Use Short Songs to Engage Your Congregation with Calm to the Waves

May 16, 2024 9:00:00 AM / by Augsburg Fortress

Many of us are familiar with the hymn “Calm to the Waves” by Mary Louise Bringle and Thomas Pavlechko (ELW 794). This meditative hymn is a great example of a “short song,” a category of hymns that are often simple, repetitive, and able to be sung in worship without printed or projected words and music. (For more background on short songs, see this blog post as well as the All Creation Sings Accompaniment Edition pp. 10–11.)

Pavlechko compiled three such hymns in the collection “Calm to the Waves: Three Hymns for Choir and Assembly.” The magic of this collection is the way he has arranged each hymn so that it can be sung in unison, in harmony, with harmony parts layered in gradually, or with instruments.

The origin of this resource began during the development of his 2019 hymn collection Healing Leaves of Grace. In his manuscript files, Pavlechko had some additional parts for his hymns “In the Peace of God Find Rest” and “Seek First God’s Kingdom” that wouldn’t fit in the book, so we set them aside for later. In 2021 he added additional parts for “Calm to the Waves,” and we published this choral octavo-sized collection of three short songs with flexible additional parts.

These are some of the ways this collection can be used:

  1. Choir anthems. Each of these three pieces can be sung as a choir anthem, with no assembly participation. Directors can decide how many times to sing them in unison and in parts, and how to layer the parts and the optional instruments.
  2. Hymn singing. If one of these hymns is sung in worship, the choir can sing in harmony with the optional instruments.
  3. Communion distribution. The choir can help lead any of these hymns during communion distribution, and the flexible, repetitive nature allows directors to extend their singing as needed. Because they can be sung paperlessly, the assembly can learn and sing them while walking down the aisles to receive communion, even if the music isn’t in the bulletin. Choirs could keep these octavos in their folders for just such a time.
  4. Prayer responses. Each of these could be sung as responses to spoken prayers in worship.
  5. Meal blessings. The choir can help teach and lead these hymns as a communal sung blessing at church meals.
  6. Church meetings and retreats. Consider singing these hymns as devotions for meetings of the church council, board, foundation, or staff retreats.
  7. Intergenerational choirs. Because of the flexible number of parts and the short length of each piece, all the choir from children through adults could learn these hymns to sing together in worship, each learning the parts best suited for their voices.

Enjoy exploring all the ways this collection could be useful in your context.

Topics: Music Ministry, music

Augsburg Fortress

Written by Augsburg Fortress

Augsburg Fortress develops engaging resources for Lutheran congregations In our ministry as the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we create substantive and innovative materials to support the ministries of faith communities in communicating the good news of God's liberating grace. To meet the evolving needs of Lutheran communities, we continually invest in the development of new ministry resources, seeking ongoing input from theologians, educators, church leaders, and church members.

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