As I’ve mentioned recently, one of the most common conversations I have with other leaders is on the topic of transitions and flow through worship sets. I’ve written to this topic a couple times, but thought that perhaps just walking through my train of thought behind a set list that I’ve led could be a practical application for what I’ve been writing about.
Sunday, July 7th (2013):
How Great Thou Art (B) – Paul Baloche verison
King of Wonders (B) – Matt Redman, and about 30 others …
I Will Exalt You (B) – Brooke Ligertwood
In Christ Alone (E) – Kristian Stanfill arrangement
I started off the set with a very quick ‘Good morning’. I try to give a brief explanation every Sunday about what we’re doing and why — we have visitors that come through every week and we want them to understand why we’re doing something that may seem so strange. And let’s be honest, even those of us who have been involved in worship services for years need that kick in the butt on a regular basis. I believe our worship is completely out of a response to a revelation of God, so what I say needs to point people in the direction of a revelation that they’re responding to.
I believe our worship is completely out of a response to a revelation of God …
This particular week, I knew that Isaiah 40 said what I wanted to say much better than I could have ever said it, so I read that as the band started to build into the first song. I’ve said it before — if scripture can say what you’re trying to say, 10 times out of 10 it’s better to stop talking yourself and just read scripture!!
**Note: What people DON’T see when I’m reading scripture. Notice the blue tab I stuck to the side of the page so that I could flip to it easily? Try to never get stuck flipping pages looking for your spot when people are staring at you …
This is a passage that speaks to the majesty and power of our God — speaking to His creation of the universe. We immediately dove into verse 1 of “How Great Thou Art”, which was our opportunity to respond to God’s greatness by singing, “When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds they hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. How Great Thou Art!”
After the first chorus, we pulled back again as I shifted gears a bit by reading from Philippians 2 — Christ, in His majesty and power became obedient to death and God gave Him the Name that we are to praise!! (Again, a revelation of who our God is and a call to why we should be worshiping Him!
From this revelation in scripture into verse 2 of “How Great Thou Art” — He carried my burden and died for me on the cross! How Great Thou Art!!
As we vamped through the upbeat outro of this song, Psalm 92 was on the screen:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, To sing praises to Your Name, Most High …Because You’ve made me happy, Lord, by Your acts! I sing with Joy because of Your handiwork. How awesome are Your works, Lord!
Again, another pull back to why we’re doing what we’re doing.
THEMATIC TRANSITION (How Great Thou Art – King of Wonders):
Keeping with the theme of God’s grandeur, we pulled back quite a few BPM into “King of Wonders”. I find that typically, the transition between an upbeat song to a calmer one is not the easiest to make. However, when the thematic connection is so obvious, there’s not many places you can go that wouldn’t work. In this case, we completely shifted tempos and dropped into a more reflective moment because people’s minds were already on what they were singing about in verse 1: “We could try to count the stars, You already know them each by name …”
MUSICAL TRANSITION (How Great Thou Art – King of Wonders):
Musically speaking, we changed tempo, yes, but the key was the same. We carried the B from “How Great Thou Art” right on through until the acoustic picked up the intro of “King of Wonders”, also in B.
THEMATIC TRANSITION (King of Wonders – I Will Exalt You):
The chorus of King of wonders talks about how God is above all creation but still knows the way to our hearts. That the more we see Him, the more we love Him. When planning this set, I was thinking about what I would want to sing next. If it is true that the more we see God, the more we love Him, then it makes sense to take a few moments and just declare together that we exalt His name! “God, in Your power and majesty, we exalt You!” A fairly easy transition thematically, I think …
MUSICAL TRANSITION (King of Wonders – I Will Exalt You):
Again, having both of these songs in B really helps the transition. Easy — vamping on the B from the last chord of the chorus of “King of Wonders” allowed our electric to dive into the pickup of the intro for “I Will Exalt You”, starting on … yes, B.
THEMATIC TRANSITION (I Will Exalt You – In Christ Alone):
This was another logical movement thematically — from exalting our God that is above all creation to declaring that everything we need comes from Him. It’s an easy thought flow! And really, what better way to finish up a worship set than by declaring that it’s “Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!”.
MUSICAL TRANSITION (I Will Exalt You – In Christ Alone):
Although, instead of landing on the root (B) at the end of the song this time, we landed on the 4th (E). We ended on the verse, as the recording does, and last line of the verse follows a very traditional chordal structure. “I will exalt You. You are my God!” follows a 4 (E), 5 (F#), 1 (B) resolution. Pluck it out on the guitar or piano — E F# B. You can hear the natural movement that this progression has towards resolving the song on B. If we weren’t transitioning this song anywhere, I would likely use it. It doesn’t sound blah if it’s played well, but in this particular transition that we were aiming for, we found that landing on the 4 (E) actually left things unresolved and there was more to sing. Our final chord progress, rather than 4-5-1, instead was a 4 (E) – 5 (F#) – 4 (E). Doing a loose, off-tempo swell / vamp on the 4 (E) in the cymbals, bass, electric and acoustic gave the keyboard a chance to start into the intro of In Christ Alone.
To finish up the set, we played a big outro — E | A2 | C#m | A2 :||
To bring a definite conclusion to the set, realizing that we really haven’t resolved most of these songs until now, we hit the A2 and did a big swell / trash can ending as I reiterated “All power, majesty and praise belongs to Him and Him alone!” … I turned around, looked at the drummer, and that chord that we’ve all been waiting for that brings that “ahhhhhhhhh, we’ve arrived” feeling (the root of the scale) hit heavy with the full band into the E (root) as we rang out one more full out trash can ending to close the music set up.
That was this past Sunday.
This post is to show that properly forming a set that “goes somewhere” takes much more thought and intentionality than choosing 4 songs and mashing them together into a “set”. Take your time when planning. Find the transitions that work thematically and THEN try to figure out how the musical pieces fall into place.
And make your own life easier … use the same or linking keys.