The Connected Church Musician: Part Three

Computer Keyboard

This is the third of three excerpts (continuing our blog post from last week) from an article that Ellen Johnston has written for The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians (vol. 26, no. 2, February 2017). The material in this and the next two blogs is reprinted with the gracious permission of Mark Howe, editor of The Journal.

Useful Websites, cont.

Education gives music theory lessons online. I have not used this site yet, but can see that choirs could benefit from it. It includes some basics (the staff, time signatures), rhythm and meter, scales and key signatures, intervals, chords, chord progressions. Exercises include note, key signature, interval, and chord identification, keyboard and fretboard identification, as well as ear training. Many years ago during the Great Fifty Days of Easter, I offered to teach a class one night a week for any choir members or folks in the congregation who might want to learn more about reading music. I had a few takers and we worked once a week during the Easter season. It is a worthy endeavor to help our choirs to learn to read.


MuseScore is free music engraving software for Mac and Windows. I just downloaded this software and have not had a chance to do much work with it. I use Sibelius but the version I have is for Windows, and I mainly use a Mac, so I downloaded this to my Mac and will experiment with it. Since Sibelius has gone up in price significantly and has eliminated their education/church discount, I have not bought a version for my Mac. It appears that you can do most anything with MuseScore that you can do with Sibelius or Finale. What I would miss is having the number pad on my Mac on which to input rhythm. I will look forward to working more with this program.

Downloadable Music Sites

Choral Public Domain Library contains music in the public domain. This is an enormous site that is very useful for those of us without huge music budgets. There is music by Bach, Handel, Byrd, etc. One caveat—check the editions very closely. I have found numerous errors in some of the editions. A feature of this site that I have found useful is the translations page. If your choir is singing in Latin, for example, and no translation is given for the text, is a good place to look. 

IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project) is another site containing music in the public domain. Like CPDL it is searchable by composer and title. It also has MP3 recordings in some cases. Again—check the work very carefully!

St. James Music Press contains a catalog of hundreds of choral anthems, psalm settings, and organ and brass music. For a reasonable fee ($139/year) musicians can download music and reproduce (legally) on their very own copy machines. A helpful feature of this site is the ability to listen to the music before downloading. Anthems can also be searched via the liturgical calendar, so if you need an anthem for the Seventy-Third Sunday after Pentecost you can find it there. Other ways to browse are by voicing, mass settings, psalms, and canticles, etc. This site is particularly useful for those parishes without a large music budget. $139.00/year

NOTE: Most music publishers these days have music available for download. Check individual publishers for this feature.

Document Security

CrashPlan is a site that backs up your data. As a victim of a few crashes, this is very important. CrashPlan is free for backing data up to other computers or to an external hard drive. An individual ($59.99/year) or family (149.99/year) can subscribe to back data up to their cloud. It is customizable, continuous, minute-by-minute backup for those subscribing to the service. With a subscription, a free app is included so that you can have ready access to all your computer files from anywhere, at any time.

Mozy is an online back up service for individuals or businesses. Upon set up, Mozy begins automatically backing up your files, and continues to do so on a regular basis. You are able to customize your automatic backup schedule to meet your needs. Like CrashPlan, there is a mobile app so that files can be accessed remotely. Pricing depends one how much storage you might need. For instance, for 10 GB the subscription fee is $153.78. There are monthly plans as well. 


Dashlane is a password manager and a digital wallet. Passwords can be such a bother sometimes. We are told to change our passwords often, to make them random, etc. Being of a certain age, it is hard for me to remember most of them. With this site you can automatically import your passwords into a secure password vault and that costs nothing. You only have to remember one password and you are automatically logged into any site. Of course, you must remember your passwords long enough to enter them into the Dashlane site. For $39.99/year, Dashlane Premium can be used on an unlimited number of devices with automatic sync and backup for your account.

Dropbox saves your files to the cloud and also is a file-sharing site. Any kind of file, from photos, videos, and music to Microsoft Office and Adobe files, can be saved. Plus, you can sync files across all your devices, whether using a PC, Mac, Android, iPad, iPhone, or Windows Phone. Files are available on your computer even when you’re offline, so you can work from anywhere. For $99.00/year, Dropbox Pro provides 1,000 GB of storage. There is also a Dropbox app which costs nothing.

Evernote is a site on which you can make notes, capture a screen shot from the internet, and share with colleagues. There is a searchable feature so that even handwritten notes can be found. The basic service is free and includes the above named features plus syncing across two devices. Evernote Plus, for $34.99/year, allows syncing across all devices, gives more storage, allows access to notebooks offline, and you may forward emails into Evernote. For even more money, Evernote Premium, for $69.99/year, allows one to search for text in PDFs, search for text in Office docs, annotate PDFs, and browse the history of notes. 

InSync is similar to Dropbox. It saves files to the cloud and is a file-sharing site. It extends Google Drive so that you can do more. 

OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) is a Windows file hosting service. Users can share files publicly or with their contacts; publicly shared files do not require a Microsoft account to access them. There is also a free OneDrive app for iOS and Android devices. 


Google Drive is my go-to for assembling a choral database. Of course, there are many different ways to put your choral library together on a database—Excel, Access, FileMaker, dBase, MusicLibrarian. I prefer Google Drive for its simplicity of use.

Facebook is known and used by most of you. I find it a place to network with other musicians through the Episcopal Church Musicians group and the Association of Anglican Musicians group, among others. It’s a wonderful tool for crowdsourcing. In most cases, the people are polite and respectful. Both of these groups are moderated and any offensive posts are removed immediately. One use for Facebook would be to encourage your choir members to join and to set up a private group. With a group of this nature you can communicate with choir members and responses are shared with all. Anything that lessens the load on my inbox is welcome!

External Hard Drives from any of the office supply stores are also handy. I bought one at Staples for $60 and back up my data a couple of times a week. Automatic continuous back-up is the main attraction of subscribing to a service. As a back up to my back-up I email important documents and scores to myself so that they are backed up to the cloud—just for peace of mind!

So, there you have it! When I first started thinking about curating a list of apps and websites that might be useful for church musicians, I had no idea of how many there actually were. It has been an education for me and I hope to discover more along the way. However, as we all know, the only thing we can be sure of is that tomorrow things will be different. New apps are being created every day. Websites are becoming increasingly easy to design. Just around the corner will be the next new thing and if this “new thing” is something that helps us to live into our vocations more fully, I’ll be the first to try it!

Note: Once I submit this article, I will think of sites and apps that I omitted, and you will probably find that some of your favorites are missing. Let me know what those are.


Ellen Johnston is Director of the Center for Liturgy and Music at Virginia Theological Seminary.