Calvin Seerveld (firstname.lastname@example.org) is professor of aesthetics emeritus at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. Woodcut by Peter Smith, 2006.
Articles by this author:
- A Letter to Church Musicians
Dear Church Musicians:
Is it not time, perhaps, to sing reformer Martin Luther’s great songs with the sprightly rhythm in which they were originally composed? The new translation included here could give fresh vigor to the canonic status of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
It is peculiarly human to sing, and to sing together. It is a heartening exercise when done communally on a theme you believe in, as the protest marchers for civil rights understood in the ’60s with “We Shall Overcome.” Such singing was not the same as Doo-wop entertainment or pop songs with the Supremes orchestrated by the Motown machine. Street singing had a different cachet too than Fanny Crosby’s old-time revival hymns. If you yourself enter a non-professional group singing a song that is solid and well-known, it invigorates you.
Soon after September 11, 2001, I received requests from various congregations throughout the United States for permission to sing from “A Congregational Lament” in worship services. They needed a song to fit the evil besetting them. They wanted to mourn the terrible loss of life and to cry out to God for the Lord to lessen their pain somehow in what seemed so brutally destructive. As believers they wanted to sing a sad song of faith that did not pretend in Stoic fashion to take on the chin whatever happens.