Here is what I posted on Facebook this morning:

“Today in church we sang a choir anthem based on a 15th century text, a tune to another hymn by the classical composer G.F. Handel (early 1700s), a British Victorian hymn (1865), a gospel song from the early 1900s, a vocal solo from yesterday’s Senior Classics banquet published in 1941 (Makes sense!), a praise chorus from 1976 requested by Pastor Mike, and a modern hymn from 1996.

But we musical conservatives don’t have any variety in our church music?”

Call to Worship

We started our service with a “Call to Worship” by the choir and orchestra. They presented Nathan Burgraff’s “Praise to the Lord.” It is a festive setting of the 15th century hymn text by Pastor Joachim Neander. I had the congregation sing the hymn from our hymnal recently as a reminder of where the text came from. Dr. Burgraff’s setting is not only fun to listen to and a masterful musical reinforcement of the words, but it is a virtual masterclass in choral writing techniques. The college students who sang and played with us today got an education without even knowing it!

Fast Forward

After the choir opener, we fast-forwarded more than 300 years to 1996 and sang “Worthy of Praise.” It is one of Pastor Mike’s favorites to open a service. Now that I think of it, he never actually told me that. But I know because of the way he participates and the “Amen” he usually gives after the first line of the chorus. When you work with someone for almost 15 years, you get to know their preferences.

Easter Preview

Our next hymn is one I like to use at Easter time. But my congregation always acts like they don’t remember it. I sang it today so we could sing it with confidence on Resurrection Sunday in a couple weeks. The classical composer G.F. Handel wrote this tune for an opera. The hymn text “Thine Be the Glory” was fitted to the tune. There are only a couple of hymns in our hymnal that work that way. Also, I know that the choir is singing an anthem tonight that sounds Baroque. So getting the congregation to participate in this Baroque march expands their musical palette and sets them up for understanding tonight’s choir song.

Gear Shift

After Pastor Mike’s prayer, we shifted gears a bit. I mentioned to the congregation that I had enjoyed playing the piano for the Senior Classics banquet yesterday. I played popular music from a generation or two ago. Then I reminded the congregation that church musical styles often follow popular trends. So the 1900s gospel song we were about to sing sounds suspiciously like “The Skater’s Waltz” from the 1850s. The congregation seemed to understand and sing about heaven with enthusiasm, rather than balking at the old-fashioned sound of the music. We sang “Face to Face” next because I was setting up a vocal solo from 1941 about heaven. Don Wagner, Jr. sang yesterday at the banquet, and I wanted the entire church family to hear his rich baritone. I got to play the piano for him. I don’t usually play on Sundays, but since I had played for the banquet yesterday, it made sense.

The offertory was “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” I introduced it by saying that we were singing it because I was ticked off. I had read a blog in which the misguided author suggested we not sing that hymn in church anymore. The congregation laughed and seemed to sing with more energy than usual for the offering. Nothing draws in people like a cause!

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