Music of the Month: Proclaim! Preludes for Christmas

The Proclaim! series provides organists with substantive service music and hymn harmonizations for the Hymn of the Day, as found in the One-Year and Three-Year Lectionaries of Lutheran Service Book. Since this series features a broad representation of composers, the expression of different composers’ voices provides a variety of artistry and style. With this volume, organists have service music and alternate hymn accompaniments for every Hymn of the Day during Christmas.


One example of the versatility of the Proclaim! series is John Eggert’s variations on QUEM PASTORES (“Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising”). Eggert has written two short variations on the hymn tune that could be used as a hymn introduction or prelude throughout the service during the Christmas season, as well as an alternate harmonization to accompany the congregation’s singing of the hymn.

Eggert’s first variation on the tune is written in 6/8 meter. Although the tune and hymn appear in 3/4 meter in Lutheran Service Book, the 6/8 meter realizes the swing-like movement of the tune. This keeps the tune lively, moves it forward, and catches the ear of the listener, who will then be better prepared to sing the hymn.

The variation in 6/8 calls for the melody to be played with a mutation on a solo manual in the treble clef so that it sticks out from the accompaniment on the pedal and other manual. This gives the melody a fresh and spritely feel, further emphasizing it in the listener’s ear.

Eggert’s second variation on QUEM PASTORES is versatile by itself; it can be played with full register with a fanfare-like quality, or on a smaller scale with a quieter register. It, too, features the melody on a solo manual; this time, in the bass clef.

When playing this second variation on a full register, a strong solo reed to showcase the melody would be appropriate to balance with a plenum register in the pedal and on the other manual. When playing this variation softly, either a gentle reed, a warm flute, or principal would highlight the melody well. A note at the bottom of the score indicates that, even while playing this variation with a quiet register, it should be interpreted as “spirited, light, and buoyant.”

Eggert’s hymn harmonization is simple but effective. It features tied, sustained notes in the pedal to undergird the melody and harmony in the manuals. As the tune rises, the harmony stacks and builds up, and as the tune falls, it disassembles. As the tune evens out at the completion of the hymn, the harmony does the same.

Matching It with the Text

Interpreting a single hymn tune in various ways, as the Proclaim! series does, has multiple benefits. First, it offers the organist fresh, different ways to introduce or feature a tune throughout the church service. It also reflects the scope of a hymn’s text.

In the case of “Come, Your Hearts and Voices Raising,” this six-stanza hymn ranges from joyous and gleeful to reflective and somber. It begins with the call in stanza one: “Loudly sing His love amazing, Worthy folk of Christendom.”

But then, in stanza two, it tells us that God has sent His Son because He “In our need His help extending, Saved us from the wily foe.” And in stanza four, Christ sets us free “From the bondage that oppressed us, From sin’s fetters that possessed us, From the grief that sore distressed us.”

The joy of Christ’s incarnation is still present in this stanza of Paul Gerhardt’s text, but we know that God sends His Son into the world to redeem the world and save it from sin and death. That means He must die a torturous death by crucifixion. Without Good Friday, there is no joy in Christmas.

The hymn ends with stanzas five and six that proclaim the “Joy beyond expressing” and that we will soon “Join Your choir above” in heaven to praise the Christ—the same Christ whom angels praised at His birth in Bethlehem.

The scope of this hymn’s text illustrates why different musical interpretations of the hymn’s tune serve the text’s purpose. The tune can be played quietly, loudly, or spiritedly. The different variations and interpretations of QUEM PASTORES, as well as the other tunes in the Proclaim! series, accomplish this and will enhance any congregation’s celebration of Christmas.
Text copyright © 2019 Concordia Publishing House.


QUEM PASTORES variations from “Proclaim! Preludes and Harmonizations for the Hymn of the Day (Christmas).” Copyright © 2019 Concordia Publishing House.

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Written by

Nathan Grime

Nathan Grime is from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a 2020 graduate of Hillsdale College, where he studied rhetoric, public address, and journalism. Nathan is the fifth and sixth grade teacher at Our Savior Lutheran School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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