Everything you would need to know about performing Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise” with your choir.
The song was on the “Adoration: Live in Atlanta” album by Richard Smallwood and Vision, released in 1996.
It is hugely popular in the gospel music world. It is not a simple song to learn or perform, but many choirs include it in their repertoire.
A masterpiece of songwriting, “Total Praise” is regarded by many as their favorite gospel choir song ever.
Overview of the song “Total Praise”
The song is in the key of Db. It is written for three-part choir (soprano, alto, and tenor). On the original recording it is accompanied by piano, drums, and string orchestra.
The most beloved thing about this song is the choral harmony. Each syllable brings another beautiful chord, forming a progression through the lyrical line. It starts off sweet and peaceful on the opening (“Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills . . .”) and gradually builds more and more tension as it goes through next lines. When they reach the word “storm”, you can feel the energy that has built up and is then released as the choir lets loose on “You are the source of my strength; You are the strength of my life.”
Following that climax, the choir comes back down on “I lift my hands in total praise to you”, with a descending line that soothing and sweet and then goes straight into the other high point of the song, the dramatic “Amen” done in four inversions.
Songwriter and publisher info for “Total Praise”
“Total Praise” was written by Richard Smallwood, one of the most accomplished and admired gospel songwriters ever.
The publishing company is UNIVERSAL MUSIC-Z SONGS.
Performance and broadcast licensing is available through BMI.
Video of the original recording
by Richard Smallwood and Vision
Buy the recording
Poll: How do you feel about “Total Praise”?
Teaching “Total Praise” to your choir
Points to keep in mind
- It’s a complex song.
- The notes the choir sings form some unusual chords, so it’s not the kind of song where you can just teach the soprano part and everyone else will automatically know what to sing.
- It will probably take more rehearsal time to learn “Total Praise” than it takes to learn a typical gospel choir song. So make sure that you plan for enough time, at several rehearsals, for your choir to be able to learn the parts well.
- It may help to encourage your choir members to get practice tracks (available from ChoirParts.com) that they can listen to on their own time to practice their individual parts.
- There are some serious high notes in the song.
- “Total Praise” starts in a lower range, but at the end it does get high. The highest note the sopranos sing is an F (an octave and a half above middle C), the highest alto note is a Db, and the highest tenor note is an Ab.
- If your choir members have trouble with notes that high, you might want to change the key or rearrange the parts.
- It’s not a simple song for musicians to play.
- If your choir reads sheet music:
- There is sheet music available for “Total Praise”. There is three-part (SAT) sheet music (which is the original arrangement), and also a four-part (SATB) arrangement.
Get the choir parts for “Total Praise”
You can buy mp3 files with practice tracks for the soprano, alto, and tenor parts from ChoirParts.com.
Other “Total Praise” resources
Lyrics to “Total Praise” — From metrolyrics.com
Chords to “Total Praise” — From earnestandroline.com
“Total Praise” MIDI file (instrumental) — Done by Dave Longenecker. Featured on earnestandroline.com.
Accompaniment tracks for “Total Praise” — Very nice ones from praisehymn.com. 99 cents each. They have one in the original key (Db) and also one in Bb.
Total Praise sheet music — SAT & piano — This is the official sheet music for Total Praise. For three-part choir, plus piano accompaniment.
Total Praise sheet music — SATB — This sheet music is written for four-part choir. It is not the official version, which is in three parts.
The hymnal arrangement of “Total Praise”
from the African-American Heritage Hymnal
The arrangement (done by Stephen Key) of “Total Praise” in the African-American Heritage Hymnal changes the alto and tenor parts on some portions of the song.
In the places where the notes go the highest, the alto and tenor parts get switched. The altos sing the part that the tenors had on the original recording, and the tenors sing the part that the altos had, but an octave lower. The advantage of this is that the sopranos can still hit their beautiful high notes without the tenors and altos having to go so high. This could make the song much more accessible for some choirs.
The Donnie McClurkin version is popular, too
Other versions of “Total Praise”
“Total Praise” is a very popular song for other choirs and groups to cover.
The Howard University Gospel Choir features it as one of their signature songs. I like the ending they do on it, the way they use the sopranos.
The Churches of Christ All Conference Choir does it a cappella in four parts, with a really cool bass part (even though they have some of the notes wrong on the tenor part).
How to play Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise” on piano
A tutorial by ExtremeKeyboard (in two parts)
More choir songs by this brilliant songwriter!
If you love “Total Praise”, check out more of Richard Smallwood’s music
The page below is my compilation of the very best choir songs that Richard Smallwood has released in his decades-long career: