ThisIsTheDay - Walt Whitman“Perfect Praise”, which is commonly known by the title “How Excellent” was on the “This Is the Day” album by Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago, released in 1990.

It has enjoyed longstanding popularity ever since, and has become a standard piece for gospel choirs to perform.

This page will give you all the information you need for performing “Perfect Praise” with your choir.

 

Contents of this page

Song overview
Songwriter and publisher information
Tips for teaching “Perfect Praise”
What about that FLAT note?
Variations you can try
Other resources for “Perfect Praise”
How to play “Perfect Praise”

 

Overview of “Perfect Praise”

The song is in the key of Eb. It is written for three-part choir (soprano, alto, and tenor) plus a lead singer. It is accompanied by a standard gospel band.

The best-loved feature of the song is the vocal counterpoint for the choir that occurs on the last line of each passage (“. . . is Thy name”) and on the vamp (“in all the earth”). It takes a little work at first for a choir to learn those passages, but once you get it you never lose it

I think this is a great song to use as a choir’s first “hard” song. Walt Whitman’s choir, the Soul Children of Chicago, is literally made up of minors. So clearly it’s a song that youth choirs can master if they’re ready to work at it. I once heard a children’s choir blow the roof off with this one at a little storefront church in Compton.

Even though it’s not a fast song, it builds a lot of excitement just through the melodic structure.

“Perfect Praise” adapts very well to embellishments and variations, which makes it a popular “show piece”.

NOTE: On a few websites, I have seen the title of this song incorrectly listed as “Perfect Peace”.

 

The song is available, but hard to find.

For a while, the entire “This Is the Day” album was selling as an MP3 album on Amazon, but it’s not there anymore.

But the song “Perfect Praise” can be found on an anthology album. If you click the link below, you’ll see that the anthology album has the song listed with the incorrect title “Perfect Peace”, but it is indeed the right song.


Perfect Praise on the House of Gospel Anthology, Volume 1

 

Songwriter and publisher info

“Perfect Praise” was written by Brenda Joyce Moore. According to BMI, Ms. Moore’s publishing company is Balutik’s Music.

You can get a mechanical license for this song from the Harry Fox Agency, Limelight Licensing, or Easy Song Licensing.

 

Here’s the original recording

 

Teaching “Perfect Praise” to your choir

Things to keep in mind

“Perfect Praise” does have some complicated passages in it. The melismatic parts on the word “is” might take some extra practice for your choir.  Make sure you plan for enough rehearsal time over the course of several rehearsals.

If you need help working out the parts for “Perfect Praise”, you can buy practice tracks with the separate Soprano, Alto, and Tenor parts from ChoirParts.com — Choir parts for “Perfect Praise (Oh Lord, How Excellent)”.

It does get a little high. The highest note the sopranos sing is an Eb (an octave and a third above middle C), the highest note for the altos is a Bb, and the highest note for the tenors is a G. If those notes are too high for your choir singers, you may want to try it in a different key.

If you don’t have a musician, there are accompaniment tracks available for “Perfect Praise”.

 

What about that FLAT note?

On the vamp portion of the song, when the altos come in, the second time they say “in all the earth”, the first note they sing on the word “earth” is an A-natural. A lot of people think that it sounds flat and “off”. I agree with them. I think it sounds dissonant in all the wrong ways and detracts from the beauty of a wonderful song.

The idea for that whole line is that it rises a half step with each repetition of the phrase. On the first repetition the alto notes for “earth” are:
Ab-G-F-G-Ab

Then on the next repetition, “earth” is:
A-Ab-G-Ab-A

And on the final repetition, “earth” is:
Bb-A-G-A-Bb

So mathematically it seems logical for that note to be an A. But the instruments are playing an Ab chord at that point, so the A-natural coming from the altos sounds very dissonant and jarring. Sometimes jarring is good, but the feeling you want for this song is harmonious and uplifting, and the A is disturbing in that context. By the end of the word, the instruments are playing an F chord, so that final A-natural sounds beautiful. It’s only the first one that’s a problem.

What some directors do (myself included!) is instruct their altos to take that first note up to a Bb instead, so “earth” is sung as:
Bb-Ab-G-Ab-A

It doesn’t follow the “logical sequence”, but it sounds much better!

