Help for the small-to-medium sized church instrumental program
By Barbara Hamm
Build on what knowledge you have to effectively use instruments in your church.
Find out what instruments people in your church play or may have played in the past. You may be in for some delightful surprises. I have discovered adults who played viola, string bass in high school—and who now play in our Christmas orchestra and other times of the year. Find out if youth play in a middle school or high school band or orchestra.
Learn the range of a particular instrument and what key it is in relation to other instruments.
Go to music stores—search through bins for suitable solos, duets, trios, full instrumentation for the instrumentalists you have. Get those graded solos used in competitions and festivals.
Start a Christmas orchestra—use Christmas carol band books, both solo and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ensemble parts. Have an instrumentalist play a solo vs. (with piano and string bass), then play it again with the entire orchestra. You think parents won't love this for the Christmas program?! It may give you a certain measure of job security!
Find trios, quartets, etc., for families of instruments. Put out a call 2-3 weeks ahead of time, and whoever shows up to practice plays on a given Sunday. There are books of varying levels of difficulty for various kinds of music (classical, hymns).
Find adaptations of classical, baroque, and romantic literature adapted for various instruments. (There is a very fine series, Baroque Music for Solo Instrument and Keyboard, Sets I-V, for both C and Bb instruments, arr. Wolff).
Buy the Taizé instrumental books—lots of parts for many different instruments.
Get GIA anthems—lots of instrumental accompaniment parts (e.g., "The Trumpet in the Morning"—flute/piccolo, tenor sax, guitar, string bass, drums & other percussion).
If your budget allows (assuming you have one), hire musicians for special occasions (harp—Christmas; trumpet/trombone—Easter; handbells for a concert or worship service, and use with violins, guitars, flute, string bass, soft drum, on an anthem or a congregational hymn).
Use intruments to play gathering music for 15 minutes preceding the service (Advent, Lent). Be sure to announce this in your newspaper column and in the bulletin the week before.
Play some of those long movements of classical composers for gathering music (e.g., the Rondo from Mozart's Concerto in A Major for clarinet/piano; Handel's Sonata V for flute/piano). There's not time during the service itself—and the pressure is not so great!
Experiment with a drum circle—appropriate times might be the Sunday before Lent; a Sunday during the Easter season; Pentecost (beginning and ending Sundays).