After looking at and listening to so many titles, I wondered why so many pieces were given the "Disneyland" or "Hollywood" build-up -- Full orchestra with pages and pages of fanfare, dramatic lead-ins and interludes with lots of rhythm provided by drums and chimes and other color instruments. It all seemed a bit much -- especially for a small church choir that just wants to sing neat arrangement of "Joy to the World" or "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Who exactly are these composers marketing to? College concert choirs? Professional choirs? Really well-funded community choirs?
I don't know of any church choirs that have full orchestras. (I have heard of contemporary churches that may have a "Praise Team" made up of keyboard, bass, drum set and a few other instruments, but not a 100+ piece orchestra!) Or would they actually use the Minus Track to sing to during a worship service?
What really frustrated me was finding so few pieces that fit my needs. And I really wanted some of the "close contenders" to not have such difficult piano or organ accompaniments, or have racing intricate rhythms or close harmony with such dissonance in 6-8 parts, or travel through so many scary keys, or have such terrifically high tenor parts, or contain lyrics that are of questionable doctrine. But, I didn't want pieces that were so simply put together that they would insult the choir's collective intelligence, either!
I was looking for beautiful worship music in a variety of styles, with messages of hope in the Savior's life and mission, and put together with good musicianship. Is that too much to ask for?
I found some absolutely beautiful contemporary ballads that unfortunately spent 3:00 minutes talking of nothing but "coming to the cradle" or "starlight" or "angles singing on that first Christmas night." Sure, the was music was lovely but it had no real worshipful message. Then there were the fun upbeat 6/8 tunes that were fun to sing but had no real doctrinal passages at all. They might just as well have been secular songs.
So, I was left with arrangements of the good old Christmas Carols -- so many arrangements of "Silent Night," "O Holy Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and all of the others! Way too many to count! And all very similar, unless the composer had gone ultra modern with dissonance harmonies and crazy rhythmic departures, added orchestration, buried the carol in a medley or mash-up with several other tunes, or just changed the melody entirely.
I confess, going through all of these pieces left me mind and heart numb!
Fortunately I found a few gems, but not nearly as many as I had wanted to find!