ChoirParts.com has practice tracks for BOTH versions, the original way and the modified way.

 

Variations you can try

People love to play around with this song. Here are some of the variations I’ve heard.

Most of the choirs I’ve heard singing “Perfect Praise” do it without the lead singer. All the lead does is sing the verse once, exactly the same way that the sopranos do it when the choir comes in. So the lead is very much optional.

I’ve never heard anyone do any changes on the “Oh Lord, how excellent” part. But people love to play around with that last line — “Jesus excellent is Thy name”. Some of these variations include:
Repeating the word “excellent” over and over and stretching it out or adding riffs to it.

Repeating the phrase “Jesus, excellent” with a 4-beat pause after each one. After a couple of repetitions of that you can do an inversion (the sopranos go up to a G, the altos to the Eb, and the tenors to the Bb) if that’s not too high for the singers in your choir. My choir at home does this song in the key of Db, so for us that inversion works nicely.

Repeating the word “is” over and over, at times replacing the “is” with “ooh”.

After ending the entire song, as the instruments are playing their final chord and the drums are rolling, you can have the sopranos come in alone with their line — “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord” — and then bring the whole choir in on “Jesus excellent” and end it in the normal way. It sounds very majestic.

 

POLLS

"Perfect Praise (How Excellent)" by Walt Whitman is:
Does your choir sing "Perfect Praise (How Excellent)" by Walt Whitman?

 

Other resources for “Perfect Praise”

Lyrics to “Perfect Praise”
From music-lyrics-gospel.com

Chords for “Perfect Praise”
From EarnestAndRoline.com

Instrumental track in case you don’t have a musician

by Fruition Music, on their album called Instrumental Gospel Tracks Vol. 2

This song is also featured in the African-American Heritage Hymnal

I love the African-American Heritage Hymnal. So many great black gospel songs finally written down in sheet music form! And “Perfect Praise” is one of them.

 

How to play “Perfect Praise (How Excellent)”


From basicgospelpiano on YouTube

 

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Easy-to-use rehearsal tracks for gospel choirs

ChoirParts.com is a service geared toward helping choir directors and singers.  We have individual practice tracks, in the form of downloadable mp3s, that you can purchase and use for learning parts. The focus is on gospel choir music, but we can do contemporary Christian music, hymns, classical choral music, and other styles upon request.

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Contents of this page

– Why I started ChoirParts.com

– Here’s an example of what the practice tracks are like

– See our song list

– Request a song

– Find us on Facebook

.

Why I started ChoirParts.com

Why? To make life easier for choir directors!

Photo of a choir

Most gospel choirs learn their music completely by ear.  Every part has to be repeated until it is memorized.  In the early days of gospel music, this was easy to do; the melodies and harmonies of the songs tended to be simple. Once you heard the soprano part, you could usually figure out the alto part and the tenor part without being told. I remember hearing many choir directors say, “Altos, you should know your part already,” after they had taught the soprano part.

But as gospel music has grown in scope and complexity, choir members often have to learn more intricate harmonies, counterpoints and rhythms.  Altos and tenors are not always able to figure out their parts by intuition after hearing the main melody.  This puts a burden on choir directors to work out the choir parts for more complicated songs and communicate them to the choir in a way that they can understand and learn.

I’ve been a choir director for most of my life. I have worked with a lot of smaller gospel choirs and groups. Often the choir members had little experience with choir singing. For them to learn choir songs effectively they needed LOTS of repetition and practice — above and beyond the time spent in rehearsal.

So I started making practice recordings for each choir member. I would make a recording of myself singing the soprano part, then one with the alto part, then one with the tenor part. I would pass out tapes (yes, tapes, it was that long ago!) to everybody and they would listen to them on their own time and sing along. Many of the choir members found these practice recordings to be extremely helpful.

(I didn’t know back then that it was a copyright violation for me to be making those recordings without getting a license from the publisher. I thought that since I was giving them away for free, it was OK. Lord help me. Now I know better.)

I discovered soon that even with a more experienced choir, the rehearsal tracks could make it possible for them to learn songs that might otherwise seem to be “too hard”. Even a complicated part can be learned when you can hear it in isolation and practice singing it over and over.

