The Gift of “Hallelujah”

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Scott Foss, known throughout the United States as a conductor and clinician of both sacred and secular choral music, is the classical and concert choral editor for Hal Leonard Publishing, the worlds largest music publisher. In that role, he manages choral publications for G.Schirmer, Boosey & Hawkes and Mark Foster Publishing. Prior to this position, he was executive editor for Roger Dean Publishing Company for more than twenty years. Mr. Foss served as Director of Music at the First United Methodist Church in Madison where he conducted the Senior Choir, Chamber Choir and Handbell Choir and coordinated the activities of a variety of other musical organizations with the church. Mr Foss has directed more than 30 musical theatre productions for Four Seasons Theatre, CTM-Madison Family Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre and The University of Wisconsin Theatre Dept. Mr. Foss learned the music industry end of the music profession at Ward Brodt Music Company where he was choral music manager and general manager of the sheet music department for 11 years. In that role, he nurtured the sheet music department into one of the largest and most respected operations in the country.

I don’t mean “Lent and Easter are finally over, Hallelujah!” Although I admit that I often feel this way when Easter is finally behind me. In fact, I was just having this conversation yesterday—Easter Monday—about what goes in to making Easter music all that it can be. But now, how do we keep this all going? The energy, the excitement, the momentum that is generated within our congregations and our music programs as we prepare for this very exciting Easter celebration is something worth building on. But how?

Just like the exhausted music director, your singers and other musicians need a little break for renewal. I don’t want my singers and players to come back exhausted and begrudging what is next. I usually give the week after Easter off for all music groups and find a soloist or an outside group for the week after. I build up the guest musicians with hopes of offering a reason for the congregation to also look forward to the week after and find a reason to continue coming to worship. Then, I try to program music that has a little something “extra” for the weeks in the spring—a solo instrument that can accompany, or an instrumental ensemble that can accompany. Often music that combines the forces I already have—choir and bells, choir with piano and organ, bells with hand percussion. Of course, I plan this and choose this and secure the musicians in early December and January, while I have time to study the music and secure the musicians. Now is simply the time to execute.

I also like to program high energy music after Easter to build on Easter Sunday energy, but also as a contrast to the weeks of Lenten and Holy Week anthems. My musicians are thankful for the contrast as well.

So what are some of my favorite anthems for the spring. I love the spiritual “Ain’t A That Good News” (I’ve Got a Crown up in-a That Kingdom! Ain’t a That Good news”) I often use the Rollo Dilworth arrangement for SATB choir (#08745357). The Moses Hogan arrangement by the same title requires a really good choir but it is great (#08742075). And Ken Berg knows how to arrange for the church choir in his arrangement of this African-American spiritual that he titles “Good News” (08750092).

There are no shortages of “Alleluias”. The Ralph Manuel “Alleluia” (#08765478) is a great one and very accessible. “Festival Alleluia” by Roger Emerson for 3-part choir is terrific, as is the John Leavitt arrangement of the Mozart “Alleluia”. The Berger “Alleluia” from Brazilian Psalm is not easy, but I have used it many times, and once your choir unlocks the pattern, it is a joy. And, if you are in a city with good percussion players, the Dominick DiOrio “Alleluia” for choir and marimba is fabulous. There are many YouTube performances of this worth checking out.

Kirke Mechem set the words of Martin Luther for his anthem “Glory: With Joyful Song and Tender Mirth” (#50600368). This is a glorious anthem that my choirs love to sing.

My choir was surprised when I handed out the Mary McDonald “Sing to the Lord,” but they instantly loved it. And when I added horns on Sunday morning, both the choir and the congregation asked when it would be offered next.

I can go on and on but you get the idea. I hope you enjoy finding ways to keep the Easter Spirit going through your music program.

Scott Foss

Editor, Concert and Classical Choral Music

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