The recent passing of Richard Proulx and Richard Hillert has caused me to reflect on the extraordinary gifts that these two great men have given to us. Even though both wrote widely in many genres, I firmly believe that their greatest inspiration came in providing wonderful settings of liturgical materials for the congregation. Both of these men believed strongly that average, everyday people should sing the liturgy and that it shouldn’t just be left to the professionals. It makes me think of the way Paul Manz used to talk about inspiring the congregation to sing and how thrilling it is to sing with full voiced gusto on the great hymns of faith.
In many churches, I think we have shortchanged the congregation and have given more of our attention to the choirs. Educating the congregation and teaching them how to sing is no easy matter, but is certainly worth every minute we can give to helping them fully engage in the church's song.
Some helpful suggestions include:
· Print brief histories of hymns and tunes used in the service on an insert in the worship folder.
· Look for concertatos and descants that engage both the choir and the congregation.
· Vary the accompaniments from full organ to a cappella singing, and incorporate various instruments for introductions or descants.
· Use readings such as those in From Glory Into Glory to set up the hymn and give added thought.
These are just a few suggestions. There are obviously many more, but the important thing is to give congregational singing added attention and priority. If we follow the model of those who have recently gone before us, it is worth our very best gifts.
Mark W. Lawson,
MorningStar Music Publishers