by Augustine Paul
A thing of beauty is a joy forever, said the poet Keats. Music, you will agree, is one such tremendous blessing given to us by our Maker. Now music is an integral part of worship, be it in the church or in a public place or at home.
Ephesians 5:19b urges us to Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.
The Church today varies in the size of the structure and the congregation besides other parameters. It may vary in the day the worship happens in its precincts –Friday(Gulf nations) Saturday (Adventists) or Sunday. The church can be a getting together of two or three families in a home or a hundred or two hundred gathering in a school hall or even a public auditorium or a large congregation in the magnificent churches built centuries ago. Wherever a church is, there is worship and music of some kind.
Keeping in mind that our Lord God looks for true worship and singing from the heart, we have to strive hard to keep the quality of music in a high order with perhaps limited resources available. It is true that mediocre talent with dedicated practice will do better than the talented without any rehearsal.
Thanks to the inventions of the Japanese in electronics in the field of music, the churches all over are ringing with music with one-man orchestras using a digital Keyboard playing the parts of a drums set, an acoustic guitar, bass guitar and piano or strings all in one with the touch of one key or button. As it is affordable and easy to play, many take to it. And it can be played with no knowledge of music but with just the know-how to operate the instrument. There is advantage in this system, yes, but a downside too. We forget that one should have musical knowledge and expertise to play in church week after week. A keyboardist is reluctant to include other instruments with him because it needs musical knowledge to communicate to fellow-musicians and get a reasonably good ensemble sound.
A little training
Music education in some form will help enhance the quality of music. Children should be encouraged to pursue music seriously if they dream of ministering in the church. Musicians and singers will do well if they care to do a little training. The advent of Keyboards has eliminated the use of live instruments like violin, flute and live percussion. Leave alone indigenous instruments like the veena, sitar and shehnai! Make music to the Lord with the harp, says Psalm 98:5. Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet, is the recommendation from the very last Psalm, Psalm 150:3.
If there is a good musician to take care of music, a choir is a possible addition. The resources are easily available in a church context. Friends from other faiths envy the numerous opportunities our kids get for a variety of occasions and platforms within the church and outside to sing the Lord’s name. It will be a pity if we do not harness this potential. A choir when established can slowly develop and sing in harmony.
At times we find music in small independent churches is of a high calibre than in main line churches. Though these churches are equipped with good pipe organs, pianos and choir pews, lack of trained musicians make them lag behind. There may be a complacent senior organist obstructing the growth of music in the church. To work in these churches and use the instruments and voices available, we need talent, musical knowledge and dedication.
Many pastors in independent churches do both the singing and preaching as the two are woven together. If they are singers turned into preachers, then the singing is wonderful. The reverse is not that good for church music. There can be a separate team to take care of music in the worship service. In a church blessed with a choir singing hymns in harmony, there is perhaps no need for a Pastor or a worship leader to sing in the microphone. The hymns are written mostly for corporate worship, where the choir encourages and leads the congregation in the singing of hymns.
For a receptive heart
Having a special song or an anthem in the service will certainly help set the tone for the Message and edify the worshippers. In “Leadership and Worship”, Ravi Zacharias highlights the importance of good music to condition the heart and the imagination in order to receive the Message.
Use of a mini orchestra for worship services is a luxury in our country, but if the church has the funds and resources, it is good to put one together and “make a joyful noise unto the Lord”. Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world”.
When the whole world is striving for perfection and excellence in various fields, why not the church in the field of music?
Psalm 100:1-2 Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Augustine Paul is music director of the 125-year-old Madras Musical Association Choir and founder-director, Octet Cantabile, a mixed voice gospel double quartet. Besides an MA in English Literature, Augustine holds a Licentiate in Music Theory from Trinity College, London