Jubilate Music Group

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Jan 16, 2019


Years ago (as in probably 30 – 40 years ago), the idea of a Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church.  However, the Roman Catholic Church embraced it early.  And although such a service has ancient roots, it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.  These “services of darkness”, as they are often called, have therefore become a “bright spot” one could say for churches coast-to-coast that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.

Thanks to sacred music publishers responding to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae, they have responded with a variety of publications which are ready-to-prepare-and-present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.

A Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday (or of course any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service).

“Tenebrae” comes from the Latin meaning “shadows” or “darkness,” so it is a service of shadows.  The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles to symbolize the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus's burial.  This increasing darkness symbolizes the approaching darkness of Jesus's death and of hopelessness in the world without God. The service concludes in darkness, sometimes with a final candle, the Christ candle (extinguished or carried out of the sanctuary, symbolizing the death of Jesus). A loud noise may also sound symbolizing the closing of Jesus' tomb. The worshipers then leave in silence to ponder the impact of Christ's death and await the coming Resurrection.

Tenebrae services generally should begin in a dimly-lit sanctuary with five lit candles at the front, along with a sixth candle, the Christ candle.  Each candle is extinguished as directed by the worship leader(s) during the service, with the Christ candle being extinguished near the end of the final piece of the work.  Some churches desire the Christ candle not be extinguished, but taken from the sanctuary in front of a silent procession with the choir as they exit.  Regardless of the approach you choose in extinguishing the Christ candle, the congregation should depart in silence.  (This direction should be given in the program, so anyone in attendance who is not aware of this tradition of a Tenebrae service can be fully informed).

During a prelude, you may choose to have the choir process, with chosen laypersons or choir members leading the procession carrying the six lit candles.  Those candles are then placed in holders in front of the sanctuary.

The narration may be read by one reader or several readers.  If you choose to have more than one reader, the readings can be divided among lines and paragraphs as desired.

A new Tenebrae service published by Jubilate Music Group for 2019 (It is Finished by Mary McDonald) offers optional PowerPoint images for projection during the service, which correspond with the mood of each piece being sung.  This additional service tool is offered as means to enhance the overall impact of the work and the events depicted during Holy Week.  The PowerPoint images change with the beginning of each anthem sung during the 30-minute presentation.

Another service option for a Tenebrae is to serve communion during the work if so desired.  This option further enhances and deepens the overall experience of the service, while engaging the congregants in the act of communion as did Jesus with his disciples during Holy Week. 

In whatever manner you may choose to use a Tenebrae service, you’ll find this ancient service still speaks beautifully to today’s worshipers (especially when utilizing one of the newest or more recent published services which help guide and provide a compelling experience for all participants).




Bring the Ring!

Oct 04, 2018
Bring the Ring!
By Sondra Tucker

I am not by any means a master gardener.  But every spring, I get excited when my local nursery begins to display their colorful annuals and perennials for sale. I shop for old favorites like geraniums and sweet-smelling marigolds, and add new varieties that are different and beautiful.  I fill my car with what I hope will be hardy plants that will grow and blossom, making my yard more beautiful, and I carefully plant, fertilize and water them throughout the summer.

Handbell choirs can be like that, too.  Each new season brings an opportunity to greet old friends and integrate new ringers into your ministry.  Providing the right mix of instruction, inspiration, and music can make your handbell ministry flourish and become an integral part of your church’s music ministry, both within your congregation and out in the community.

What are some essential steps to grow a handbell ministry?

