If you’ve ever paged through the tune index of Evangelical Lutheran Worship, you may have noticed that some entries—see, for instance, Ach bleib mit deiner Gnade and Agincourt Hymn—are indented and italicized. As was practiced in Lutheran Book of Worship and Service Book and Hymnal, these specially formatted entries indicate other names used for tunes by previous hymnals or, in some cases, by other denominations.Read More > >
How do those who are responsible as congregational worship planners and leaders attend to their own spiritual health through Holy Week? The physical, emotional, and spiritual demands of even the schedule of worship in the most concentrated and powerful gatherings can stretch us to and beyond our limits, not to mention the additional rehearsals, extra practice, additional printed worship material, coordination with professional and volunteer musicians, florists, colleagues, and, and, and…Read More > >
I’m about to start a composition, and as always, there’s a problem: I don’t know what to say. It is now the beginning of Lent, which only reinforces the state I’m always in. There are many lessons Lent can teach me, and I hope to learn those better this year, but for now, in this unsettled state before starting a piece, I confess that my mind jumps ahead to the end of Lent, to the strangest liturgy of the Church Year: Easter Vigil. There is nothing remotely like the Vigil.Read More > >
It seems there is never quite enough time in any given rehearsal. No matter how well planned, I find that I am always trying to squeeze in just one more verse to a hymn, one last check on the bass line at measure 26, one final run-through of an anthem… Yet I have found over the years that the one thing we absolutely cannot skimp on, time-wise, is choir devotions/prayer.Read More > >
Zebulon Highben is a popular composer in the Augsburg Fortress catalog. In this interview, we learn how he got started as a composer, what he does today, and how he thinks about the writing process.
Could you tell us about your current job/vocation, outside of composing?
I am Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Muskingum University, a liberal arts college of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I direct the choral program there and teach conducting, choral methods, choral literature, andRead More > >
As church musicians who must plan repertoire in advance, our thoughts are often a season or two ahead, and I think this is especially fitting during December. To have one ear in Christmas and the other ear in Easter reminds us of this profound truth: Christ Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8, NRSV). Have you begun thinking about Lent/Easter music? Perhaps after all the holiday concerts and extra worship services are over, after the gifts have been opened, you’ll find some down time to plan for the next season. To help you, here are some excellent new resources for you to consider:Read More > >
"So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up." – Galatians 6:9 (NRSV)
For many musicians, especially church musicians, a chasm opens between the training and the practice of their art. Professional training involves deep study of great music literature, the refinement of musical taste, and the attainment of a high playing standard. “This is what playing to the glory of God is really all about,” we think as we enter the real world. But in that real world, church musicians encounter harsh realities. The ideal sound we were hoping for is nearly unattainable. The hard work we put into our playing passes unnoticed. Our diligence assembling meaningful worship falls on undiscerning ears. And, at times, there are those who stand opposed to our goals.Read More > >
Throughout the late summer and early fall, I had opportunity to review several recordings of worship services at which I served as an assembly song leader from the keyboard. Many of these recordings were made during the 2018 Lutheran Summer Music Academy and Festival at Valparaiso University; in other instances, I reviewed livestream recordings from congregations where I had served as a substitute. Hearing these was an excruciating, yet enlightening experience: seemingly catastrophic moments—a sloppy phrase lift here, a wrong pedal note there—were barely noticeable while, on the other hand, what I thought had been suitable tempi and registrations seemed to inappropriately drag, rush, screech, or mumble.Read More > >