Thoughts on worship, congregational song
and the life of the church.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Elevator Pitch: Transforming Every Guest Web Series

Update: Our video-series-in-development now has a name: Break into Song: A hands-on guide to renewing your congregation's voice


This post is a brief outline of a project I am developing. I am posting this statement online because I'd greatly value your thoughts on the project, from how clearly articulated you find the outline to any inspirations or suggestions you have for the project itself. (I recognize it would take a pretty long elevator ride to get through this pitch but... I'm a grad student, okay?)

I may update and edit this post as suggestions come in; this is an evolving idea which I hope you will find compelling. Thank you for reading!


A Transforming Every Guest Original Web Video Series

While church music ministry has always been a demanding calling, the contemporary church musician faces unique and unprecedented challenges. It seems that, even as we become more connected with music from all over the world, as the possibilities of church music expands, the economy – and with it, the church budget – gets smaller. Musicians are left knowing there is much that could be done, but with limited resources at their disposal. 

I would like to address an aspect of this need by creating a web series for musicians and other church leaders, free and accessible to anyone, which will engage with modern church music repertoire in the form of a practical, interesting, and fun presentation of very high artistic quality. 

In the course of my music ministry in the Canadian context, I have collaborated with and had many conversations with pastors and fellow church musicians. In the course of these conversations, I’ve noticed a recurring theme: there are many musicians, pastors, and congregations out there that would like to learn and engage with recent and emerging church music, but they don’t know how to begin. Pastors and church musicians are spread increasingly thin to meet the many demands of parish life, and are often left with little time to step back from the weekly grind to explore what is “out there,” and to evaluate where it might fit within their existing liturgy. Or, while they are aware of new musics and excited at the possibilities these might offer in their congregations’ worship life, they are held back by not being sure of the music’s context, how it should sound, or how to teach it. 

I propose a free web series which will be presented on the Transforming Every Guest website and available on YouTube, which will initially consist of three episodes, each seven to twelve minutes in length. Each episode will be an in-depth exploration of one piece of music. The content will range from examination of the piece’s theological, historical, and cultural context, to a pedagogical breakdown of how this piece can be taught to a choir and to a congregation, and a discussion of how this piece could be used to support creative and worshipful liturgy. In format, each episode will alternate between lecture-style discussion, demonstration footage of a choir in the process of learning the piece, and a staged example of how the piece might come to life in a worship context. 

I have a wide-ranging background in music and music ministry which has uniquely prepared me to create a series of this kind. I have worked with adult, children, and youth ensembles in a variety of contexts in both Canada and the United States. As a graduate of the Sacred Music programme at Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX), in the choral conducting concentration, I am comfortable introducing a variety of musical styles into my practice as a church musician, and am an accomplished choral pedagogue. In my own ministry, I explore creative liturgies, the power of congregational song to build and sustain community, and the drama of worship. This ministry draws on music from a variety of faith and worship traditions, engaging with repertoires not only from Western confessions but also Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. I am a judicious researcher, a passionate teacher, and an engaging speaker. 

The repertoire for this series will favour selections drawn from Canadian church music publications. A video pitching the series will feature examples of the pedagogical process for choral and congregational use of “We Will Go Out with Joy,” a going-out song co-written by myself and guitarist-composer Andrew Donaldson (With Many Voices, Binary Editions, 2009). This "pitch" video will be used as part of an online crowd funding portfolio.

Tentatively, the musical selections for the full episodes will be as follows: The first will deal with the scripture song “All Peoples, Clap Your Hands,” a paraphrase of Psalm 47 by Paschal Jordan, OSB (With Many Voices). Episode Two will feature “We Are all One People,” by Saskatchewan Cree composers Joseph Naytowhow and Cheryl L’Hirondelle (More Voices, United Church in Canada, 2007). Episode Three will be based on the benediction “Ameni,” composed by young men at Christ the New Man Parish, Ga-Rankuwa, South Africa, as transcribed and arranged by David Dargie (More Voices). This latter episode will also feature ideas for incorporating percussion into worship. 

It is my hope that interest will be generated by these first three episodes to support the continuation of the web series. To my knowledge, this approach for an accessible online pedagogical tool for church leaders is unprecedented in the Canadian context. 

I invite your comments and critiques of my outline of this project, and look forward to updating you on its progress. You are welcome to comment on this post, or to get in touch through the contact page. I invite you also to explore more of my blog and to learn more about me. If you know someone who would be interested to read about this project, please pass this post along!


  1. Sounds like a great idea, Hilary! I would definitely watch these sessions and learn from them.

    David Eicher

  2. Wonderful ideas, Hilary! I'll follow eagerly. If there are things along the way that I can help with, please give a shout. It looks, however, like you have things well in hand!! Blessings for this adventure!

    Deb Loftis

  3. As a United Church chorister, I would be very interested in learning from your expertise.

    Jan Hannon