  1. Honor the time and gifts of your volunteers in music ministry by being prepared, punctual, enthusiastic, and on task as their director. Create a rehearsal plan and know what you want to accomplish for each piece you rehearse.  Communicate your goals clearly to the ensemble.  Expect regular attendance, punctuality, attention, and willingness to work on details from each of your ringers. Walk that tightrope between worship needs and ringer availability to schedule ringing in worship.  Since it is so difficult to rehearse with missing personnel, I highly recommend maintaining a sub list, so that occasional absences are less of a problem.
  2. Meet your ringers where they are, not where you want them to be. This means selecting music that is within your ensemble’s ability to prepare and ring successfully. Music that is too easy can be boring.  Music that is too difficult can be frustrating. Just as important is allowing enough rehearsal time to adequately prepare the music you have selected.  Within the range of music in your folder, make sure to provide a variety of styles, with enough ease for working on nuance or specialized techniques, and enough challenges to provide opportunities for growth.
  3. Find plentiful opportunities in worship for ringers to be successful and which complement and enhance the worship service. Since for most groups, handbells have to be moved and set up within the worship space each time they ring in church, it makes sense to play more than just a prelude or offertory.  Resources abound for processionals, peals, and accompaniments to enhance the entire service.
  4. Find opportunities for children and youth to use handbells, both in worship and in Sunday school. Music for children is usually graded Level 1, and is for two or three octaves of handbells.  Remember: a C4 in the hands of a 9 year old is proportionally the same as a C3 to an adult!
  5. Provide good music –
  • which is at an appropriate difficulty level
  •  which is written for the size bell choir you have (2 octaves to 6 or more octaves).
    • Most published music is written in 2-3 octave or 3-5+ octave versions. It takes 7 people to ring two octaves, 11 to ring 3 octaves, 12 to ring 4 octaves, and 13 to ring 5 octaves, although experienced ensembles can sometimes get by with fewer folks.
  • which is well crafted and interesting, with creative and emotional impact. I am quite proud of our Alfred Handbell catalog, which contains music written by leading composers and arrangers in our art form, and which ranges from very easy to quite difficult, and for all sizes of ensembles.
  • which fits the worship style of your congregation. Our reproducible handbell collection Bells & Chimes for Special Times provides wonderful music for each season of the church year.
  • which combines music for bells and choir, and bells with other instruments.
    • Many possibilities abound! For example, Joe Martin and Tina English’s Ring the Christmas Bells is written for SATB with a part for 2 octave handbells.
    • Many of our handbell anthems contain parts for other instruments. One example is All Praise and Glory which is a majestic upper level handbell anthem with an optional part for organ.
  • Offer opportunities to grow skills. Attend your local or area festivals, director’s seminars, and national events. Handbell Musicians of America is an active organization, and provides a national event each year (the next one will be in July 2019 in St. Louis!), opportunities for advanced ringers to come together, and events in each of 12 regional areas. Find them at http://www.handbellmusicians.org and join!  HMA offers affordable Ringer Memberships as well! Watch fabulous groups from around the world on YouTube. Support your local community handbell ensemble, and attend live concerts whenever possible.
  • Remember that musical ministries in the church exist to support the worship of the larger congregation, but also exist as small groups, and the bonds between members of a bell choir can become precious and long-lasting. Empower everyone in your group to minister to one another.

If you “plant” your handbell ministry in the right soil, with the tender care and encouragement, you will reap the rewards of a vibrant musical garden. Enjoy!

Sondra Tucker, BSE, MMus is Handbell Editor for Alfred Handbell, a division of Jubilate Music Group. She is a retired Organist/Choirmaster and Chair of Area 6 of Handbell Musicians of America, and teaches composition at the Master Series of classes sponsored by the Guild. She is in demand as a conductor and clinician for denominational and Guild events. Sondra is an accomplished organist and flutist, and her published works include music for choir, organ, and instrumental ensembles in addition to handbells. She lives in Memphis with her husband, and has two children and two granddaughters.

A Chat with Jill Gallina

Aug 21, 2018


Jill and Michael Gallina have achieved national prominence as award-winning composers of musical plays and choral music for youth in elementary, middle, junior and senior high schools. Their clever creations in story and song have consistently won awards from the Parents Choice Foundation, American Library Service and ASCAP. Their music has been featured and performed on the Disney Channel, The World's Largest Concert, PBS, The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Sing for the Cure, The New York Philharmonic, The Boston Pops, and in a documentary on children's rights for the United Nations. The Gallinas are inspiring music directors all across the English-speaking world with their music and educator workshops. They have presented in service clinics at numerous state Music Educator conferences as well as colleges and universities including, Villanova, LSU, College of NJ, Concordia College, Westminster Choir College and many more.  Their chorals have sold millions of copies and their musical plays have hundreds of performances across the globe each year. They are educating, enlightening, and engaging today’s youth with their consummate talents and creativity.

Jill , you and your husband Michael are “The Rodgers and Hammerstein” of elementary musicals!  What was your first published musical, and when?  How did that come about?

JG: The first play I ever wrote by myself was Santa and the Snowmobile. I had written it as a poem with music and sent it to Marjorie Farmer the late head editor of an educational music publisher. She gave me a play format to follow and asked me to set it as a musical play which I did. It became a best seller and Marjorie Farmer became one of my first mentors. The first musical we wrote together was Of Mice and Mozart. Michael had always been giving me great lines and suggestions for my musicals, so we decided to write one together and it became our first collaboration. We hadn't come up with a title for the play and we were discussing the story of having mice who lived in the woodwork of Mozart's house tell his story. Our daughter Kim (who was 10 at the time) piped up with "Why don't you call it ‘Of Mice and Mozart!’ ".  Thanks to Kim, that became the title of the play!

