I often get requests for recommendations for offertory or special instrumental books. I am going to share a few posts about this, since there are a lot of options out there.
This post will be specifically for moderate/intermediate/early advanced pianists. I may add a second post for this level at a later time.
Before I give you my recommendations, let me share a few things that are good guidelines for offertories. These aren’t hard and fast rules, but I believe they will be helpful to you and your church.
1. Choose an offertory that is familiar.
While not everyone is going to know every song, it is good to select songs that will be familiar to most. This allows them to “sing along” in their minds with you, and helps to keep the music directed to the Lord and not just become a time filler or musical performance. Along those same lines, it can be good to have variations of a song (a minor verse or change in timing for a verse or chorus), but if the arrangement is so different from the original song that it is not recognizable to most people, it is not usually something I choose.
2. Choose a song that you can play skillfully.
It is always better to play something simple well than to play something difficult poorly. Simple arrangements can be beautiful if they are played with skill and musicality. Don’t aim to impress; aim to bless.
3. Choose an arrangement that is not too long.
An appropriate length will vary depending on how large your church is, how they take up the offering (do they pass the plate down every row, or simply pause for those who wish to give), and other factors. While it is acceptable to go a little bit past the time the ushers take to finish, this is not the time to play a concert. If the offering time takes one minute, and you are playing for five minutes, that is probably too long. In my church, I try to keep most of my offertories to a maximum of three minutes. This means sometimes editing pieces to make them work for me.
With that being said, here are some of my favorite books for moderate to early advanced difficulty. This is not a blanket endorsement of every song, and I will try to mention any caveats I may have. I look for arrangements that are creative and beautiful, but that keep the melody line clear and are not “rocky” or heavily syncopated.
Joyful Melodies by Jennifer Hall
This series is good from beginner to moderate, but Book 4 is very nice for simple, but pretty, arrangements.
Playing Piano Praises, Vol. 3 by Glenn and Jan Christianson
I enjoy anything arranged by the Christiansons. They do an excellent job, and have helped me with many of my arrangements. (Side note: if you have written music and are looking for someone to transcribe it for you, you should contact them! They offer a lot of wonderful resources and services.)
Songs of Promise by Cindy Berry
I really enjoy this book! My copy is well-worn. There are a couple arrangements that I don’t play as often because they are not very familiar, but overall, this is a great book. I think there is one arrangement that is a little more “swing” than I am comfortable playing, but overall this is a solid book. The arrangements are not difficult, but are very pretty. It is a bit expensive (maybe because it is older), but is a solid choice.
To God Be the Glory
This book by Stan Pethel is another gem. These arrangements are not too long, are all familiar songs by Fanny Crosby. I think there is only one in this book that I don’t play.
Face to Face by Roger House
This one is a bit harder to find, but would be worth buying used. My favorite things about this book are that the arrangements are only 2-3 pages, but have a lot of interesting chords. He does tend toward some jazzy chording, so I don’t use all of the songs, but enjoy most of them. Another similar book entitled, Heart to Heart, also has some good arrangements.
There are a lot of other good books out there, but these are a few of my favorites. I will update and add to this list if I come across more.
Who are some of your favorite arrangers? I’d love to hear from you!