Preludes—”Setting the Stage”

August 25, 2010 - By 

Everything—and I mean everything—matters when it comes to “setting the stage,” so to speak, for God’s people to worship in God’s house. From the moment the first door is unlocked and the lights are turned on throughout the facility, the church is being prepared for the entrance of its people. Music plays a vital role in this process. Consider the various ways in which music is involved in the “presentation” of our campus.

  • From the time a church attender steps out of their car, they hear beautiful and worshipful music from speakers which are located in our outdoor flower-beds.
  • When the attenders enter our buildings, music is playing in all our lobbies and hallways. Our desire is to maintain a spirit of worship and calm while folks “get situated” at their various locations throughout our facilities.
  • Upon entering the main auditorium, music is typically playing over the loud speakers. This encourages a spirit of meditation and encouragement while folks fellowship and/or prepare their hearts for the worship service.

Often we’ll begin an instrumental prelude (usually piano) a few minutes prior to a service. In my mind, the primary purpose for this is merely setting the stage for the worship service that will follow. I wrote extensively about playing piano preludes here. These are some general concepts that are good to think about regarding preludes:

Choose songs that are well-known.
I know not everyone agrees with this point, but I feel the best songs are songs that the majority of the people know (and love). Sure, it’s possible that most people aren’t listening. But some are, and they’ll appreciate your thoughtful choices. Occasionally introduce unfamiliar songs, but keep them the exception to the rule.

Consider the mood you’re setting.
Let’s face it, you’re “setting the stage” for what’s to come. What does the worship service look like? Ours are typically evangelistic and upbeat in nature, so our preludes should reflect that. Some of our services are more reflective in nature. In those cases, our preludes sound completely different.

Create a dynamic prelude.
Add musical interest by selecting varying meters and key signatures. Avoid ruts at all costs. Try to improvise in various ways to keep interest throughout. The more thought you put into it, the more satisfying it will be.

What are some helpful tips regarding preludes that you’ve found work for your worship services?

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  • In my experience, no one really pays any attention to the prelude unless one of a few things happens.

    1 – The music stops. If you’re playing it and want some instant attention, just stop for a minute and look at all the stares and abruptly ended conversations. The other possible result is people will glance nervously up at the platform looking for the pastor or worship leader to start the service.

    2 – You mess up big time. Occasionally a foul chord or two will make people if some newb is playing the prelude today, or perhaps the pianist has had a sudden and severe onset of Tourettes.

    3 – You play something really flashy and over-the-top. This can cause the usual stares and ended conversations similar to item one.

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