Saturday, January 25, 2014
AN OPEN LETTER TO WORSHIP LEADERS & CHURCH CHORAL MUSIC PUBLISHERS
I recently attended a church music conference. We listened to about 250 new compositions and arrangements from 6 leading publishers. Here are some observations regarding the vast majority of pieces.
Music is being written in only 2 or 3 part harmony. This leaves the basses to sing either in a tessitura which is too high or relegated to singing the melody in a lower octave. Is it any wonder my choir only has 3 bass singers?
Another trend is writing accompaniments that are clearly reductions of guitar parts. This leaves the music minister with three options. He either will attempt to present the piece live with a rhythm section, force his pianist to "work it out", or have the choir sing it with an accompaniment track. I have been using too many tracks lately and I know my pianist is growing tired of coming to choir only to rehearse vocal parts.
Many songs are also being arranged from solos heard on Christian radio. The trouble is that the rhythms are challenging enough that the arranger must write the piece for a soloist with the choir serving the role of back up singers. So while the all attention is on the soloist, the choir is singing oooohs, ohhhhhs, and ahhhhs with an occasional phrase that doubles the melody.
I urge music publishers to consider publishing real choral music again with great piano accompaniments, and legitimate bass parts. I understand there is a good reason this music is being published. It would not be published if there were not a market for it. I urge music ministers to be more discriminating in what you purchase for your church. That is the only way we will ever reverse this trend. The time has come for worship leaders to take a long and critical look at our methods and effects that will result from them.
I must assert that I am greatly encouraged by the spiritual depth of new composers such as Keith & Kristyn Getty, Matt Redman, Travis Cottrell, Stuart Townend, and Reuben Morgan. It seems the pendulum has begun to swing toward hymns being written for today's worshippers. These texts are filled with biblical quotations and solid theology. What will worship in the church look like in 30 years? Worship`s future will likely be determined by the choices that worship leaders make today and forward.
Posted by Eric Beechem at 4:53 PM