New Organ Music for Lent and Easter: A Resource List

The organist seeking fresh ideas appropriate to Lent, Holy Week, and Easter worship has a wealth of recent compositions from which to choose. New releases listed here from seven different publishers reveal a rich array of solo organ works based on traditional European hymnody; a surprising number of pieces and collections devoted to early American hymnody, including spirituals (more than a dozen useful settings of “Wondrous Love” are included in the volumes listed below); a growing body of organ settings of newer hymns, songs, and choruses; and valuable resources for accompanying congregational singing.

For space reasons I have limited this list to publications since 2000; all are available from publishers’ websites. Designations E (easy), M (moderate), and D (difficult) are to be interpreted with some latitude.

Solo Organ Music for Lent

Michael Bedford. Partita on “Wondrous Love.” Paraclete Press, 2005. #PPM00515. 12 pp. $10. M. Theme, three short variations, and a concluding vigorous fugue on this well-known early American hymn tune.

Emma Lou Diemer. Beneath the Cross for Organ. Zimbel Press, 2003. #Z203. 9 pp. $10. M. The composer states that this commissioned piece is “in a somewhat 19th-century dramatic, expressive style reminiscent of Cesar Franck.” A substantial piece, appropriate for service voluntary or recital.

Robin Dinda. Seasonal Hymn Preludes, Volume 6: Lent and Holy Week. Wayne Leupold Editions, 2004. #WL600179. 32 pp. $13. M. Four of these twelve hymn settings are for manuals only. Many feature hymn tunes with either baroque-style counterpoint or romantic-style chordal accompaniments, along with a blues arrangement of “Were You There” and a passacaglia on the Passion Chorale. A welcome addition to Dinda’s series, which also includes hymn prelude sets for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Sandra Gay. Partita on a Hymn Tune of Tallis for Organ. Zimbel Press, 2001. #Z115. 8 pp. $9. M. This piece is based on Thomas Tallis’s third mode melody—a haunting Phyrgian tune, paired in The Hymnal 1982 with Fred Pratt Green’s poem “To Mock Your Reign, O Dearest Lord” and in the Psalter Hymnal (PsH) to Psalm 62. The hymn tune and five variations would be effectively used in Good Friday liturgies.

Calvin Hampton. Jesus Enters Jerusalem. Wayne Leupold Editions, 2004. #WL700031. 12 pp. $12. M. This recently published piece by the late Calvin Hampton was composed in 1982 as a Palm Sunday prelude for Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. Based on the tune known as both st. theodulph and valet will ich dir geben, the programmatic piece depicts Jesus’ triumphal entry and is designed to lead directly into the congregational singing of “All Glory, Laud, and Honor.”

Barbara Harbach. Hosanna, Loud Hosanna: Organ Settings for Lent and the Passion. Augsburg Fortress, 2004. #0800676920. 20 pp. $12.50. D. The seven works in this volume include lively toccatas on two Palm Sunday hymns, “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” (valet will ich dir geben) and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty!” (ellacombe), along with gentler settings of “Were You There” and “Wondrous Love.”

Joyce Jones. Three for Lent. Morning Star, 2000. #10-326. 11 pp. $8. E. “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” (hamburg), “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” (martyrdom), and “Ah, Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended” (herzliebster jesu) are each presented in quiet, simple-textured settings, to be used as voluntaries or hymn introductions. Alternate endings are provided for hamburg so that the ending tonality can match the key of the hymn.

Karen Keene. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Prelude and Meditation on Rockingham Old. Morning Star, 2002. #10-330. 8 pp. $7. M. The meditation, with its juxtaposition of romantic harmonies and contrapuntal lines over pedal point, is quite lovely and could stand alone very well on a small instrument. The prelude features similar textures, but more complicated registration and a somewhat more difficult pedal part.

Harold Owen. Three Meditations for Organ on Lenten Hymns. GIA, 2000. #G-5414. 12 pp. $12. M. Settings of aus der tiefe and aus tiefer not are well constructed, though rather dissonant. The meditation on erhalt uns, herr (“The Glory of These Forty Days,” The Hymnal 1982 143; and “Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word,” PsH 598), which employs a more conservative harmonic structure, is warmly recommended.

Solo Organ Music for Easter

Charles Callahan. Easter Music for Manuals, Set 2. Morning Star, 2002. #10-424. 11 pp. $8. E. An organist who is not comfortable playing pedals would find all he or she needs here to play a vibrant Easter Sunday service. This is well-crafted composition for manuals alone; pieces are well shaped and textures are complete without large reaches. The eight hymn tune preludes include “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” “The Day of Resurrection,” and “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” All are short (single page), and each is distinctive in character.

John Ferguson. In Quiet Joy: An Easter Triptych. Morning Star, 2000. #10-422. 11 pp. $8. E. Ferguson writes in the introduction to this volume, “There is a place amidst the joyful noise of the Easter season for a few quiet, contemplative moments. These hymn preludes are conceived to meet this need.” Meditative settings of easter hymn and gelobt sei gott frame the set, my favorite being the middle piece, a peppy (yet quiet) setting of the 17th-century Dutch tune vruechten (“This Joyful Eastertide”).

