Cross-Genre, Cross-Cultural

Posted on November 06, 2013 | 4 comments
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!


Charles Milling

Tags: Live Hymnal


  • Martin Siebken

    Thank you for sharing your gift of joy and music with the youth of the diocese of Southwestern Virginia this weekend. Your music touched the lives of many young people and at least one old guy. The joy and passion you bring to your ministry is contagious, and brings the word of God alive in a way that people identify with. It was a powerful weekend and your music was an catalyst that kept the energy up.

    Thanks to each of you for giving of your time to further this ministry.


    Marty Siebken

  • Renee Pusey

    Charles and “Band” – You are all Beautiful and make Beautiful Music! The diversity / cross cultural connection is present in your music. You all did a fabulous job at the EYE 14 conference demonstrating this! It’s not mention on your website / calendar? You need to share with the world your part of transform 1200 lives in three days! A big thank you from the Diocese of Bethlehem!

  • Glen Blount

    Charles, the more I listen to “Live Hymnal” the more I like it. Your arrangements are wonderfully woven together in a way that brings the music to life. I shared a copy of the album last night and I’ll keep you posted on the comments from some life long Episcopalians when I get my disc back. Our church needs this type of energy in our music, it’s about time we get out of the 16th centry! All the best, Glen.

  • Fr. Hallock

    Charles – Very well done. I think the dynamic of music in our communities needs to move beyond the traditional Western European organ style of centuries past. The inclusive embrace of joy, access, and theology give Live Hymnal the grace to carry our church into the future. Enjoy the Prelude! Can’t wait for the processional, sequence, offertory and etc. God’s Peace, Fr. Hallock+


Leave a reply

This blog is moderated, your comment will need to be approved before it is shown.

Scroll to top