Ask Them to Step Inside the Music
7 May 2022
by Barbara Ann Fackler

Children of the Heavenly Father, lead sheet PDF.

I've been visiting a dear family friend who is adjusting to nursing care. The happiest visits are those when I take a harp along. Conversation is great, but slows after a bit; what's new to talk about? Music takes her to a different place, outside of the frailty that directs her choices now.

We alternate visits with either her choice of music or mine. This week was my choice, so we started with music by Bernard Andrés (Petite Pas and Autumn Dances) followed by some of my compositions. Every harp session ends with some of her favorite hymns.

As I played for Mavis today, I was reminded how important, especially in sitations like this, to play hymns in the original keys or as close as possible to the original keys. Mavis sang along, eyes closed, remembering the words to all the verses. If the music is too high or too low, singing is more difficult, even for those in good health. An easily sung key is an invitation to join.

Keys for hymns are carefully chosen, based on the ability of the average untrained voice. They are not too high and not too low for most people, allowing easy participation for all (or at least most). Sometimes, especially with lever harp, it's tempting to choose a different key. Sometimes bundling several hymns together without moving levers, sometimes because the harp doesn't have full levers, there's usually a reason that drives this decision may sacrifice the possibility of singing along.

Mavis reminded me today that keeping hymns in singable keys matters. You never know when you'll find someone singing or humming along.

To give you a head start on this, I've posted two lead sheets that offer the hymnal key of each hymn along with transposed lever-harp-friendly keys as alternate options. If you don't read lead sheets fluently, check my tutorial on reading lead sheets for help with that, including some examples from these two hymns that Mavis sang with me today.

When you include hymns to soothe a friend, or as part of your therapeutic work, remember to check and see if the tunes can be easily sung. You'll bless those who listen if they can hum or sing along. Ask them to step inside the music with you, it can be a delight to everyone.

Free lead sheet for For the Beauty of the Earth

Free lead sheet for Children of the Heavenly Father