Hymn Based Resources

John D. Horman & Mary Nelson Keithahn.

Hymns Etc.

"Music is the art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificient and delightful presents God has given us."

Martin Luther

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HYMNS ETC. - Musicals


We have written and produced musical dramas together for almost twenty years.  Most of our works are based on biblical material.  We have always tried to be faithful to our sources, drawing characters, situations, humor, and even some of the words from the biblical accounts. Our trips to Israel (twice) and Jordan (three times) have helped us understand the geographical, historical, and cultural settings of the stories we have used. In addition, we have looked for ways to connect the stories of God's people to life today. As a result, our musical dramas can be correlated easily with biblical studies in weekly or vacation church school and/or congregational worship.

All of our musicals have been tried out in several different situations: Broadly-graded (grades 4-9) music, art, and drama camps; ecumenical, multigenerational productions in local communities; and local church productions with older children and youth. Cast size is flexible; minor roles can be combined or expanded as needed. There are parts for soloists, ensembles, chorus, instrumentalists, dancers, and even non-singers. Production notes include suggestions for choreography, costumes, and set.

The two musicals marked * are available from Choristers Guild (www.choristersguild.org
or 1-800-CHORISTER).  The others listed are either out of print or unpublished, but Mary still has a few single reproducible copies of engraved scores left. The charge of $25 a preview copy may be applied toward the $100 fee for performance rights and permission to reproduce enough copies of the score for local church use. If interested, contact her at marynkeithahn@gmail.com to check availability of each score.



A Musical Drama for Children and Youth or All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman.  Hymns Etc., LLP (Available in reproducible form.)
Scored for piano, flute or oboe, tympani, trumpet, handbells, and opt. shofar, with production notes for set, costumes, lighting, props, and special effects.

Synopsis. Journey tells the story of what happened to the Israelites during the forty years between their escape from Egypt and their arrival at Mt. Nebo, across the Jordan River from the Promised Land. As they wandered in a barren desert and mountainous area, the Israelites slowly began to understand who God (Yahweh) was and what God asked of them. They made mistakes and had to live with the consequences. They had to learn how to work together in order to survive. Most of all, they had to learn to trust God and the laws God gave them. Their journey in the wilderness was a journey of faith that would continue as they went on to occupy the land they had been promised. The main characters are Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. Three Chroniclers serve as narrators. Scenes include jubilation after the escape, complaints in the desert, sending out of the spies, giving of the law, the making of the golden calf, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the farewell of Moses. The songs are arranged mostly for unison voices, but there are some two, three, and four part sections. One song, “May Yahweh Bless and Keep You,” is a setting of the familiar benediction can be readily used in worship. Performance time is about 45 minutes.

Approximate Performance Time: 40 minutes

JOURNEY was first produced for a summer camp setting in 2005. Many of the scenes were based on lectionary readings that fall (Year A), and First Congregational United Church of Christ in Rapid City, SD used one of the scenes in Sunday worship. At Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kensington, MD, John worked with the pastor and director of Christian education at his church in coordinating fall church school and congregational worship with a production of the musical.


We did JOURNEY for MAD camp and had a fantastic week with it.  This year we had thirty kids--the most ever.  Three of our alumni (HS seniors) asked to come back as counselors--we gave them the Chroniclers parts as well--and  that really worked out!!  They did worship one day and had a sing-along of fun songs every day before lunch. As I said before, our former staff returned--they love it so much --and we did add some more enthusiastic folk.  The kids were phenomenal --There were a lot of returns, and this year, as never before, I felt they were truly there because they wanted to be there and not because Mom and Dad made them come.  The performance was so much better than before because of their enthusiasm and focus. We also had some fine voices.  But, of course, the story and the music lent itself to really reaching  the kids in such a meaningful way!!!   Thanks for another exciting, special week --this time living with the journey and the 10 commandments!  -- Karen Harper, Owego United Methodist Church, Owego, NY.

To order, contact marynk@hymnsetc.com.



A Musical Drama for Children and Youth or All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman. Hymns Etc., LLP.  (Available in reproducible form.)
Scored for piano, flute, handbells, and "rock-a-phone," with production notes for choreography, costumes and set.

Synopsis. Isaiah's Dream is set during Sukkot (Succoth), the fall harvest celebration of the Jews, as God's people are joyfully going up to the Temple in Jerusalem with their offerings. A priest named Isaiah* watches them with mixed feelings. He is happy that they share his joy in worship, but sad that their faith does not result in obedience to God's laws. When he goes into the Temple to pray for his beloved Jerusalem, he hears angel voices singing God's praises and is overwhelmed by a sense of his own shortcomings and fear of God. It is then that he hears God's call to be a prophet and answers, "Here I am. Send me."

