Evolution of Church Music

HugalHugal Shipmate
edited November 8 in Purgatory
I don’t want to derail the thread in Hell so I will start this. There is a lot of deriding contemporary Christian Music. Yet if Church music hadn’t evolved we would not be singing the great hymns of the faith like Amazing Grace. If Church music fails to move on and remain relevant to society then it cannot live long. There are always exceptions Taze is hardly contemporary but is beautiful and of course the aforementioned great hymns. But if Church music in general fails to change it will become more and more irrelevant.
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Comments

  • Yes. And of course the vast majority of music never "stays the course" - just think of how few of Wesley's many thousands of hymns, or Victorian anthems that were churned out by the bucketload, or "popular" Gospel songs of the Fifties, we still use today. At some point though - possibly in the 50s/60s but perhaps as far back as Moody & Sankey or even further - a great divide opened up between what one might call "posh" or "high culture" church music, and the more banal and populist sort (although that is of course a gross over-simplification). The question to ask is whether that did or did not mirror a similar trend in the wider musical world.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    ... Yet if Church music hadn’t evolved we would not be singing the great hymns of the faith like Amazing Grace. ...

    You say that as if not singing "Amazing Grace" would be a bad thing. :wink:

    Actually I'm all in favor of church music evolving, and there is some excellent 21st century music. But most of the contemporary stuff I've heard is bad theologically and musically (JMHO!)

    (I feel the same way about other types of music. I've stopped my support of our local opera company. They're doing mostly contemporary works -- which would be fine if they were more appealing, but they seem to be mostly droning recitatives with hardly a real melody to be found. Sorry to start a tangent, but I guess I'm equally "elitist" about all music.)
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited November 8
    I think the sources of the deriding are multiple. I can think of at least three.

    Firstly, on first principles, since there is a tradition of, well, traditional church music, the churches are full of people who like it. To them it is already relevant and appropriate, and they worry about losing it. Moreover, the human brain tends to form associations, so traditional church music says "you're in church now" to them at quite a subconscious leve.

    Secondly, the vast majority of more modern (by which I mean not "100 Hymns for Yesterday's Church", which were actually much in the traditional mould musically) stuff mostly comes from a particular faction - charismatic evangelical - and that's reflected in the lyrics. I've reflected on the "sneaking non church music" thread about this a bit and why it causes a negative reaction in me. A few (OK, last bloody century now) years ago, Greenbelt produced the "Dance on Injustice" songbook, and Garth Hewitt wrote a small book of contemporary worship songs ("Walk the Talk") but neither got widespread usage. They had some of the same faults (Walk the Talk had some rather repetitive numbers) but at least weren't uncompromisingly evangelical in theology.

    Thirdly, I think there's a feeling that popular music actually moves quite fast and what's in now won't be in a few years, so you're on a treadmill. The early methodists by comparison (if memory serves) used folk songs which while current and relevant to the hearers were as old as the hills and would be just as current to future generations. Having said that, metal, rap, hip-hop, modern R&B seem to be quite static, but how many of these contemporary congregationalsongs are actually being written in those genres? There's also a tension here - much modern music has rhythmically complex and flexible vocal lines which don't necessarily work well in a congregational setting without actually changing what they are and becoming a genre all of their own.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Additional: Contemporary music is also quite fragmented; I can't abide listening to Galaxy FM or Heart FM for more than ten seconds; I'm sure other people would feel the same about my preferred Planet Rock station ;) - so there's no single measure of relevance.
  • Pigwidgeon wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    ... Yet if Church music hadn’t evolved we would not be singing the great hymns of the faith like Amazing Grace. ...

    You say that as if not singing "Amazing Grace" would be a bad thing. :wink:
    You said what I was thinking. :naughty: When I think of great hymns of the faith, "Amazing Grace" doesn't come to mind, I'm afraid. It might if I thought of popular hymns of the faith.

    Meanwhile, very good observations, @KarlLB.

  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    I think I described Amazing Grace as a great hymn of the faith. Which it is. I do like it, though it does have its critics.
  • Right, when I was doing my PhD I actually at one stage spent some time looking at it. There are two things to consider. Firstly there was a change in style in popular music in the mid-twentieth century.

