The many churches—rural and urban, large and small—which have no musicians to provide support for their congregational singing can now download hundreds of piano accompaniments of familiar hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal for free.
The growing resource is being made available as a joint project of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) and United Methodist Communications, said Dean McIntyre, GBOD’s Director of Music Resources.
“Our desire is to provide a service—accompaniment for churches that just simply are not able to find or pay for a person,” McIntyre said. “This will serve their immediate needs. … It is not the best solution for congregational singing, but this is one solution, and it's not going to cost them a dime.”
More than 200 songs are already available online at GBOD’s website, and more will be available soon. They include songs related to Advent, Christmas, the Epiphany, Lent, Passion, Easter, Palm Sunday, baptism marriage, Thanksgiving, Communion and general themes—all from The United Methodist Hymnal. To come will be selected songs from popular songbooks The Faith We Sing and Worship & Song.??
The downloadable accompaniments may also be used for occasions such as Sunday School, church meetings, Vacation Bible School, Christmas caroling, singing for shut-ins, or just by yourself at home or in the car.
“We want to be sure we're covering everything,” McIntyre said. “I'm open to having people send suggestions and requests to me at music@GBOD.org. We certainly will consider the requests because that means there's a need somewhere, and we'll try to help with it.”
In December after word about the online availability of Advent and Christmas songs spread on Facebook, McIntyre began receiving numerous responses, like: “For churches who have been struggling, this is a wonderful blessing. THANK YOU” and “For those of us whose pianist might be prevented from making the midnight service, thanks!”
McIntyre, who has been a church musician most of his life, plays the piano for all of the current selections.
“My goal was to actually be the accompanist for the congregation that downloads the file,” he said. “I actually envision myself in that setting as we're in the studio. There's a congregation out there, and my role is to play for them to sing and to help make that singing just as good as I possibly can.”
??One of the most frequent requests he receives is for recorded accompaniment, McIntyre said.
“An awful lot of congregations out there just can’t find musicians to play for singing—and they're not just small, struggling rural congregations either. There are some good sized ones and some city congregations,” McIntyre said. “It's an ongoing problem and a growing problem in the church—not just in the United Methodist Church. It's a plague that has infested all of us.”
The hymns posted on GBOD’s website were recorded at UMCom’s studio in Nashville with the support and help of Harry Leake, a production team leader, and sound technician Phil Arnold.
All of the music is in the public domain, so no royalty fees are required.
“They're available, and anybody in the world—Baptists, Pentecostals, Catholics—they're all welcome to come and take them,” McIntyre said. “They're all royalty-free. All someone has to do is download them to their computer or a disk, a file or a cassette, then plug it into a sound system or a boom box on Sunday morning,” McIntyre said.