Part One: Literature
The concert band can be a wonderful part of worship services, either regularly or for special occasions. Once the basic issues have been addressed—placement, instrumentation, volume level, equipment, and for what elements of the service the band will play—then it is critical to select appropriate repertoire.
Let’s focus first on choosing music that might be used for prelude, postlude, special music, anthem, offertory, or communion.
The first step is to consult the minister of music, organist, pastor, or other leader who is planning the service. This person will know where the band music is needed, and will be able to share expectations for repertoire (which might include length, volume, liturgical reference, etc.).
The next step is to choose music that will meet the needs of the service. This is done much like the organist and choir director select music, considering sacred or secular, louder or softer, faster or slower, longer or shorter.
As various musical selections are being reviewed, ensemble instrumentation must be considered. In some instances, the band will play alone. In others, the band might play along with organ (or piano or synthesizer). A benefit to collaborating with keyboard is that if the band does not have complete instrumentation, the keyboard can fill in gaps. In some cases, these gaps are filled by keyboard parts that come with the publication. Many band arrangements also come with a condensed conductor score that can be played at the keyboard.
I enjoy searching for concert band music that is appropriate for use in worship. I will share some specific titles at the end of this article. Among my favorite sources of repertoire are:
1. The hymnsong series of arrangements by David Holsinger, published by TRN.
2. The wonderful set of sacred concert band recordings by the Concordia University Chicago Wind Symphony, conducted by Dr. Richard Fischer.
3. The hymn-based repertoire database, created by Dr. Jeff Held at Concordia University - Irvine.
4. Websites for music retailers, like JW Pepper.
In conclusion, here is a selected list of music that I recommend for use in church. The list is by no means exhaustive. You can use this list for specific titles, and also as model repertoire that you might compare with other music and composers you know. Grade levels (I-VI) are based on standard concert band ratings, where Grade I is appropriate for beginner band, Grade III for the average high school band, and Grade VI for college and professional level. Please note that these grade level ratings are my opinions; they may be different from what the publisher has indicated.
Grade II, Sacred
42 Chorales for Band, arr. Philip Gordon
A Childhood Hymn (Jesus Loves Me), arr. David Holsinger
Arioso from Israel in Egypt, G.F. Handel, arr. John Kinyon
Benediction Chorale, arr. Robert E. Foster
Be Still My Soul (Finlandia), arr. Robert Smith
They Led My Lord Away, arr. Fred J. Allen
Grade II, Secular
Air for Band, Frank Erickson
Modal Dance from Hoosier Suite, Robert Smith
Grade III, Sacred
All Through the Night from Welsh Folk Suite, arr. Albert Oliver Davis
If Thou Be Near, J.S. Bach, arr. R.L. Moehlmann
Nearer My God to Thee, arr. Herbert Clarke
O How Amiable, Ralph Vaughan Williams
On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss, arr. David Holsinger
Psalm Elegy, Michael Boo
Sine Nomine, arr. Alfred Reed
Grade III, Secular
A Hymn for Band, Hugh Stuart
Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon, Percy Grainger
Grade IV, Sacred
Alleluia! Laudamus Te, Alfred Reed
Battle Hymn of the Republic, arr. Peter Wilhousky
Chorale Prelude: So Pure the Star, Vincent Persichetti
Fanfare Prelude: O How Shall I Receive Thee, J. Robert Hanson
God of Our Fathers, arr. Claude Smith
Intrada: Adoration and Praise, Claude Smith
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, J.S. Bach, arr. L. Cailliet
Power and Glory, John Philip Sousa
Prayer of Saint Gregory, Alan Hovhaness
Psalm 46, John Zdechlik
Songs of Grace and Songs of Glory, arr. John Philip Sousa
Symphony for Band, mvt. II Round Me Falls the Night, Vincent Persichetti
Towering Windows, Michael Boo
Who Puts His Trust in God Most Just, J.S. Bach, arr. James Croft
Grade IV, Secular
First Suite for Band, mvt. I, Gustav Holst
Heart of the Morn, H. Owen Reed
Second Suite for Band, mvt. II, Gustav Holst
Trauersinfonie, Richard Wagner
Grade V, Sacred
Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral, Richard Wagner, arr. L. Cailliet
Fantasia in G, Timothy Mahr
La Fiesta Mexicana, mvt. II, Mass, H. Owen Reed
Sinfonia Voci, David Holsinger
Sketches on a Tudor Psalm, Fisher Tull
Grade V, Secular
Crown Imperial, William Walton
Symphony on Themes by Sousa, mvt. II, Ira Hearshen
Grade VI, Sacred (extended works that might substitute for a homily)
and they gathered on Mount Carmel, Jesse Ayers
Jericho, Jesse Ayers
Rahab, Jesse Ayers
In The Spring, at the Time When Kings Go Off to War, David Holsinger
I welcome your suggestions and questions about the concert band in church. The concert band can almost always be an important part of the worship experience, as long as the conductor and performers are sensitive to the needs of the service.