Did You Know How Brainerd Selects the Service Music?
I have been often asked about my process for the selection of Service Music. I always begin with a prayer and a moment of meditation. I then spend time with the lectionary readings for the Sunday in question, as well as the collect, prayer over the gift and prayer after communion for the day. I do this to see what themes present themselves.
Usually the readings for each Sunday have been confirmed in consultation with the clergy, however I don’t often know what particular angle will be taken for the sermon. Some clergy only preach on the Gospel reading, others will draw on several or all of the readings. Occasionally the sermon may be quite unrelated to the readings. Nevertheless I continue to marvel at working of the Holy Spirit in the cohesion that most often occurs between word and music.
I then spend time with several hymns appropriate to the readings or a particular theme within them. I read and re-read the texts in an effort to ensure that the theology and sentiment best compliments or amplifies the word. Sometimes a particularly poignant text is not always to a tune that is known by the congregation, and a decision has to be made whether to include it and if so, where in the service. Sometimes I look for a familiar tune that fits the metre of a text I want to use and combine them. I also take the tempo of hymns into consideration, as the tempo as well as the text contribute to the pacing and arc of the service – what’s appropriate to precede the Gospel reading, is the offertory hymn long enough for the collection of the offering and the preparation of the communion elements, which hymn will be a good sending forth.
The selection of the anthem is of equal importance, and I most often endeavour to connect it to an aspect of the readings or psalm of the day. The placement of the anthem in the service can intensify the need for synchronicity. If, for example, the anthem is placed immediately following the sermon as was the case in one parish in which I worked, then it becomes more imperative to have it compliment or amplify the word.
The cyclical service music – Processional, Song of Praise, Psalm Refrain, Gospel Acclamation, Song for the Breaking of the Bread, Communion Music and Dismissal – is being sourced currently from a colleague who provides access to a database of liturgical music to several parishes in the Diocese. This music is also picked with many things in mind, and particularly congregational participation. All together my aim in the selection of all of the service music is to contribute to a cohesive worship experience that is instructive, uplifting, and above all a blessing.