by Don Chapman
Wednesday, March 6, is the birthday of hymncharts! I started the website in 2002 – 17 years ago.
Back then contemporary worship was still fairly new and online resources were almost non-existent. You might have found chord charts for your favorite new worship songs but there were no contemporary hymn arrangements (Word’s Hymns for Praise & Worship released months later in December 2002.)
As the new worship leader at a small church plant that met in an elementary school cafeteria I soon discovered I had better start including hymns in my praise sets, if you know what I mean (one deacon would count the number of hymns sung each Sunday and then give me a report card at the end of the service LOL!)
I also quickly found that including a hymn straight out of the hymnal wasn’t working. My praise band simply couldn’t play the complex chord structures, so I began creating my own arrangements.
The first hymn I tried, All Hail the Power, was a huge hit at church. I’ll never forget it – a young 20-something guitarist asked at rehearsal “where’d you find that cool new praise song?” and after church an older lady came up to me, literally in a swoon, and said “thank you SO much for singing that hymn!” You can download this arrangement for free by clicking the “free music” link at the top of this page.
I started creating arrangements every week or two. Before long I had a few that I knew worked with my congregation and I was confident enough other churches might benefit from them. In late 2001 I created a pre-cursor to the hymncharts website as a test and gave away 10 contemporary Christmas carol arrangements.
This test was such an overwhelming success that on March 6 I officially launched hymncharts.com with 12 arrangements: All Hail the Power, Amazing Grace, Come Thou Fount, Christ the Lord Is Risen Today, Crown Him With Many Crowns, Holy Holy Holy, I Surrender All, It Is Well with My Soul, Power In the Blood, When I Survey and What A Friend We Have In Jesus.
Below are snapshots of how the website has evolved over the years – click an image for a bigger view: (that’s my praise band modeling in the 2002 version!)
These early arrangements only had a piano midi file for the audio demo as I assumed people knew the hymns and would simply want the sheet music and chord charts. How wrong I was – a few years later I realized my own praise team didn’t know half the hymns I was including in our praise sets so I began recording them around 2006. I still have a few of these early arrangements that still need a proper recording and that’s my big project for 2019 – to get most of them done.
How worship has changed in 17 years! My first arrangements in 2002 were much more “churchy” and typically have a key change for the last verse – this was at the end of the Don Moen / “God With Us” era if you remember those days. Next I went through more of a pop/rock phase reminiscent of a Paul Baloche style. Currently I’m heading into the modern sound with ambient, spacious arrangements like the new Blessed Assurance that would fit Bethel, Hillsong and Elevation. Now that I have the basic hymns covered in a blended/contemporary format I’ll revisit the popular top 20 hymns and give them this modern style.
As of this writing, in 2019 I have over 170 hymn arrangements and if the Lord tarries I’ll probably still be creating them in 2039 – can you only imagine what the worship styles will be like then! Thank you to all the churches over the years who have supported me and my music – I hope I can be a blessing to you all for many years to come 🙂