Brass music for the church: it's not just for Easter anymore

by James Hild

For those of us blessed to have brass musicians in our church, the first choice for them to play is probably Easter Sunday. But what about other times of the year? Can you use your ensemble for Christmas? Transfiguration? Lent? Where can you find music for these other services? Here are a few resources that hopefully will help you locate appropriate music.

Our usual church music publishers (Augsburg Fortress, GIA, Concordia, Morning Star) have been releasing some fine music over the past few years. Check out their on-line catalogs. Many have sound files so you can preview the song.

Live Oak House. Dale Elmshaeuser has been arranging and publishing instrumental works for many years. Many are hymn-based or are accompaniments for hymn singing. He has also published original works for brasses. Check out his two sets of traditional Christmas carols.

Brass Players Guide. This is probably the largest collection of brass music in the world. It started out as an outlet for Robert King Music who published all those great transcriptions of Gabrieli works. Solos, duets, small ensembles, large ensembles; all are represented in this guide.

The Canadian Brass. Canadian brass is always a good source for high quality brass ensemble music, both sacred and secular. You can order off the website or your favorite music store. Most of these arrangements are for standard quintet (2 trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba). I have used their "Canadian Brass Christmas Carols" for years and have found the arrangements very accessible. They come with an organ part too. They have quintets arranged from easy to advanced, clasical to jazz and even Broadway tunes. A great resource.

Five Christmas Hymns by David Willcocks. Oxford Music. These are brass quintet accompaniments of five classic hymns arranged by David Willcocks. The organ parts are located in Carols for Choirs book 1 or 2. If you looking for the Kings College arrangement of Once in Royal David’s City, this is it.

Southern Music Company. Lots of brass ensemble arrangements can be found here.

The Salvation Army- Yes, the ones that play around the kettle at Christmas. The SA has arguably the largest collection of brass music in the world. Most of it is in Great Britain and is arranged for British Brass Band. However, there is a large collection of pieces available in the USA. The SA has a unique way of arranging music that works very well for ensembles with only a few players. The basic structure is a quartet (SATB), with an optional fifth part. Within the quartet, various instruments cover the parts. For example, Part 1 (usually soprano) can be covered by instruments in Bb, C etc. Very flexible. For Lutherans, there are many arrangements of standard hymns that have a fresh sound. Of particular interest are Caroler’s Favorites. 133 Christmas carols in a small folio. Very accessible and singable! I have found lots of these arrangements through JW Pepper Music.

Our brothers and sisters in the Evangelische Kirche in Germany have produced the Posaunen-Choralbuch. This is a companion book to their hymnal. Every hymn in the book has a short introduction followed by a standard harmonization. They are written in non-transposed treble and bass clefs, so you will need to write them out, or better yet, teach your players how to transpose! The book can be ordered through (their German site) or Strube Verlag in Berlin.

Good luck and happy playing!!

Posted on Jul 2, 2012 9:12:59 AM
Filed Under: Instruments and Ensembles, Filed Under: review-prelude,

James Hild

Written by James Hild

James Hild is the director of music and organist at All Saints Lutheran Church in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Besides his organ and choir directing duties, Jim directs and plays in the church’s resident brass ensemble. Jim holds music degrees from Jamestown College, and the University of Minnesota. Additional study has been with Harald Vogel (organ), Helmuth Rilling (choral and orchestral) and David Baldwin (trumpet).