As part of the my independent study on contemporary music, I compiled a resource that I hope will be particularly useful for Lutheran pastors who are either trying to make a foray into the world of contemporary Christian music, start contemporary services, or who are trying to get their congregations to rock out with their Bach out. So here’s a list of books, websites, and artists that I started…please help me add to it!
If you absolutely cannot go another moment of your life without knowing what criteria I use to assess whether a song would work in a Lutheran setting, then you can read this here article I wrote.
Annotated Bibliography of Contemporary Music Resources Useful for Lutheran Congregations
Bocklund McLean, Terri and Rob Glover: Choosing Contemporary Music: Seasonal, Topical, Lectionary Indexes. Augsburg Fortress, 2000.
From the Augsburg Fortress website: “A one-volume reference work designed to aid worship planners in the selection of contemporary song. Organized by the three-year lectionary cycle, this book also contains integrated scriptural, seasonal, and topical indexes. Song collections indexed include With One Voice; This Far by Faith; Worship & Praise; The Celebration Hymnal; Gather Comprehensive; Glory & Praise; Maranatha! Music Praise; Renew!; Spirit Calls, Rejoice!; and Worship Songs of the Vineyard.
Boesenecker, Andrew and James Graeser, A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship: How to Begin and Lead Band-Based Worship. Augsburg Fortress, 2011.
Written by a church musician and a pastor who have built a contemporary service together, this is a nuts-and-bolts guide to building such a service. For advice and tips on putting up mic stands and speakers to leading rehearsals, this seems like a handy resource from Augsburg Fortress. (By the description, do not expect tips on choosing theologically or liturgically appropriate songs.) The web resource is excellent; cf. Online Resources. Edit: a fellow seminarian just got this from Augsburg Fortress and gives it a thumbs-up.
Collins, Dori Erwin, and Scott Weidler. Sound Decisions: Evaluating Contemporary Music for Lutheran Worship. ELCA, 1997.
Though getting a little long in the tooth, published as it was before both the ELW and the ELCA’s contemporary music hymnal, Worship and Praise, this resource is nevertheless an excellent way to open up conversation about evaluating any kind of music for Lutheran services. It provides baseline criteria in an easy-to-understand format, and is a quick read. It can be accessed online.
Powell, Mark Allan. An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Music. Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.
This enormous tome by the Professor in New Testament studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary offers a reference for Christian music from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Each entry provides a biographical and critical essay, a discography, links to website, names of hits, and any awards. Within the essay, Powell takes time to acknowledge the theological slant of each artist. A CD accompanies the work and includes snippets of songs, links to web pages, and album info.
Worship and Praise Songbook, Augsburg Fortress, 1999.
From elca.org: “The Worship and Praise Songbook will help you sort through the vast repertoire of contemporary music, containing some of the best contemporary songs from the last quarter century particularly useful in Lutheran worship.” A CD and a full music edition are available from Augsburg Fortress.
Created by Jay Beech of Jay Beech Band Vocal Project fame, this website features a products section that includes songbooks, CDs, musicals, sheet music downloads, and audio files. The music is catchy and the site is easy to navigate.
If you have a contemporary worship service, you have a CCLI license. This license provides access and permission to use and reproduce over 200,000 contemporary worship songs. Their database, once you are logged in, is searchable. It is an excellent resource if you already know what song you need the rights to, but is evidently not as good for browsing.
The website of an active contemporary Lutheran worship band, Dakota Road offers access the songbooks, “bundles” (downloads of all the music your band and congregation will need), and is consistently offering free downloads.
The companion website to A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship, this site includes helpful printouts (like a set-list grid) and a searchable song archive organized by Artist, Song Name, or Song Theme. The pastor and music director who put the site (and the book) together are Lutheran, and actively practice what they write about at Cross+Roads Lutheran in Fleming Island, Florida.
An event brought together by Luther Seminary and the current best-known Lutheran singers/songwriters, this project began as a concert and has culminated (so far) with two volumes of songs and a worship leadership resource. The books are available for purchase online, but the project seems to still be in the nascent stages of formal organization. Keep on eye on “Lutheran Music Today,” as it holds a great deal of promise.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page linked above for a short but sweet list of resources to kick-start your CCM brainstorming. If you’ve been doing this for a while, you probably know/have most of the songs they list. But for those just starting out, it’s a great place to begin.
A website featuring songs created by Pr. Michael Schmidt of St. John’s Lutheran Church (LCMS) out in Napa, CA, “True Vine Music” is an excellent resource for Lutheran contemporary services. The songs feature the theology of the cross heavily. Music downloads, sheet music, and so forth are free, and the use of the music is covered by the general CCLI license.
