The Connected Church Musician: Part Two


This is the second 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.

Applications, cont.


The Lectionary is an app that is just that, the readings for the Sunday propers. Daily Office readings on a phone are for the current calendar day only.

Sunday Lectionary: $.99, iOS and Android 

Daily Office Lectionary provides readings for those praying the Daily Office.

Daily Office Lectionary: $1.99, iOS and Android

The Text This Week (see the information about the website below): I will say that with all of the information on the website, I’m not sure why you would want to pay $18.01 for this app.

 Textweek: $18.01, iOS and Android


Theory Lessons is an app that gives lessons and exercises in music theory and is compatible for iPhone and iPad. See below under websites (Music Theory) for more information.

Theory Lessons: $2.99, iOS

Vocal Ease is a portable warm-up studio for singers and public speakers. There are warm-ups, exercises (lip trills, ooh and aah sounds, etc.), interval exercises, and a pitch pipe that sounds a bit like a harmonica. One reviewer noted that she smiles while using this app as it gives her an “effective warm-up, while having a light quality that reminds me I’m doing this because I love to sing.”

Vocal Ease: $1.99, iOS and Android


Genius Scan can create PDFs of documents from your phone’s camera. The PDF can then be emailed directly from the app. This is useful for sending a part to someone who missed a rehearsal (though we know that doesn’t happen very often!). This app would also be useful to scan receipts, etc. and then send to the church office for reimbursement.

Genius Scan: $6.99, iOS and Android

Google Keep has proven helpful for me, particularly since I’m not twenty-two anymore and can’t always depend on my memory. For instance, on vacation last year I was on the treadmill and thought of some topics to address for the Center for Liturgy and Music website. It was very easy to pick up my phone and hit the “microphone” icon and record my ideas. You can then listen to what you said and the note is also transcribed. Of course, what is transcribed is sometimes hilarious, but it helps you to remember. You can capture, edit, and share your notes on any device, organize them with labels, set a reminder, and get text from an image.

GoogleKeep: Free, iOS and Android

Just for fun:

Shruti Box is an app that sounds a lot like a shruti box. Shruti boxes provide a rich drone background that supports singing or playing almost any instrument. It is hand-pumped, so you can produce a slightly pulsating constant chord to support the right rhythm for the style of music you are playing. One of its main purposes is to create a musical atmosphere to sustain a soloist. You can create different sounds—traditional harmonium sound, a light shruti sound (a bit clearer), and a modern flute organ.

Shruti Box: $.99, iOS and Android


Useful Websites


The Center for Liturgy and Music is a program of Virginia Theological Seminary. Since I am the director of said Center, I would be remiss in omitting it. The Center exists to give tools and resources in liturgy, music and preaching, most especially for churches with limited resources. It offers continuing education by means of conferences and symposia, provides a consultancy service for parishes and dioceses, encourages the work of diocesan liturgy and music commissions, and promotes distance learning opportunities through the Leadership Program for Musicians. The website is updated multiple times a week. There is an “Ask Ambrose” section for clergy and musicians to ask questions anonymously. The Center also sponsors workshops and symposia on campus and has a consulting component for musician search committees, helping congregations to sing, etc.

The Church Music Institute in Dallas, Texas, is dedicated to the practice, advancement, and stewardship of the best liturgical and sacred music for worshipping Christian congregations. The Institute offers educational courses, workshops, and on-site and online resources. It fosters conversation among musicians, pastors, and laypersons, and it sponsors research in the field of church music. The Institute provides workshops, conferences, a library/resource center, and online resources, especially the over 11,000-title eLibrary, where musicians and clergy can plan music for worship. Membership is available to individual and churches.

Annual subscription fees: $75/year for individuals and $200/year for churches

The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada exists to encourage, promote, and enliven congregational song. It sponsors an annual conference drawing several hundred people from around the U.S. and Canada, publishes a newsletter (The Hymn), and recently has launched a Center for Congregational Song. This Center will be an online platform and serve as a hub for education and resources. The Hymn Society is an ecumenical endeavor.