Isaiah's struggle to get the people to trust and obey God in a time when they are surrounded by enemies and tempted to rely on armies and riotous living rather than God is the basis for the rest of the play. Scenes include Hezekiah's counsel to King Ahaz with the trembling knees, his protest march to make his point to King Hezekiah (much to the embarrassment of his wife), his encounter with the powerful and wily envoys from Assyria and Babylonia, and his encouragement of King Hezekiah's building of a water tunnel into Jerusalem. The play ends with Isaiah's dream of peace for Jerusalem and the world.

Although the play has a serious and relevant message, it is not without humor. The script, songs, and choreography allow cast members to act, rather than simply recite their parts. Four of the numbers may be used individually in liturgical settings: A Thanksgiving processional, a "Sanctus," a psalm tone and antiphon, and an anthem setting of a hymn for SATB choir and congregation.

* A historical note: Isaiah of Jerusalem, whose name means "Yahweh Saves," lived in the 8th century BC and held a respected position in Jerusalem, either by royal birth, his priestly profession, or both. He saw himself as a prophet and called his wife the "prophetess." They had two sons whose names had symbolic meanings related to his prophecies. Isaiah referred to God as the "Holy One of Israel" who could be trusted to be faithful to the covenant made with the Hebrew people. His writings are found in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, but most events in his life are told in 2 Kings 15:32-20:21 and 2 Chronicles 26-32

Approximate performance time: 45-50 minutes.

Musical excerpt from “The Holy One of Israel"

To order, contact marynk@hymnsetc.com.



A Musical Drama for Children and Youth or All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman.  Hymns Etc., LLP (Available in reproducible form.)

Scored for piano, handbells, and flute, with suggestions for choreography and other production notes.

Synopsis.  Originally published by Abingdon Press, this musical drama based on the Book of Ruth is now available from Hymns Etc. The story line follows the biblical story of Naomi and her Moabite daughter-in-laws who find themselves widowed and destitute in their grief. Naomi decides to return to her native Bethlehem as the famine she and her family had fled has ended. She urges Orpah and Ruth to stay in Moab with their families. Orpah agrees, but Ruth insists on returning to Judah with Naomi, even though she will be an outsider. When they arrive in Bethlehem it is the spring harvest season, and Ruth is able to support them by gleaning in the grain fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi's husband. When the harvest is over Naomi sends Ruth to ask Boaz to follow the laws of levirate marriage and take her as his wife, that they might provide another son for her. A closer kinsman has prior claim, but Boaz succeeds in persuading him to refuse the offer. Boaz and Ruth are wed, and do indeed produce a son for Naomi who is destined to be an ancestor of King David.

The musical has strong parts for girls: Naomi, Ruth, Orpah, and the Wise Woman of Bethlehem. The male roles were written with changing boys' voices in mind. There are other opportunities for smaller solos, some delightful choreography for the scene between Boaz and the Kinsman at the city gate, a hora-type wedding dance, and two psalm settings (Psalm 146 and 113) that can be adapted as individual anthems for worship.

In the Jewish community, the Book of Ruth is always read at the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) that Christians call Pentecost, so it makes a good musical to use at the end of the choir year. Others have found it appropriate to use for Mother's Day.

Approximate Performance Time: 40-45 minutes
  Music excerpts:  “Calamity”; ’"Its Time You Had A Husband”

To order, contact marynk@hymnsetc.com.



A Musical Drama for Children, Youth, and Adults, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman. Choristers Guild, Musical Score, #CGC44; Director's Kit (includes score and demo CD), #CGK20; Demo CD, #CGD3.

Scored for keyboard, flute, Orff instruments, and handbells.

Synopsis: A musical recalling incidents from the life of Jesus that took place along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, in and near the town of Capernaum.  Included are the calling of the fishermen to be disciples, the healing of the Centurion’s servant, the Sermon on the Mount, the Feeding of the Multitude, and the Crucifixion/Resurrection. These incidents are all re-told by people who were there as they share their experiences with three Seekers representing the hungry, sick, and friendless.  Several choral numbers can be used as anthems for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter.

Approximate Performance Time: 35-40 minutes

Musical excerpts of songs “We’re Looking for Jesus.”  

Available from Choristers Guild (www.choristersguild.org or 1-800-CHORISTER) or your favorite music retailer.