    Secondly, Church Music split in the nineteenth Century with mainstream* hymnody drawing on classical music particularly romanticised folk music while the evangelical camp crusade music drawing on light popular music largely of the music hall. Needless to say that mainstream hymnody people looked down on the evangelical camp crusade songs.

    In about 1970 the evangelical crusade music realised the tradition it was drawing on had changed. This led to the rise of Worship music but
    1. It is disliked by those familiar with the old-style evangelical crusade music. It no longer reflects their music style.
    2. It is looked down upon those who used to mainstream hymnody as it draws on lighter elements of popular music.

    The objection on the ground of theology nearly always indicates a mainstream hymnody background. The objection worship songs do not engage with people but are repetitive is an argument of older people raised on older style crusade music.

    *mainstream - i.e. the historic church traditions in the nineteenth century
  • Hugal wrote: »
    I think I described Amazing Grace as a great hymn of the faith. Which it is. I do like it, though it does have its critics.
    You did describe it as a great hymn of the faith. I would not describe it that way. But I readily admit mine is a minority opinion.

  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    In about 1970 the evangelical crusade music realised the tradition it was drawing on had changed. This led to the rise of Worship music
    Of course it was more complicated than that (as I'm sure you are aware). I think that, in the early 60s, the Salvation Army "Joystrings" had quite an impact; and certainly the "Youth Praise" books from the All Souls' stable had a huge impact - they were an attempt to reflect modern popular music but were a long way from either the Beatles or modern worship songs, indeed some of the songs came from the much older CSSM Chorus Books.

  • Did Youth Praise really have a huge impact? My memory is that it felt dated as soon as it came out.
  • EutychusEutychus Admin
    edited November 8
    Nobody's mentioned money yet. Contemporary evangelicalism is, apart from anything else, now a huge market - worth $750 million to the music industry around the turn of the century according to this page. That drives output.
  • While you are right, Pete Ward in his book "Growing Up Evangelical" would assert that it influenced many church youth leaders who later became ministers and priests and saw their faith formed in that mould. Of course by the late 60s MGO asnd "Buzz" magazine were pursuing a very different path, supporting the rise of Christian bands.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited November 8
    I remember Youth Praise from the early seventies. Yes more complex than that, Youth Praise itself drew of Christian Folk for some of its songs ( e.g. Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us) which is largely Roman Catholic in origin.

    p.s. I have the rare distinction of spending my teens in a URC congregation who were into Christian Folk. I still have to break this to a RC friend from University times. It will seem weird but both of us spent our teen age years around people who were into the same repertoire.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?

    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, which is very frustrating when the sentiments are apt and the poetic quality good. I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance. For a Methodist, like myself, that's quite a problem!
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 8
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?
    Clearly that can be the case: certainly a rubbish tune will probably consign a good set of words to oblivion. However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.
    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, ... I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance.
    I'm sure you're right: many modern worship songs seem to have been designed to sing to a congregation although said congregation may well try to join in! However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

  • However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.


    Before the throne of God above, perchance?
  • I suppose we Orthodox should stop singing all those 1500 year old hymns then, since they're so obsolete.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    As someone who has to try and play modern worship tunes, while also learning the instrument of choice (Bass guitar) using pop and rock/blues standards of the last 50 years, the one thing that is very quickly obvious.

    The secular music I learn from is technically superior - sometimes vastly superior - to worship music. I can just about fumble my way around a turnaround sequence and find my IV, V and VI chords, and bang along to motown classics and rock anthems alike, but worship songs simply aren't written like ... songs. I find that inexplicable, and oddly distressing.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I suppose we Orthodox should stop singing all those 1500 year old hymns then, since they're so obsolete.

    Orthodox chants have changed quite a bit in the past 1500 years.

    That said, I do think the old chant traditions should be the base of Christian worship.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I suppose we Orthodox should stop singing all those 1500 year old hymns then, since they're so obsolete.

    Orthodox chants have changed quite a bit in the past 1500 years.

    That said, I do think the old chant traditions should be the base of Christian worship.

    Yes and no. Once the 8-tone system was in place, it has reigned over all our hymnody. Melodies may be invented, but they are slotted into one of the 8 tones. In western hymnody, melodies are invented all the time, but if they're 8787, it's nothing new. We don't do metrical hymns. That hasn't changed and isn't likely to. I think the major change has been the addition of 4-part harmony, mostly on the part of the Slavs. I can't think of any other changes in Orthodox hymnody that are anything like the change from the 8787 (et al.) hymnody to modern Protestant choruses/worship songs.
  • mousethief wrote: »
    I suppose we Orthodox should stop singing all those 1500 year old hymns then, since they're so obsolete.

