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Church organists - What day do you get your 'set list?'

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  • Peterboroughdiapason
    replied
    Originally posted by ChristopherDB113 View Post
    Thanks all for the answers. This has made for some great reading. One final question:

    I use the term 'set list' since by background is playing with rock and top 40 bands, but guess that a church organist calls it by some other name. What is the real name for an organist's set list?
    In the UK I think we'd just call it the 'hymn list' or 'music list' or 'anthem list', whichever is most appropriate.

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  • regeron
    replied
    1) Wednesday - The minister emails me the sermon title, scripture reading (usually only one), responsive reading (usually a Psalm but not always) and choice of last hymn for the coming Sunday.
    2) Later on Wednesday, I choose the other 3 hymns for the service, as well as congregational service music (introit, etc) and prelude/postlude.
    3) Thursday morning, first thing, (or already Wednesday evening) I send this information (plus the title of the choir anthem) in an email to the secretary and minister as "Suggested Music for ______ (fill in the date)".
    4) Later Thursday morning, the secretary prepares and sends a draft of the bulletin to the minister and to me.
    5) Friday morning, any changes or corrections are taken care of and the bulletin is printed.

    CHOIR ANTHEM - The choir anthems are chosen by me, usually 6-8 weeks in advance, and often in conjunction with the choir, based on who will be present or absent. Because we don't follow the lectionary, the choir sings general anthems, not usually tied to any specific theme. (I regret this sometimes, especially when a minister chooses readings that we have anthems for - it would be a perfect match, but they don't understand that and won't work to change it.)

    PRELUDES & POSTLUDES - I don't worry at all about having them match any given hymn tunes. I play piano - we don't have an organ - and I find a lot of published hymn arrangements to be weak and unfulfilling. Instead, I play uplifting music by classical composers. My congregation is fed a steady diet of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, Schubert, Scarlatti, Howells, Mendelssohn, Fischer, Clementi, etc.
    Preludes range from 4 to 7 minutes.
    Postludes are usually under 2 minutes. The choir and congregation are courteous enough to sit and listen. I'm courteous enough to not make them sit too long.

    OFFERTORY - It only takes about 45 seconds to take the offering, so I simply improvise on whichever Offertory Response we are using that day. We have a rotation of 7 or 8 different ones. When I first arrived there, they only used "Old Hundredth" in this spot. I gradually broke away from using only that one.
    Last edited by regeron; 02-05-2020, 06:02 AM. Reason: Adding information to be more specific

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  • jbird604
    replied
    I guess there may not be an official name for it. When I email the list each week to the church secretary and all the choir members, I may refer to it as the "bulletin info" or the "music schedule." What it is called may well depend on a church's denomination and worship style.

    My church is a small Disciples church where worship is quasi-traditional and only nominally liturgical. We sing traditional hymns to open and close the service and right before communion each week. Prelude, postlude, anthem, offertory, and communion meditation are traditional. But there are contemporary portions -- the praise team sings three selections interspersed among the prayers and scriptures, and we sometimes have a very contemporary-style solo or ensemble as "special music." Still, I'd be unlikely to use the term "set list" because it is so closely associated with all-out contemporary worship.

    In a genuinely liturgical church with traditional classical worship (Episcopal or Anglican, for example) the "music schedule" for a given Sunday would have to include the "mass setting" -- identifying the specific composer's work from which the Gloria, Magnificat, Nunc Dimitus, Responses, and other structural elements are to be taken. Other than that basic description, the "set list" for that kind of service would then include perhaps an opening and closing hymn, a Psalm setting an anthem, an organ postlude.

    Since probably most of us here play in smallish churches that don't use such a formal structure nor such toney music, what we usually need access to is simply the list of hymns to be sung on a given Sunday.

    Seems odd that a huge cathedral church like Westminster Abbey can publish on their website months in advance exactly what the mass setting will be, the hymns, the postlude, etc. on a given Sunday -- while the church on the corner down the street can't even tell their organist what hymns they're going to have to play until they get there on Sunday morning!

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  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    ChristopherDB113,

    I'm sure some people call it many things, including a music schedule, bulletin, set list, program, or many other things. I don't suppose there is any formalized name for what you're talking about, so anything that works and can be understood by the recipients should be good.

    It's kinda like the term, "Intermission." I've had students call it "half time." Whatever gets the point across.

    Michael

  • ChristopherDB113
    replied
    Thanks all for the answers. This has made for some great reading. One final question:

    I use the term 'set list' since by background is playing with rock and top 40 bands, but guess that a church organist calls it by some other name. What is the real name for an organist's set list?

    Leave a comment:


  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    andijah Andrea, Sounds like a prime time for various chorale preludes by Bach and others.