"The most amazing thing is to watch the young people learning and growing as they experience the musical...Two of my choirs combined for this production. One is grades 2-5, and the other is a middle school and high school group. They learn so much from each other....I used four adults in the cast..three of them were special needs children in our church, and I always include them.....I particularly liked having many small roles. My children are all heavily involved in school, music, and sports, so some of them don't have hours to spend memorizing lines. The other advantage is that more of them get to have actual roles and musical solos......Some Christians never experience the dark days of Holy Week. "God, Why Have You Forsaken Us?" and the scenes showing the various responses to the news of the crucifixion allowed the actors to experience these emotions and portray them to the congregation." --Jerry Johnson, Choral Director, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, CA

"We did the musical last week as an in-house MAD camp in our church from 9-3 each day with a performance Friday night. We had 22 children in the camp ranging from 3rd to 8th grade and a staff of capable people-an art teacher, a drama teacher, a dance instructor, music teacher, and myself…..Worship each of the five days was centered on one of the scenes. Both of our pastors had been to Galilee and could add to the biblical stories from their own experiences. On Friday we had Holy Communion and the three Seekers helped serve Communion…It was a wonderful spiritual experience and a wonderful theater experience. " --Karen Harper, Owego United Methodist Church, Owego, NY.
Available from Choristers Guild (www.choristersguild.org or 1-800-CHORISTER) or your favorite music retailer.


An Intergenerational Musical for Lent and Holy Week or General Use, for Children, Youth, and Adults, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman.  (Available in reproducible form.)

Scored for keyboard, flute, Orff Instruments, and handbells, with production notes for set, props and special effects, costumes, and choreography.

Synopsis. Set in Jerusalem at the time of the Last Supper, this musical draws on accounts of this event in the Gospels of Luke and John. In the prologue, Jesus sends his disciples on ahead to make arrangements for an upper room where they can celebrate the Passover meal. Three women and their servants follow with food for the supper. When Jesus arrives he finds James and John vying for positions of honor at the table. Chiding them, he washes the feet of the disciples, encouraging them to follow his example of servant-hood. At the end of the meal, Jesus breaks bread with the disciples and shares the cup with them. Then he tells them that, although he has asked them to serve one another, from now on he will call them “friends,” not servants. Time is suspended as the disciples wonder aloud about what Jesus means. In the five scenes that follow, they recall occasions when Jesus demonstrated what it means to be a friend: The wedding in Cana, the raising of Lazarus, the encounter with Zacchaeus, the healing of the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, and the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. In the epilogue, time moves on again. The Last Supper ends with further comments by Jesus on what it means to be a friend and a hymn of thanksgiving. Then the disciples and rest of the cast follow Jesus out to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Except for the role of Jesus, this is an ensemble work for a cast that can expand or contract as needed. The songs are mostly unison, but include some two, three, and four part sections.

This musical was written for our Music, Art, Drama, and Dance camp in 2004, at the request of the dean, a pastor who wanted a new approach to Maundy Thursday that he could use in First Congregational United Church of Christ in Rapid City, SD the next spring. The musical proved to be a moving introduction to the Maundy Thursday Communion Service. It was directed, staged, and lighted by three members with professional experience in musical theater, and their creative interpretation is described in the Production Notes.

Approximate Performance Time: 40-45 minutes.

To order, contact marynk@hymnsetc.com.









A Musical Drama based on Acts 15:35-16:40, for Children, Youth, and All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman. Choristers Guild, Choral Score, #CGC29, or Director's Score with Production Notes, #CGC28.

Scored for unison chorus, soloists, flute, piano, opt. three-octave handbells, and opt. congregation.

Synopsis.  The story is narrated by Luke. Paul, starting out on his Second Missionary Journey with Silas and young Timothy, is inspired to take his gospel to the city of Philippi in Macedonia.  Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman, becomes Paul’s first convert after hearing him preach to an informal prayer group of Jewish women.  She is baptized with her household, and becomes a strong supporter of the new church. 

Paul’s next venture is less successful.  Angered by the taunts of a fortune-telling slave girl, he exorcises the evil spirit from her, offending her owners who have depended upon her for their livelihood.  Furious, they accuse Paul and Silas of proseltytizing for the Jewish faith, an illegal act in a Roman colony whose citizens are supposed to look upon their emperor as divine.

The judge orders Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into the prison stocks.  During the night an earthquake frees them, but Paul refused to flee.  When the jailer discovers his situation, he is frightened at his narrow escape and touched by Paul’s concern for his well-being.  He listens to Paul preach and asks to be baptized with his whole household.

The policemen who come to release Paul and Silas the next morning are horrified to learn they had beaten Roman citizens.  Paul demands that the judge himself come to set them free.  The judge arrives with an apology, but also asks them to leave before there is any more trouble.  Paul and Silas first go to Lydia’s home to collect Timothy, and worship once more with the new community of Christians in Philippi.

