Worship Musicians Unconference

April 1, 2013

We’re going to host the most chilled out grass roots worship music event I’ve ever heard of.

wmu - Worship Musicians Unconference
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The Theology of Christian Worship Music

November 8, 2012

Could somebody explain the purpose and underlying theology of music in contemporary church worship? It strikes me I’ve been doing it for a couple of decades and although I kind of get it by instinct, I have little real understanding. Read the rest of this entry »

Approved hymns, limits on creativity

August 30, 2012

I spoke with a friend this evening at the pub. We meet regularly, over a pint (admittedly, mine usually a pint of water due to the new regime) and we talk about most things.

He told me that his church has approved thirty songs for use in worship on Sunday mornings, to use for a season in the church. Read the rest of this entry »

Clued up church worship.

July 5, 2012

I’m a huge fan of “I’m sorry, I haven’t a Clue” on BBC Radio 4. One of their famous games, and one we’ve tried before is “One Song to the Tune of Another” in which, well, you can guess.

As it happens, organists have been playing this particular game for years, dropping alternative tunes onto the unsuspecting congregation, sometimes without even the foreknowledge of the presiding minister, and occasionally without warning the choir. Read the rest of this entry »

Singing for the dead, to the living

March 14, 2012

I have just had the most surreal afternoon imagineable. This morning, while enjoying my free Starbucks latte, I read on Twitter that my mate @PastorEv was facing a tough afternoon, singing “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring” which is famous, twiddly, and quite high with a small funeral party who were mostly non-churchgoers.

I asked if he needed backup. Read the rest of this entry »

Harvest Festival

October 1, 2011

I’m playing tomorrow for a Harvest Festival at my church. It’s a traditional affair with the usual harvest hymns, but I’m a bit stuck because of several limiting factors: Read the rest of this entry »

Leading worship for beginners

April 2, 2011

Sometimes I think we need a filter on our worship lyrics and even our liturgy. If you’re using a word which you only ever hear in church, or you’re doing something you’d never even think of doing outside of church, how on earth are the new folks supposed to know what’s going on, or what you mean, or why you do it? Read the rest of this entry »

Diversity in Sung Worship

January 9, 2011

OK, I’m a worship music geek. I’m not a trend setter, nor a dedicated fashionista, but I do have certain standards. Read the rest of this entry »

What to do with a ‘cellist

November 22, 2009

Firstly, check to see if they’re any good. If they are, ditch any spurious guitarists and get your new ‘cellist to add long sonorous notes below the guitar but above the bass. It really lifts the texture!

In case you hadn’t guessed, that’s what we had at church tonight. You do, in fairness, need a decent bass player.

Recorded Worship Songs

September 4, 2009

I was surprised but not amazed last Sunday to be “treated” to recorded music in worship. It’s hard to sing along with a backing track, and sometimes even harder to sing along with a jolly vocalist who was in a nice warm booth at the time of recording and didn’t have to keep an eye on the kids, match the lyrics to the tune he’d never heard before, or try to make the song relevant to the service as it progressed.

I’m not against recorded music in worship, although singing along to it can be tricky. It’s a development I reserve the right to observe with caution, but I’m not beating it down with a big stick.


I find that no recorded worship can flow with the service unless the service leader and PA operator are quite experienced. Even then, the congregation need to be comfortable with it.

Please, don’t stick on the CD track then segue to a live song by the worship band. It’s a totally false progression, and makes the band sound thin and reedy. No worship band is ever as polished and processed as a recording is.

Please, don’t stick the music on louder to get a greater response. Watch the members of the congregation who don’t know what to do, and feel self conscious. They deserve better. Try out a sample session with a single song introduced and run through like you would a normal new worship song. You can’t play a CD with an extra verse, or go back to the beginning once people have the hang of it, but you can make sure it’s played and performed by the band or service leaders in the pre-service.

Please, remember that the live musicians can do repeats, shorter or longer versions, variations in tempo, a range of dynamics and above all can react to events in the service as they present themselves. In the same way that projection software in churches needs to be flexible in response to song structure as played in a particular service, the CD recording forces conformity from the congregation and leaders, but lets you type the song in advance in certain knowledge of the order of lyrics.

Above all else, be gracious. The inevitable jump in the flow of the service at both ends of the CD tracked worship can be made easier if you have spent some time selecting a suitable rendition which serves your needs. Worship leaders and bands rehearse, so please take the same level of care in selecting recorded music. Having said that, I often turn up an hour beforehand with a pencil and a pad and more or less go with the flow. Maybe I don’t have such a strong case on this point. The grace, however, remains the vital ingredient.

With reference to my earlier post about Angels, please also make sure it’s worship material we’re singing. I assume you’ll check the lyrics and context thoroughly beforehand. It’s more glaring if the song you’re trying to sing is inaccurate or just very wrong lyrically, because the recording is perfect and delivers each word with perfect clarity.

Apart from that, bring it on. Let’s sing to the CD more often, and I get to lie in more Sundays.