    Orthodox chants have changed quite a bit in the past 1500 years.

    That said, I do think the old chant traditions should be the base of Christian worship.
    To be honest, that's part of my quibble with talking about "great hymns of the faith." In my experience, that usually really means "great hymns of my/our particular expression and experience of the faith," without regard to whether other parts of the church—meaning both other Christian traditions and non-English speaking parts of the church—would even be familiar with the hymns being so designated.

    My short take is that there is worthy hymnody from just about every period of the church's history and from all over the world, and for my money, that wide scope of hymnody is a mark of the small-c catholicity of the church.

    The primary challenge with contemporary hymnody and worship music is that we don't have the benefit of time to separate the lasting from the transient, the worth-keeping from the not-worth-keeping. For the most part, the culling from the first 19½ centuries of the church has been already been taken care of.

  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Baptist Trainfan: However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

    I think this underscores your remarks re Charles Wesley, Kaan and Bell remain to be sieved by the test of time in which only the odd nugget will remain. That is why the deepest hymns are often the oldest, and I don't mean the late nineteenth century, for example 'Come Down, O Love Divine (Bianco de Siena: circa 1400), and the great Easter Hymn of John of Damascus "Come ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness' (circa 700) both of which have appropriate later tunes. Similarly, there are the great survivors from the reformation period; "Now thank we all are God," surely accompanied by Nun Danket Alle Gott, and not destroyed by the jokey tune whose name I forget. Then remnants of the pietist tradition: 'Thou hidden love of God, whose height, whose depths unfathomed no man (one) knows, I see from far thy beauteous light, inly I sigh for thy repose" (Tersteegen: 1697-1769). This is to ignore the mine that is Isaac Watts: "When I survey the wondrous cross," "Join all the glorious names wisdom love and power" (ending: "I shall be safe, for Christ displays superior power and guardian grace"' and "Jesus shall reign where're the sun doth his successive journey's run" (again supported by great tunes). I don't have a hymnbook to hand, but I'm sure other examples of survival come to mind. I fail to mention Wesley's: "Come, O thou Traveller unknown."

    I guess I would say Bell's hymns often sound like a Guardian leader, worthy and right-thinking, whilst Watts writes of Christ displaying Guardian Grace! There is a difference.

    I apologise, I'm a sucker for any opportunity to talk about hymns!
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?
    Clearly that can be the case: certainly a rubbish tune will probably consign a good set of words to oblivion. However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.
    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, ... I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance.
    I'm sure you're right: many modern worship songs seem to have been designed to sing to a congregation although said congregation may well try to join in! However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

    I disagree. I think in the wrong hands it can feel like that. Most contemporary music songs are made for a band with a worship leader. The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
  • Byzantine hymns are metered, just not usually in a line by line way. That is, the hymns follow a set pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that can be introduced by the composer or, more often, based on an existing model hymn. For example, the irmos and all the troparia in the first ode of the little paraklesis follow this basic pattern of unstressed (_) and stressed (x) syllables.

    _ X _ _ X _ _ X _ X
    _ X _ _ X _
    _ _ X _ _ X _ X
    _ X _ _ X _ X _ X _ X
    _ X _ X _ _ X _ X _ X

    The metered English translation of the irmos:
    On crossing the water as though dry land,
    escaping from Egypt
    and its miseries in his flight,
    the Israelite raised his voice and cried aloud,
    ‘To our Redeemer and our God now let us sing!’


    This allows the cantor to sing the same melody for each troparion. The next ode will have a different meter which is established by the irmos for that ode.

    There are also some Byzantine hymns that follow a strict iambic rhythm and even rhyme in Greek or Arabic. The iambic canons of various feasts (Nativity, Pentecost, etc.) attributed to St John Damascene have lines of three iambic feet (note that the Greek iamb consists of four syllables).

    Byzantine chant has changed a lot- both in the introduction of new hymns and melodies and in other features like the relatively recent addition of ison. That's before we talk about the modern polyphony which is not just a Slavic thing but can be found in Greek churches as well. The modern Russian system of chant has evolved a long way from the Znamenny roots and the "tones" as they are understood in the obikhod system are pretty unrecognizable from a Byzantine chant perspective. Then you have compositions by Bortniansky which are pretty far removed from the chant tradition and are influenced by Italian baroque.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?
    Clearly that can be the case: certainly a rubbish tune will probably consign a good set of words to oblivion. However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.
    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, ... I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance.
    I'm sure you're right: many modern worship songs seem to have been designed to sing to a congregation although said congregation may well try to join in! However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

    I disagree. I think in the wrong hands it can feel like that. Most contemporary music songs are made for a band with a worship leader. The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Can you elaborate a little on the bolded? By “contemporary music songs,” do you mean something other than hymns in the traditional sense (which is what I would categorize the works of folks like Fred Kaan and John Bell as)? Do you mean what I often hear called “praise music”?

  • People do know that Watts wrote hundreds of hymns (IIRC somewhere around 800) and Charles Wesley wrote over a thousand. The pruning has been harsh indeed.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?
    Clearly that can be the case: certainly a rubbish tune will probably consign a good set of words to oblivion. However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.
    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, ... I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance.
    I'm sure you're right: many modern worship songs seem to have been designed to sing to a congregation although said congregation may well try to join in! However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

    I disagree. I think in the wrong hands it can feel like that. Most contemporary music songs are made for a band with a worship leader. The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Can you elaborate a little on the bolded? By “contemporary music songs,” do you mean something other than hymns in the traditional sense (which is what I would categorize the works of folks like Fred Kaan and John Bell as)? Do you mean what I often hear called “praise music”?

    Take a look at Spring Harvest music and New Wine Music and Hillsongs to find out the sort of thing I am talking about.
  • Byzantine hymns are metered, just not usually in a line by line way. That is, the hymns follow a set pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables that can be introduced by the composer or, more often, based on an existing model hymn. For example, the irmos and all the troparia in the first ode of the little paraklesis follow this basic pattern of unstressed (_) and stressed (x) syllables.

    _ X _ _ X _ _ X _ X
    _ X _ _ X _
    _ _ X _ _ X _ X
    _ X _ _ X _ X _ X _ X
    _ X _ X _ _ X _ X _ X

    The metered English translation of the irmos:
    On crossing the water as though dry land,
    escaping from Egypt
    and its miseries in his flight,
    the Israelite raised his voice and cried aloud,
    ‘To our Redeemer and our God now let us sing!’


    This allows the cantor to sing the same melody for each troparion. The next ode will have a different meter which is established by the irmos for that ode.

    There are also some Byzantine hymns that follow a strict iambic rhythm and even rhyme in Greek or Arabic. The iambic canons of various feasts (Nativity, Pentecost, etc.) attributed to St John Damascene have lines of three iambic feet (note that the Greek iamb consists of four syllables).

    Byzantine chant has changed a lot- both in the introduction of new hymns and melodies and in other features like the relatively recent addition of ison. That's before we talk about the modern polyphony which is not just a Slavic thing but can be found in Greek churches as well. The modern Russian system of chant has evolved a long way from the Znamenny roots and the "tones" as they are understood in the obikhod system are pretty unrecognizable from a Byzantine chant perspective. Then you have compositions by Bortniansky which are pretty far removed from the chant tradition and are influenced by Italian baroque.

    I bow to your superior knowledge.
  • Those are the six golden, mellifluous words I ceaselessly toil and shed blood to hear in this cybervale of tears.
  • That's kinda sad.
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Am I right in detecting a confusion in this discussion between Hymns and Hymn Tunes? Or is the argument that without popular hymn tunes the hymns themselves would not survive? Or are the tunes more important than the hymns, so that popular tunes have supported hymns which are little more than doggerel and/or of questionable theology?
    Clearly that can be the case: certainly a rubbish tune will probably consign a good set of words to oblivion. However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.
    A problem I have with modern hymns is that the tunes often defy congregational singing, ... I suppose it reflects a general development in western culture whereby community singing has been replaced by lyrics and tunes designed for solo performance.
    I'm sure you're right: many modern worship songs seem to have been designed to sing to a congregation although said congregation may well try to join in! However there is I think also a problem in modern hymns of the Fred Kaan or John Bell ilk, is that the words convey worthy sentiments but somehow don't really seem to be singable in a worship context.

