I currently have an adult student who started taking lessons so she could one day play the piano for her church. I find that incredibly noble and inspiring. Since taking her on as a student, I have been looking out for materials that would help her become a functional musician for contemporary church services. I have been pleased to find that Alfred has a very nice series called Sacred Performer Collections. The following three books have especially caught my eyes:
Sunday Morning Praise Companion, arranged by Victor Labenske
If you are looking for one must-have book of Christian hits, this is it! It features 33 technically accessible arrangements that sound professional and sophisticated, yet require minimal preparation time. The melodies are beautifully arranged, with abundant use of sequences and a variety of accompaniment figures. Playing through this book gives the intermediate/late intermediate level pianists a crash course on the study of contemporary harmonic progressions, rhythmic patterns, and ways to bring out and accompany a simple melody. Each piece has a suggested performance time, making it easy to plan a program.
This collection features 10 elaborate solo arrangements that are suitable for the more advanced players. The rich textures here are often inspired by the Romantic composers, with one arrangement directly quoting Schubert’s famous Impromptu in G flat Major, Op. 90, No. 3. There is more technical display, with frequent use of extended scales and arpeggios. The harmonies are calming and reflective, and at times brimming with passion.
I have been a long-time fan of Robert Vandall’s Celebrated Piano Duets series. “What Can We Play on Sunday” is a new series of worship music that once again delivers Vandall’s amazing ability to transform music into artistic plays between two performers. As with all his duets, both primo and secondo are skillfully crafted to be of equal difficulty and interest, with melodies shared or passed between two players. There are six books in the series, each features hymns, spirituals, and folk tunes that are appropriate for Sundays that fall within two consecutive months of the year, making planning music around scripture and sermon topics easier.
All of the above books are also excellent supplementary materials for improving one’s sight reading skills. The music is appealing, diverse musical styles are represented, and frequent modulation is found in most arrangements, making it ideal to train students to go back and forth between sharp and flat keys.
Do you have a favorite book of hymns?