Don’t Waste Your Livestream

This past Sunday – and for the foreseeable future as the world grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – my church, like thousands of other churches around the globe, livestreamed its worship service. With just a few days’ notice, we scrambled to buy a camera, test the audio and video, figure out which streaming platform to use, and find ways to communicate this to our congregation.

Praise God, it worked. And we had overwhelmingly positive feedback. Of course there was a lot of room for improvement, and in the weeks to come, as this crisis looks to be long-lasting, we will be working to make our livestreamed services more well-done. And we anticipate continuing to live stream at least one of our services going forward, even when our congregation gathers together again.

It’s occurred to me many times over the last week or so – as I’ve thought through our own livestreaming approach, and as I’ve read and watched how other churches did theirs – that this crisis is a moment in which worship leaders are being given such a rare and profound privilege.

Think about it, worship leaders: you are being streamed into peoples’ homes. Into their living rooms, their bedrooms, their kitchens. Into environments where there is increased tension, anxiety, and fear.

And there you are, right in the middle of their home, with your guitar, or sitting at your keyboard, leading them in worship via the miracle of livestreaming. What an opportunity. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

If we do this well, all around the world, gathered around sofas and coffee tables and kitchen islands, stressed-out, worn-out, and socially-distanced people will be lifting their voices in worship together. They’ll be remembering and proclaiming what is true. They’ll be re-centered around the One who holds all things together. They’ll be filling their homes, in those few precious moments, with the praises of God.

Do everything you can to facilitate small group singing in homes, even as people watch you on TV or on their laptop. Make it easy for them. Go back to the basics of worship leading.

Here are four really important components to remember whenever you lead worship, but especially when you’re being livestreamed into living rooms. Remember:

Tone
Have an invitational tone. Not only should you invite them to sing with you, but then as you proceed to sing the song, sing in such a way that the average singer (or non-singer!) at home can sing along with you without feeling silly. The more you deviate, the more you improvise, the more impressive you come across, the more opportunities you give the person in the pews (or in this case, in their PJ’s on the couch) to stop singing.

Key
Keep the range “from C to shining C”. You can dip lower and you can jump higher. But don’t hang out too low or too high, or people will just sit there and watch.

Song-selection
Choose songs that are biblically faithful, musically accessible, and congregationally edifying. Point people to Jesus. Work out smooth transitions between keys, tempos, and time signatures.

Humility
May God give us humble hearts, before the Lord, between our colleagues, and on whatever physical or digital platform we’re given. Pray for the invitational heart of David to say “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:3). And for the deference of John the Baptist to say “ He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Oh, what a privilege and rare opportunity we have during this crisis, to simply, pastorally, carefully, and humbly facilitate the praises of God by the people of God, now scattered into living rooms, soon reconvened into sanctuaries and auditoriums, and one day gathered around the throne of God.

Recommended Anthems for Choirs and Bands

IMG_0645Over the last few years, since arriving at my church in the summer of 2014, I’ve been enjoying leading worship every Sunday morning alongside a wonderful choir whose legacy stretches back many decades. My colleague Andrew Cote and I have been committed to a true partnership and convergence of musical styles, old and new, traditional and modern, choir and band, all together in one unified expression.

To that end, we’ve been on the lookout for anthems that work well for modern choirs and bands to present together. We still use a significant amount of choir-only anthems, dating back several centuries, but we also use a significant amount of anthems designed for choir and band. Below is a long list of those kinds of anthems that we’ve enjoyed using once or twice, or are thinking about using in the future.

First up are anthems/arrangements by my good friend Joshua Spacht.

Crown Him with Many Crowns (purchase here)

Nicely done and energetic arrangement of this hymn with an added chorus.

O How Good it Is (purchase here)
A fun arrangement of this Townend/Getty modern hymn with an Irish flair.

Behold the Lamb of God (purchase here)
A beautiful anthemic ballad focused on the cross. We used this on Palm Sunday in 2018.

The Cross of Christ Shall Stand (purchase here)
Another great anthem focused on the cross. We used this on Palm Sunday in 2017.

All the People Said Amen (purchase here)
A fun call to worship song that the congregation can join in on when the chorus comes.

Nkosi Jesu (purchase here)
This one is really fun. And really hard. A great anthem (in Zulu) for adult choirs, kids choir, and percussion. Our church loved this one.

In the Beginning (purchase here, as part of Joshua Spacht’s Fantasia Noel II project)
This is one my favorite anthems of all time. A masterpiece.

O Come Medley (purchase here, as part of Joshua Spacht’s Fantasia Noel project)
Beautiful medley of Advent hymns.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing (purchase here, as part of Joshua Spacht’s Fantasia Noel project)

A hauntingly beautiful new musical setting of this great Christmas text.

Little Town (purchase here, as part of Joshua Spacht’s Fantasia Noel project)
Only Joshua Spacht could take this text and put it to this kind of musical arrangement. It works! We’re doing this on Christmas Eve this year.

Next up are anthems from a variety of authors, with arrangements by my friend Trey Tanner at Mt. Paran Church of God in Atlanta. If you’d like to explore purchasing any of these arrangements/orchestrations by Trey, let me know in the comments and I’ll connect you with him.

