[Menvi-discuss] Hymns for Church Services

Stephanie Pieck themusicsuite at verizon.net
Fri Sep 1 18:58:03 EDT 2017

I agree wholeheartedly with Karen's comment about knowing which version
appears in the hymnal being used! Another thing I found extremely helpful
was to write detailed notes for myself about the order of service, where my
musical contributions were supposed to go, how many verses of each item I
needed to play, and perhaps of utmost importance, the first few notes or
chords of each item. I've only had a few occasions where my failure to do
this caused a problem, but one of those times is still fresh in my mind
after over thirty years! The pastor of the church I was playing for as a
young teen chose two hymns in the key of E Flat Major. Both happened to
begin with the same chord. My organ teacher at the time emphasized to me how
important it was to know tune names. So I dutifully learned these two hymns
and went to Sunday services armed with only the tune names and my memorized
music. Well, of course I played the wrong melody with the first hymn ... The
pastor came and announced to my father, sitting in a nearby pew, in a rather
loud whisper: "She's playing the wrong hymn!" I'm sure I looked horrified
because the next whispered comment was: "But keep going--it's working!"

Interestingly, I don't trust myself completely to recall the two tune names,
but I think they were "Aurelia" and "Eventide". However, since my example is
not a good one to follow, I'll gladly add the disclaimer that someone with
greater knowledge and an actual hymnbook should check that last "fact"!

Stephanie Pieck

After that, 

-----Original Message-----
From: Menvi-discuss [mailto:menvi-discuss-bounces at menvi.org] On Behalf Of
Karen Gearreald via Menvi-discuss
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2017 12:47 AM
To: This is for discussing music and braille literacy
Cc: Karen Gearreald
Subject: [Menvi-discuss] Hymns for Church Services

Here are some additional thoughts that may help anyone who is selecting the
music, accompanying the hymns, or leading the congregational singing for
church services.  I have derived great joy from performing such
responsibilities, whether as a volunteer or for pay.  By using our skills
for church services, we can express gratitude and praise to the Giver of our
talents.  At the same time we can help the congregation and choir, and we
can demonstrate the possibilities of functioning at a very high and reverent
level notwithstanding the lack of eyesight.

So how do we proceed?  Preparation is the key, of course.  For instance, I
find it very helpful to confer frequently with the head pastor so that I can
select music which supports his theological views, his musical preferences,
and his sermon topics.  Because the pastor and I have similar objectives, we
can encourage and strengthen each other from week to week and season to
season.  Since we all have favorite and unfavorite music, you will doubtless
find that as you get to know the pastor, you will learn about his likes and
dislikes.  The repertoire is so vast that you can easily avoid pieces that
would annoy him.

Another strategy, at least for me, is to arrange for help from choristers
and other church members who can read music well enough to play melodies and
accompaniments on a piano or organ or keyboard.  Because many hymns are sung
to various tunes, a helper can work with you--in advance--so that you have
no doubt about the tune that is shown in your hymnbook.  How well I know
that if you neglect this important step, you can be needlessly embarrassed
at a choir rehearsal or even during a service!  Be sure to ask your helper
about special features in the music, such as fermatas, changes in meter, key
changes, and optional choral endings.  You don't have to utilize these
features; but you need to know about them so that you can knowledgeably
decide to ignore them if you wish.  If you have doubts, bring along a small
recorder so that you can record the session with your helper.  Just a few
minutes can provide great reassurance.  Then, as Stephanie Pieck mentioned,
you can keep braille or computerized notes about anything that you want to
remember for future uses of the same song.

Of course if something is complex and you have enough time, you can find a
transcriber to put the music into braille for you; however, in my experience
we seldom have sufficient time for such luxuries.  

I hope that these observations will be useful.  Having served as a volunteer
music facilitator for the past year and a half, I am learning new songs and
new strategies all the time.  And oh yes, I must always pray with a humble
and thankful heart as I ask the Lord for wisdom in every musical situation.
Church musicians very greatly in talent in temperament; but if you treat
them graciously and knowledgeably, you can usually win them over so that
they become valuable members of the team.  Look for hidden talents; for
instance, a poor or marginal singer may not enhance the sound of the choir
but may develop into an ideal music librarian or keyboard helper.  Be ready
for surprises.

						Karen Gearreald


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