In previous editions of SAWM, we have discussed what Blended Worship is and have given examples of how it is being used by musicians outside The Salvation Army. In this article we wanted to share with you the practical tools that you can use to make blended worship a reality in your services.
The Hallelujah Choruses series out of the USA Central Territory is the premiere resource developed by The Salvation Army to help you practically blend different musical groups in worship. Assistant Territorial Music Secretary Peggy Thomas pioneered this resource and has been the driving force behind it ever since.
Peggy took the time to answer some questions SAWM had about the Hallelujah Choruses series to share with you how it all came about and to explain some of the processes behind musical selection.
SAWM: The Hallelujah Chorus series has been one the main tools developed by The Salvation Army to achieve blended worship. How/why did the series come about?
PT: Many years ago I attended a conference at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL. At that time, Willow had thousands in attendance at their weekly services while our attendance at Norridge was around 200. The curious thing for me was that Willow Creek started just two miles from Norridge. What were they doing that we weren't? Why were they experiencing such dramatic growth? That conference introduced me to a whole new way of doing Sunday worship. Their praise band merged with the studio orchestra. I witnessed great drama and impactful media. Their equivalent to our salvation meeting was on Sunday morning, ours was on Sunday night and was dying. Their equivalent to our holiness meeting was on Wednesday night, ours was Sunday morning. I came home thinking it was time to really look at what we were doing in worship and to incorporate some of the things I experienced.
If a praise band could merge with strings, why couldn't they merge with brass? Maybe it was time to introduce drama and media into our services. There were just all sorts of questions. So, I began working on merging the praise band with brass. The problem was, we didn't have a praise band. I contacted Chris Jaudes, who I thought might know someone who could help me. He connected me with a guy named Bill Ancira who was the music director of a church of 9,000 members in St. Louis. I went to St. Louis and met with Bill and he agreed to do 5 arrangements for his praise band and my corps band merged together. Two arrangements would feature Chris. We set up a recording weekend and his band came up to Chicago to record. The end product was a CD called Trumpet of Jesus. The problem with the arrangements was that they were very difficult, mostly in 5-7 sharps and I wanted to provide the arrangements to other corps bands. It turned out they were just too difficult for most army groups.
So the idea continued to evolve. I contacted Bill Broughton and asked him if he would arrange 20 choruses from our SA songbook and that the arrangements needed to merge the praise band with the brass band. At that time,there were no band arrangements for the chorus section of the songbook. I wanted 4-5 part brass, piano, guitars, and trap set. Each tune needed to be simple but the arrangement would develop rather than just repeat each verse like our hymn tune book. He agreed and we produced the first Hallelujah Choruses recording. I realized that these arrangements would be very useful to other groups so our department decided to publish them. The rest is history.
SAWM: How do you think it is used most effectively?
PT: The purpose of the series was to merge rhythm instruments with the brass band. I have always said it's great to hear a brass arrangement of the chorus Shout to the Lord. It's also great to hear the same song sung by a praise band, but when you merge the two, something very special happens. The series can be effective however it is used but the intent was to add keyboard and guitars to the band. When the series was created, at that time praise bands were starting to emerge in many corps. Soon, many places around the world were experiencing 'worship wars' between the band and the praise band. I have always believed there is a place for both independent of one another but there is also a wonderful opportunity to merge together and create great worship.
SAWM: How are songs selected for the series?
PT: Every fall, the members of our department get together and discuss which songs or choruses should be chosen. During the year, if we hear songs that might work, we save them and then review them together. We also have quite a few people who send us songs for consideration.
We try to include a few traditional hymns for each series of ten tunes. We also try to include some seasonal tunes whenever possible. If there are any new songs, especially written by Salvationists, we try to include those as well.
How has it changed since the beginning with almost 300 published HC arrangements?
The early Broughton arrangements were much simpler than the present day arrangements. The first 20 arrangements were mostly choruses. Along the way, we decided to include some fresh arrangements of hymns. These have proven very popular.
270 Worship Songs in 25 volumes
Matching Arrangements for
Praise Pak (Worship Team) - Vocal, Keys, Guitar, Bass, Drums and 3 part Brass
Full Brass Band - Parts broken into 5 parts for any size band to play
Vocal Series (Choir/Songsters) -
3 Part SAB arrangement with full
There is A Separate Song book that contains lead sheets. These are condensed lead sheets of the songs for each volume and don’t necessarily match the arrangements above. This Song Book Comes in English and Spanish Translations.
Each volume includes a CD that has performance and Accompaniment tracks for all of the songs.
We've always suggested to vary the layering; that is, the first time through a chorus, maybe use rhythm and mellows (horns/baritones/tubas) so everyone isn't playing from beginning to end. More of the newer arrangements are automatically layered by using cued notes. Also, many years ago we started the Hallelujah Chorus Praise Pak which is ideal for praise teams. This resource includes 3-part vocal (SAB) and keyboard score (with chord symbols); 3-part brass: trumpet/cornet 1-2 (opt. Eb 2) and trombone (treble and bass clef), guitar, bass and drums set. The brass parts are 'punch brass' but follow the same arrangement/form/chords as the traditional HC brass arrangement. There is also a HC Vocal series (choir book - SAB) available.
SAWM: We have seen a lot of songs from other denominations in the HC series, both older hymns and more contemporary ones. Do you think that there is room, or even a need, for Salvationists to be writing songs for our denomination and the wider church?
PT: Yes, of course. There are lots of songs by SA composers both old and new in the HC series and whenever we hear a new song/chorus, we try to include it if it works for the series. Sometimes there are new contemporary songs that just don't work for brass. These may be great songs but they just don't work for this particular series. Also, songs need to be intuitive, that is the melody is easily found. Many of the newer songs are perhaps better for a soloist or solo item for a praise band rather than a congregational song. Lots of times we find a song we like that has been sung by one of our favorite Christian artists and we try to make it work with a congregation. Often it does not. I believe the Gettty/Townend songs are great examples...the words have great depth and the tunes are very intuitive.