Approximate Performance Time: 35-40 minutes
To order, available from Choristers Guild (www.choristersguild.org or 1-800-CHORISTER) or your favorite music retailer.

Churches desiring to combine this musical with a vacation Bible school on the Apostle Paul, may want to look at ALL ABOUT PAUL, Mary's curriculum guide now available from Hymns, Etc.



A Musical Drama for Children and Youth or All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman.  (Available in reproducible form.)

Scored for piano, Orff tuned percussion instruments, and handbells, with production notes for choreography, costumes, and set.

Synopsis. “On This Rock “ is based on Acts 9:32-11:18. The disciple Peter is a guest in the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa when a strange vision helps him understand that Christ welcomes, accepts, and affirms all who believe in him. At the same time, Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is encouraged by an angel to send for Peter to tell him more about Jesus. Peter goes to Caesarea, recognizes the faith of Cornelius, and baptizes him and his household. He does this, despite the fact that Jewish Christians are bound by the laws of Moses not to associate with Gentiles. When the council of Jewish Christians summons him to Jerusalem to explain his actions, Peter recalls his vision, affirms the spiritual gifts of Cornelius and his household, and convinces the council that the doors of the church should be open to all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, no matter who they are or how they live. The characters include Peter, Cornelius, Aeneas, Dorcas, and Simon the Tanner, as well as others mentioned but not named in the biblical account (the widows, the angel), and several additional characters (Julia and her maid Rhoda, the wife of Cornelius) added for dramatic effect.

The score includes solos and choral parts, as well as speech, vocal, and dance ensembles, set to a piano accompaniment enhanced by Orff-style tuned percussion instruments and handbells. The cast wears colorful biblical costumes. The set is the Mediterranean seaside, with Joppa at one side and Caesarea Maritima on the other.

Approximate performance time: 30-35 minutes.

To order, contact marynk@hymnsetc.com.



A Musical Drama for Children and Youth or All Ages, with words by Mary Nelson Keithahn and music by John D. Horman.  Hymns Etc., LLP (Reproducible)
Scored for unison chorus, soloists, ensembles, and piano, with opt. handbells, flute, and Orff instruments.

Synopsis.  “Shepherds Wanted” is a musical drama exploring the biblical concept of "Shepherd" as it applies to the mission of the Church in today's world. It draws on the writings of the prophets, Psalm 23, and the Gospels, and involves the cast in creating improvised contemporary skits within the framework of the last song. The theme of the musical makes it appropriate for Lent, Good Shepherd Sunday, events related to undershepherd programs such as the Stephen Ministries, and for times when the "shepherd" role of the church is emphasized.

The story begins when shepherds arrive on the hillside and make camp for the night. They sing a psalm together before they lie down to sleep. A shepherd takes the first watch with his grandchildren. A falling star reminds the old man of another bright star he had seen long ago, and he tells the children about what happened then and in the years to come: the shepherds' longing for the shepherd-king God had promised them through the prophets; the coming of Jesus, the Good Shepherd; and Jesus' call to Peter and the others to care for his flock when he is gone. As the children ponder that call, the shepherds assume the role of contemporary Christians and show how they care for one another today in several short, improvised skits within the framework of a hymn, "There Is A Need for Shepherds."

The musical, which may be used in place of the sermon at a service of worship or as a separate production, is suitable for either large or small churches. It has a pastoral setting that can easily be created in the chancel or on a stage. The cast can include children, youth, and/or adults as the musical lends itself especially well to multi-generational groups. The characters wear biblical headpieces and drapes over plain clothing, exchanging them for contemporary costume touches for their improvisations. Actors may want to add extra props for their improvised skits. Detailed suggestions for producing the musical may be found in the Production Notes that are included with the score.

Approximate performance time: 35-40 minutes.

"Shepherds Wanted" was received very well and I was delighted with every aspect of it. We have a small congregation with not enough youth in any one age group to form a choir. However, a musical such as this allows several in elementary, middle school, high school, plus adults to put it on....We have many volunteers in our church, so it was great to give large posters to 16 of them (Boy Scouts, Christ's Kitchen, Missions, Sunday School teachers, Salvation Army, etc.) At the interludes [in the last number] first 4, then 4, then 8 stood up with their posters. Most were in my adult choir, and it was very easy to practice.....The length [was] good....We liked the music--simple, tuneful, and memorable." --Ruth Williams, Choral Director, First Presbyterian Church, Victoria, TX.

To order Contact Us.

Let us come into God's presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to God with songs of praise!

Psalm 95:2

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