With what variety and freedom the Lord has blessed his Church! The Musicians’ Resource Group (MRG) of the WELS Hymnal Project has been tasked with making that variety readily accessible to the congregations of our church body. Members of the MRG are hard at work, curating and creating resources to complement the new hymnal.
A range of talent, training levels, and available instrumentalists exists across the nearly 1300 churches in WELS. To encourage and enable use of this vast array in worship, the MRG is gathering and creating resources that support, enhance, and add variety to congregational singing.
In other words, the specific focus of these resources is to support the congregation as they sing hymns from the new hymnal. But this is not a resource for musicians only! Although the resources will be used primarily by musicians and worship planners, the benefactors are every individual in the congregation—every person sitting in the pew singing the promises and praises of Jesus! The goal is never to elevate the musician; the goal is always to elevate the hymn text and further engage the worshiper, all while utilizing the richness of God’s gift of music.
WHAT can I get? Planned resources include:
• short hymn introductions
• alternate harmonizations and accompaniments
• final stanza modulations
• vocal and instrumental descants
• alternate choral stanzas in a variety of voicings and styles
• arrangements for liturgical ensembles
• handbell resources
• extractions of chorale voices for instruments in a variety of transpositions
Not all resource types will be appropriate for every hymn. But where possible, as many as can be curated or created will be available for any given hymn.
WHERE can I get all this? That is coming into better focus every day. The resources will be available via your WELS publisher, Northwestern Publishing House (nph.net). The working model is a dedicated area of the NPH website with ala carte purchase options. Not everyone will be able to use or interested in using everything available for each hymn, so an ala carte model is highly appropriate—you buy only what fits your worship situation.
WHEN can I get all this? The release of these resources will begin with the release of the new hymnal in 2021. Likely, the resources will be released in phases—it’s a daunting task to curate a dozen or more resources for each of 600+ hymns! But as the MRG work progresses, the prioritization of hymns will become clearer, as will the schedule of release. God-willing, a substantial nucleus of materials will be ready when the hymnal is released in fall 2021, with more to come in the following months.
WELS is thankful for the willing and able individuals serving on the committee. They have served at WELS worship conferences. Many have advanced degrees in music. They represent a variety of church sizes and worship situations. They are active keyboardists, conductors, instrumentalists, vocalists and worship planners. Please keep these individuals and their work in your prayers: Kevin Becker, Gillian and Luther Curia, Ryan Friske, Sarah Henrich, Lydia Metzger, Linda Moeller, Kate Tiefel, and Kathy Thompson.
The MRG works with the encouragement of Psalm 150 in front of them. This psalm lists eight unique instruments. God-willing, the MRG’s work will better enable WELS congregations to praise God in his sanctuary with all the variety he has so richly blessed us!