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Content about Church music

March 1, 2010

Reprinted from the column “Sunday Morning & Beyond” in Fidelia’s Sisters: A Publication of the Young Clergy Women’s Project, September 2008, www.youngclergywomen.org.

March 1, 2010

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.”

March 1, 2009

I’ll never forget my visit to see the famous leaning tower in Pisa, Italy. I had not realized that the tower was a bell tower at the east end of the church in Pisa, a separate building with bells that would peal when someone died. I actually became more interested in the building at the other end of the church—the round baptistery, a separate building dating from the thirteenth century built just for baptisms, with fantastic acoustics.

March 1, 2009

It probably all started in Mr. Klyn’s class. As fifth graders, we weren’t too cool yet to sing together every morning, and Mr. Klyn decided that anyone in the class who could play piano well enough would accompany that singing. He chose a tune from the Folk Hymnal for each of us newly-anointed accompanists to play the following week. I went home and practiced “He took my feet from the miry clay; yes, he did! Yes, he did!” until my parents begged me to stop.

December 1, 2008

Music and weddings go together hand in hand—in fact, music gives voice to the celebration in ways no other medium can! While the church considers weddings to be private family events, the gathered guests, who function as the congregation, can and should have opportunity to praise God joyously, pray for the bride and groom’s new life together, and encourage them with Scripture. Much of this can happen in song!

December 1, 2008

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
—Psalm 150:3-5, KJV

June 1, 2008

In her book Stilling the Storm (2006, The Alban Institute. Available at www.FaithAliveResources.org), Kathleen Smith sings the praises of the “intentional interim pastor.” This person can greatly assist a church that is transitioning from a long pastorate that has ended well, recovering from a ministry that has ended poorly, or regrouping after the senior pastor of a multi-staff church leaves.

June 1, 2007

This article is reprinted from The Stanza, Fall 2006, © 2006 The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (www.thehymnsociety.org). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Three times, recently, I was aurally assaulted in a church building: once at a concert, twice at services. The weapons were large pipe organs, and the penetrating device was most specifically 32-foot pedal pipes. Each time I had been invited to “sing along” as part of a group that then became engulfed, no, drowned in ear-splitting sonorities.

June 1, 2007

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.

June 1, 2007

Sometimes I’m asked to speak on the topic of recovering congregational singing. So I ask the question “What’s wrong?” The conversation goes like this:

“Apparently people are not singing like they used to.”

“Why?”

“We’re not exactly sure, but we’d sure like to have some tools to improve the situation.”

March 1, 2007

Our church follows the seasons of the Christian year and the lectionary Scripture passages, changing banners and colors accordingly. When we planned a service called “Singing Through the Christian Year,” it provided us with the opportunity to “walk through” the Christian year in one evening and to reprise many of the choir anthems we had learned and used in services over the past year.

September 5, 2005

An abundance of new materials for church pianists was published in the last twelve months, with many different repertoires and styles from which to choose. Because of space constraints, I have chosen to list no more than three representative titles from each volume. You can find more information, including complete tables of contents, at publisher’s websites, your local print music dealer, or website stores such as burtnco.com or pianolane.com. Within great latitude, volumes are graded E=Easy, M=Medium, and D=Difficult

June 5, 2005

December 4, 2004

It happened again this past Sunday. A great worship service, including baptism. Wonderful singing—of hymns. No psalms, not one. This is a church that stands in the Reformed tradition known for its singing of the psalms. Whenever I go to ecumenical conferences, I’m identified as one who comes from a psalm-singing heritage. I smile wanly, agreeing. But that heritage is too often missing on Sunday mornings.

December 4, 2004

Why should the devil have all the good music? This pithy question is often used to justify the introduction of “secular” musical styles into the church service. Variously attributed to Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Salvation Army founder William Booth, the saying cannot be documented in any of their writings. Indeed, whatever Booth’s views might have been, the question most certainly does not reflect the ideas or practices of Luther and Wesley.

September 4, 2004

Some years ago, I was leading a Master Class workshop at a local church with some of the LOFT gang. We arrived to discover that the church’s “band” was a rather odd assemblage of musical talent. Accompanying the vocalists was an electronic keyboard. And a piano. And an organ. I listened to a couple songs, and then asked, “Are you all playing the same music, the same notes?” When they responded affirmatively, I blurted out, “Well, stop it! Don’t do that any more!

September 4, 2004

The three songs chosen for this column all come from England and are found in a new hymnal, Sing Glory, produced by Jubilate Hymns, Ltd., the publishing arm of a group of about sixty British clergy, authors, and musicians that have been active in preparing new songs for the church since the 1960s (see box on p. 31 and a review of Sing Glory on p. 47). The first song predates the formation of the Jubilate Group; the other two are by active members of the group.

—ERB

June 4, 2004

James Abbington, known affectionately as “Jimmie” to his many friends, is a an amazingly versatile musician/scholar who is committed to the study and practice of worship music from the African American heritage. He is equally at home playing the piano, Hammond organ, or pipe organ; directing a choir; directing a conference; or composing, writing, and editing books and music on aspects of African American church music (see box).

June 3, 2003
Q. Our newspapers are full of stories about crime, homelessness, the environment, and other societal problems. Why don’t we hear more about this in worship?
—Michigan

A. My hunch is that these themes are quite prominent in communities that face injustice but less so in more affluent places. It is always a temptation to prefer worship that comforts us without challenging us. But the gospel clearly involves both.

June 1, 2001
Q. Why is the musical repertoire in our church so limited? We sing only about fifty of the top choruses and hymns. I tire of singing the same songs all the time.
—British Columbia
June 1, 2001

The following commissioning service is intended for those who lead music in worship, including choir directors and members, song leaders, and instrumentalists. Consider adapting it as a service of installation for someone in a staff leadership position, such as minister of music. Use the service following the proclamation of the Word, at the time of the offering, or in association with a particular music ministry in the service.
—ERB

Presentation

March 1, 2000

Professor Farnsworth is, well, fascinating. I think the reason she's not married is that she's already joined at the heart to Jonathan Edwards, William Bradford, Anne Hutchinson, and most of American Puritan history. She's a kick. She really is. When she starts in on one of the Puritan leaders, she gets in a zone, and it doesn't seem to matter whether there's anybody in the chairs in front of her. When that second hand sweeps past 11:00 a.m., something in her goes into gear and pushes through the class like a minesweeper.

September 1, 1997

Jesus, Joy of All Desiring" may be the single most recognizable piece of music written by johann Sebastian Bach. But although this movement from one Bach's cantatas is familiar, the complete cantata is seldom used in worship today. One reason worship planners avoid this and other Bach worship cantatas is that they seem too daunting.

June 1, 1997

"Why sing songs written by fallen mortals when Almighty God has inspired 150 of his own hymns?" That kind of thinking made choosing music for worship a moot point for many of our Reformed forebears. You sang the psalms. No wrestling over hymns versus praise choruses. How things have changed over the centuries!

June 1, 1997

For this issue the questions and answers for Q&A come from the report "Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture" by the worship committee of the Christian Reformed Church. Although the report, which is to , be presented at Synod 1997, is addressed in the first place to CRC congregations, churches from other denominations will have the same or similar questions. And, we trust, will benefit from the answers.