One of the main goals in arranging for Live Hymnal is to be inclusive. Ultimately, we are looking to “Put out into the deep water and let down [our] nets” (Luke 5:4) in order to serve the many who have fallen between the church-music cracks.
We want the words to make sense to a diverse congregation, including first-timers, and we want the music to resonate with a broad spectrum. Live Hymnal looks to do this through dynamic arranging and by using our heritage of breathtaking hymns and sacred songs. Live Hymnal’s litmus test is in four questions. In this blog post we will explore the first two:
1) Is it Cross-Genre?
Band music is tricky. The moment a drummer plays a groove, a certain genre is implied. Add harmonic motion (the way bass/keyboards/guitars play) and the genre is cemented. This is when people begin to say, “oh, they play rock (or pop, or folk, or gospel, or fill in the blank) at this church”. In order to be more inclusive, I look to create arrangements that cross genre lines. I begin by handing out bare-boned chord charts to my band mates. These charts have little information on style. We play the structure of the tune in various genres and then begin to blend them so that multiple genres gel together (hopefully without sounding like kitchen sink soup).
2) Is it Cross-Cultural?
South Florida is a cultural melting pot. Thus, in order to be more inclusive when I arrange, I try to throw in elements of the different cultures. Or, I find similarities between cultural rhythms and use this as the base. For example, in our Ode To Joy arrangement one could hear the kick-drum/snare pattern as Dancehall (Jamaican), Baião (Brazilian), Zouk (French Caribbean) or as one of many other cultural parallels. An incomplete Cascada pattern is layered in, which is a root pattern in many Latino grooves. This pattern ends with a laid back Soul groove. The piano is playing the Reggae “Bang” and the organ is playing French Caribbean stabs. The Guitar/Cuatro part is similar to a Latin Montuno, and the tonal quality is classic Venezuelan. Overall, these elements blend together to just sound joyful and accessible, while supporting congregational “buy-in” (aka singing) for whatever cultural dynamic is present in the congregation.
Stay tuned for part two and make sure to sign up to our mailing list on the home page!