Summer hymns

Small congregations often face the problem of small budgets for music. Here at First Unitarian, we have enough money to pay a 3/8 time music director at American Guild of Organist rates for ten months a year, with enough money left over to provide guest musicians on most Sundays when the music director is off. But we have no money in the budget to pay for musicians in July and August.

We’re slowly moving towards becoming a year-round congregation (both because it’s the right thing to do, and because newcomers often drift away during the summer months if there’s a reduced worship schedule). This summer, we’re moving the summer worship services from the chapel, where we sit in plastic lawn chairs, back into the main church. I managed to come up with money to pay for a musician on one Sunday in July and one Sunday in August, and we have our annual jazz concert on the first Sunday in July. But on the five other summer Sundays, the summer worship coordinator will bring in recorded music to play following the prayer, and during the offering.

Even then, on those five weeks we also need music to accompany hymns. Here’s our latest scheme for summer hymn accompaniment:–

The worship committee has picked out a dozen of our congregation’s favorite hymns. I’m no musician, but with a cheap MIDI keyboard and audio editing software, even I (with my minimal keyboard skills) can piece together hymn accompaniments — I play each vocal line separately and at a very slow tempo, fix the timing, mix the parts together in the editing software, and then bring everything up to speed. The recordings I produce are kind of mechanical, but they’re good enough to accompany hymns. (Just to be on the safe side, we are not using any copyrighted melodies or harmonies.)

If I manage to get a dozen hymns done this year, and another dozen next year, we’ll have a decent little collection of recorded hymn accompaniments to use. Sure, we’d rather have live music, but this is something we can afford — and it’s easier than trying to sing a capella all summer long.

4 thoughts on “Summer hymns

  1. Phil on the Prairie

    Great idea, Dan. One of our smaller congregations used a Chalice Lighter grant to buy a midi keyboard to do all of their hymns throughout the whole year. Works just fine.

  2. jinnis

    Recorded hymns are a very good way to go for small congregations. I was ever so grateful to the volunteer musician in Tuscaloosa, AL when I saw the collection of hymns he recorded on the keyboard at church. I would choose from what was available, then a different volunteer could plug the right disk in at the right time and we would have music. It helped that the pianist was a very good musician and added some fun to old standards.

  3. Administrator

    Jennifer and Phil — Hmm, if other congregations are doing this I wonder if there’s a way to have a Web archive of (non-copyrighted) hymn accompaniments. Any readers out there who belong to the Unitarian Unviersalist Ministers Association?

  4. Jess

    I know I’ve seen cds before of hymn accompaniments, but haven’t been able to track them down. I was pretty sure there was one made specifically from _Singing the Living Tradition_ – has anyone else seen it?

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