What are a few of the most rewarding things you enjoy most about what you’ve done as composers/clinicians through the years?

JG: Professionally, having our music performed from schools and concert stages and by orchestras such as the Boston Pops and The New York Philharmonic. Personally the most rewarding thing has been meeting so many dedicated and talented teachers around the country. Many of them have become close personal friends and we are so grateful for their encouragement, support and inspiration! We are truly blessed!

What is one of your favorite or funniest memories from a project or “from the road?”

JG: One hilarious incident comes to mind. We were on the road with one of our colleagues. One of our musicals was being performed and we went backstage with our colleague to wish the cast  of students and a few adults, good luck . One of the women with wild hair walked by and our colleague (thinking it was a wig and she was wearing it because she was probably in the show), went up to her and said with a shocked expression, "Funny, great wig!".  It turns out it was her REAL hair! We laugh about it to this day!

What did you want people to take away after seeing a performance of MR. PFISTER’S CHRISTMAS TIME TRAVELERS?

JG: The meaning in Mr. Pfister's Christmas Time Travelers is to remember to keep the message of  love, joy, and the true (Holy) Spirit of Christmas in your hearts and minds throughout the entire year!


Browse Jill Gallina's publications here.


A Chat with Tom Fettke

Jun 11, 2018

Tom Fettke has been offering his creative compositional/arranging and producing gifts to church musicians for almost five decades.  Many of his songs are staples in church choirs’ repertoires, having impacted millions of people literally around the world.  And yet, this veteran is never one to rest on his substantial laurels, having just completed his newest Christmas musical for Jubilate Music Group (Alfred Sacred imprint) titled “God Came Near”, using the iconic Christmas writings of best-selling author Max Lucado.  Tom took time out of his busy schedule recently to discuss with us this new work, his remarkable and celebrated career, reflect a bit on church music today, and even share with us a few of his favorite things.

Tom, you are regarded as a living legend in the world of choral music by a vast number of leaders and participants. When did your journey as a composer and arranger of musical works begin?

TF: Music has dominated my life since I was five years old. My mom and dad sacrificed mightily to provide me with training in the arts which included voice and piano lessons, drama lessons and even ballet lessons (which didn’t last very long!). My interest in the arts did not waver as I continued to mature. An interest in choral music came early in my development. I began attending a small church as a result of the missionary outreach of our next-door neighbor. Because the church consisted of a small number of followers I was privileged to participate in church musical activities at a much earlier age then is probably normal. The Youth for Christ movement -- most noted for their Saturday Night Youth Rallies -- was the most influential experience of my young life. These rallies were loaded with musical opportunities and were  catalyst for putting my music performing as well as writing gifts to work. My facility grew as I continued to write for YFC and church choirs (I began church choir directing when I was 19). A lot of stuff was written before I began to think that maybe my creative efforts were publishable! It wasn’t until 1972 at 31 years of age that I had the opportunity and the guts to show my compositions to a publisher. To my surprise and delight all three of the ones I submitted were accepted. During the 17 years that led up to that moment I had experimented with “real choirs” and through positive and negative experiences I had discovered what works with church choirs and which compositional devices were most effective. More importantly, I perfected the art of voice leading which rendered my writing quite accessible; I wrote choral music that the church volunteer singer could sing effectively.

What was the name of your first published anthem and your first published cantata or musical?

TF: My first published anthem: “My God How Wonderful Thou Art” (1972). My first published Christmas cantata: “Love, Joy, Peace“ (1973).

Your best known anthem, with well over 1 million copies in print, is “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”. When you completed the anthem and laid your writing instrument down did you have any idea that it would become standard repertoire for thousands of choirs in almost every denomination?

TF: There is a lengthy story behind the creation of “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”, which is printed in some of the editions of the anthem. For this article let me recount the end of the story: Late one night in a music store, where I was working at the time, I was seated at a 9 foot Baldwin grand piano (1978); I played through and sang the completed anthem… It was an incredibly moving experience for me and I knew at that time, that God had chosen to touch this musical and textual creation. God wrote it! I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I was only a tool in the hands of God to display His handiwork.

What are a few of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences as a composer/arranger/clinician down through the years?


