Friday, February 05, 2010

notating and arranging songs

Charlene Nafziger and I are working on a vocal-and-piano arrangement of "You're Not Alone," to be more easily accessible for congregational singing. Are there other songs of mine for which you wish we had notated vocal arrangements and accompaniment parts?

Irredeemable folkie-at-heart that I am, I have always harboured a deep and abiding suspicion of music notation. While I have at best rudimentary note-reading skills (learned by, and enough to participate in, singing hymns in worship), my relationship with written notation when it comes to my own music is considerably more uncomfortable. I often feel that the process of notating my music tends to flatten-and-straighten it out, and the quirky nuances that little children easily pick up by ear and imitate and sing effortlessly do not often "translate" well to the written page. I find it incomprehensible that a person would actually PREFER to learn a new piece of music by "reading" it rather than hearing it.

And yet I know that, while there are those who pick up music "by ear" and are comfortable and effective making use of my songs that way, there are many others who enjoy and appreciate my music and would love to use more of it but find it not very accessible unless it's "written down." What to do?

I am so grateful to have found Charlene. Not only is she an amazing and astonishingly versatile piano player (who has played on each of my last 2 studio albums, as well as on a couple of other projects we've worked on together, and of course many other projects of her own), she also happens to be personable, kind, fun, creative, organized, efficient, thorough, reliable, smart, honest... And she has a heart for the church and well-honed instincts for effective worship leading... and she is able to move just as comfortably in the world of playing-by-ear-and-intuition and notation-reading-and-writing-and-technical-precision.

Charlene and I first worked together on the "My Money Talks: songs for worship" project (click here and scroll down), and she developed piano accompaniment parts and arrangements (including some vocal arrangements) for the songs in that collection. She wrestles my melodic meanderings into notated form on a regular basis for each of the "song deliveries" that I send quarterly to the members of my "community supported music" initiative (see And most recently we developed a 4-part vocal arrangement and piano accompaniment part for "I Will Trust In You," which was published in Leader magazine as a theme song for the Advent 2009 worship resources.

Now we are also working at developing notated versions and piano accompaniment parts for some other songs that I've written over the years. I mentioned that we're working on an arrangement and accompaniment part for "You're Not Alone," for which I've been getting more and more requests since it was used at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in Paraguay in July.

Which other songs of mine do you think we should do in this way? Please let us know...


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