God leads in strange ways: The History of Liturgicalguitarist.com

You can blame this all on Dr. Rick Green. In the late 1990s, I was working on a degree in statistics. I was also playing music at my wife’s church, St. Rose in Longview, WA. I wasn’t Catholic yet, but they welcomed me to do music for Mass when I could. Before and after the Mass, I would play some hymn arrangements on guitar. I seemed to have a knack for finding which key made the hymn easiest to play and making the arrangements sound musical with some of the tricks I picked up from my study of classical guitar in the 1970s. Most of the Catholic hymnody in the Breaking Bread hymnal was new to me, but many of the songs fit my style and weren’t too hard to play.

Rick approached me for lessons several times, but I told him I was too busy with school, parenting and working full time to take on a student. He was very persistent and I finally told him to call me after I had completed my degree. He called me on the day after my graduation and we began lessons. I had never written out any of my hymn arrangements; they were just in my fingers and I did things a little differently each time I played a hymn. But with a student, I needed to write out a general version of how I thought the hymn would be easiest to play, while still sounding musical. My first attempts were with pencil and paper. I soon purchased Sibelius software and learned how to create nice looking arrangements in both music notation and tablature.

After I had about 20 arrangements written out, I began thinking I might be on to something. I was able to share my arrangements and ideas with composer Bob Hurd at a workshop hosted by Oregon Catholic Press and he suggested I contact them and present my ideas for a book of guitar arrangements. I did, but they were not interested and neither were any other Catholic music publishers. But I kept finding new songs to add to my collection of arrangements and set a goal of having 50 arrangements for a variety of liturgical seasons and uses. I planned to call it the Liturgical Guitarist Hymnal (LGH). The only problem was I had no way share my work.

Then I decided to just share it freely online. That would be much better than keeping it to myself. Freely I had received my talents from God, so freely I would give back to other guitarists who wanted to serve at church but lacked music to play. I figured out how to build a simple little website and how to publish the music online using the site provided by Sibelius Music. That was around 2001. In the fifteen years since then, my LGH has grown over 80 hymns and the arrangements have been viewed over a million times by guitarists around the world.

(In my next blog entry, I will discuss the vision for the future of this site. Improvements are coming.)