    I disagree. I think in the wrong hands it can feel like that. Most contemporary music songs are made for a band with a worship leader. The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Can you elaborate a little on the bolded? By “contemporary music songs,” do you mean something other than hymns in the traditional sense (which is what I would categorize the works of folks like Fred Kaan and John Bell as)? Do you mean what I often hear called “praise music”?

    Take a look at Spring Harvest music and New Wine Music and Hillsongs to find out the sort of thing I am talking about.
    Thanks. I just wanted to make sure I was assuming a meaning you didn't intend.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    @Jengie Jon how far back did your PhD research go? There was also a big change in the style of music somewhere around the third quarter of the nineteenth century. One of the aspirations of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which saw itself as revolutionary and progressive at the time, was to purge the established church of a style of music that had been evolving since the end of the seventeenth century, and which had become a sort of folk baroque. It is a style that survives in some Christmas music.

    The Revd W.H. Havergal whose life spanned the change wrote in both styles. When his daughter Frances published his Psalmody shortly after his death, she included one solitary example of his old style, a tune called St Chrysostom, of which either she, or even possibly he, said,
    “A single specimen of a great number of tunes, composed in earlier life by the Rev. W. H. Havergal ; which, though melodious and much liked, were excluded from his " Hundred Psalm and Hymn Tunes," because imperfectly accordant with the standards of riper years.”

    There was an earlier period of change in the late seventeenth century when the music was speeded up. It's thought that before that, much church singing sounded a bit like an Anglophone version of Gaelic psalmody.
  • However there is one Victorian hymn (which temporarily eludes me!) which has become popular because of a new tune.


    Before the throne of God above, perchance?

    Yes!
  • Hugal wrote: »
    The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Yes, I see that, though I'm not sure if I particularly like it.

  • I was working with modern hymn books and trying to sort out the differences between the choice of hymns sung in two different congregations. So the answer is not a clear yes or no. I was trying in general to characterise the songs the congregations sang and they sang some that were translations of hymns from the early church.

    The earlier tunes from pre 17th Century do still exist but we sing them at a faster pace, for instance, Old One Hundredth!
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Be upstanding for "Jesus is my boyfriend."
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Be that as it may, evolution can go backwards. Warning.
    This is not for those of a tender disposition.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited November 9
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    The earlier tunes from pre 17th Century do still exist but we sing them at a faster pace, for instance, Old One Hundredth!
    Although I remember the URC musicologist John Bradbury saying that the Lutheran hymns such as Ein Feste Burg had originally been sung a good deal faster than we sing them today, and got slowed down drastically (in Germany) during the C17 and 18. As a parallel, it's interesting that we sing Bach and Handel ("Messiah" etc) significantly faster today than in the 1940s.
  • hatlesshatless Shipmate
    I've become interested in the idea of locally produced and used hymns (and prayers, etc.) Amazing Grace was, I think, part of the Olney Hymns, designed for use in the churches in that area.

    It's surely a modern thing that we expect a new song to be sung from Canberra to Chicago, or that we think in terms of 'great hymns'. This is 'Penguin Stereo Record Guide' thinking - the idea that it's possible and desirable to reach agreement about what is best, what goes in the museum of greatest ever, and what, therefore, we can feel good about owning, appreciating, and choosing for Sunday morning.

    I think it's good if worship belongs to the Church Universal, as far as we can imagine and manage that, but also to these people in this place on this day. A commitment to the local also undermines the influence of commerce and makes us value the homemade and those products that show fingerprints.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    Hugal wrote: »
    The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Yes, I see that, though I'm not sure if I particularly like it.

    That is up to you. I do. It sums up one of the ideas behind this thread. A lot is a matter of taste. I won’t dis a liturgical service even though it is not my style.
  • And that, of course, posits a number of questions which in my opinion are too rarely asked.

    1. Are there absolutely qualitative tests of "how good" a piece of music is? From the classical world: why is Mozart "better" than Boccherini? (The same questions can be asked of all genres; I just chose one which I know well).

    2. Do we make our personal tastes the arbiter of what is "good"? Are Tallis and Byrd intrinsically better than Kendrick and Townend - or is that just what we like or dislike?