  • To give birth to musical works in the recording studio.
  • To search for and discover new lyrics and musical devices.
  • To see and hear 600 high school age young people touched and impacted by performing “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name”.
  • To see lives changed and enriched through the ministry of choral music.
  • To help and tutor “people with the gift“ achieve and succeed.
  • To share my music experiences with my spouse.
  • To bring glory to my God. Soli Deo Gloria!
  • To find the lost chords!

What is one of your favorite or funniest memories from your experiences “on the road” as a clinician?

TF: A shredded wardrobe! I had a number of conferences in the South and South East packed in a four week period of time. My wife Jan and I decided to drive and make a scenic tour of it. After four or five conferences and 2 1/2 weeks on the road we arrived in Spartanburg South Carolina late one evening and ascertained we only had one change of clothing left. So we sorted and placed the things needing cleaning in the plastic bags provided… Trousers, dresses, sport coat, dress shirts, etc. I took the two bags chock full of stuff to the front desk requesting next day service. The next day we arrived back at the hotel about 6:00 PM expecting the laundry to be in our room but alas, it was not. I called the front desk. They had no idea where it was and said that the cleaners’ was closed for the night and they would run it down first thing in the morning. Luckily my reading session was in the afternoon the next day. The front desk called at about noon and said they were in possession of our cleaning and they would have it delivered to our room. Sigh of relief! Upon arrival, we removed the plastic and paper wrap things to find all of our clothing… Every last item shredded into long strips of fabric. Apparently an employee of the hotel thought our laundry bags were trash bags-- they ran them through the hotel compactor/shredder! When they discovered their error they placed the clothing in two more bags and sent them off to the laundry???!!! We will never know why they did that. A trip to a Spartanburg department store got us through the rest of the trip. After haggling with the hotel chain for a few months we were finally reimbursed for our losses.

What was your favorite thing about working with the writings of Max Lucado for “God Came Near”?

TF: I am blown away by all the writings of Max Lucado. He says things that no one else is saying in a style no one else is using. I call it “practical eloquence and simplicity”. Here is an example of this:

“Christmas celebrates a coming. An arrival. An Advent. Christmas remembers God showing up. Not showing off with Angel-driven chariots or Magic Kingdom fireworks. But showing up riding on a donkey, led by a carpenter, in the belly of a peasant girl. Christmas commemorates God’s most uncommon decision: to come commonly." * 

Wow!!! Here are a few adjectives that I believe describe the characteristics of his writing:

  • dramatic
  • descriptive
  • powerful
  • penetrating
  • awesome
  • reverent
  • vividly expressive
  • forceful
  • persuasive
  • heartwarming
  • wonder-filled
  • priceless

When I work with Mr. Lucado’s writings I expect to be moved and inspired… And I am never disappointed! One more quote to illustrate my point: 

“In the mystery of Christmas, we find its majesty. The mystery of how God became flesh, why He chose to come, and how much He must love His people. Such mysteries can never be solved, just as love can never be diagrammed. Christmas is best pondered, not with logic, but imagination.” *

What words of encouragement can you give to church choir directors in an age where church choirs aren’t as plentiful as they once were?

TF: Hang in there:

  • Your choir can and will have an impact upon the spiritual well-being of the congregation. Prepare your choristers well (like a pastor prepares for the delivery of an inspiring sermon). Remember: God is excellent and He commands us to be like Him.
  • Your choir can and will minister to the diverse body of believers sitting in the pew. Achieve this through a diverse repertoire. Each person responds to different kinds of stimuli. It behooves us to present a balanced and blended choice of anthems, hymns, and contemporary songs.
  • Remember and take pride in the fact that choir participation offers the opportunity for musically gifted people to use their talents to glorify a living God. Discontinuing choirs and orchestras in favor of selective ensembles is a travesty.
  • Your choir is a community of friends and believers. They minister to each other. They share the joys and heartaches of the Christian journey. They work as one to achieve a greater purpose -- that’s what makes it unique in the body of Christ.
  • If you didn’t have a choir, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to rehearse and present “God Came Near”. I’m convinced that your choir, instrumentalists, and congregation will benefit emotionally and spiritually by a well-prepared and heartfelt presentation. Expect to be moved and inspired. Please tell me how your concert goes: tefpro@comcast.net 

What is on your summer reading list?

TF: “He Chose the Nails” – Max Lucado

What is your favorite hymn?

TF: “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

What is your favorite vacation spot?

TF: Hawaii – the big island, if it survives!