So now I’m making recordings like this (mp3s instead of tapes!) that can be purchased and downloaded by anyone, at ChoirParts.com.

 

Here’s an example of what the practice tracks are like

using “Total Praise” (Richard Smallwood)

This playlist contains short excerpts from four mp3 files that are featured at ChoirParts.com.

First you’ll hear the track that has all three choir parts combined, then you’ll hear the soprano part, the alto part, and finally the tenor part.

The full-length versions of all these are available for purchase.

OUR CATALOG

These are the categories of songs that we have practice parts for on ChoirParts.com.

Click on a category to see the entire list of songs:

 

Gospel songs

 

Contemporary Choral Music

 

Jazz Gospel Vocals

We only have two so far, but we can do others on request if you have the sheet music.

Christmas music for choir

Easter music for choir

Special occasion songs

Classical choral music

 

MAKE A REQUEST!

Tell us what song you want and we’ll make choir parts tracks for you!

Here are the details.

 

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Become a Facebook fan of ChoirParts.com to get the latest updates about our products and services.

"It's a New Day" (James Cleveland) album coverEverything you need to know about performing James Cleveland’s “God Is” with your choir.

The song was on the “It’s a New Day” album by James Cleveland and The Southern California Community Choir, released in 1979. An engaging song both for the singer and the listener, it remains a favorite with gospel choirs to this day.

Contents on this page

Song Overview
Songwriter and publisher info
Teaching “God Is” to your choir
Other resources for “God Is”
How to play “God Is”

Buy the song


Song overview

 “God Is” is in the key of Bb. It is written for a three-part choir and two lead singers (there are two lead verses, and a different lead singer does each verse).

The instrument accompaniment used on the album is a standard gospel band plus strings.
The most appealing feature of the song is the rhythmic, almost rap-like, chorus (“God is the joy and the strength of my life . . .”, etc.), that starts off in a soft, subdued tone then builds intensity until it reaches the climactic “God is . . . God is . . . God is . . . God is . . . God is my all and all!”

 

Songwriter and publisher info

“God Is” was written by Robert James Fryson. The publisher of the song is Glori-Gospel Music, according to BMI (here’s the BMI listing).You can’t get a mechanical license from the Harry Fox Agency for this song, so you would probably have to contact the publisher directly if you want to make a recording of it.

Performance and broadcast licensing is available through BMI.

POLLS

"God Is" by James Cleveland is:
Does your choir sing "God Is" by James Cleveland?

Teaching “God Is” to your choir

Points to keep in mind

  • The thing that will take the most work is learning the lyrics and the rhythm for the chorus. The choir will need to repeat and repeat and repeat it to get that chorus drilled into them, but once they’ve got it, they’ll never forget it. Make sure you plan enough time in your rehearsal for plenty of repetition, and do it at two rehearsals at least. This is NOT a one-rehearsal song.
  • The original harmonies are actually pretty progressive (sixth chords and stuff). The way a lot of choirs harmonize it is more ordinary, but if you listen to the original you might be surprised. Make a plan for which version you want to do.
  • If your drummer has problems keeping a slow pace, this song will be challenging for him or her. It’s really important that the instruments don’t speed it up because the choir has a lot of words to get in. Make sure your musicians are well prepared and make sure the drummer comes to the rehearsals!

 

Other resources for “God Is”

Chords to “God Is”
From Earnest & Roline Ministries

Lyrics to “God Is”
From Lyricsfreak.com

Piano accompaniment for “God Is”
MIDI format.  Piano only, and they only do the chorus once.  From GodsGospel.com.

Karaoke version of “God Is”
It’s on an album with several other songs, from KaraokeWH.com.  Their site doesn’t provide previews, so I don’t know how the accompaniment sounds.  Sorry.

African American Heritage Hymnal
There is a version of “God Is” in the African-American Heritage Hymnal.  It’s only the chorus, and it uses more standard harmonies that are not quite the same as the original recording.

How to play “God Is”

This is a preview of a piano tutorial by Starling Jones. The full tutorial can be purchased from his site, SmoothChords.com.

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