    3. In church, do different types of music "click" with people from different demographics or, indeed, in differing situations in life? Might there be a genuine place for "banal" music as well as that which is theologically astute?

    4. Do churches which wish to "reach out" to the unchurched have any idea about what kinds of music are most likely to resonate with folk in their local context?

    5. To what extent should Christians be generous and say, "This song doesn't do anything for me - but I'm happy if it helps Mtrs. Bloggs in the next pew"?

    6. How much is Christian music about teaching the faith. challenging the faithful, or creating an atmosphere?

    Etc., etc, ,,,
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    And that, of course, posits a number of questions which in my opinion are too rarely asked.

    1. Are there absolutely qualitative tests of "how good" a piece of music is? From the classical world: why is Mozart "better" than Boccherini? (The same questions can be asked of all genres; I just chose one which I know well).
    Difficult one. I confidently make assertions as to why some paintings - especially some religious ones - are naff. I'm confident in my views, but I'd be hard pressed to explain why. I think being emotionally facile or second hand is often part of it.


    2. Do we make our personal tastes the arbiter of what is "good"? Are Tallis and Byrd intrinsically better than Kendrick and Townend - or is that just what we like or dislike?
    Much of the time, alas, yes. A dose of snobbery helps.


    3. In church, do different types of music "click" with people from different demographics or, indeed, in differing situations in life? Might there be a genuine place for "banal" music as well as that which is theologically astute?
    Since a lot of people like banal music, I think the answer to that has to be yes.


    4. Do churches which wish to "reach out" to the unchurched have any idea about what kinds of music are most likely to resonate with folk in their local context?
    I've a strong suspicion no. There's a widespread assumption that 'this is what is bound to appeal', without asking whether it does, or whether, even if it does, whether it does much to help people to come to faith if they're encouraged to sing it.


    5. To what extent should Christians be generous and say, "This song doesn't do anything for me - but I'm happy if it helps Mtrs. Bloggs in the next pew"?
    A lot more than we are.


    6. How much is Christian music about teaching the faith. challenging the faithful, or creating an atmosphere?
    That leaves out something which I think is essential, which is that it needs to enable, train and shape the spirit to worship, something that doesn't come naturally, and in which most of us are little more than beginners. 'Creating an atmosphere', whether by a well trained cathedral choir or by a praise band, is usually no more than an ersatz substitute for that, and not a very good one.

    On the other hand, didactic worthiness deadens some of the least effective hymns I know, viz. I'm afraid, most of the output of Fred Kaan and Fred Pratt Green. That which tells us what to feel, rather than encourages us to look upwards or attempts to describe what we'll find there usually doesn't work.

    Etc., etc, ,,,
    No comment.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Baptist Trainfan: To what extent should Christians be generous and say, "This song doesn't do anything for me - but I'm happy if it helps Mtrs. Bloggs in the next pew"?
    A difficult question. Possible a distinction has to be made between the sentimental and downright heresy. There is undoubtedly a strong affection for hymns written in the latter half or third of the nineteenth century, and when people say they like the "old hymns" it's to hymns of that period they refer: "What a friend we have in Jesus..", "Will your anchor hold..", pre-Freudian: "Blessed Assurance" ( perfect submission...visions of rapture...filled with his goodness, lost in his love), "In Heavenly love abiding," "Trust and obey", and the Sankey stuff "It is well (or is it swell?) with my soul", "There were ninety and nine...", all with accompanying affecting stories. I, for one, draw a line with "There is a green hill far away" because of its banal soteriology ('There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin'), and the alternatives e.g., "When I survey," are simply more profound.

