordinary of the mass (Psalm 23, Lord's Prayer, Hymns...) The whole mass may be sung in Unison as well as much of it in two, three or four parts. There is certainly opportunity for percussion performed by a percussionist and/or members of the choir/congregation. While quite 'at home' in the West Indies, the highly melodic Caribbean Mass fits well into contemporary worship. In fact, sections of it are found in More Voices, the 'contemporary' supplement to Voices United, the Hymn and Worship book of The United Church of Canada.
 
I will be work-shopping Mass For The Caribbean near Toronto this fall, so it should be ready by late August (2014).
If this communion setting is of interest, please contact me. I can presently supply sample movements.
on May 14, 2014 10:19am
Thanks to all for your replies! This is such a sensitive topic and always ignites opinions. I have no intention of throwing out the varied traditional music that we have used in the past, I just want to broaden the scope of the music. I guess I am looking for quality arrangements of "Praise and Worship" anthems (There, I have said it!). Every once in a while I have heard beautiful anthems on various contemporary Christian media outlets and I think, "My choir would love that!" so I am just looking for options.
 
Our loyal church choir is tiny, 10-13 members and aging, and we are losing members to various health issues. I am just looking to enrich the service. Thanks for the advice!
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