Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


We're updating the front page soon, but with Advent upon us I thought it best to go ahead and give everyone a few ideas about how Liturgy Solutions might be helpful to you this season:

For the Musician in Small ParishPerhaps you've got your small choir working on an Advent anthem and are busy preparing a couple of pieces for Christmas Eve. But you'd like to involve your choir in the liturgy when they are scheduled to sing, and perhaps use a soloist for one of the other Sundays in Advent. SO -

Consider Jonathan Kohrs' setting of the first stanza of “Lo, He Comes, with Clouds Descending” for unison/optional 2-part choir and organ as a great way to introduce or reintroduce this hymn to your congregation, using the LSB tune HELMSLEY. The subtle quote of SINE NOMINE (“For All the Saints”) while the choir sings “Thousand, thousand saints attending” is a lot of fun – and meaningful text-painting, even though it is subtle.

Also consider Jeffrey Blersch's psalm refrain for Psalm 25:1-10, appointed for First Sunday in Advent in the Three-Year series this year, but very appropriate for Advent Vespers in any parish. Consider having a flautist play the descant on the repetitions of the refrain. For a Gradual, try “Out of Zion, the Perfection of Beauty” (Psalm 50:2-3a,5), by Phillip Magness, for unison choir (or soloist) and organ. This text is for the One-Year series, but could be used at Matins or Vespers at any Advent series. All four of the Magness Graduals quote the Hymn of the Day, with this one drawing inspiration from “Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding”.

Three-Year Congregation? Try Dawn Sonntag's “Prepare the Way of the Lord”, the Verse of the Day for the Second Sunday in Advent, for Uni/2-part choir and keyboard. This works with piano as well as organ and is enjoyed by children's as well as adult choirs.

For the Musician in a Medium-Sized ParishYour children's choir will love the Sonntag setting of the Verse for Second Sunday in Advent mentioned above, but will also embrace her setting of “Creator of the Stars of Night”, especially with the descant provided for the final stanzas. A great choice for the Office Hymn at Advent Vespers.

Speaking of hymnody, Jonathan Kohrs' setting of stanza 3 of “On Jordan's Bank” (SAB, a cappella) will be very accessible for your adult choir, with the melody given to the men while the Sopranos & Altos sing a creative, text-painting accompaniment. Your adult choir should also consider Stephen Johnson's setting of Psalm 85, “Surely His Salvation Is Near”, appointed for the Third Sunday in Advent in the Three-Year Lectionary but also appropriate in place of an Advent Gradual in the One-Year series or as a psalm in any parish for Advent Matins or Vespers. For the Fourth Sunday in Advent, consider Dawn Sonntag's setting of the Verse of the Day: “Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive”. This could be sung again as a Prelude or “Opening Sentences” to Vespers on Christmas Eve.

Speaking of Christmas Eve, did you know “Savior of the Nations, Come” was originally a Christmas hymn? Whether your sing it for Advent or Christmas, if you have a good balance of men in your choir, they will sparkle on Jonathan Kohrs' setting of the “Manger Stanza” (stanza 7), with the altos, tenors, and basses singing a haunting undulation underneath the intermittent superimposition of a the lyric melody in the soprano. This stanza provides a nice opportunity for a soloist as well as for your soprano section. Baritone soloist instead? Consider Dawn Sonntag's most excellent setting of the Verse for the First Sunday in Advent, “Lift Up Your Heads, O Gates” for baritone soloist, SAB choir, and organ.

For the Musician in a Large Parish - You've got a big program, and multiple services each week, and so you know that the recommendations for Small Parish provide possible “solutions” for your children's choir and soloists. And that setting of stanza 3 of “On Jordan's Bank” by Jonathan Kohrs is a perfect match for your junior high or high school choir. Your regular SATB choir is scheduled to sing several Advent works for Voluntaries, Preludes, and communion distribution this year – but you want to make time for them to contribute to the liturgy as well.

Consider Jeffrey Blersch's SATB refrain for psalm 66:1-12, “You Have Brought Us Out to A Place of Abundance”, for the Second Sunday in Advent or for Advent Vespers. The congregation could join in this refrain or the choir could sing it and then chant the verses of the psalm responsively with the assembly. For the Third Sunday in Advent, consider giving them the Verse of the Day, with Dawn Sonntag's “Behold, I Send a Messenger”. If they are up for a small challenge, give them her setting of stanza 3 of “Comfort, Comfort Ye, My People”, a free setting that cloaks the melody yet paints the text well.

For Graduals, consider Stephen Johnson's setting of the Gradual for the Second Sunday in Advent, “Out of Zion”, and Phillip Magness' short motet on Psalm 25:4, “Make Me to Know Your Ways, O Lord.” Finally, don't finish your planning until you've reviewed both options we have for stanza 3 of GABRIEL'S MESSAGE. For either the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Advent Matins or Vespers focusing on the Annunciation, or for Lessons & Carols, we've got two great picks here. The option by Jeffrey Blersch is more traditional, yet with fresh and compelling harmonies. Dawn Sonntag's setting includes a soprano solo and either a flute or violin obbligato.


Whether you are looking for a simple way to chant the Introits or for fresh settings of hymn stanzas that will motivate your choir and enrich your congregation's meditation, we humbly offer these many and various “solutions” for your choirs that they may magnify the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior by magnifying the Word His Spirit gives us to sing in Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.

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