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Oh, For a Thousand Tongues/Doxology (congregation w/brass or organ)

The brass choir at our church found itself with four trumpets, two cornets, two tenor trombones, and a bass trombone available for a Sunday morning. Rather than try to arrange a brass anthem, and especially with that mass of trumpets and cornets, we decided to use all that brass to lead the congregation in song. Two well-known hymns were included along with the trumpets and cornets working in antiphonal fashion most of the way. It made sense that if we turned on all six high brass players at the same time the effect would be dramatic, if not stunning, so this arrangement for the most part uses all the trumpets and cornets at the same time sparingly.

This piece includes all six stanzas of the hymn "Oh, For a Thousand Tongues" by Charles Wesley with music by Carl Glazer and harmony adapted from Lowell Mason, as well as Thomas Ken's Doxology, set to Louis Bourgeois' Old Hundredth from the Genevan Psalter.

After an introduction, the hymn stanzas are framed by brass fanfares, and accompanied by various combinations of instruments. A coda gives the brass one final fanfare.

The brass choir specified consists of three trumpets, three cornets, two trombones, and a tuba. Our group used a bass trombone for the tuba part, and we ended up one cornet short, so dropped the third cornet part entirely. If fewer players are available, the third trumpet could be omitted as well with little ill effect. For much of the piece, only two trumpet lines and two cornet lines are written, to allow different players to lay out and save the lips for the really dramatic sections.

The realization of the brass parts for organ came out of the need for a rehearsal score for piano to work with the vocalists leading the singing. It certainly could be used as a stand-alone organ solo.

The vocal line could also be played on a solo instrument (trumpet? transpose yourself) with either the brass choir or organ.

It would be ill advised to use both brass choir and organ or piano, unless the organ or piano were used primarily to support the congregational singing, leaving the transitional fanfare sections and the introduction and coda to the brass alone. If led by a strong conductor, the trumpets, cornets, and trombones can be located at the corners of the sanctuary to heighten the antiphonal effect.

Apologies to the trumpet and cornet players for putting all three parts on a single staff. Both tenor trombone parts also appear on a single staff.

MP3 sound sample: Entire Piece, congregation with brass (synthesizer/midi).



OH, FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES/DOXOLOGY, arranged by Tom Kirkland, for congregation with brass choir or organ, solo instrument with brass choir or organ, or organ solo, comes in a pdf file of 982K, with a fourteen-page congregation/brass score, a ten-page congregation/organ score, four three-page instrumental parts, and a license page, thirty-seven pages in all. Performance time should be about five minutes.


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Last update: 19 April 2017