There are many in our churches who have some education in music and at present are playing for Sabbath school, church services, or Missionary Volunteer meetings, who would like to have the happy privilege of playing for an evangelistic effort. Others are already playing in an effort and desire to become more efficient in their piano playing. As you are playing for these various meetings, watch your director. Do not fail to notice carefully every move he makes, so that should he want the congregation to repeat a chorus or hold a note longer than usual, you will be prepared to receive his direction accurately, thereby encouraging unity rather than confusion in the singing.
At the present time I am connected with an evangelistic effort now being conducted in Washington, D. C. I carefully watch the music director during the song service. Frequently, for emphasis he has his congregation hold a note or prolong a rest, and his movements indicate to me just what he is going to do. For example, when he takes a long breath, I know he is going to repeat the chorus. You will find the longer you and your director work together, the more you will understand his methods of leading.
The purpose of the song service is to prepare the hearts of the people for the sermon which is to follow.
Learn to play for your meetings without looking at your book or piano unless it is absolutely necessary. Try to memorize your hymns if possible. Occasions arise that make it necessary for the pianist to play hymns that are not included in the book he is using. In such instances he must rely entirely on his memory. Develop your memory by using it every chance you have.
When the evangelist holds a consecration service and makes an altar call at the close, singing plays a very important part. If the song, "All to Jesus I Surrender," is used, the pianist should know the hymn as well as the key in which it is written. An introduction is not necessary. Instead, only the first melody note should be played, to give the director the pitch. It is to the pianist's advantage to know how to transpose the most familiar hymns in many different keys. There are songs that go no to a high note ; but do not make the mistake of failing to notice how low the lowest notes in the melody will be placed by transposition.
If the choice must be made between playing the music as it is written, even though it is high, or transposing the song so that some of the notes will be too low, the wiser course is to play the song as it is written. Watch for those things which will make it easier for your congregation to sing. If, on a moment's notice, you are called on to play while your leader sings a solo, extreme care should be exercised to get his direction regarding a change to a different key.
A certain evangelistic pianist was playing for two girls to sing a duet. They were having difficulty with their voices and were constantly flatting until they were singing half a step lower than the piano music. The contrast was terrible. Realizing the singers' inability to stay on pitch, the pianist unobtrusively faded the music into a key a half step lower than the original. Undoubtedly, the audience was impressed with the girls' keen realization of their error and their fine showing at the conclusion of the song when the final note rang out clearly with their voices unquestionably on the new pitch.
As you play for congregational numbers, follow the words of the hymn as the audience sings it. Permit your own heart to be impressed by the inspiring words of the song you are playing, and that feeling will emanate from you to the singing audience, touching the tender heartstrings of unconverted listeners and bringing hope and comfort to every person in the audience.
Although this subject might be discussed more at length, the important fact to remember is that there must be complete co-operation between the singing evangelist and the pianist in order to ensure success in the singing ministry.