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Classical 09/05/2008

New Live Pipe-Organ Accompaniment Released by The Pilgrim Press

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CLEVELAND, OH. (Top40 Charts/ Pilgrim Press) - The largest music-related project undertaken by the national setting of the United Church of Christ (UCC) since the 1995 publication of The New Century Hymnal has been released by the denomination's trade publisher, The Pilgrim Press: The New Century Hymnal: A Pipe-Organ Accompaniment CD Resource for Congregational Worship & Personal Devotion, a four-volume collection that features high-quality recordings of pipe-organ accompaniment for all verses of each of the 617 hymns in The New Century Hymnal.

The New Century Hymnal is used by UCC congregations and, in an ecumenical edition, by congregations of many denominations for its use of gender-inclusive language in its texts, as well as its many new hymns and tunes composed for the 21st century. The CD resource features instrumental accompaniment only.

Conceived initially for the increasing number of congregations that do not have access to professionally-trained or other church musicians for regular or summer-vacation public worship, the CD resource is expected to find use in other pastoral situations such as weddings and funerals, college chapels, and prison ministries. The Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC General Minister and President, greeted the release with a reflection from his own pastoral experience: "These accompaniments, played on gorgeous instruments by gifted artists, will not only meet the needs of congregations currently without a resident musician, they will also creatively enhance many other ministries and programs of the church. I remember, for example, my home communion visits as a pastor. How wonderful it would have been to be able not only to carry the sacrament to my members at home, or in the hospital, or in nursing homes, but also to take with me the cherished music of the church that had always been such an important part of their life." The CDs can also be used privately at home or in the car during commute times.

Unlike many recordings of a large corpus of music, including some hymnal collections, The New Century accompaniment is recorded live in stereo inside dedicated worship spaces. There is no use of electronic or synthesized music recorded in studios. The result is a much livelier musical experience: it sounds real because it is real.

The project was conceived and jointly produced by the national setting's Worship & Education and Publications, Resources & Distribution ministry teams of Local Church Ministries: A Covenanted Ministry of the United Church of Christ. The Rev. Scott A. Ressman, Minister for Worship, Music and Liturgical Arts, is producer of the set and organized the live recordings utilizing the talents of UCC professional organists from across the country. The widely-admired instruments of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Elyria, OH, and First Church in Oberlin (OH), United Church of Christ, were used for all of the recordings to take advantage of their rich sounds and their sanctuaries' superior acoustical designs. Tyler Owen of Cleveland-based CloserLook Recording is the sound engineer.

Samples of hymns recorded may be found at as well as more information about the timing of release of the next three volumes. The introductory price is $420 for all four volumes covering the 617 hymns in The New Century Hymnal, a 20% savings over the regular price of $525. Shipping is $18 extra.

The New Century Hymnal: A Pipe-Organ Accompaniment CD Resource for Congregational Worship & Personal Devotion was dedicated in the Amistad Chapel at the Church House in Cleveland on April 30 by the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner, Acting Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries. "The hymnody of the church is a gift from and for the ages," Sterner said. "These organists have captured all of the beauty and inspiration of this gift." Sterner presented the first publicly-available volume to Dr. Kimberly Whitney, Minister for Community Life, who is responsible for the oversight of Amistad Chapel, along with the Rev. Timothy G. Staveteig, Publisher of The Pilgrim Press.

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