What is your favorite summertime frozen treat?

TF: A Toasted Almond Chocolate Milkshake!

Thank you, Tom!  We are honored to have you in our family of authors at Jubilate Music Group.

Read Tom Fettke's bio here.

Browse Tom Fettke's publications here.


* Max Lucado book quotations © Copyright Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

Good Marshmallows by Mark Cabaniss

Jan 09, 2018

Years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a week-long choral arranging workshop led by legendary choral composer/arranger Alice Parker, held at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey.  That week spent with Ms. Parker had a tremendous impact on not only my own choral composing and arranging, but my eventual role as a publisher as well.  Of the many wise and invaluable things she said to the class, one of several that resonated with me was when she said “There are good marshmallows and bad marshmallows.”

She wasn’t talking about looking at the expiration date on the marshmallow bag, of course (!).  In this context, she was acknowledging that all choral pieces written and published can’t (and shouldn’t) be major works.  Or even have tremendous weight textually and musically.  There is clearly a need sometimes in large and small choirs’ repertoires for functional pieces that serve a variety of needs, some of which require the piece performed to be easy and/or quickly prepared.  Those who conduct church choirs know that inevitably there will be those “slim Sundays” when, for whatever reason…be it weather, time of year, or a flu epidemic that shrinks your ranks…the director is in need of music that’s effortlessly rehearsed and presented.  Plus, the busy time of preparation for an extended seasonal work often necessitates the need for some “sugarstick” anthems (as they’re sometimes called) that lighten the director and choir’s load.  That’s to say nothing of the fact that most church choirs in the United States are the average size of 15-20 voices (especially nowadays).  Those choirs are looking for “bread and butter” material that’s easily-prepared on a weekly basis (Sunday does come once a week, after all!), yet has a little “meat on the bones.”

Early in my publishing career, I realized that the so-called “pick-up” easy anthem book really meets those needs out there.  But I also remembered Alice Parker’s “good marshmallow” analogy, and how if you’re going to write or perform such a piece (that is, an anthem that is lightweight textually and musically), then it should be a good one.  Accordingly, whenever I’ve published a pick-up anthem book (and I’ve published several through the years), my goal has been to fill it with good marshmallows.  The latest such collection I’ve published is titled “More Sunday Savers” (built on a previously best-selling series).  You may click here to view a YouTube video of the digital reading session.

Let me hasten to add that I’m not suggesting a choir’s folder should be filled only with marshmallows, of course.  If we serve our choirs a diet only of easy anthems, no growth will take place and they won’t get the musical nourishment they need and desire.

But again, the need for this “music in an instant” is evident.  But what constitutes a solid choral anthem that’s easily prepared yet has some substance to it as well?  Here are my Top 5 Ingredients that constitute a good marshmallow:

  1. Text. Textually, the anthem should say something in a theologically sound and fresh way, or use a timeless hymn text.
  2. Tune. The melody (and supportive harmony) should be singable without a lot of disjunct or surprising twists and turns.
  3. Vocal Scoring. The vocal scoring should follow traditional rules of voice leading.  But the easy anthem in particular should not contain any surprising or moderately challenging voice leading that will consume a lot of rehearsal time.
  4. Length. The anthem shouldn’t be too long.  Otherwise, you risk spending too much valuable rehearsal time on one anthem.
  5. Accompaniment. The accompaniment should be interesting, playable, and creative without being overly simplistic (and in a key that’s not full of chromaticism).

When you look at these criteria at a glance, it seems a no-brainer that these would be the requirements for an easy anthem. But I’ve found through the years to truly get all of these factors flowing together in a cohesive manner isn’t as easy as it looks.  There also needs to be that final, hard-to-put-your-finger-on ingredient that says “This anthem is fresh and my choir and congregation will enjoy and be uplifted by it.”  But when you do get all of these elements together, you’ve got a recipe for success when it comes to serving up good marshmallows to your crowd.  Some of today’s worship styles (in my humble opinion) often applaud and live on bad musical marshmallows (whether the participants realize it or not…since if that’s all they’re served, they don’t know the difference).  However, presenting solid choral anthems (even when time and resources may be short) that meet needs with well-crafted musicianship will help foster growing, vibrant choirs.  And vibrant choirs can often be the fuel to grow churches.  When blended with a balanced menu of more challenging selections, good marshmallows can supplement and create a wonderful choral worship experience.  They’ll be consumed pleasantly, with no bitter aftertaste – or guilt!


  • Jubilate Music Group
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