Friday, January 09, 2015

Do You Want a Singing Church?

While I appreciate what he says, I think he’s simply wrong on some points, so I’ll take it point by point.

First point: Yes. Absolutely right. Couldn’t agree more.

Second point: No Absolutely wrong. Couldn’t disagree more. He no doubt knows more about the use of the organ in the Reformation and post-Reformation periods than I do. But I grew up in a church with an organ. I worshiped more recently for more than twenty years in a church with an organ. My conclusion is that unless the organist is very careful the organ overwhelms singing. As a result, rather than screaming the songs, in order to hear themselves over the sound of the organ, most people just don’t sing. A piano is a much better accompanying instrument. Organ vs. guitar is simply a false dichotomy.

Third, fourth, and fifth points: He fails to realize that three is a contradiction of four. What is a choir if not a performing group? And the voices of the choir will do much more to help the congregational singing if they are actually scattered throughout the congregation, rather than being collected in one place up front. Otherwise I agree with the fourth point, as well as getting rid of the lead singer, which is just a one-man choir performing up front.

Sixth and seventh points: Not only is the singing in church too much, it is often unsingable by the ordinary person, because it was written for a soloist. This also relates to the thirteenth point. The singing outside of church is usually too little because people don’t know tunes. While I’m not an advocate of exclusive psalmody, one of the strengths of the old Scottish Psalter was that you could sing through the entire psalter even if you only knew a handful of tunes.

Points eight and nine: I’m in general agreement here. Though for many churches, the choice of space is limited by resources and availability. If a church is in a position to build its own building, acoustics is certainly one factor to take into account.

Points ten to twelve: Again, general agreement here. I read music, so I find myself frustrated by lyrics on the big screen. I enjoy learning new tunes, but I do better learning them if I have music to read. I have also found that many of the newer songs are “unpredictable” from a musical standpoint: that is, they go up when you expect them to go down, or some such.

Finally, the point being made is to ask ourselves the question, “Is there enough substance to what we sing that it is worthwhile to put out the effort to actually learn it and to sing it?”

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