Michael Helman. Three for Easter: Festive Hymn Settings for Organ. Augsburg Fortress, 2001. #0800674790. 11 pp. $8. D. Spare harmonies capture the flavor of the medieval hymn tune o filii et filiae (“O Sons and Daughters of the King”). “The Day of Resurrection” (lancashire) features a fanfare-like opening with pedal solo passages, followed by a fugue on the first line of the tune. “The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done” (victory) culminates in a full organ presentation of the hymn tune in the pedal underneath figuration patterned after Henri Mulet’s toccata “Tu es Petra.”

Dennis Janzer. Easter Suite Op. 13 for Organ. Wayne Leupold Editions, 1998. #WL 600122. 24 pp. $11. D. Of four pieces on Easter hymns, Janzer’s “Toccata on Easter Hymn” and “Variant and Processional Finale on ellacombe” are virtuosic, appealing postlude material. Large reaches required in several pieces present some difficulty for players with small hands.

Aaron David Miller. Triptych for Lent and Easter. Augsburg Fortress, 2000. #0800659457. 24 pp. $12. D. These pieces, based on the hymn tunes munich, herzliebster jesu, and morgenlied, reflect the inspiration and craftsmanship one would expect from this top prizewinner in improvisation. All present challenges for the player, but are musically well worth the effort. munich and herzliebster jesu are quiet and reflective. The Easter hymn tune morgenlied receives an energetic treatment that is virtuosic, while avoiding formulas.

Lent/Easter Collections of Works
by Several Composers

The Organist’s Companion: Music with Minimal Pedal, Lenten Season. Morning Star, 2002.
#10-329. 27 pp. $15. E.

The Organist’s Companion: Music for Manuals, Lent-Easter-Pentecost. Morning Star, 2002.
#10-346. 24 pp. $13. E.

The Organist’s Companion: Music with Minimal Pedal, Easter-Pentecost. Morning Star, 2002.
#10-425. 24 pp. $13. E.

The publisher’s note accompanying these volumes, compiled and edited by Rodney Schrank, states that “the music contained in this series has been gleaned primarily from extant Morning Star publications of a more advanced level of difficulty but which contain a setting or two of an easier degree.” Part of a larger series, encompassing the entire liturgical year, these are eminently useful pieces for the church organist by seasoned composers. While various styles and textures are represented, all works have in common high artistic quality and brevity.

Thine the Glory: Accessible Organ Music for Lent and Easter. Morning Star, 2005. #10-301. 39 pp. $18. E. “Accessible” certainly means easily received by the listener. Meditative pieces in this volume are lovely, and the more energetic pieces are stirring and virtuosic. The six pieces for Lent include settings of jesu, meine freude (“Jesus, Priceless Treasure”) by Michael Burkhardt and bourbon (“It Happened on That Fateful Night”) by Wilbur Held. For Easter, a setting of easter hymn in 10/8 meter by Robert Hobby is refreshing, and Michael Burkhardt’s Processional on salve festa dies (“Hail Thee, Festival Day”) is wonderfully majestic.

General Collections with Lent/Easter Material—Solo Organ

Carson Cooman. Organ Music Volume I. Wayne Leupold Editions, 2004. #WL600190. 88 pp. $28. M. The publisher notes that Cooman “has an intense desire for the organ to speak in a contemporary musical language.” Of 32 pieces in the collection, 18 are hymn-based, 15 are for designated seasons of the Christian year, and all are appropriate for use in worship. Settings of “O Sacred Head” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” are appropriate in Lent, with a dark and harmonically daring (though not difficult) “Tenebrae Canticle” offering an expressive addition to a Good Friday service.

Robert Ehrhardt. Preludes on American Folk Hymns. Zimbel Press, 2001. #Z117. 32 pp. $20. M. A quiet, reflective arrangement of “Lonesome Valley” is the only setting of this hymn I have found in recent organ publications. Ehrhardt’s “Cleansing Fountain” features lean counterpoint and austere harmony, capturing the flavor of this early American folk hymn.

Wilbur Held. Beneath the Cross: 13 Contemplations for Lent and General Use. Morning Star, 2001. MSM-10-327. 31 pp. $16. E. Five of these settings are based on specifically Lenten hymns, though any could be appropriately played during Lent. A setting of pange lingua for manuals alone is reminiscent of Jean Langlais’s more contemplative pieces, and a charming set of variations on hendon (“Take My Life and Let It Be”) forms a welcome addition to the service playing repertoire. As all settings are short, they can be used as hymn introductions or grouped together for preludes.

>Wilbur Held. Wondrous Love: 5 Hymn Settings for Organ. Morning Star, 2005. #10-573. 19 pp. $11. M. Tunes are from early American sources, and two are especially fitting for Lent. A quiet, easy setting of the title song is about two minutes long. A more extended treatment of bangor (“Alone Thou Goest Forth, O Lord”), which employs a variety of textures, dynamics from mp to ff, and virtuosic pedal in spots, could serve as a dramatic prelude during Holy Week.