A website created by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, this resource is about “community song as spiritual formation.” The thoughtful collection of modern liturgies and songs reflects sound theological grounding. The gentle, acoustic design of several of the songs is modern but reminiscent of traditional hymnody. Ideal for blended services, or for congregations who aren’t quite ready to leap into worship with an electric guitar.
I’m really excited about this one. This website, hosted by a Lutheran pastor named Matt Anderson. The goal of the website is to “evaluate current worship music in depth theologically so that the worship in our churches engages and addresses the whole person and community.” Matt keeps a running blog with reflection on current trends, has song lists and resources available, and even includes access to his own music.
LUTHERAN ARTISTS (OR CLOSE ENOUGH)
“Agape.” David Scherer.
Scherer may have the distinction of being the only Lutheran hip-hop artists out there today, but he’s making the most of it. An article detailing his hip-hop ministry is online at Living Lutheran.
Brian has his fingers in several pots, including teaching guitar, leading worship at his home congregation in Maryland, and producing not only independent CDs, but also one with Echelon member Todd Miller: Mudhouse. For a taste of Brian’s style, try the album Deeper. Mudhouse has some great songs for use in corporate worship, including two psalms and several hymns from the ELW that have been adapted to contemporary styles.
While she doesn’t have a website, her latest album, Rembrandt Lighting, is available online for listening in snippets. Cathy has a folk-based style that’s catchy and easy to listen to.
My classmate Lauren M., who is wise in the way of contemporary music, says: “Not a confirmed Lutheran, but one of my favorite artists of all time, who has a very Lutheran flavor is DEREK WEBB. He has a song called “Nobody Loves Me” which Luther himself could have written during the stormy days of the Reformation. Most of his music is not appropriate for use in worship (unless you’re feeling edgy!) or for corporate singing, but here’s one that is: “Take to the World” the absolute , hands down, best ever contemporary sending song! Look him up! If not for class, then for your personal enjoyment.”
Lloyd Garrelts, Lowell Michelson, Todd Miller, and John Simshauser form the quartet Echelon. They have a somewhat punky, rock sound with some catchy tunes. Try “Lifted Up” for a sample of their work. Snippets of their songs are available through their website. Lloyd Garrelts also has his own website for an independent CD.
Led by a grad from my seminary, Tobias Anderson, Faithful Folk have a solid, back-home-again kind of feel to their singing, which is often based around hymn renditions.
The husband of one of my seminarian classmates, Jim has done synodical events, and now that he and his wife are out in the field on a year-long internship, he plans to dive in in earnest.
While his songs probably wouldn’t translate well to a worship setting, the subtle references to present-day Christian quandaries and realities make Jonathan Rundman a thought-provoking listen, while his rock style makes it a pleasurable one. Try his album “Sound Theology,” which can be streamed from here: http://jonathanrundman.bandcamp.com/album/
“Lost and Found.” George Bridges and Michael Baum.
From their website: “George plays piano, and Michael plays guitar. Stylistically, the music of LOST AND FOUND is not easy to describe. Some have simply labeled it “speedwood” or “acoustic thrash.” Others, upon hearing the unique blend of folk and screaming, played without drums or stacks of keyboards, and including the occasional ballad, have just said, “I’ve never heard anything like that before.” One person said the music is, “the intersection of the Ramones and John Denver.” This is, as you might imagine, a relatively deserted intersection.
From Houge’s website: “singer, songwriter, tinker, writer, bike enthusiast, baker, husband, dad, baptized child of God, player of things with strings, St. Paul, Minnesota, maker of rock & roll, folk & rock, and roll & folk that comes out as liturgies and love songs and social justice and all manner of positive provocation.” If that’s piqued your curiosity, a few singles are available as free downloads are available on his website.
A rock sound and great lyrics combined with easily accessible resources on his website make Peder Eide’s music a great choice for listening or for congregational singing. I particularly liked the single “As Is,” which names the flaws of several great biblical characters, and points out that God uses as “as is.”
Rachel sang at the ELCA Youth Gathering this year, so her amazing voice is officially out there for all to hear. She has a versatile, folky style.
The Restoration Project. Tracy Howe Wispelwey.
As Tracy puts it, this is Electro-Acoustic, World, Gospel Music. As Julie S. at my seminary puts it, “The front (and only?) woman, Tracy Howe Wispelwey, has an MDiv from Harvard and writes totally badass justice-based songs in both English AND Spanish. Check her out!”
“Musically, Trish’s piano and Richard’s acoustic guitar lend a folk-influenced backdrop to their smooth vocal harmonies. Think James Taylor, Sarah McLachlan, or The Swell Season and you’re close.”
I think their background is Assembly of God, but Shane and Shane have been making the rounds in Lutheran circles lately. (At least, so says my Gospels teacher, and that man has more Christian music CDs than you can shake a stick at.)
Tangled blue isn’t your soft-rock Christian station material. They have a great Advent and Christmas CD available.