I don’t have videos of me playing a lot of these solo piano arrangements. I recorded them before I got into the practice of making videos. When there’s no video, I’m using a score synchronized with my audio recording.
In my job as music director at Lakewood UCC (my favorite church job of all time, without exaggeration!) the piano pieces I’ll be doing Sunday, Mother’s Day, were all favorites of my mom’s. Here’s the list, with YouTube links. Only the first link is me; the rest are my favorite YouTube versions of the pieces.
“Contemporary Christian” fare is solo performance, non-participatory oriented, not condusive to participatory congregational singing. That makes solo performance material well suited to social media and music streaming which it dominates. Sadly, the theology associated with “Contemporary Christian” texts and, in fact, the very soloistic performance itself, are anathema to more progressive theology.
Congregational singing is a natural part of traditional corporate worship. But, traditional corporate worship these days is dominated by the mega church, MAGA crowd. Other denominations, that are progressive based, such as the one for which I work, United Church of Christ, are shrinking fast.
I’ve written a lot of religious music. It’s not hyperbole to say I’m constantly flirting with destroying every copy and recording of every such piece I’ve ever written because Christianity has become Christian Nationalism. I wish I knew if there was a place for me, as a creative professional, in the progressive spirituality in which I believe.
HERE is a taste of some my own religious music. My website is hiltonkeanjones.com and there are links to much more there.
I wonder if there is a place for classically trained composers, performers, and lyricists of a progressive theological bent in Christianity.
Composers, painters, writers, poets, photographers, dancers, artists of all kinds have the occasional project they’re never quite satisfied with, that they continue–throughout their career–to fiddle with and change and rethink. My arrangement of the famous old hymn tune, Amazing Grace, is one of those for me.
Part of the problem, I think, is that this is a piece I also improvise on in live performance and no matter how hard you try, how good an ear you’ve got, how adept you are at using technology, it’s impossible to capture in music notation every tiny nuance of an improvised performance.
Nor is it possible to capture every detail of how you imagine the piece ought to be…could be…must be.
I’d had Amazing Grace on the two websites for self-published scores I use, SheetMusicPlus and SheetMusicDirect, but I grew dissatisfied with my arrangement and withdrew it, even after it had had sales.
I finally got what I think might be a better, more likely to be permanent, arrangement of Amazing Grace, and it’s now up and available on YouTube (https://youtu.be/r2ojjBLohk0) and on the two sheet-music sites at:
Wouldn’t ya know it: someone just now bought my previous version of my arrangement. Whoever you are, thank you! But, I hope you see this post so you can download this revision. I really do think it’s better and more playable.
(note: title screen is silent, music starts with score)
Fire of Justice, Fire of Love for unison congregation and chorus, organ, and solo trumpet
words & music by Hilton Kean Jones
In honor of Blessed Mother Marie-Rose Durocher, Foundress of The Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (Soeurs des Saints Noms de Jésus et de Marie) Commissioned by the Academy of the Holy Names, Tampa, Florida October 6, 2018
I’d love to get a grant that would pay the musicians, conductor, and studio to make a recording of the couple dozen anthems (hymns) I’ve written, but I really don’t know where to even apply for such a thing. My stuff’s too commercial and, doubly damned, it’s religious. Not promising for grants.
Until such a utopian future, I’ll have to satisfy myself with computerized orchestral demos, like this one. The score gives the words, so you’ll have to use your imagination.
A basic skill for any organist/church musician is composing hymn descants. Descants are countermelodies that make the singing of the hymn tune more enjoyable for the congregation…they allow the singers to enjoy the tension of counterpoint at a visceral level.