Chain Breaker

Great song, perfect with a choir, and will definitely engage your congregation.

Under the Shadow
Our church loves this one. Great for a soloist on the verses and choir on the chorus.
Let Everything that Has Breath
Oh my goodness this anthem is ridiculous. 

We Cannot Be Silent
This one is super fun.

Matthew 28
This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it. We did this on Easter in 2017 and I still get comments about it. Really powerful when/if you can pull it off.

God, Great God

Fun call to worship or mid-service anthem for choir and band.

Psalm 63
This is Trey’s arrangement of this Prestonwood anthem, and I love it.

The following anthems were arranged by Bradley Knight.

Jesus Brought Me Out (i.e. Now I’m On My Way) (purchase here, as part of Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s “I Am Reminded Project. When/if it becomes available as a stand-alone piece, I’ll update the post)
This is such a great, fun, joy-filled anthem.

Psalm 34 (purchase here, as part of Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s “I Am Reminded Project. When/if it becomes available as a stand-alone piece, I’ll update the post)
We haven’t used this yet, but I’ve heard many churches already incorporating it. Very well done.

Psalm 23 (purchase here, as part of Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir’s “I Am Reminded Project. When/if it becomes available as a stand-alone piece, I’ll update the post)
Another great setting of a Psalm for band a choir. Not easy! We haven’t used it yet, but I love it.

He Looked Beyond My Fault and Saw My Need (purchase here)
Bradley Knight outdoes himself on this one. 

Praise His Holy Name (purchase here)
Our choir has grabbed onto this anthem well, and with piano/organ accompaniment, it really soars towards the end. 

Thou Oh Lord (purchase here)
This is another one of my favorites. Our people have loved it.

Sold Out (purchase here)
Super fun gospel anthem.

The Cross Medley (purchase here)
We haven’t used this one at my church yet, but I love this medley of cross-centered hymns. Would be great for Holy Week and/or Good Friday.

Holy (Sanctus) (purchase here)
Another one we haven’t used, but it’s an anthem that shows how it’s possible to have a choir sound like a choir, and a band sound like a band, and to have it work when you put those pieces together.

You Are Worthy (purchase here)
We haven’t used this one yet – and it will be a fun challenge when we do – but I love this convergence of choir and band, with a great text!

We’ve also enjoyed these anthems out of Prestonwood Church in Plano, Texas:

Let the Redeemed (purchase here)

All the Praise (available for purchase as part of Prestonwood’s “Horizon” project. If/when this song becomes available as an individual purchase, I’ll update the post)

Psalm 103 (also available for purchase as part of Prestonwood’s “Horizon” project. If/when this song becomes available as an individual purchase, I’ll update the post)

And finally, here are anthems from various sources that we’re either planning on using in the coming year, or have used and enjoyed.

Is He Worthy (purchase here – I recommend the Brentwood Benson arrangement)
I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson for his whole career – and I think this is his best song yet. Absolutely stunning. We will use this on the fourth Sunday of Advent this year.

I Will Bless the Lord (purchase here – I was pleaded with the PraiseCharts arrangement
A great call to worship. Easy for choir, fun for band, and a great way to start a service.

How Excellent (to purchase this Bradley Knight arrangement, I recommend going to www.davidbscott.com and using the “contact us” link. That’s what we did!)
I saved one of the best for last. This is an absolutely amazing anthem for choir and band, and I love the spoken word portions at the end as well. 

O God Of Perfect Holiness (New / Free Song)

A few weeks ago I wrote a song called “O God of Perfect Holiness”, and wanted to share the free chord chart, lead sheet/choir parts, and video below.

The song was written for one of our services where I wanted something that focused us upward on God’s attributes of holiness, faithfulness, righteousness, gentleness, tenderness, and loveliness, in contrast to our sinfulness. It’s a simple four-verse modern hymn.

The lyrics are:

Verse 1:
O God of perfect holiness
Seated high above
What ocean-depths of faithfulness
And sacrificial love
That all of our iniquities
Were placed on Jesus’ head
So we, who once were enemies
Are now his heirs instead

Verse 2:
Oh God of perfect righteousness
True in all your ways
What kindness in your promises
What all sufficient grace
That you would send your Son
To live and die upon the cross
That through his victory he would give
That victory to us

Verse 3:
O God of perfect tenderness
Who welcomes sinners home
What Father-hearted gentleness
In Jesus you have shown
And we will spend eternity
With angels and the saints
Who day and night forever sing
His never-ceasing praise

Verse 4:
Oh God of perfect loveliness
Who made us from the dust
Who saved us from our wretchedness
In you we place our trust
And now to him who sits upon
The throne and to the Lamb
Be blessing, honor, glory, power
Forevermore, Amen!

Jamie Brown. © 2017 Worthily Magnify Music. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Here’s a free chord chart, here’s the free lead sheet/choir parts (thanks to my colleague Andrew Cote for arranging this), and a video (sorry about the poor quality) is below.

