Composer Spotlight: Pepper Choplin
We have several church music composers and arrangers in NC Baptist life, and I thought it would be helpful to introduce them to you. Today, I have asked Pepper Choplin, popular composer, clinician, conductor, and entertainer, to tell us about his writing career and some of his best choral works.
Words about Pepper:
Pepper Choplin earned his Bachelor of Music degree at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Master of Music degree in composition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He currently has written over two hundred anthems in addition to eight choral musicals. His musical experiences range from church musician to theme park entertainer. He has performed musical styles from rock to classical to bluegrass.
In addition to his print music, he has four CDs of inspirational and humorous material including his new, Might as Well Laugh than Cry. His CD, Hold On,has inspired many to live through difficult times with faith and hope.
Pepper leads events throughout the country as composer, clinician, conductor and entertainer. Audiences respond with laughter and with tears as he conducts and sings his unique mix of inspirational and humorous music in churches and conferences.
Much of Pepper’s creative energy goes into planning creative and vibrant worship for Greystone Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC where he is Minister of Music. Many of his anthems are born out of a need at his own church. Pepper’s chief desire is “to create music that will lead people to worship in a dramatic way.”
Words from Pepper:
My first piece, Within These Walls was published in 1991. I was so afraid it would be my last published piece, I handed it to everyone I could. In the first five years, I would have only one or two released per year. Now I have around 10-12 anthems and 1-2 cantatas published each year.
I grew up in New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, where I sang in children’s and youth choirs. After attending UNC-Greensboro, I served at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church in Wilmington before attending Southwestern Seminary. After graduating, I didn’t really compose for about four years. Then after finding a good Christmas work, someone suggested I write one. For a few years, I tried to get the cantata published, which I know now was not a good idea. Then I broke it up and had a few anthems released later. One of those was A Star, which was later selected by CREATOR MAGANZINE as one of the best anthems of all their “Honored Ten” lists of the 1990s.
As a full time music minister, my choir still helps me fine tune many of my pieces. There is nothing like running through an anthem with a live group to find its quirks, weaknesses or “vulnerabilities”. A vulnerability is a place that looks easy enough, but doesn’t fit in the voice naturally. Sometime if I change one note or a rhythm, the music changes from awkward and difficult to smooth and singable.
I am almost always surprised by the response to my work. I try to make it all good, but I can rarely guess which ones will become the bestsellers. Sometimes, my favorite pieces that really move me will not be a big success. That is one of the mysteries of the creative process.
I am always honored when people take their time to rehearse and present my music. To know that they are using it to express their worship to God brings great fulfillment. Whether my work is being sung by a fine college choir of a hundred singers or a small church choir of ten, it is a wonderful privilege to make a contribution to ministries beyond my work in my own church.
My best Christmas cantata – Night of the Father’s Love http://www.pepperchoplin.com/nightofthefathers.html
My newest and most creative Christmas cantata (Perhaps it will prove to be my best!) Heaven’s Child http://www.pepperchoplin.com/heavenschild.html
My best Easter cantata: Once Upon a Tree http://www.pepperchoplin.com/oncerec.html
Humorous CD: Might as Well Laugh Than Cry http://www.pepperchoplin.com/mightaswell.html
Some of my bestselling anthems, plus some that should have been. (Some use the real audio player.)
- Bethlehem Procession – Glorysound A 7526 As the men begin with the drum-like, “Come, O come…,” the women soar with a lyrical line which beckons the listener to join the procession to see the Christ child. The piece builds to a joyous call to “come, see the shining light,” then gradually fades into the distance. You can almost feel the procession as it goes by. The optional bongos, tambourine and finger cymbals will make this anthem especially dramatic. A perfect piece to begin a program or to help tell the story of the wise men (Epiphany).
- Deep Waters – Beckenhorst BP1636 Designed to involve the congregation, this a cappella anthem tells the story of Jesus telling the disciples to go out to DEEP waters to fish. The piece serves to call the church to take risks in doing the ministry of Christ. “Go to deep waters, where only faith will let you go… harvests of faith will overflow. Since the chorus is easily memorized, it can be used as a processional / recessional.
- Fall on Your Knees – Lorenz 10/4105L (SAB: 10/4151L) From the bestselling cantata, Night of the Father’s Love. I set out just to try to make it as gorgeous as I could manage. Very powerful!
- Fill-a-Me-Up – Lorenz 10/2807M (SAB with optional Spanish text: 10/3439M) This has an African/spiritual feel and includes optional percussion that really makes it cook. This has already received a great response in reading sessions. Performance/Accomp CD: 99/1717M
- I Hear the Prophet Callin’ – Lorenz single anthem 10/3751L View sample
- In the Hands of the Lord – Glorysound A 7496 With its opening lines, “See the hands, see the face, see the miracle of God’s grace,” this tender anthem dedicates the gift of our children to the Lord. I had the words printed on the front cover to make it suitable for a momento of the occassion. Click here for to see the complete text. While the intimate text is perfect for dedications and baptism, the final verse, “when our hands must let them go”, makes this piece especially appropriate during graduate recognition. People of all stages of life will be touched by this poignant text.
- One Song – Alfred 20907 (SATB) and 20908 (SAB) Written to honor my friend Neal Eller. The piece calls us to build bridges and tear down walls so we may sing one song united.
- Silent Night for All the World – Fred Bock Music JG2399 (SAB: JG2 412) (with optional accordion/synth, guitar and congas) view This uses the text in English, German, Korean, Spanish and a bit of Swahili. It finishes with a powerful message of peace.
- Song of the Saints – Harold Flammer A 7606 This is one of my favorite texts. It is written from the point of view of those who have gone on to heaven. Written in a majestic 3/4 meter, the song is a triumphant reassurance of our eternal life in Christ.
- This Is My Word Shawnee A 7325 This is still one of my bestseller. It has been sung by several state music director groups. This is also on my solo CD, Hold On. I have a TTBB arrangement too.
- Train Up a Child – Glorysound D 5454 See the Music
- Upon This Rock – Lorenz 10/3906L
- We Are Not Alone Shawnee A 7924