Tom Trenney to Lead Hymn Festival, Summer Workshop

contributed by Sam Pierce

Kurt Kennedy and his daughter, Tish Davenport, first encountered Tom Trenney at the 2015 Dallas Church Music Workshop at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas.

“My dad came up, and he and I attended together, it was really neat to do together,” Davenport said.” We walked out of that first session that we saw him in, and he is just truly special.

“Most of it is concepts you may have heard before, but he brings an extra special level of depth.”

Davenport said they began to keep their eyes open and on Trenney’s schedule so when he came to Little Rock in 2017 at the Fellowship Biennial Convocation, they, of course, had to see him again.

“I came here for that, and we attended that together,” Davenport said. “He had a midday prayer that was just beautiful.”

“He actually travels all over the world, literally something every week,” Kennedy said. “He is a highly sought after person and very inspiring.

“He is very eloquently spoken when he delivers a message.”

Kennedy is the director of music at First United Methodist Church in North Little Rock, and his daughter is the director of music at Searcy First United Methodist Church. Together, they are hosting a Summer Workshop and Hymn Festival from June 13 to June 15 at North Little Rock UMC.

“This is the first time I have ever done this workshop and my first attempt at one that is mostly directed toward musically inclined people,” Kennedy said. “We just felt like Tom Trenney is just so talented that we want to share him with the musicians of Arkansas.”

Kennedy said, during the day, there would be classes for church musicians to work on vocal technique, choral technique, and reading sessions to go through new music and some music of Treeney’s. Kennedy said after the workshops are over, there are rehearsals for anyone that wants to participate.

“We have designed the sessions to really appeal to a variety of people that work in the church,” Davenport said. “We have several sessions that lead church music, and there are sessions on Friday in particular that will work with the festival choir.

“I just know from having experienced him that it will be an educational experience vocally. There will be some sessions that are designed for conducting sessions for a less experienced choir conductor, or to work on our visual means of expressions because we all fall into habits.”

According to the website,, the event is a three-day workshop and Hymn Festival with Tom Trenney, pastoral musician, composer and teacher. “Sessions are both inspirational and practical in nature,” the website says. Participants are encouraged to invite friends and family to fill the audience for the free Hymn Festival at 7 p.m. on Friday.

“On Saturday, we will have a couple of sessions for church organists or accompanist and give them an opportunity to work with Tom on Hymn improv and also composition and ranging,” Davenport said. “The reading sessions are based on his music and some of his arrangements of familiar hymns and a few special numbers.”

For more information, visit the website, or call (501) 835-2201.

“So often we are thinking through the whole worship, so for us to have the opportunity to experience worship without having to lead, it is a spiritual refreshment and also further inspiration to take back to our churches,” Davenport said.

The cost for the three-day event is $45, with individual day charges available. Kennedy said there is no cut off date, as people are allowed to walk in the day of the event.

“We believe it is a very reasonable price,” he said. “We aren’t trying to make money, because we understand people are coming in from out of town and have to spend a couple of nights in a hotel and buy their food and other expenses.

“We don’t want to burden them with a huge fee as well.”

Kennedy said he has gotten some response to the event, but not a lot of commitment.

“People are usually slow to respond, but hopefully they will just show up,” Kennedy said. “We will have two reading sessions, so I’m prepared for 100 people.”

Davenport said she has attended several workshops but has never tried to put one together. She said she is thankful for the opportunity to be able to do this with her dad.

“I’m kind of learning as I go,” she said. “It has really been fun, and I am really excited about it — I think we are going to have plenty of people involved.

“Because it is a really great mix of sessions and information. I believe the Hymn Festival, for those that experience it, will be touched and uplifted. I have no doubt.”

For the Hymn Festival, Trenney has created a program featuring hymns for congregational singing woven together with scripture collages and special selections sung by the Festival Choir, according to the website.

“He is very creative with his music,” Kennedy said. “I wouldn’t call it contemporary; I guess you would call it modern. He takes hymn tunes and reworks them with different harmonies and make them interesting for choirs and congregations.

“And of course, he has a lot of original works, too.”

Kennedy said anytime you make a hymn that people already know and make it new and exciting, with different harmonies in different sections, it makes it interesting.

“We wanted to do something for the general public, to educate them and entertain them at the same time; and promote church growth of course,” Kennedy said.

Thursday, June 13, 2019
9:00 – 10:15 Session: And May God Give Us Faith to Sing Always: recommitting to the purpose and vocation of music ministry
10:15-10:30 Refreshment Break (Refreshments located at Welcome Desk in Great Hall)
10:30 – 11:45 Choral Reading Session: Compelling Music for Meaningful Worship
11:45 – 12:15 Midday Prayer Service
12:15 – 2:15 Lunch on your own (Enclosed in your packet is a list of nearby restaurants)
2:15 – 3:15 Session: Getting to Know the Score: strategies and possibilities for score study that prepare us for effective rehearsals and meaningful performances
3:15 – 3:30 Break
3:30 – 4:30 Session: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: building our music ministry communities in the image of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood
4:30 – 6:30 Dinner on your own
6:30 Rehearsal of the Hymn Festival Choir

Friday, June 14, 2019
9:00-9:30 Morning Worship Service
9:30 – 10:30 Then Sings My Soul: getting to the heart of the choir by freeing the voice of the choir
10:30 – 10:45 Break (Refreshments in Great Hall)
10:45 – 12:00 Session: Choral Masterclass: volunteer conductors lead us in familiar hymns and carols to help us all refresh on the fundamentals of expressive conducting
12:00 – 1:45 Lunch on your own
1:45 – 3:00 Choral Reading Session: the music of Tom Trenney
3:00 – 3:15 Break
3:15 – 4:30 Rehearsal of the Hymn Festival Choir
4:30 – 6:30 Dinner on your own
6:30 Warm-up for Hymn Festival Choir
7:00 Hymn Festival

Saturday, June 15, 2019
8:30-9:45 Session: Abracadabra– Discovering the Magic of Hymn Improvisation
9:45-10:30 Composition and Arranging: Question and Answer

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