Once in Royal David’s City

1One of the last big things I was able to do with my former church before I came to Truro Anglican in Fairfax was release an Advent EP called “For Our Salvation”. It was released a year ago in December 2013. It features four Advent carols (arranged by me and orchestrated by Joshua Spacht), one instrumental piece (again by Joshua), and one of my original songs called “Beautiful Baby Boy“. The songs are arranged for band, strings, and feature a children’s choir as well.

The first song on the EP is “Once in Royal David’s City”, an old carol written by Cecil Alexander and Henry Gauntlett. This is the carol that usually kicks off “Lessons and Carols” services, and it’s a beautiful retelling of the story of Jesus’ birth, culminating with that great longing of ours to one day see him again.

I did a few things with the text:

1. I left out the verse that talks about how little children should be as “mild, obedient, and good” as Jesus.
2. In its place, I wrote a verse that explains: “He was given to pay our ransom / By His blood we are set free / Suffered He for our transgressions / Lamb of God upon the tree / Then He rose up from the grave / Risen King with power to save”.
3. I chose the version of the last verse that ends “…Christ revealed to faithful eye / Set at God’s right hand on high”, as opposed to the other version which says “Where like stars His children crowned / All in white shall wait around”. For some reason that last version doesn’t exactly elicit an exciting view of heaven!

You can purchase the song on iTunes here.

Here’s a lyric video: 

And here is the free orchestration for strings (including a chord chart), by my good friend Joshua Spacht.

The whole EP is available at www.tfcamusic.org or on iTunes.

How Can It Be

1Charles Wesley’s hymn “And Can It Be” (1738) is one of the greatest hymns of all time. It’s a powerful proclamation of the good news of the Gospel, and full of amazing images of the freedom that Jesus purchased for us on the cross.

I’ve always loved this hymn, and as a worship leader I’ve been drawn to it simply because of the lyrical powerhouse that it is. It packs a punch and doesn’t need any musical help to get the message across. For years, I had been using Enfield‘s excellent arrangement, which preserves Thomas Campbell’s original tune (from 1825) but refreshes it in a very effective way.

Last year I wrote a new arrangement of this hymn with a new melody, different arrangement, and an added chorus. Messing with “And Can It Be” was risky since the original wording and tune are so familiar to most congregations. But I gave it a try, and the result was “How Can It Be”. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how it’s clicked with my congregation, and I wanted to offer it as a free download in the hopes that it serves your congregation too.

We included this song on our recent live worship album, “We Will Proclaim”. You can order the CD for $10.00 at http://www.tfcamusic.org, or also find the album on iTunes or Amazon.

Or click here to download it on iTunes..

And here’s a free chord chart.

Here’s the lyric video for the song: 

And finally, here’s me showing how I’d play this song on the acoustic guitar, especially if I was leading it by myself without a band: 

Once in Royal David’s City

Growing up in the Anglican tradition, I came to know the carol “Once in Royal David’s City” as the carol that kicked off a Lessons and Carols service. A child always sang the first verse and then the congregation joined in on the second verse. I didn’t realize until later in my life that the carol was actually written as a poem for children by Cecil Alexander but had made its way into the broader hymn repertoire of the church.

In my first few years leading contemporary services of lessons and carols I always avoided this carol because I wasn’t sure it would work in that context. A few years ago I started to use it and was glad I did. I ended up writing a new verse (verse 4) to get into a bit more detail about why Jesus came.

We recently recorded my arrangement of this carol as the opening track on our Advent EP, “For Our Salvation“, with full band, a string section (orchestrated and produced by my friend Joshua Spacht), and children’s choir conducted by my sister-in-law, Caroline Crocker.

I wanted to offer it as a free download in case you’d like to try it with your congregation.

You can listen to it here: 

Click here for the chord chart.
Click here for the free mp3.
And here’s the lyric video.

He Giveth More Grace: New Arrangement

1Several weeks ago, I saw that our September sermon series was going to focus on the generosity of God. As I was thinking what song of response would work one Sunday, the closing words of an old hymn came to my mind: “for out of his infinite riches in Jesus / He giveth, and giveth and giveth again”. I looked up the hymn, entitled “He Giveth More Grace” and was struck by the text:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace

When we have exhausted our store of endurance
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision
Our God ever yearns His resources to share
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure
His power no boundary known unto men
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again

This hymn was written by Annie Johnson Flint. She was orphaned by the age of 6, and became so crippled by arthritis that she couldn’t walk. Her arthritis prevented her from becoming a pianist like she had hoped, so she became a poet, and when she couldn’t open her hands to type, she would use her knuckles on the typewriter. An amazing story.

What I love about this hymn is the way it presents God’s generous grace. It can never be exhausted. It can never even begin to be exhausted. It is utterly and completely boundless. This is the kind of good news our congregations need to hear. This is like water in a barren desert.

I didn’t know the original tune for this hymn, so I took that as an opportunity to write a simple melody and arrangement. We sang it this past Sunday at my church and judging from all the questions and emails I got about it, it struck a nerve with people and was a blessing.

I’m sharing the rough demo with you, as well as a chord chart, since my guess is that if your congregation doesn’t know this hymn, they might be affected by the truth it proclaims just like mine was.

Demo: 

Chord chart