In the last 2 articles I’ve written, you’ve seen how some common piano figures can be used effectively as a piano part for many worship songs. I use these figures and others like them often. I’m now seeing this usefulness in a new context since I’ve recently begun serving as Worship Arts Pastor for a church in Seattle. Within the last year this church made the transition from having one traditional service and one contemporary, to having a single service. Elements of both the traditional and contemporary services are now combined, and my job is to lead the music in this single service. As you might anticipate, those in the congregation who’d attended the traditional service enjoy singing hymns in the service, while those in the contemporary tended to sing only modern worship songs. As I build my set lists, I often have a hymn and a worship song placed one after the other.
Often hymns are presented with very thick chord voicings, generally including the hymn’s melody as the top note in the right hand, with the alto, tenor, and bass parts played directly below it. The mere fact that the melody of the hymn is being played instrumentally as it is sung is a stark contrast to what is usually heard in a modern worship song’s accompaniment. So, do you think there’s a way to present a hymn instrumentally so that it can sound compatible with the modern song? I have discovered that it can be done, and using the piano figures presented in my previous 2 articles has been the answer.
First, one of the most well known hymns in the Church around the world is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. By slightly reordering piano figures from part 2 of this series, you’ll be able to see (and hear if you head to your keyboard and play these examples) how well figures that supported the modern worship song fit with the hymn’s melody. Here example 5 from “Go Figure part 2” is reordered a bit as the hymn begins.
This sparse piano part is a significant contrast to the way a church pianist might traditionally accompany the hymn. That’s exactly why you might find it more stylistically compatible with the modern songs that you most often sing.
Next, say I’m using the hymn “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name” after “What A Beautiful Name”. Here, I don’t make any changes to example 3 from part 2 of the series for an accompaniment.
You can even adapt these figures to triple meters like 3/4 and 6/8. Many hymns use these meters. One of my favorites is “Be Thou My Vision”. Check out how example 1 from the same article can be adapted for the start of this hymn.
As a final example, you could tie in the numerical references in the titles of two songs, “10,000 Reasons” and “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing”. There’s a meter change here from 4/4 to 3/4, but the lyrics give cohesion.
My recent experiences at my church in Seattle have reminded me how many great truths are expressed in the hymns of our heritage. It can be a powerful experience for your congregation when you combine lyrics from a modern songwriter with those composed many years before. Using the concepts I’ve shared here can help you and your team present the older songs in a new and fresh way. By God’s grace, the result will be new and fresh revelations of our timeless God who never changes.