A Cappella Worship Resources

Where my family worships we are a bit “weird”. We currently worship at a building bearing the name “Church of Christ” in Franklin, TN. What is strange, at least according to many followers of Christ in the United States, is our form of worship. We worship exclusively and collectively with our voices – no piano, no guitars, and no iPads.

You may be stumbling across this article, and scratching your head at the whole concept, but realize you are not the intended audience. There is reasoning behind this, but I will leave that for another time.

We are continuously trying to introduce “newer” music into our worship: new in the sense that the music wasn’t written before many of user were born.

We look for lyrics that are at the very least inspired by scripture. The music needs to be easy enough for a group with very broad musical experience to learn. It is also very helpful if it is clear that the lyrics relate to God, and could not be taken some other way.

Some examples:

  • In Christ Alone
  • How Deep the Father’s Love
  • Blessed Be Your Name
  • How Can I Keep From Singing
  • Wonderful, Merciful Savior
  • Days of Elijah

These songs typically lag behind the popularity that they experience in “mainstream evangelical churches” by 10 or more years. This is in part because their inclusion is vetted on the above criteria, and usually require some tweaking to get the music to work without accompaniment. Finding sheet music designed for instruments, or recordings with praise bands don’t really help the church learn
the music. And in the case of where we worship, the one guy who has a copy of Finale really doesn’t have the time to enter lots of songs in his free time.

So, to help those where I worship, and other churches throughout the US that sing without instruments, I have compiled some resources to help find and learn newer songs.

Recordings

  • Spotify. Spotify is a freemium service that lets you listen to most music in existence for free. You have to listen to the occasional ad, but you can opt to pay $10/mo to skip those and listen to whatever you want on your phone. Install
    Spotify, then click the following playlist of some more modern worship songs, all sung sans instruments.
  • Kleinwood Church of Christ has a “singing” every year that draws in a crowd of over 1,000 worshippers. The recordings are done quite well, except for one year in their back archives. You can either listen to individual songs, or download entire years in Zip files.
  • Sumphonia (commercial) Sumphonia has compiled two albums of professionally recorded hymns. Most of these songs
    are “contemporary” in the sense of being widespread across churches of all denominations in the US, combined with some written by the board members of Sumphonia.
  • Hallal Music You can purchase CDs. They are also available on iTunes, and most of their catalog is on Spotify.
  • The Acappella Company MP3s, as well as sheet music available for purchase. Most of their music is available on iTunes (and is a bit easier to navigate and purchase)
  • McCoy Family Singers not the greatest quality recordings, but may be helpful to some who want to learn songs that they cannot find anywhere else.

Sheet Music / Hymnals

  • Glenda B. Schales. Glenda has written many hymns in her life, and gives some of them away free on her site for free for non-commercial use.
  • Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs. A newer hymnal, released in 2012, that combines traditional and contemporary songs. (disclaimer – I had some involvement in the development of this hymnal)
  • Songs of the Church Hymns for about $0.40 each, licensed for personal or congregational use (ie: $0.40 covers putting the song in a supplement)
  • RJ Stevens Music The hymnal “Hymns for Worship” is considered a classic in some circles. They also have recordings of many of the songs available.

Singings

Churches and other organizations around the country hold regular “singings” – large gatherings of worshippers gather to sing together for a few hours. Here are a few that I am aware of:

Singing Schools, Hymn Writing Workshops

There are a few “schools” that take place around the country. These are usually one week events. In attendence are both students who want to learn to sing, as well as songwriting sessions.

If there is a resource that I have missed, feel free to leave a note in the comments.

Other forms of A Cappella Worship

We usually sing four-part harmony in a heptatonic scale (7 note, major/minor key). There is also another form of a cappella worship in the US called Sacred Harp, which uses a tetratonic (4 note) scale. There is information about this very distinct form of singing at fasola.org.

One Comment

  1. Dan, I found your article while looking for information about Glenda Schales. I visited a Church of Christ in Temple Terrace, Florida, and they sang one of her songs. I lead singing at my home congregation in Des Moines, Iowa – Grandview Church of Christ, and would love to teach some of her songs there. I clicked on the link you have listed for Glenda, and found that it is decidedly NOT a valid link to her web site. Instead, it led me to a web that produces a dire warning error message.. (I’m also an IT guy by trade.) I won’t repeat the whole link here, but the web site is “fantabular”.

    Do you have Glenda Schales’ correct web site? I have not located it yet.

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