Page 32 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 32

   An interview with
 CMQ How would you define a worship song?
TB Perhaps the neatest, though imperfect, definition would be something written in a pop idiom.
It might have an off-beat, syncopated melody; it might have a verse–chorus structure (as of course do some hymns), perhaps a bridge, and be orientated around simple chords – predominantly chords I, IV and V.
CMQ Worship songs are more often associated with worship bands and some would say that the organ is not suited to this repertoire. However, the wish to use worship songs in a situation where the organist is the only instrumentalist needs to be addressed. What can an organist do to get the best effect when playing a worship song on the organ?
TB You have to think critically. There are some songs (for example, by Hillsong) that are conceived for a large band and probably don’t lend
themselves to solo use on the organ without a lot of effort. It might be necessary to explain gently to others (without appearing obstructive!) that it would be difficult to make such a song work as hoped on the organ. So, one has to be discerning. I do think, however, that most songs can be made to work if you play the melody on one manual, chords on another, and a simple bass line for the feet, or if that is not practical, the left hand. It won’t sound like a band, but you could support and lead a congregation in that way, though it won’t sound quite like Hillsong! However, this approach will go some way, as long as there are people in the congregation who know it and are singing with you, as with a new hymn in more traditional style. With this in mind, perhaps take the time in advance to practise it with some willing members of the congregation.
CMQ What are some positive benefits to using an organ in this repertoire?
TB If we are talking about using the organ alone, using a well-prepared and well-registered organ accompaniment, however simple, can present a richer and more supportive sound to the congregation than would playing a piano, keyboard or guitar. I think it’s
a different matter if it’s just between an organ and a full band, because the latter would be preferable in this style. If, however, a full band is not available, the organ can provide a solid bass. That’s the advantage the organ has in terms of leadership over another solo instrument. This helps to undergird the congregation and make them feel more secure. If there is a piano or guitar available then the organ can make a big difference just by playing the bass at 16ft pitch.
CMQ What pitfalls should be avoided?
TB A lot of printed arrangements of worship songs are reworkings of a piano improvisation (which choirs can resent because there is nothing

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