Hymn introductions provide an opportunity to invite the congregation to lift up its voice. They needn’t be long or complicated in order to be engaging. This resource provides 60 introductions and an extended preface that provides tools and suggestions for the average church musician to craft his or her own introductions. These introductions are extremely useful, covering 117 hymns in Lutheran Service Book.
Rev. Dr. Paul J. Grime, dean of the chapel, dean of spiritual formation, and professor of pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (CTSFW), has composed a do-it-yourself style book of hymn introductions that also covers nearly one-fifth of the hymns in Lutheran Service Book.
Leading the Congregation
Grime was executive director for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Commission on Worship from 1996–2007. The commission produced Hymnal Supplement 98 and LSB. He is also an organist who assists the kantors at CTSFW each summer in holding the organist workshop—a weeklong seminar for church organists that offers practical experience and suggestions about leading congregational singing and the local church’s musical expression.
To that same end, Inviting Them to Sing is based on the premise that the church organist’s chief duty is to encourage and lead the singing of the church’s liturgy and hymns. As every church organist knows, many considerations must be given to this task. Steadily and consistently leading dozens or hundreds of singing voices at once is crucial. A tasteful selection of organ registration as well as prelude, voluntary, and postlude music also encourages a rich identity of hymn singing in a congregation.
Introducing the Melody
Another facet of preparing the people to sing is the hymn introduction itself. Grime writes in the preface to Inviting Them to Sing,
A successful hymn introduction must, it would seem, do at least two things to accomplish the goal of inviting the congregation to sing with confidence. First, by the conclusion of the introduction, the congregants should have a good idea of the melody they are about to sing. . . . Second, the introduction serves best when it is played at the same tempo as the hymn.
In the preface, Grime goes on to identify more aspects of hymn tunes organists should be aware of when considering an introduction: length, meter, and melodic phrases. If an organist would like to introduce a hymn in a more interesting manner than simply playing the entire hymn in its four-part harmony from the hymnal, these are all features of the tune with which the organist should be familiar.
The preface also includes numerous examples and suggestions for varying the texture and harmonic structure of a hymn when introducing it. Examples of these techniques are employed throughout the 60 original introductions in the book as well. The introductions that use specific techniques are referenced in the preface.
The preface concludes with information about organ registration and practical tips on introducing new or unfamiliar hymns, ideas for more uses for the hymn introductions in the volume, and other useful reminders when introducing hymns. After the collection of introductions, the book includes blank staff paper meant to be copied. Church musicians may score their own original introductions on these blank pages.
The hymn tunes selected for this volume are those which are used for more than one text in LSB. For example, the well-known tune ERHALT UNS, HERR, most commonly associated with the hymn “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655), actually appears in three other LSB hymns (522, 579, and 908).
In many cases, more than one introduction for a tune is provided. One is shorter; the other is longer. Circumstances and timing in a service may dictate which is more appropriate to use when introducing the hymn. The settings are meant to be used in services by church musicians, but they should also provide inspiration and ideas to musicians for creating introductions of their own.
Blog post adapted from Inviting Them to Sing © 2023 Concordia Publishing House. All right reserved.
Try out these hymnal introductions at your own church by purchasing Inviting Them to Sing today.