Illuminated Hymnal, Detail

Anyone who has played for a church service knows the need to change from one hymnal to another quickly during the service. During the past 3 weeks, I have been exploring how best to do that.

The church in which I work uses 2 hymnals regularly. The congregation has book-sized versions that sometimes have only the voice parts. The keyboard versions, however, are much larger.

The service music includes a hymn here, a sung response there, etc. This is not a liturgical church, but there are just as many pages involved.

Both hymnals are published in ring binders.  One binder is the size of the Oxford English Dictionary!  The pages in each are difficult to work with because of the large rings.

During the service I play both organ and piano, moving from one to the other more than once.

First attempt

Three weeks ago, I removed the pages I needed from the keyboard version of the hymnals. The pages were loose, though, which felt risky.

Following the service, it took quite a while to reassemble both hymnals. Again, the pages are hard to turn. So turning from page 24 to page 359, for example, must be accomplished in sections.

Second week

During the following Sunday, I kept the books intact. This meant changing from piano to organ and back while carrying both books.

While at the piano, it came time to use the smaller, regular service hymnal. With that open to the page I needed on the music rack, I needed to find a place for the larger hymnal.

The choices were to:

  • Leave the larger hymnal open to the page needed next.
  • Close the hymnal and find the page later.

But problems arose with each choice.

  • Leaving the hymnal open made the book to wide to fit on the piano bench. With the hymnal placed in one direction, I would have been sitting on ½ the book; if placed in the other direction, it would have fallen to the floor.
  • Closing the hymnal would create difficulty in finding the page I needed. Turning pages in clumps takes more time.
  • Open or closed, setting the hymnal on the floor wouldn’t work. It’s too heavy to pick up by leaning over. In addition, there are people who object to any religious book being placed on the floor.

My solution that day was to leave the hymnal open, placing it on top of the organ. But to retrieve it, I had to stand and walk a few steps over to the organ and back, which seemed to be a distraction as well as time-

I needed to think of something else.

Third try

A friend (thank you!) had suggested removing the pages I needed and placing them in a smaller binder. That way, all the music for that service would be organized, secured, and easily portable.

I wanted to try that, but spending a lot of time putting the hymnals back together was a problem still. This Sunday’s service music included 4 pages from each hymnal, completely out of order in every way.

And then I had an idea. Why not mark the place where each page had been removed with a Post-it?

So I did that on Saturday after practicing for the service.

With a big pink Post-it in each blank space, visible well above the top of the page, reassembling the books was much faster.

So that’s the plan from now on. I recommend it.

How do you handle the music books during services?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


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