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Choral Musician Library

General Music Theology Liturgy Bibles Other

    The church musician’s art encompasses the gamut of human endeavor. In addition to the skills required to conduct and play, the musician must be able to analyze music and texts, comprehend an interpretation and convey this to the congregation in performance. In order to interface prophetically with the congregation, society and God, the church musician must also be conversant with general areas of human endeavor and current events. Since no one person can master all these, the church musician needs tools that provide easy and accurate access to this information. Seeking knowledge is important for accomplishing the tasks of  ministry and for attracting to the church musician the respect of a scholar.

    The church musician’s library is crucial to successful ministry. Those who have taken courses in college and graduate school will have books that go into depth on various topics. For the working church musician, the following are suggested essentials. These reference works give brief and trustworthy articles on relevant topics, providing essential information with time efficiency, for the rigors of ministry afford little time for research. The ease and speed with which these can be accessed, combined with shelving within easy reach, will inspire frequent use and a corresponding enrichment of ministry. These particular sources are known to be trustworthy by the editor, but some others would qualify as well. Some of these are available in software versions and some are available on line. A relationship with an academic library will afford access to valuable restricted databases and to major encyclopedias, such as Britannica.   Bookmark this page and use it for looking up information such as composer's dates to share with your choir and congregation in newsletters and bulletins.

General Reference

Great Books On Line


Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Anthologies - look up poetry, literature, quotations and general reference - excellent.

Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary


In addition to definitions, the dictionary is handy for pronunciation, poetic devices and style.

Merriam Webster Thesaurus


The Encyclopedia Britannica


Noble source of general information. Provides brief articles on persons – including musicians --  events and ideas. Look up dates of major composers.

Software Encyclopedias, such as Microsoft’s Encarta, also provide quick and reliable information.

It is still quicker to pull a book off a nearby shelf and look up "Praetorious" than to put a CD in the bay, load it and look it up; however,  you can cut and paste from the CD, whereas, you must type in material from a book.

The Latin Library


Translations of Classic Latin texts

The Perseus Digital Library


Scholars reference

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy



Music Reference

The Harvard Dictionary of Music

Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music

These cover musical terms, composers and performers.

Companion to your denomination’s hymnal.

Provides information about each text and tune in your hymnal, and history on your faith’s hymnic history.

Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire: Ron Jeffers.

Fine source of translations for standard foreign language anthems.

Orchestration: Walter Piston

Source of ranges of instruments for descants and other writing. This information is also available, though sometimes hard to find, in dictionaries on music

Oremus Hymnal


The Hymn Tune Index


The Cyber Hymnal


Source for hymn texts, tunes and biographies

The Hymn Site


Gregorian chant








The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Oxford Dictionary of the Bible

Online Dictionaries

These are freely available, thanks to their sponsors.

The Catholic Encyclopedia


Good for liturgical terms and religious history.

Wikipedia has become a strong and fast theological reference



Revised Common Lectionary


Liturgical Sources


Tridentine Mass  - Latin/English


Thesaurus Precum Latinarum


Much of the Latin liturgy in Latin/English



Translation used by your denomination.

The King James Version


Revised Standard Version


New Revised Standard Version


– many anthem texts use these.

The Latin Vulgate

The Heilige Schrift

La Bible

The principal languages used for anthems in Western churches are English, Latin, German and some French, though there is increasing use of African and Eastern languages as well. Bibles in these translations are helpful for comparing texts of anthems in these languages to their biblical sources. It’s also the "translations for dummies" means of finding an English translation, by comparing the scripture from one translation to another. Be careful that the chapter and verse numbers are the same; for example, the Latin Vulgate psalm numbering phases out of and in sync with modern protestant bibles.


Professional Organizations/Periodicals

Your denomination’s music and liturgy organization and magazine.





Very good for professional concerns such as salaries.

The Hymn Society  


The Hymn Society is the most important source of information on historic and contemporary hymns.



Major research libraries have links to online resources.



The Dictionary of American Hymnology


Ongoing project of the Hymn Society – source for hymnals and hymns.

The Canterbury Dictionay of Hymnology





New York Times


Great for news, music reviews and discoveries in science and other fields.


Please send the editor you own suggestions.  info@orpheusdei.com

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