Monday, March 7, 2011

Ash Wednesday, Lent, and the Church Pianist

Other than Christmas, I consider the upcoming season of Lent the most stressful season for church musicians. While I absolutely love this contemplative season of the church year, the extra responsibilities it places on me as a musician often find me contemplating all the extra music I have to prepare rather than the spirit of the Lenten season!

I spent a good portion of this morning pulling out books and reviewing and selecting music for this week's Ash Wednesday service. As often happens during one of these sessions, I'll pull out a book that's been sitting on the shelf for a bit and re-discover what a treasure it is! I LOVE it when that happens! :)

Here are a few of those 'treasures' I found this morning with highlights on my favorite selections:

"The Cross and the Crown" arranged by Anna Laura Page

I'm still not quite sure exactly when and where I stumbled upon this book, but I absolutely love the selections. The stylistic variety is excellent (there's nothing I hate more than to find a book that contains arrangements that all sound alike!) and the hymns are so tastefully arranged that this book really is a must-have for church musicians! My favorites include: "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna" (pure fun to play!), "My Jesus, I Love Thee", and "What Wondrous Love Is This" (a hauntingly beautiful arrangement). It's hard to pick just a few because I love each and every arrangement in this book- a rarity for me.

"What Can I Play on Sunday? Book 2: March & April Services arranged by Cindy Berry
I've asked myself that very question many times, and this particular series of books have been lifesavers for me on numerous occasions! The arrangements are usually well-done and are very accessible- especially appreciated when I find myself in a last minute pinch! While I'm not crazy about every selection, there are several tasteful arrangements that I plan to use for upcoming services, including, "Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us", "Just As I Am", "All Glory, Laud, and Honor", and "Were You There?"

"A Month of Sundays: Easter and Lent" arranged by Jan Sanborn

Last but not least, another treasure that I haven't even fully explored yet! I've only had time to play through about half of this book, but I'm liking what I've heard so far. While some of the harmonies are a bit less traditional, I'm excited to find more contemporary arrangements to use in upcoming services, including "What Wondrous Love is This?", "Hosanna, Loud Hosanna", and "Beneath the Cross of Jesus".

I'm sure that there are other books out there that are staples for church musicians during the Lenten season, and I'd love to hear what some of yours are! Please feel free to share your favorites- I'm always looking to add to my collection :)


  1. Thanks for this post - I'm a novice part-time organist who became full-time in October. I still supplement heavily with piano and am scrambling for more material. A lovely student just gave me a generous gift card to an awesome local music store so the timing is perfect to add Lenten music.

    I do have the Laura Page book (just used it yesterday) and concur with your review. I will be checking out the other two books!

  2. Betsy,
    I'm so glad you found these repertoire suggestions helpful. It can be stressful starting out as a church musician and trying to build up your music library! Best of luck as you continue in your job- and feel free to let me know if you find any treasures with your gift card purchases. :)