Dr. Jeannine Jordan, Concert Organist

Posts tagged ‘hymn playing’

The Church, The Music, The Service, The Organ – Making Them One With Integrity

The definition of integrity includes three words: wholeness, unity, and honesty. As a musician who has participated in church music for most of her life, reflecting on these words has been illuminating.

As a child, I sang in church choirs and when I had developed sufficient piano skills, I played for Sunday school and other church gatherings. Participating in church music was one part of my wholeness as a child. It was part of the whole person I was becoming.

For my family, the church was a unifying force in our lives. Sunday services, Sunday school, Bible studies, boards and committees, and choir participation meant regular attendance and participation. The church was a place to express our faith through service and music. It was a place where we as a family unit joyfully, for the most part, participated together in weekly worship and church gatherings.

There was an honesty to our family church participation. It completed our lives and gave fullness to them. Church participation was not questioned, as it was the norm. I never knew anything different. Participating in church music was the unifying force and that which completed or made whole the church experience. The music of the church gave integrity to worship and God’s word.

As a teenager, I became involved in church music in a different way. I was no longer the child participating in junior choirs, playing the piano for Sunday school and learning the act of worship, I was now a worship leader. There was now responsibility-a responsibility that demanded integrity. I do not remember that I had a formal job description in my first years as a paid church musician, but I do know that my organ teacher, whose position I filled when she moved from the town, instilled in me the integrity for church work that stays with me to this day. To fulfill the role of a church organist, an organist must be prepared before she can “play” a church service.

Let us examine a typical job description for a church organist from the point of view of serving in church music with integrity. Most job descriptions for a church organist begin with the imperative:
“The church organist will play for all Sunday worship services throughout the year.”

What exactly is meant by the word “play”? The “playing” of a worship service is the visible result of years of invisible work of organ study requiring thousands if not tens of thousands hours of practice. The “playing” of a particular worship service is the one hour where weeks if not months of worship planning and preparation with the pastor, worship committee, choir director, soloists, and cantors is experienced by a group of people. A group of people that see only that hour with you on the organ bench “playing” the service.

“Playing” a service with integrity means being prepared. It means putting years of practice and study into use. It means finding music appropriate to the season, the scriptures, and the pastor’s message. It means learning that music including the hymns and service music. It means rehearsing with choirs, soloists and cantors. It means putting together the music so the service proceeds smoothly and seamlessly.

Creating wholeness and unity through careful honest preparation is the way of those who serve with integrity in the church as an organist.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan is the Organist and Director of Music at St. Bede Episcopal Church in Forest Grove, Oregon.  She is also a concert organist who performs the organ and multi-media concert experiences, Bach and Sons and From Sea to Shining Sea throughout the US and Europe.

The Transfiguring Experience of a Hymn-A-Thon

Last Sunday, March 2, 2014, Transfiguration Sunday, the dozen musicians of our small Episcopal parish in Forest Grove, Oregon embarked on a project which in the end was a transfiguring experience for all of us.  Our project, a fund-raiser for the St. Bede Episcopal Church Music Ministry, was a Hymn-A-Thon:  a marathon singing of one verse of all 720 hymns of the Episcopal Hymnal.

 Our day of singing began at 8:00 a.m., included worship and a “concert hour” during which we sang all verses of over twenty “sponsored hymns,” and ended with a fervent singing of hymn #720 nearly 12 hours later.  We were all part of an exalting, glorifying, spiritually changing experience to promote and further excellence in church music.

To quote one singer, “I was periodically overwhelmed by the worship involved in the act of singing hymns – praising God. I don’t know quite why I was surprised by that… but every once in a while I was struck dumb by the message, the music and the act of prayer that we call singing hymns. Thanks be to God!”

Sing Praises, Sing Praises

“Praising God in song is the only earthly activity in which we will continue to engage after our time on earth is done. So we really ought to learn how to do it right.” 
Erik Routley

There is nothing like robust, exuberant, Spirit-filled hymn singing to bring tears of joy to this organist.  Yesterday, the congregation of the small church I serve lifted their voices in glorious praise as they joyfully sang “All Creatures of Our God and King;” years ago I had the thrill of accompanying 400 men as they opened a Christmas service singing “Joy to the World;” at a revival meeting I counted verses as I played while the congregation lustily sang “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” in Korean; in Columbo, Sri Lanka I joined the congregation enthusiastically singing, “Majesty;” after hearing an incredible organ introduction, the congregation and I sang “Lobet den Herrn” acapella in German with the Stadtkirche congregation in Bielefeld, Germany.

I grew up singing and playing hymns.  “How Great Thou Art,” “Are Ye Able,” and “For All the Saints,” were family favorites.  Spirit-filled family hymn singing on Sunday afternoons in the Zielke household was not uncommon.  Playing hymns is the most treasured and pleasing part of my church work and something I cherish sharing with each congregation I serve.

“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.”
Psalm 47:6-7

What’s In A Title?