Annual membership fee: $75/year for individuals and churches

Leadership Program for Musicians maintains a website that includes three important features—a master resource list with pertinent articles and books on a wide range of topics of interest to church musicians, the bibliography for courses with links to Amazon, and a link to enroll for on-line courses. Currently being offered are Hymnody, Liturgy and Music for Episcopalians, Liturgy and Music for Lutherans, and Developing a Philosophy of Church Music. 

Royal School of Church Music exists to “uplift the spiritual life of our communities through high quality choral music.” There is a structured choral music program (Voice for Life) which helps singers to develop their vocal skills and summer music courses in regional locations with highly qualified and talented faculty. Simply said, it is the best organization for the musical training of young people.

Annual membership fee: $100/year for individuals and $125/year for churches

Worship Planning

BCPonline is just what it sounds like and doesn’t cost anything to use. The home page of the site lays out the book exactly as in the table of contents in the printed book (and even includes the Table of Contents). It is easy to copy and paste whatever you need into a service leaflet. A bit of editing after pasting is necessary since the formatting is a little off. The only part of this site that irritates me is the Psalter (the one contained in the body of the BCP). It is set in table form which makes me tear my hair out when editing for a service leaflet. A better option is to look at the bottom of the table of contents where you find a list of resources that open in a new window. Included are four different translations of the Bible—the NRSV (this takes you to Oremus Bible Browser), the RSV, the KJV, and ESV. There is a link to the Lectionary Page and to The Revised Common Lectionary. This last is the best option to copy and paste psalms for pointing. is a site that contains all of the Book of Common Prayer and would be fine for personal devotions. I wouldn’t find it useful for copying and pasting into a service leaflet. For those of you used to the Oremus Bible Browser, you will recognize the “code” that shows when transferring to a Word document. While the OBB lets you filter out the code, I can’t find a way to do that on this site.

The Lectionary Page is a site that I imagine folks in AAM use often. It gives the collect, psalm, and readings for Sundays and the high holy days, including saints’ days. The readings can be downloaded as Word documents as well. This site makes those lectionary inserts obsolete, as all readings can be pasted into a service leaflet. One of my favorite uses for this site is the Reverse Lectionary. I design liturgies for the D.Min program at Virginia Theological Seminary, and the readings for these services are not taken from the propers of the day—with a few exceptions. The Reverse Lectionary allows me to look up the reading and find where if falls in the three-year cycle. I can then use one of the music planning resources, such as Liturgical Music for the Revised Common Lectionary by Carl P. Daw, Jr. and Thomas Pavlechko, find the appropriate Sunday, and see what music is appropriate for that reading. Also available on this site are the readings for those commemorated in Lesser Feasts and Fasts, as well as newer commemorations.

Oremus is a site that contains both of the above named sites (Oremus Bible Browser and Oremus Hymnal) but contains many other features. There are links for the Daily Offices from the 1662 prayer book, Common Worship, the 1979 BCP, and audio from the New Zealand Prayer Book. Liturgical resources include prayer books from the Churches of England, Ireland, Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as the Episcopal Church in the U.S. There is a calendar of saints, as well as a lectionary (which links to the Lectionary Page). Most useful for church musicians is a listing of hymns appropriate for each Sunday in the three-year cycle, which links to the Oremus Hymnal. For example, one of the hymns listed for Advent I in Year A, related to the Isaiah reading, is “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus.” Following that link one finds the text, author, and meter, along with a listing of Anglican hymnals (with the number) in which it occurs.

Oremus Bible Brower is a site that I often use. There are several options of translations on this site—NRSV, KJV, the Common Worship psalter, the ASB Psalter, and the BCP psalter (Coverdale/1662). Other options that are helpful let you omit verse numbers, omit passage references, and, my favorite, to “really omit hidden text.” The site remembers passages you have searched in the recent past so that you can bring them up quickly. The only formatting edits needed are usually font changes. There is a search feature by which you can enter a word or phrase and the site pulls up all the citations that contain that phrase. For example, I entered “mustard seed” and the site showed seven citations containing this phrase. 

