By Richard Birk, on behalf of the Worship Excellence Team
There is a beloved children’s song whose first line – “All God’s critters got a place in the choir” – isn’t exactly true. Judging from the looks that my exuberant off-key singing can generate, I’m reminded that my joyful noise is still mostly noise and maybe my “place” is somewhere other than the choir. Thankfully I have found through instrumental music a way to be a part of the heavenly band and praise my Lord. Based on my experience as a full-time band director and part-time church musician, I’d like to offer some tips on ways to use the instrumental musical gifts that may be untapped in your congregation.
Organ, piano & guitar aren’t the only instruments God created.
Conduct a survey and find out what instruments people play. All instruments are to be included – harmonica, spoons, zither, iPhone ocarina, etc.
The “choir model” works for instruments.
Group instruments by their range and play parts from the hymnal or choral pieces.
“Soprano” – flute, violin, trumpet, etc.
“Alto” – viola, alto sax, french horn, etc.
“Tenor” – trombone, cello, tenor sax, etc.
“Bass” – bassoon, tuba, string bass, etc.
Strength in numbers.
Have multiple people play together on a solo line with piano or organ accompaniment. (Especially helpful for less experienced instrumentalists!)
Create a keyboard ensemble.
Pianists and organists typically play alone. Less experienced keyboard players can buckle under the pressure of carrying the entire musical load. Use piano, organ, and keyboards simultaneously and have each person play a single line. Playing music written for other instruments (string quartet, brass quintet, etc.) and utilizing different keyboard & organ timbres can create a stunning musical effect with a minimum of individual musical pressure.
If it’s instrumental, it doesn’t have to be “sacred”.
Since there are no words, instrumental works that don’t have a “sacred” title can still be entirely appropriate in worship. Sonatas and sarabandes or concertos and caprices are in the repertoire of many students and professional musicians. Invite them to share their music in worship (but be sure to use your best musical judgment).
Honor their musical gifts.
By inviting and including instrumentalists in your worship music, you honor their musical gifts. The worship experience is enhanced with musical diversity and individual talents are uplifted and affirmed. It’s the classic “win-win”.
These are just a few ideas that I hope you find useful. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions at email@example.com