A wealth of information about a piece of music can be gleaned from examining the title of the piece, such as:

  •         The form – Do you know the difference between a fugue and toccata?
  •         Whether the piece is hymn based – Have you read the text to Amazing Grace?
    Did you know that a word in capital letters indicates the name of the tune on which the piece is based?
  •           The mood – What moods do the words Fanfare or meditation evoke?
  •          Its use as service music – Can a piece titled Prelude be used in other parts of a worship service?
  •          The tempo – How fast is allegro?  How slow is lento?
  •          Registration suggestions – How do I create a tierce en taille registration?

Where can one find the answers to these questions?

I.  A Music Dictionary  

A music dictionary should be something you carry with you in your music bag and use at every practice session.  You will be amazed at how much you will learn by looking up one word at every practice session.

Google “music dictionary” online or visit any music store and you’ll find a music dictionary to purchase to fit your needs.

For all of you iPad type device users, the Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary is quite the resource.  It is found at http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/

II.  A Hymnal

A hymnal should also be found in your music bag.  It is an invaulable resource for hymn texts and tunes.

A superb online resource for finding hymn texts and tunes is http://www.hymnary.org

III.  An Organ Registration Resource

Google search on the web still amazes me!  Want to know about tierce en taille?  Google the term and you’ll find videos, definitions, and resources galore.

Also check out http://www.organstops.org to learn more about the Tierce or Trompette stop.

For a resource book to carry with you or at least have handy in the organ bench, look for the Dictionary of Pipe Organ Stops by Stevens Irwin.

It is amazing how much information the
title of a piece imparts to the curious student of the organ.
So, don’t foget to start

“at the top”

to become a creative and informed performer. 

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, instructor and concert organist

The Church Musician’s Toolbox

The Church Musician’s ToolboxAnchor

   HYMNALS

Your own copy of your congregation’s hymnal to mark in pedaling, registration, and improvisation ideas.

Other denominational hymnals to use as an additional music  resource

 

Liturgical planning resource guide

  Call to Worship published by the Presbyterian Church USA

Includes worship planning aids for every Sunday and holy day  in the church year. You’ll find prayers of confession, calls to worship, suggestions for hymns, psalms, global music, praise and worship songs, choral anthems, organ selections and handbell music. Tied to the  Revised Common Lectionary.

Psalter

The People’s Psalter by Hal Hopson published by MorningStar.  An accessible collection of responsorial psalms for use                 throughout the church year.

          Bible

The translation used by your congregation

Online resource – www.Biblegateway.com

Biblical commentary

Online resource – www.biblegateway.com/resources  /commentaries/

 

 

Hymn Introductions/Harmonizations/Improvisation Ideas  

“The Creative Use of the…Piano, Organ, Instruments, Choirs, Handbells…in Worship” series by Hal Hopson

Creating a Culture of Trust

In the book, The Integrity Advantage, Gostick and Telford identify ten integrity characteristics Integrity characteristics can be integrated into the life of the whole musician—the musician with all the different parts working well and delivering the functions that they were designed to deliver to students, colleagues, and audiences.  One integrity characteristic a teacher should develop in a studio is …

To create a culture of trust. You develop a work environment that will not test the personal integrity of your students or your colleagues.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan's organ students

I am privileged to have a studio of nearly twenty adult organ students with whom I share a culture of trust. Some of my students have played for churches for years and are studying to enhance their service playing skills while others are pursuing playing the organ as a new avocation.

Together we have created a wonderfully trusting and supportive community where ideas and performances are shared freely and easily.

Student recitals, play-ins, organ crawls, theory lessons, and group lessons are events which enhance the shared culture of trust.  Students become colleagues in pursuit of realizing their goals of becoming better organists.  Working together, sharing ideas and music, creates an environment of trust does not test the personal integrity of any student.

You Mess Up, You ‘Fess Up–a Trait of a Musician with Integrity

A musician with integrity will follow another “rule” of creating and running a music studio–“you mess up, you ‘fess up.” You disclose both good news and bad. You acknowledge mistakes, apologize and make amends.

I recently had the humbling experience of having to reschedule an entire week of lessons. I “messed up” and scheduled lessons for a week I would be out of town. I had to “‘fess up” and disclose the news that no matter how carefully I had planned the lesson schedule, it just wasn’t going to work. I apologized and asked to reschedule the week’s lessons. Thankfully, most of my wonderful students changed their schedules to accommodate mine.

For me, a person who likes order and works to pay attention to details, this was a difficult lesson in integrity.  However, because I do respect my students’ time and their need to rely on a set schedule and I rarely make the mistake of having to change their lesson times, all of us made it through a challenging week.  One of us learned that she is less than perfect (again), and the students had the opportunity to show their support of their teacher by reworking their own schedules.

Dr. Jeannine Jordan, organ and piano instructor with studios in Lincoln City and Hillsboro, Oregon.

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