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Hallelujah for the ‘new normal’

Like many SA music leaders around the globe, Dr. Harold Burgmayer, the Music and Creative Ministries Secretary for the USA Central Territory, has struggled with the loss of live music-making under the constraints of isolation and social-distancing. The worldwide pandemic has forced congregations to pre-record and livestream services. A groundswell of interviews and collage videos have brought people together virtually and one Salvation Army worship music resource that has reached across the globe has been the ‘Hallelujah Choruses’. Here, Harold Burgmayer explains their value as we face a ‘new normal’ future.

‘Hallelujah Choruses’ is a collection of songs and choruses intended to enhance congregational praise and worship through music. Its purpose is to bring freshness to our expressions of worship by supplementing new arrangements of the great hymns of the church with accessible settings of contemporary songs. The resource is versatile because the products can be used in worship, no matter what the congregation size, or whether live music is offered. The accessible arrangements are attainable by musicians in an average corps ensemble and the collection’s brass accompaniments, ‘Praise Pak’, songbooks in English and Spanish, keyboard books, audio tracks and lyric videos are now being used around the world. The series has proved to be valuable during the recent months of isolation necessitating the live streaming of worship services, during which we have been fielding inquiries from churches in need of lyric videos with a vocal track as a guide for congregational singing. Fortuitously, the ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ lyric videos sync song text, line-by-line, with the vocal demonstration recording!

Looking ahead as we transition into what may be called ‘the new normal’ and back to live worship services, initially music forces may be limited to a single pianist or small praise team as social-distancing measures continue. In time and as normality resumes, brass can be added, either using the three-part ‘punch brass’ or five-part brass options. In short, the ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ accompaniment track functions effectively as a stem feed for any combination of live players and singers, and plans are in place to allow online access to all 290 ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ arrangements in print, audio and lyric video formats.


So how did it come about that we had the perfect cross-genre music worship resource at our fingertips for lockdown, future social-distancing during worship and flexibility for contemporary music ministry combinations? Well, the USA Central Territory has been producing ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ since 1992 because, in the late ‘80s, Peggy Thomas O.F. (then Norridge Citadel Corps Bandmaster and Assistant Territorial Music Secretary) felt convicted that bands needed to embrace guitars, keyboards and drums. The contemporary music world was influencing worship with what seemed to be a more relevant sound.

At the time, the Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, was known for its evangelistic worship and annually hosted a leaders’ conference. Peggy Thomas’s passion for effective worship design derives from attendance at this conference. Also, she began to realize the impact of the then emerging praise and worship movement. Churches were singing all sorts of new congregational songs and choruses, which our musicians were not equipped to accompany, except for those who played by ear. Peggy’s survey of SA songbooks showed a steady decline in the availability of choruses in print over the years. The 1930 SA songbook had 780 choruses, the 1953 songbook 457, while only 257 remained in the 1987 edition. This reduction in choruses suggested that, as The Salvation Army matured as a denomination, our worship had become more dignified, even ‘churchy’. The praise and worship movement helped bring back the lively singing of choruses to Salvation Army services and was closer to our roots. The corps band, whilst provided with complementary tune books for the songs and hymns in SA songbooks, remained without the means to accompany choruses. The band’s segregation from ‘free

and easy’ chorus singing predates, by many years, the emergence of praise bands, which dramatically altered the landscape of worship music. Thankfully, the most recent Salvation Army tune book (2015) includes band arrangements for all songs and choruses, including bracketed introductions and chord (and capo) symbols.


Birthed in an era when many churches had separate traditional and contemporary services, ‘Hallelujah Choruses' emerged as a resource for blended worship. From the earliest years, a balanced mixture of SA songs, latest contemporary, hymn arrangements and often one holiday-themed song are included in the annual collection of ten songs. All ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ are translated into Spanish and the series is adaptable for any size of congregation. Over the years, Bill Himes, supported by Marty Thomas, has worked tirelessly to maintain a consistent format for arrangements of moderate difficulty requiring just five instrumental parts that are also effective for larger, composite ensembles. Augmenting the brass band with a rhythm section comes with its challenges. Of paramount concern is the key selection to determine the melody’s placement within a comfortable congregational singing range. If set in guitar-friendly keys, the music proves less hospitable for most Salvationist brass musicians. It is a test for arrangers to capture the style of a pop song, whilst effectively assimilating the sound of a contemporary praise band into the brass band.

As ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ are intended to enhance congregational praise and worship, each arrangement begins with an intuitive introduction intended to give the congregation clear clues as to the style, key and starting point to enter singing. A variety of options for 'layering' the arrangement – a concept universally used by praise bands – help to build the congregation’s journey through the lyrics of the song. Second, third and fourth verse settings provide contrasting texture and intensity, using effective interludes and usually one key change. Traditionally, the ending of congregational songs coincides with the conclusion of singing, but there are instances where an additional instrumental tag provides meaningful closure to the overall mood of the song.


Each year, a set of ten ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ are arranged with the following audio and video resources available:

  • The ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ accompaniment tracks bring together a rhythm section with selected brass, either three-part punch brass, a small or larger brass ensemble. The choice of instrumentation varies with the style of the arrangement, occasionally limited to solely brass or rhythm, and a master lead sheet with melody line, chords and lyrics provides the road map of introductions, transitions and key changes for the song leader or soloist. The accompaniment track can act as a backing track for choral groups lacking a pianist, using the three-part SAB Hallelujah Choruses’ vocal books.

  • The ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ demonstration tracks build on the accompaniment track with the addition of recorded voices, which is especially useful for congregations without musical sections.

  • ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ lyric videos are synchronized for each song based on the audio from the demonstration track.


‘Hallelujah Choruses’ are designed to fit many different types and sizes of church music groups, from full praise bands to traditional brass bands, or just a guitar or piano accompanying a few voices or players. The accessible keyboard part is effective as an accompaniment of its own and the five-part instrumental accompaniments may be utilized with, or independent of the rhythm parts. The three-part brass parts provide ‘punch’ or sustained atmosphere and are intended for use only with the praise team. Here are some basic ways to use this resource, even with a very limited number of musicians:

  • ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ instrumental accompaniments are scored for brass quintet with optional, but compatible keyboard, guitar, bass guitar and percussion parts. The instrumental parts are available in different clefs and keys for use by even winds and strings. Instrumentation: (optional parts indicated in parenthesis) Part I – Bb cornet (Eb soprano and C instrument) Part II – Bb cornet, Eb horn (F horn) Part III – Eb horn, Bb baritone/trombone (F horn and bass clef) Part IV – Eb tuba, Bb tuba (bass clef/bass trombone Part V – euphonium (bass clef) Keyboard (optional) Master and guitar leads (with capo chords, where needed) Bass guitar (optional) Percussion I and II (optional) Full score

  • 'Hallelujah Choruses Praise Paks’ are ideal for praise teams, including parts scored for singers and rhythm instrumentalists: Three-part SAB vocal parts and keyboard score Master leads (for lead singer/song leader) Guitar leads (with capo chords, where needed) Bass guitar Drum set Three-part ‘punch’ brass (available for trumpet/cornet 1 and 2, optional Eb2 and trombone (treble and bass clef)

Additional ‘Hallelujah Choruses’ resources include:

  • ’Hallelujah Choruses Songbook’ is a bilingual publication, with separate editions of music and words in English and Spanish, in the same book. These songbooks use a lead sheet format with melody line and lyrics. Chord symbols are provided above the melody to accommodate a variety of keyboard and string accompaniments, including piano, guitar and bass. Indices relative to key, tempo and scripture reference make the ‘Hallelujah Choruses Songbook’ useful for worship planners.

  • ‘Hallelujah Choruses Vocal Series’ was developed for choirs or praise team singers. The three-part (SAB) vocals with standard two-stave keyboard part (with chord symbols) are well suited for performance, or for the leading of congregational singing.

  • ‘Sacred Hymns for Brass Quintet’ is a collection of 12 well-known hymns, based on ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ arrangements, suitable as special music (prelude, offertory, postlude) in churches, utilizing standard brass quintet instrumentation (trumpets 1 and 2, F horn, trombone and tuba). Alternative treble clef and Eb parts are included for use by instrumentalists from Salvation Army or other brass bands. Turn to the next two pages for review of ‘Hallelujah Choruses 27’ audio tracks and ‘Sacred Hymns for Brass Quintet’.

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