Oremus Hymnal does for hymnals what the OBB does for the Bible. From the Oremus site: “This online hymnal contains texts and MIDI files of tunes used in much of the English-speaking world, with particular emphasis on the Anglican tradition. Currently, fifty-two Anglican hymnals from the past 140 years have been indexed. These fifty-two hymnals contain nearly seven thousand distinct texts and over eighteen thousand text/tune combinations. At present, not all of the files are available. The public domain texts of the core six hymnals (marked with an asterisk in the hymnal indices above) are completely uploaded. This site hopes to be the comprehensive source of information about the extensive tradition of Anglican and English-language hymnody. This site will as well contain a number of contemporary hymn texts and tunes not widely published, in the hope that they may be discovered by the wider Church.

Containing over fifty hymnals in its database there are several ways to search—by first line, by hymn tune, by hymnal. There is a search feature powered by Google. For instance, I entered “love divine” and found 284 results. For the most part, texts and tunes on this site are in the public domain, which usually means (in the U.S.) written before 1923. If the site has permission to reproduce a copyrighted text, it will be noted on the individual page.” Also included are hymns by Marnie Barrell, Robert Higginson, and Vincent Uher.

RiteSong, a product of Church Publishing, Inc. is one of my favorite sites. PDFs, RTFs, and TIFF files are available for over 2000 hymns from The Hymnal 1982, Wonder, Love, and Praise, LEVAS II, Music By Heart, Enriching Our Music 1 & 2, and Voices Found. Copyright permission for one-time use is included in the yearly subscription. It is user friendly which makes it easy to drop a hymn or piece of service music into a service leaflet. Annual subscription depends on Sunday worship attendance ranging from $109 to $399. A single song is $4.99 

RiteWorship, part of the riteseries products, is an online bulletin builder. For those of you who have served the ELCA it is similar to Sundays and Seasons. Liturgies from the Book of Common Prayer, Rite I and II using the Revised Common Lectionary, with complete readings from Lesser Feasts and Fasts are included as well as resources available from the Book of Occasional Services and Enriching Our Worship. Annual subscription prices range from $149 to $399, depending on church attendance. A single liturgy is $8.99

Sundays and Seasons is a resource of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that, similar to RiteSong and RiteWorship, helps musicians and clergy plan services, find hymns from ELW and a host of other Lutheran hymnals, and find Bible texts. Included in a subscription is the Augsburg Fortress license which covers reprinting any of their liturgical texts. Clergy can subscribe to a “Preaching Module” to find essays from the new Sundays and Seasons: Preaching Volume, New Proclamation Commentaries, and ideas for enriching worship. Standard subscription prices for churches range from $239 to $599/year and are priced according to church attendance.

Satucket is a collection of Lectionary resources for the Episcopal Church and is updated each Sunday evening. Included are Sunday readings, Daily Office readings, and readings for saints’ days. Like the Lectionary Page there is a reverse lectionary (When Will It Be Read?) for finding the Sunday in which a particular reading will be read. Most helpful is a commentary section maintained by the Anglican Church of Montreal. This includes some interesting information. There are short commentaries on the readings and introductions to the readings for use by the reader in worship. You will find archives by date and by reading, references used, copyright information, as well as a glossary. This would be a wonderful resource for choir members and congregations.

Text This Week, while ostensibly a site for those preparing sermons, this site (and app) are useful for liturgical planners as well. A look at the week of Epiphany I gives you the actual texts, suggestions for movies about said texts, over sixty reflections, discussion and weblogs, but also ten sermons, and a dozen group discussion and reflections. Also listed are sixteen worship planning resources, a couple of dozen prayers, prefaces, and litanies, graphic and multi-media resources, and finally, original hymns and settings, hymn and choral lists, plus resources for children. And this is just on the page for the propers of the day. Like the Lectionary Page there is a reverse lectionary. You can find resources for the daily lectionary, plus resources for peace, in the time of violence, and natural disasters. This site is ecumenical and you can find a plethora of hymns, psalm settings, etc.


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

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