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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Ah, Advent. Prepare, prepare! The busiest weeks for most of us are actually done now. I always get a chuckle when people come up to me the week before Christmas and say "you must really be busy right now!" I enjoy telling them that the first two weeks of Advent are much more hectic for me than the last two. Even with all my summer worship planning, the need to finalize arrangements, book practices, and get music to musicians at the same time Advent services and the school Christmas program are added to my plate puts me in overdrive.

But Advent is a wonderful season - definitely worth talking about. And yet it is so short while we are so busy that we church musicians and pastors don't talk about it as much as we should. So what's working for you?

Here's a few things that have been Advent blessings at Bethany so far this year:

*A Bach Cantata (#140, Wachet Auf) for our first Advent Vespers.

*The return of Schalk/Vajda's "Light the Candle", which we sing for the lighting of the Advent wreath.

*The wide amount of variety available at Liturgy Solutions for this time of year. It really is amazing how much Advent music we've got up on the site. Drawing from the catalog, I've used settings by Hildebrand, Blersch, Johnson, and Sonntag so far this year.

*Our Schola Cantorum kids kicking off our second Advent Vespers with Allan Mahnke's "Fling Wide the Gates". (Yes, we sing lots of things around here that aren't LS - chuckle)

*Our sermon series: "Christmas with Isaiah", which runs from the beginning of Advent through Epiphanytide, using the appointed Old Testament lessons from the Three-Year Lectionary.

*Singing "Prepare the Royal Highway" with the 'old' setting from LW. (Still using the LSB text). The people really love this hymn, and we've tried it with the LSB/LBW rhythm, but folks prefer it in 4/4. Here's a video using my arrangement from "Hymns for the Contemporary Ensemble", published by CPH. That series has been discontinued, but I'm thinking about starting that project up again at LS.

Speaking of LS projects, look for several new instrumental arrangements for congregational accompaniment to be uploaded by New Year's. These are for woodwinds & keyboard and are by professional composer/arranger Terry Herald, whom we are proud to introduce as the newest composer in our 'stable'. Welcome aboard, Terry!

So, that's a taste of what's working for me right now. What's working for you?


Pastor Bowman said...

A big blessing to us has been the Koine Music group. Not that they have played for us, but in publishing their arrangements of classic advent hymns in a format that fits a stereotypical church band so we have good advent music without having to abandoned the band.

We have some good young leaders in the group who are listening when we say that songs need to have good theological depth. That songs actually need to say what Jesus did, not just there is something about His name. So we have been working hard to replace the stereotypical contemporary schlock you hear in a contemporary service at Lutheran congregations either by writing our own or finding other sources i.e. Koine Music.

Phillip said...

Sounds like a good direction. We have led a similar group away from doing mostly radio music to singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs as well. Can be done.

Speaking of arrangements of hymns, have you all tried either volume of Hymns for the Contemporary Ensemble? And do you use the LSB Guitar edition?

Pastor Bowman said...

No, we haven't tried the Hymns for the contemporary ensemble. Some of our musicians are writing arrangements of liturgical music and hymns from the Guitar Edition.