Easter Music

Jimi Williams —  February 20, 2008

As you may know, the Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday services are often difficult to navigate musically. Just like Christmas, there are many great old hymns of the faith that are foundational for many believers. However, many of these are difficult to translate musically into a modern sound.

This didn’t stop me from using a classic hymn for one of our biggest services. Last year for Easter Sunday I tackled “Christ Arose”. Talk about a challenge! I found a pretty contemporary groove for the verses, but there was just no getting around the awkward metering on the chorus “Up from the grave He arose!”. I made several attempts to “straighten it out”, but I just couldn’t come up with anything that worked. In addition, that song is so well known within my church denomination, I was afraid they would sing it the traditional way no matter what I tried to do to it!

I ultimately decided to just go with the traditional version of the song. I figured our teens and twenty-somethings needed a shot of tradition on Easter. In the end, it worked and was very meaningful. I could see some smiles from the older folks as they recalled the last time they had sung the song. The young folks probably thought it was some new retro style post-modern worship anthem :).

So don’t be afraid of digging out the traditional hymn every now and then even if you can’t  make them sound like Chris Tomlin. In the end it will bless your people and connect the generations.

So what big songs are you planning this Easter, new or old? Let’s hear about it!

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

6 responses to Easter Music

  1. We did an arrangement of Christ Arose last year that worked great. We started with a big somber organ patch on the verse, nice and slow with just voices and Organ, then brought some double time rocking drums and the band on the chorus. People loved it! it met both the modern feel and and traditional too.

  2. Wow and Wow! Ladybug, people like you are real heroes of the faith in my book. Thank you for your transparency.
    Seems like you’ve got a good head about this. Just stay the course and serve your congregration. Hopefully WT.com has some resources that can make things easier for you.
    Be sure to keep a hymn mixed into your set. It will keep your early service folks tied to those the late service. Remember that “no hymns” is just a legalistic as “all hymns”. Let the Spirit lead your worship planning.

  3. I’ve been reading, listening and taking note of most of what has been provided on “Worship Together.com”. I live in a very small community, attend the Baptist Church that has been here for over 100 years — you get the idea! A “contempary” service was introduced about 15 months ago; a young woman who grew up here but went to college and then came back, was asked to start up this service. She was absolutely amazing!! Starting with nothing and getting people on board. I will admit, there were/are those in the church who didn’t like the idea then and, seriously, wouldn’t be bothered at all if the service just died away today! Our church enrollment is about 200. On any given Sunday, between the Early Service, Sunday School, Traditional Service, we may have about 80-100 in attendance. This young woman had to leave our area about 8 months ago for her job and her husband’s job. She handed the books, transpanrencies, contacts, etc., to me. This was about 8 months ago. I have a little knowlege of music and a bit of organizational skills. I can sing a very flat alto. One year ago, I didn’t even know what an “alto” was! Anyway, our church has a special, traditional cantata, every Christmas and Easter. They are actually very beautiful!! However, last year, our Early Service was cancelled on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so that “the whole church could participate in honoring our mothers and fathers”. But, we had complaints from members who had come to depend on the Early Service. This year, it has been decided that we will not cancel any Early Service but for Christmas and Easter, which also cancels Sunday School and Traditional Service. We are also introducing something new to our church and community this year. Our community is so small, that there has been nothing offered at Easter except a special cantata. This year, we are offering a Praise and Worship Service on Good Friday. We are planning these songs, songs that the church members who attend the early service know, except for maybe one: 1. Open the Eyes of My Heart; 2. Once Again; 3. Purify My Heart; 4. The Wonderful Cross; 5. Above All; 6. Communion (a new song by Mac Powel and Third Day). We may also sing “Beautiful One” by Tim Hughes. The whole purpose of this new service is for our community to gather together and sing praises together to our Lord and God; the traditional Cantata is a choir service – the congregation itself does not participate except to “attend.” I personally like the cantata and am a member of the 20+ choir; I’m also the “worship leader” of our early Praise and Worship Service every Sunday. I’m not “young” like most would think of the age range of people desiring a more contemporary service (I’m 47), our musicians for the contempary service range in age from 29 (drummer), 42 (bass/guitar), 53 (sound system), pianist (72!!!). Singers who participate and are trying to learn these songs range in age from 18 to 47, with most being between 30-45. I do have to say, though, that even with the vast range in ages, no one, I mean no one! – in our small community had any experience with contempary/modern music as far as it pertained to worshipping our Lord!! So, anyway, this is the first time I’ve done a “blog” or “comment” and I was responding to the comment about “what are you/your church doing for Easter”. Please let me know what your views are!!

  4. “The young folks probably thought it was some new retro style post-modern worship anthem :)” – Jimi you are hilarious!!
    If anyone out there is stuck for an Easter hymn, feel free to try my hymn “Wonder Of The Cross”!
    If you use it, let me know how it goes! And I can email anyone chord charts if you need them…. vickybeeching@gmail.com
    Blessings to the WT.com community!

  5. At GracePoint, we’re planning on doing:
    Let God Arise (Chris Tomlin)
    Salvation is Here (Chris Tomlin)
    My Redeemer Lives (Hillsong)
    What I’ve Done (Linkin Park)
    The Beauty of Grace (Krystal Meyers)

  6. Behold the Lamb (Bridget Willard)
    How I Love You Lord (Tommy Walker)
    Lord, I Believe in You (Tommy Walker)
    Who Would Lay His Life Down? (Chris Falson)
    Were You There (Traditional)
    Those are some of the songs I am definitely incorporating from now ’til Easter….
    love bridget