The Gettys on the “lost art” of writing for congregations

I read this and couldn’t resist sharing.  The Gettys are so right–most of the music being marketed as worship music today is written and arranged to make for a good listening experience.  Writing good congregational pieces is an art.  I’m glad the Gettys are trying to reclaim it.  Me too!


Information about those who participated in the survey.

Information about those who participated in the survey.

After something like 10 hours wrangling with all this data, I think I have some results to share with you.  You can click on the images in this post to see the results, or download the whole thing as a PDF here.  Please, comment, repost, and share with anyone you think might be interested.  Is this information useful to you?  If so, how?

But first, a few words about the survey…

Conducted between September and November 2012, this survey was posted on the internet, open to the public and targeted at worship leaders, choir directors, pastors, or anyone else who regularly selects songs for inclusion in public Christian worship services. The goal of the poll was to compile a list of songs “everyone should know,” for the purpose of training new music leaders, as well as planning ecumenical services.

And few words about the results…

Let’s begin my dismissing all pretense: the poll and its results are as informal and unscientific as they could be.  Questions were posted to the internet, circulated among a Facebook group of 300+ worship leaders, and mentioned on a few blogs.  A total of 45 people responded.  The results produced a list of roughly 1,000 responses, which I then sorted in a spreadsheet and searched (COMMAND+F) to get total counts of songs.  Misspellings and alternate titles were noticed and accounted for in many cases but no doubt missed in others.

In some cases, multiple tunes were reported for one text.  In the charts below, I chose to count all votes for a text together, and indicate the most popular tune where a clear “leader” emerged.  I chose this route because I wanted to give popular texts the credit they deserve, even if there is not consensus about which tune serves it best.   Anyone who wants more specific information about tunes is welcome to search the original survey data.

What this survey lacks in scientific rigor, it hopefully makes up in transparency.  All the data is readily available for anyone who wants to see it.  If you find egregious mistakes in calculation, the author welcomes you to report them.  As well, you are welcome to search and sort the data yourself in whatever fashion you may find useful.  The survey results are available here.  And the original questionnaire is here.

A few notes about how results are represented…

The inclusion of Seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter) into this survey raised some difficulties when trying to represent the results.  For instance, Christmas songs, clearly recognized as such, easily received high vote counts in their season and no votes outside of their season.  The top Lenten songs, by contrast, often received as many votes in the Ordinary Time answers as they did under Lent.  In order to reflect both sets of results, what you see in the Lent chart is songs ranked by the number of “Lent votes,” but with their total vote counts included in the graph to the right.  For example, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” is overall more popular than “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” but the latter received the most “Lent votes.”  Likewise, the Top 40 Ordinary Time (non-seasonal) Songs chart also includes representation of the additional season-specific votes songs received.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill out the survey.  Many of you remarked on how difficult it was to narrow your lists down.  I hope the results are helpful and informative for you.

Top Songs by SeasonTop 50 Across All Seasons

The top 40 songs that respondents did not consider season-specific.

The top 40 songs that respondents did not consider season-specific.


I’m partnering with my friends over at Cardiphonia to put together an informal list of the “50 Songs Everyone Should Know.”  With this poll we’re aiming to discover which songs are the most important to your particular congregation, and from the aggregate results, to produce a helpful, though informal, list of 50 songs “everyone should know.”  Such a list will be useful for training new music leaders, as well as planning ecumenical services.

If you are a worship leader, pastor, or play another role at a church whereby you pick out songs for a congregation to sing, would you take a few minutes to fill it out?

Click here to take the poll.

Thanks!


Apparently corporate singing was a priority in the early Church.  Follow the link HERE to Gregory Soderberg’s blog.  He gleans this insight from Calvin Stapert’s 2006 book A New Song for an Old World:  Musical Thought in the Early Church.


The Atlantic Monthly posted a thoughtful piece recently on the trend in American life away from public singing.  The author seems intuitively to know many of the things I talk about on this blog–that singing together is good for our souls, that we’re designed to sing together.  It’s a good read.  Here’s a link.

This is an area where the Church has an opportunity!  Rather than complain about how American culture is rotting and wasting away, we can simply demonstrate a better way.  The Church should be a singing community, no matter what happens in the rest of American cultural life.  If the culture drifts further into isolating tendencies, the Christian community, in its embracing of corporate singing and the community life such singing fosters, will shine all the more brightly.

In the words of the old hymn, “Come, Christians, join to sing!”


album coverHey folks.  I don’t often use this blog to promote my own music, but I have something I’m so excited about that I have to share it.  As some of you know, when I’m not doing church music, I work as a singer/songwriter in the folk-soul-jazz tradition.  I recently released a new album, and I think it turned out really well.  I’m so thrilled with it, that I want everyone possible to hear it.  SO, I’m giving away the new album for FREE, and I’d love for you to hear it.

You can download the album in its entirety at http://noisetrade.com/wendellk for FREE!  Check it out, and if you like it, help me spread the word.  Thanks!

Thanks for reading!


Here’s my take on how to make O Worship the King work for corporate worship when leading with a guitar.  I play the song and then talk about how I’m doing it and why.  Chord chart here.

I think it’s a beautiful song, with Robert Grant’s great imagery from Psalm 104 and a beautiful, singable melody from Johann Michael Haydn (brother of the better known Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn, who taught Beethoven).  Do you use this song at your church?  Would you consider using it?  Why or why not?




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