    Michael

  • andijah
    commented on 's reply
    Normally, in our services, the first hymn is sung right after the organ prelude so I always try to match the two. And yes, for this it's important to know what the first hymn will be. Since I have a large repertoire, I can still be flexible if needed, but it's better to have some preparation time.

  • jbird604
    commented on 's reply
    It does make the organ music more accessible and meaningful to the people if it's related to the hymns in the service. It takes a lot of "thinking on your feet" but one can usually do an improvisation on one or more of the service hymns. I'm certainly not an expert at this, but I sometimes have nothing in particular prepared for the prelude, so I'll start playing 6 or 7 minutes before service time, playing a snippet of one of the hymns and then another, playing barebones melodies, or soloing out, or trying this and that combination of the vocal lines, possibly even finding ways to interleave them, if I'm particularly clever that day

    The good thing about it is that almost nobody is listening critically to what I'm doing at that point, as the congregation is still in the "pre-service-visiting" mode. While they may not actually take note of exactly what I'm doing, I suspect that there is a subliminal perception of the music, and the fact that recognizable portions of hymns they know are being played, albeit quietly and in a somewhat fanciful manner, will surely "prep" their brains to sing and worship with those hymns when they are used a few minutes later.

    Of course, it helps tremendously to know what those hymns are going to be well in advance of the service, but it is theoretically possible for an organist who has only just been handed the "set list" as he walks in the door to do something like this, at least if he/she is familiar with the hymns -- which of course is not always the case these days!

  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    Or at least on the theme of the service, Bill.

    Michael

  • voet
    replied
    I think it is nice if the organ voluntaries are based on the hymns that are sung for that service. It helps people relate to the organ music. That is only possible if you know the hymns in advance.

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  • andijah
    replied
    Last Tuesday I had an e-mail from a church secretary, asking if I could play the organ in their church in village A on the 9th of February. On Wednesday, I said yes and on Thursday she confirmed. Today I had a phonecall from a lady saying that she's a predicant from village B and that she will do the service on the 9th of February in village A but that the church secretary hasn't been able to find an organist, and she wanted to know if I was free. I told her that the church secretary had already asked me and that I had said yes, and she was a bit disappointed because she was so proud that she had managed to get my phone number and "save the service"
    Anyway, she already let me know the hymns so I have more than a week to prepare - not that I need the extra time, but it's nice nonetheless.

    Leave a comment:


  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    Originally posted by ChristopherDB113
    If the church is 30 minutes away, I'll be there in 10.
    Really!!!

    You remind me of when I finished a concert at my sister's church. One of the parishoners asked if I was going to drive or fly to college. About that time, I left the parking lot and the tires spun out on the gravel. Her reply was, "I think a little of both!"

    Michael

  • myorgan
    commented on 's reply
    Two clarifications: 1.) Our priest processes during the first hymn, and 2.) This is a weekday service, so I'm thinking it is a bit less formal than weekend masses. That said, however, I am free to play a postlude if I want.

    Of course, there are regional differences in mass protocol, but generally, I think the Catholic church discourages much variation from the norm.

    Michael

  • andijah
    replied
    Originally posted by myorgan View Post
    [*]There is no prelude and postlude.
    One addition: in the Catholic churches in my area, the organist is expected to play a short prelude (long enough to allow the priest to walk to and take his seat) and then start with the first hymn. A postlude is also expected - duration flexibel, as the congregation usually leaves the church while you're playing.

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  • myorgan
    replied
    One difference I've noticed between Catholic and Protestant services is the total amount of music, and the amount that changes from week-to-week.

    For the Catholic service (normally not musical, but it is musical for the mass I play), there are:
    • 3 songs/hymns, and a 4th hymn when there is no instrumental offertory, and I generally find out about them about 1 hour before the service,
    • 2 intoned pieces (Scripture reading & Alleluia) with congregational responses, generally found out about 1 hour before the service,
    • Approximately 4 Communion pieces (i.e. Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.), and
    • There is no prelude and postlude.
    One of the intoned pieces is repeated each week (the Alleluia), and all the Communion pieces are repeated weekly.

    For the Protestant services (Baptist) there are:
    • Prelude, Offertory, and Postlude (each week they are different),
    • Approximately 4 hymns/songs per service (all are different from week-to-week), found out about 5 days in advance,
    • Perhaps a "special music" to prepare (I prefer calling it a "musical offering"), and
    • Communion music once per month.
    After 1.5 years, I still rely heavily on the cantor to guide me through the Catholic service, and to tell me when to start or stop playing. I've found it MUCH easier now that I've been playing half of the same music from week-to-week. However, the music is quite easy to sight-read, and nothing is really difficult for the average organist to play.

    The Protestant service changes completely from week-to-week, and I've found the hymns are mostly sight-readable, however, the extra service music is as simple or as difficult as the musician desires.

    I'm not sure one service is more difficult to play than the other, however, each has its own challenges to overcome. I hope this helps someone.

    Michael

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