Bradley Hunnicutt. 6 Organ Settings of Shape-Note Tunes from The Sacred Harp. GIA, 2002. #G-5600. 31 pp. $15. M. These arrangements of some lesser-known Sacred Harp tunes intentionally avoid the use of all accidentals, acknowledging that the tunes themselves are “severely diatonic.” Two energetic possibilities for Easter Sunday voluntaries are “Ninety-Third Psalm” and “Easter Hymn.”

Robert Lind. Voluntaries on “Quem Pastores” and “Love Unknown.” Paraclete Press, 2004. #PPM00414. 8 pp. $7.50. M. Lind’s rich harmonic setting of John Ireland’s tune love unknown would make a beautiful quiet voluntary during Lent.

John Ogasapian. Five Preludes on Early American Hymntunes. GIA, 2003. #G-5709. 20 pp. $18. M. Two of these works are particularly useful for Lent. A setting of new britain (“Amazing Grace”) has an impressionistic flavor, and three variations on wondrous love hint at polytonality.

Anne Roberts. As One Unknown: A Collection of Organ Hymn Adaptations. Augsburg Fortress, 2004. #0800676963. 36 pp. $15. M. A collection that includes newer hymn tunes such as earth and all stars (“Alleluia, Jesus is Risen”), gather us in, and i am the bread of life is a welcome addition to the service-playing repertoire. Though the pieces as a whole are somewhat lacking in musical shape and direction, each setting includes some interesting textural and/or rhythmic treatments of the tune.

Mark Siebert. Preludes on Campmeeting Songs. Zimbel Press, 2004. #Z201. 12 pp. $10. E. Easy and beautiful settings of cleansing fountain and wondrous love make this a worthwhile collection for Lent.

Praise and Worship Collections

Eager to include examples of the Praise and Worship genre in this resource list, I played through a number of such published collections. There are well-conceived arrangements of both reflective and energetic songs available, but many demonstrate a little too obviously their origin as piano works. The technique of modulation, predictably up a semitone, a fourth, or a fifth, is also overused in much of this repertoire. With these caveats, I suggest a few works you might wish to consider:

Peggy Bettcher. Praise and Worship for Organ. Hope Publishing Company, 2001. #8131. 28 pp. $14.95. M. Bettcher’s setting of lamb of god presents the tune in a variety of textures and registers. Full organ and syncopated rhythm characterize her setting of “How Majestic Is Your Name.”

John Carter. Today’s Hymns and Songs II for Organ. Hope Publishing Company, 2005. #8260. 28 pp. $12.95. E. Carter has produced some of the more successful organ pieces adapted from Praise and Worship music, employing imaginative uses of harmony and texture. “You Are My All in All” and “Shout to the Lord” are particularly effective.

Douglas E. Wagner. Songs of Praise. Hope Publishing Company, 2004. #8226. 24 pp. $12.95. E. Wagner’s setting of “There Is a Redeemer” would be appropriate for Lent/Easter. His treatments of “You Are My All in All” and “Give Thanks” are two of the more idiomatic for organ.

Resources for Congregational Accompaniment

Jeremy J. Bankson. Festive Hymn Settings: Llanfair. Morning Star, 2005. #20-440. 20 pp. $20. E. Paired with Charles Wesley’s text, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” this setting includes parts for brass quartet or quintet and optional timpani and cymbal, along with the vocal parts which consist simply of melody and descant.

Michael Burkhardt. Festive Hymn Settings: My Song Is Love Unknown. Morning Star, 2001. #10-328. 15 pp. $10. M. This engaging setting includes an optional B-flat clarinet part along with organ and voices. Voices are in unison, with suggestions for alternation (solo, women, men, children) and a soprano descant. Perfect for a hymn festival.

Hal Hopson. The Creative Use of the Organ in Worship. Hope Publishing Company, 2000. #8070. 190 pp. $39.95. E. In this eminently useful book for the average church organist, Hopson encourages the creative process of improvisation using techniques that are possible for nearly everyone. Contains minimal prose and a wealth of musical examples, both sample phrases and complete hymn settings.

Joseph Willcox Jenkins. Hail Thee, Festival Day. Morning Star, 2005. #20-742. 35 pp. $25. M. Alternate texts are provided for Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost. Setting is for brass quartet, timpani, and organ. Choir part doubles congregation on the tune except for a last-stanza descant and “Amen” coda. All three Morning Star volumes include reproducible instrumental and vocal parts helpfully stapled into the score itself.

Pull Out the Stops: Congregational Song Accompaniments for Organ. Augsburg Fortress, 2001. #11-11038. 224 pp. $35. M. 108 hymn tunes, many composed after 1970, are included in this volume. Each is given a creative introduction and an alternative accompaniment for congregational singing. The list of gifted contributing composers includes David Cherwien, Aaron David Miller, Mark Sedio, and twenty-four others.

Judy A. Congdon ( is professor of organ and college organist at Houghton College, Houghton, New York, as well as organist/choirmaster at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Olean, New York. She serves on the Music Commission for the Episcopal Diocese of Buffalo. She will be a presenter at the Calvin Worship Symposium in January.

Reformed Worship 78 © December 2005, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.