How to Choose Music?

April 15, 2020
Messy stacks of red hymnals against a wood-panelled wall


Fewer rehearsals, more unscheduled time, holidays, time for creativity. Summer is always a great time to do some planning for the next year for your choir, instrumental ensembles, or handbell choir.

So how do you pick music? How do you plan with your ministry team? How much do you plan all at once? Some ministry teams look at the entire year and some meet seasonally, once a month—or even once a week! I’ve always found that as long as I’m working far enough ahead to meet the needs of my groups, it doesn’t really matter how often the team plans. Musicians need enough lead time to order and receive music, work on new repertoire, and maybe even compose (or commission) new pieces.

So once the scriptures are picked and the thematic planning is done, how do you make choices for hymns, responses, anthems, and instrumental pieces, within the myriad possibilities? I have a set of criteria, and I often wonder if other musicians have similar criteria. My considerations include the following:

= Does the piece work in the context (e.g., thematically, scripturally, theologically, stylistically)?

= What kind of language is used (e.g., inclusive, archaic, invitational, hospitable, non-vernacular)?

= Does the music contribute to the right balance of genres, styles, and moods (e.g., meditative, upbeat)?

= Do I have the forces required (e.g., enough musicians)?

= What is the level of difficulty, especially for groups (e.g., too easy, too hard)?

= Do I have enough rehearsal time (e.g., for new pieces, especially hymns)?

Many things to think about when choosing music!