Saturday, November 5, 2011

More Comments on Volume

I am busy researching contemporary worship music for a paper I am giving at the American Academy of Religion in a couple of weeks time. This currently has me wading through forty years of articles in Christianity Today. I have found a couple of comments that tie in with my own blogging on volume.
In 2009, John Stackhouse (prof. at Regent in Vancouver) wrote an opinion piece called"Memo to Worship Bands: Turn It Down Please!"He makes some good points including a fine whistle stop tour through the history of church music:
By the time church music matured into Palestrina and Co. in the 16th century, it had become too demanding and ornate for ordinary singers. So Christians went to church to listen to a priest and a choir.
The Protestant Reformation yanked musical worship away from the professionals and put it back in the pews. Luther composed hymns with simple (and beautiful) tunes and meters. Calvin insisted on taking lyrics from the Psalms. This was music in which almost anyone could participate. The problem today, to be sure, is rarely elaborate music. We could use a little more artistry, in fact, than we usually get with the simplistic and repetitive musical figures of many contemporary worship songs.
No, the contrast with the Reformation is the modern-day insistence that a few people at the front be the center of attention. We do it by making six band members louder than a room full of people. But a church service isn’t a concert at which an audience sings along with the real performers. Musicians—every one of them, including the singers—are accompanists to the congregation’s praise. They should be mixed loudly enough only to do their job of leading and supporting the congregation. . . But when you are leading us in singing, then lead us in singing. 
You can read the whole article over at Stackhouse's Blog.

I found another ally in Gary Parett (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) who in 2005 wrote 9.5 Theses on Worship. Thesis number 8 included this:
On many Sundays, nowadays, it seems that it does not matter if I sing during worship, for I cannot hear myself even if I do. Nor can I hear the brothers and sisters sitting near me. In fact, we can only hear those few people standing up front with their microphones. . .The Bible commands us to "speak to one another" in songs, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). I find myself longing for such experiences today. I need to hear my sisters and brothers confessing the faith into my ears, and they need to hear me. Surely it is not only the professionals or the gifted who believe the things we are singing. Those who lead us in song must do precisely that—lead us, not replace us or overpower us. Let the amplifiers provide for a volume level loud enough to help us do our job, for it is the congregation, and not the band, that is the true "worship team."
It is reassuring to know that I am not the only white goateed theology professor who has strange ideas about congregational singing!

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