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Quality Contemporary church music

>In an effort to expand our repertoire a bit and be more inclusive, my church
>choir is looking for "contemporary" music that is of better quality and
>won't offend our Episcopalian sensibilities. I would appreciate suggestions
>of composers and publishers whose music would be "hip and happening". Or at
>least more so than traditional liturgical church fare.
>We're also trying to put together a jazz quartet. Does anyone know where we
>could get sacred charts?

Hello Listers,

Many thanks to all who responded to my query. Here's the compilation of
suggestions and thoughts. I received some information which I think will be
extremely helpful and was just what I was looking for. A few people wrote
to gently chide me for thinking such thoughts. One of these people sent an
initial email which said, "Why?" I wrote back to explain and received his
homily in response. I've included all those emails as well for the sake of
the dialog which necessarily accompanies this issue.

I'm not approaching this out of any sense of desperation. Having said that,
the church has changed since I arrived from a highly educated, Classical
music loving crew to one that is younger because of a Gen X rector who picks
up new members in coffee bars and complains that the hymns are too slow. We
do sing traditional hymnody and the choir has sung pieces by Bach, Josquin
and Rutter in recent weeks, along with Caribbean, African and Native
American pieces with stylistic percussion. This year, our Lessons and
Carols will have a Medieval and Renaissance theme. I am constantly looking
for new things of all stripes. I have no plans to change the basis of what
we do at our church, only expand the possibilities. These replys may help
to do just that.

Karla Cole
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
St. Paul, MN

Although not jazz, Joseph Martin, and any of his publishing aliases-can't
think of any of them right now, but any of his stuff is contemporary with a
hint of traditional. I use his pieces with my Catholic Choir. Our Pastor,
the choir, and the congregation love them. The Bishop of our diocese was
visiting two weeks ago. He even liked Martin's stuff.

Johnson: Listen You Nations of the World (Concordia) - very sophisticated
Pote: God is Our Refuge and Strength (Hope) - a little past it's
prime, but still a good piece
Hampton: Praise His Holy Name (earthsongs) - contemporary Gospel
Kadidlo, arr.: In the bleak midwinter (Augsburg) - VERY nice

Noted composer/arranger Rich McKinney has several non-published pieces of
Contemporary Christian music that might be right up your alley. He is the
composer in residence at First United Methodist Church in Honolulu Hawaii.
He is in the same situation as you.
You should contact him. He is a very nice man. You can reach him at

Red Castle Publishing

I hope you get some useful answers. But the word "contemporary" doesn't
really mean ANYTHING anymore, except that it is by a living composer or
arranger. There's the pop-contemporary, the rock-contemporary, and of
course the hard core classical-contemporary.

Word is a major publisher of Contemporary Christian music--basically pop
and rock oriented. I fully understand your comment about not offending
Episcopalians, traditionally "God's Frozen People." But my wife found with
her youth choir that our congregation happily accepts good music in modern
styles, whether classical, Appalachian, or even AME influenced.

"contemporary", "Episcopalian sensibilities", "hip and happening". WOW!
All of these phrases seem to be euphemisms for a more unstated agenda since
all have multiple meanings depending who is saying or hearing them. What is
the reason to expand your repertoire and "be more inclusive"?

Composers of quality music that form a bridge are John Rutter, Richard
Proulx, Robert Powell (see article in November issue of The Diapason,Henryck
Gorecki, John Tavener, etc. These all fit the phrases that you mention. Is
the real issue musical style -- traditional vs hip hop or ?

Come Heal This Land
published by Integrity
I believe most of the music from this volume comes from Ireland, most of the
songs are more ballad-like.
The Source
published by Kevin Mayhew
A compilation of contemporary music -- very nice selections.]

on my website you
on November 22, 2002 10:00pm
I realize you're trying to strike a balance here, but it might be instructive to ask your rector whether his sermons never challenge his listeners, whether he always tells them what they want to hear. If the answer is yes, find another church. If it's no, ask why shouldn't the music challenge them as well? Maybe it *should* be an effort to listen to sacred music, just like it's an effort to understand Scripture or theology.

on August 24, 2004 10:00pm
Much of the wonderful sacred choral music of British composer Andrew Downes is now on a CD entitled "The Lord is my Shepherd", released on the Classicprint label. The performers are the Chapel Choir of Royal Holloway College, University of London, directed by Professor Lionel Pike.
Details of all Downes' choral works (as well as all his other compositions) can be found at:

This is really amazing music!

Anna Price
on December 25, 2004 10:00pm
You might peruse the music at Harrock Hall, a relatively new online publisher of anthems. The site has scores and MIDI performances of each piece in the catalog.
on January 30, 2005 10:00pm
Forget " hip" and " happening ". The Church has never been "hip ; only misguided people are!
on January 30, 2005 10:00pm
I would like to recommend the catalog of Harrock Hall Music. Their roster of composers includes living composers only. You don't get any more contemporary!
on December 23, 2007 10:00pm
I have recently discovered Philip Stopford. Although some of his harmonies sound quite difficult his writing is such that the individual parts are not difficult, at least in the pieces my choir has performed. A situation where the whole seems to be much more than the parts. Beautiful music.
on December 25, 2008 10:00pm
Oops. Pardon the typo on the spelling of Tallis.
on December 25, 2008 10:00pm
I second the suggestion of Philip Stopford. Combining the Talis "If Ye Love Me" Followed (segue) by the Stopford "If Ye Love Me" is a spellbinding commentary on some of Scripture's most powerful words. Very beautiful.