    If more challenging hymns are used, then maybe preachers need to introduce them or discuss their insights in their sermons. (Perhaps to explain what constitutes "a higher gift than grace"!). "Teach me my God and King," (George Herbert) is a sermon in itself but its imagery needs to be released. In other words Mrs Bloggs deserves the opportunity to sing hymns she has found spiritually supporting, but she also needs to have her horizons expanded. It's about strengthening faith not imposing unwelcome sophistication.
  • HugalHugal Shipmate
    As to outreach there is an argument that you should be what you are. If you are reaching out then you shouldn’t raise expectations of people that you won’t fulfill.
  • I thank you both for giving these questions the type of sensible answer that I was hoping for, much appreciated.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Shipmate
    edited November 9
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Baptist Trainfan: To what extent should Christians be generous and say, "This song doesn't do anything for me - but I'm happy if it helps Mtrs. Bloggs in the next pew"?
    A difficult question. Possible a distinction has to be made between the sentimental and downright heresy. There is undoubtedly a strong affection for hymns written in the latter half or third of the nineteenth century, and when people say they like the "old hymns" it's to hymns of that period they refer: "What a friend we have in Jesus..", "Will your anchor hold..", pre-Freudian: "Blessed Assurance" ( perfect submission...visions of rapture...filled with his goodness, lost in his love), "In Heavenly love abiding," "Trust and obey", and the Sankey stuff "It is well (or is it swell?) with my soul", "There were ninety and nine...", all with accompanying affecting stories. I, for one, draw a line with "There is a green hill far away" because of its banal soteriology ('There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin')

    Some years ago I heard Mark Noll tackle this topic which he chose to illustrate with the song "I Come to the Garden Alone". There's a reasonable summary of his thoughts here, I remember him being visibly moved when he got to the conclusion of the anecdote in that piece. As Mouw says "in this case a little hyperbole serves a cause that goes well beyond spiritual sentimentalism."
  • Hugal wrote: »
    Hugal wrote: »
    The worship leader has the job of leading people into sing worship. The songs are not designed to be sung in a liturgical situation but in a block of worship. You go on a song journey.
    Yes, I see that, though I'm not sure if I particularly like it.

    That is up to you. I do. It sums up one of the ideas behind this thread. A lot is a matter of taste. I won’t dis a liturgical service even though it is not my style.

    Thing is though, Hugal, the kind of 'worship block' style you allude to is just as much a form of set liturgy as anything you'd find in a traditional liturgical service.

    The worship leader and worship band format has created its own tradition. We all know how it goes: a medley of upbeat praise songs followed by some slower paced more reflective numbers then a faster or more crescendo style one at the end.

    I'm not dissing it but I do wish that those who engage in and favour this particular style and format would step back for a moment and recognise that it's nowhere near as flexible, spontaneous and 'inspired' as they like to think it is.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    chrisstyles, thanks for the reference. I couldn't resist making the obvious comparison with Come into the Garden Maud.

    I Come To The Garden Alone. Miles.

    I come to the garden alone
    While the dew is still on the roses
    And the voice I hear falling on my ear
    The Son of God discloses.

    Refrain

    And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
    And He tells me I am His own;
    And the joy we share as we tarry there,
    None other has ever known.

    He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
    Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    And the melody that He gave to me
    Within my heart is ringing.

    Refrain

    I’d stay in the garden with Him
    Though the night around me be falling,
    But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
    His voice to me is calling.

    Refrain

    Come into the garden, Maud. Tennyson.

    COME into the garden, Maud,
    For the black bat, night, has flown,
    Come into the garden, Maud,
    I am here at the gate alone;
    And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
    And the musk of the rose is blown. etc. etc.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Hell Host
    I'm not dissing it but I do wish that those who engage in and favour this particular style and format would step back for a moment and recognise that it's nowhere near as flexible, spontaneous and 'inspired' as they like to think it is.

    This is a common accusation levelled at the CharEvos from the more Trad believers, but trust me on this, we already know.

    We get the song list a week before and we practice together on a week night. There is nothing 'inspired' about it, in the sense that no one picks the songs last minute. The best we get is when the vicar decides to do a Martyn Joseph stylee extemporaneous free-styling, leaving the back line wondering quite when we'll get back to what we actually did in the practice.

    The flexible bit is where we drop the most competently-musical song in the entire service.

    But I'd need an extra bag to carry my music folder with almost 200 different songs in it, and five minutes to find the right set of sheets if we were going to be spontaneous - I'm nowhere near good enough to just wing it.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    we were going to be spontaneous - I'm nowhere near good enough to just wing it.

    I've seen this happen for short periods of time at a couple of churches where the musicians just happened to talented enough and young enough that they could spend most of their time practicing alone and with each other. On the one hand there were periods of extempore singing in tongues, and spontaneously composed songs (they were largely middling - but impressive enough given the process that gave birth to them), on the other hand one of those churches was also the place that a worship leader once launched into "He'll be coming 'round the mountain when he comes".
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