Music is often a struggle for smaller congregations. What can you do if there’s no one who can play an instrument? Here is one solution: smallchurchmusic.com. This is a huge website with thousands of downloadable mp3 files. Music that is in the public domain is free. Copyrighted music requires a very small copyright fee. (Note that reproducing words and music for your bulletin or screen requires a separate copyright license such as CCLI.)
Here’s how it works: you download the music you need to your computer. Then you can put it on a device such as an iPod and play the music through speakers. If you are a tiny church that meets in someone’s home, for example, you can simply dock the iPod in a home stereo system.
Just about every hymn you might need for traditional worship is available on this site, along with more contemporary selections such as “Shout to the Lord,” “Because He Lives,” “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,” and “Here I Am, Lord.” Pdf files of the music and lyrics are available for download, and in some cases, you can download a file to use to project the lyrics up on a screen, complete with beautiful background. Also available are mp3 files of classic pieces you can use for weddings, such as Jeremiah Clarke’s “Trumpet Voluntary.”
Most are available in multiple formats: pipe organ, piano, small band, MIDI. Some also are available with soloists or choir. When you click on a hymn title, all the available formats come up, and you can click to hear short samples of each. (Click on the titles above for samples.) You can also see how many verses of the hymn are played in the file. I was impressed with the sound of the instrumental accompaniments. The tempo is steady and meant to help prevent dragging. Fear not, though, if the tempo isn’t right for you, or you need a different number of verses. Software is available that you can use to edit your mp3 files. There is a page on the site with information about this. (I also know someone who knows how to do this. Contact me for more information. See also WavePad Audio Editing Software.)
Most of the soloists did not impress me, but the choir selections sounded good. This choir resembles the choirs I remember hearing on the radio when I was a child. Your congregation could easily sing along. The choir selections come from an organization called the Center for Church Music, which has its own website. (Click here to listen to “Come, Christians, Join to Sing.”) Besides listening to the hymns that the CFCM has produced, you can learn more about each hymn, view pdf files of the music and lyrics and read suggestions for a devotional based on the hymn.
Smallchurchmusic.com is a labor of love and gift to small churches around the world from Clyde McLennan, a musician and Baptist pastor from Perth, Australia. He served small churches as both pastor and musician, and he supported himself by working as a computer software specialist. He is now retired, but he continues to update his site. Thank you so very much, Mr. McLennan!