It is indeed rare for a church musician to stay with a single ministry his entire career. In a culture where the average stay for church employees is under 5 years, to reach 40 years at the same congregation defies the odds.
Composer David Angerman has done just that in his church position at Bethany Lutheran in Austin, Texas. At Bethany, David has built a lasting legacy of praise, establishing a quality multi-layered music program incorporating orchestra, choir, hand bells, drama, children’s programs, and contemporary praise teams. Embracing both modern and traditional worship styles, David has been able to succeed in both areas of these often opposed worship idioms. Building bridges instead of walls, his approach has always been excellence in all things and all things for the glory of God.
As a music teacher, clinician, performer, and minister of music, he brings his considerable experience to his compositional output as well. He has hundreds of published anthems that, like his ministry at Bethany, run the gamut of style and function. All of his work is marked with artful craftsmanship and a careful attention to clarity of message. He remains one of the leading sacred composers currently active.
We asked David to weigh in on our usual “composer questionnaire” and his answers offer an insight to his process and his motivations as a writer.
Composer Spotlight Q&A
What was the music of your youth?
My older brother, Ray and I listened to a lot of different music from Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Simon and Garfunkel, the Doobie Brothers, Bread, Mac Davis, and Karen Carpenter, mostly on LP or 8 track. Later, when more Christian artists began to make it into the record stores we listened to Keith Green, Amy Grant, Rich Mullins, and Michael W. Smith. By then, cassettes were replacing the old 8 track decks.
Tell us about your background and how that inspired you to pursue music as a career?
I guess you could say I am from a family who valued music and made it a part of our lives. My dad would play his accordian on saturday nights and we would sing old folk songs and polkas. My older siblings took choir in junior high. Instead of listening to the radio, often we would sing a cappella choral music we learned from school while mom drove us around running errands. My older sister took piano first. When she practiced, I would play with her on the high end of the piano. By the time she quit three years into lessons, I had memorized most of the Michael Aaron books 1 through 3. So, when I took her spot as a student, my teacher thought i was a child prodigy. She soon learned that I wasn’t reading any of the music, but had memorized it before.
What music do you listen to now?
I love lots of different types of music. If you ask me of a favorite recording, I think first of the Robert Shaw Chorale recording of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (Mass for Unaccompanied Chorus). I still like the old popular music from the 70’s, but I also enjoy movie soundtracks, a cappella choral music of Eric Whitacre and Karl Jenkins, and classical guitar.
Tell us about your faith journey, and how it influences your musical choices.
Growing up in the Lutheran church, I was baptized as an infant. We didn’t have a choir in my church, so I started one as a junior in high school. The following year, our organist retired and handed me the keys! I can honestly say that much of my bible studies have come from the scriptural integrity of the Lutheran hymns and anthems we sang. My faith was challenged by the born-again Christians at Baylor, but I remained strong in my conviction that I am saved by grace through faith, and the waters of baptism is a saving work of God, instituted by Jesus, where I was reborn and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. I have had times of struggle, having gone through a divorce and remarried. As I have grown older, the same hymns and anthems I came to know and love as a youth have taken on deeper meaning. I lament that so many great hymns of faith are now being pushed aside by the new modern worship music. Even so, I have made an effort to embrace that new worship music that has integrity by arranging many of them for choir and by programming them in my worship services at my current church.
As a listener of music, I suppose I have become much more discerning and aware of what the lyrics of a song mean. As a youth, I was quick to excuse offensive lyrics in a song whose music I liked. Today that is simply not the case.
Name three things about yourself that would surprise people.
- I have been skydiving three times!
- I have identical twin daughters.
- Joe Martin and I were roommates for a time when we were both “single again.”
What projects are currently on your horizon?
I have recently enjoyed writing an arrangement of Darlene Zschech’s “Shout To the Lord,” including Swahili. Soon to be released are my arrangements of “Make Room” by Casting Crowns and “Rescuer” by Rend Collective. And don’t miss out on Michael Barrett’s and my new Palm Sunday anthem, “Jerusalem, Behold Your King.”
When are you most creative?
I’m most creative when working alone, though Joe Martin and I have been known to collaboratively produce a surprise or two along the way. When the pressure is on to meet a deadline, I often do my best work.
What’s your sacred space?
My sacred space is the back deck of my home, where I can listen to music and nurse a glass of wine while the sun sets (except when the mosquitoes are out!).
Which composers/arrangers inspire you?
I would think Joseph Martin inspires most of us! But aside from Joe, this is a tough question. Sometimes, when I have writer’s block, I’ll go to that sacred space and listen to classical music, like Bach, Beethoven, Chopin…the greats. This serves, not so much to inpire than to cleanse…to clear my head of all the clutter of ideas I didn’t like. It’s sort of like hitting the reset button for me.
What do you do when you’re not composing?
Hmmm….decomposing? Ha! Being a full-time church musician as well as a writer, I have little time to just chill, but I enjoy working in the yard, reading a good book, or watching a favorite tv show with my wife, Kim.
Where do you see church music going in the future? Are there trends you think are important in the current culture of sanctuary music?
Let me check my Crystal Cathedral ball….who knows! When modern worship music evolved away from the trite, simple, and repetitive lyrics and melodies, I rejoiced and was truly glad. Now, it seems at least some the modern Christian music is moving back to repetitive, simple lyrics and melodies, at least with the more charismatic churches. With my Lutheran heritage still a part of me, I hope this trend doesn’t gain traction. Though the choir has had its challenges keeping up with the new music, I believe the choir’s greatest function is to help lead the worshipping community (the bigger choir) in song, and worship to our lord and king. Anthems are great, but they shouldn’t be the choir’s only purpose. I think modern hymn-writers like the Getty’s and Townend will stand the test of time. How many modern worship choruses from five years ago is your congregation still singing? Yet, when there’s a funeral, more often than not, the request is always “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Just As I am.”
What is your #1 tip for aspiring writers?
Be yourself! We already have a Joseph M. Martin and Michael Barrett, so don’t try to be like them! Use your own creativity and write – true to your own heart.