I’m a musician on the rota of band leaders at Aldridge Parish Church. This Christmas will be one of the more intense ones for me, because I’m playing at the carol services (two of them, back to back, December 22nd evening) and the morning of December 15th. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote a song! It’s got Shepherds and Angels in it. So, it must by definition be a Christmas song. It’s astonishing when I think about it how much the shepherds feature in my Christmas thinking. Read the rest of this entry »
Just a quick note to say some people are already asking about Ales, Beers and Carols 2012 in Walsall and the surrounding area. Read the rest of this entry »
We had a lot of fun singing carols in the absolutely freezing cold of Aldridge Shopping Precinct, but it was freezing, and not many people were hanging around to hear us, and frankly it was fun but only in spite of the cold.
If only we could find a friendly, local, warm venue to carol in… Read the rest of this entry »
I have been invited by representatives of Walsall Strategic Regeneration to put together a “Christmas Choir” type thing in the middle of Aldridge from 14:00 to 14:30 on Saturday December 10th, 2011. It’s one “act” as part of a larger Christmas celebration. In effect, I have local government backing and mandate to present Christmas music in public to an audience. This is very cool.
The “choir” could be a hand-picked group of people who owe me favours or want to have fun together, but that seems a little exclusive. Much better, in my opinion to open the whole thing wider. I am declaring an all-comers Flash Mob Carolling moment. Read the rest of this entry »
Where is contemporary worship headed? An easy question to pose, and yet almost impossible to answer.
The current fad for one thing or another in church worship is probably to be followed by a different fad, focussed on a different style, bias or preference.
What, then, of the hymn, which improves but dwindles with age? Musicians update the style, the setting, the tune and even modernise the lyrics, but what qualities keep some of the old hymns on their feet when music written only five years ago may now be found upon its knees?
I suspect that the secret lies in familiarity and simplicity. We are familiar with hymns and their lyrics because they were often sung in our youth. In the same way, my sons may grow up knowing “My Jesus, My Saviour” as an old classic. The other distinguishing mark must be the simplicity of ideas in older hymns. They might expend several verses on one event or theme. For as many examples as you like, take Christmas carols, or “Amazing Grace” which covers only one aspect of God’s character yet covers half a dozen verses at least.
Modern worship songs, especially the ones I dislike, seem to quote scripture as though the very act of singing it sanctifies the song; or else make references to concepts far removed from the ordinary life of most churchgoers. The successful modern hymnists are finding simple concepts or narratives, singable tunes, and accessible language. They weave them together into something my grandchildren may one day pull out of a book and say “I remember this, we haven’t sung it in years!”
Yes, it’s quite true. I’m a fan of songs in church which serve the congregation, are easy to pick up and hum along with, are not full of spiritual jargon that people find hard to decipher, and communicate some aspect of faith or spiritual life effectively.
Tragically, I also like Christmas carols and old hymns and things written in 1970s (before I was born!) which require a rainbow guitar strap to be fully effective.
The church requires new material, but it does so at the expense of the songs which have gone before. Even the most staid of church environments find time for new hymns and I know of at least one church where a record is kept of the hymns used from the hymn book, to ensure even exposure.
Where does this desire come from? Why do some of us crave the variety and excitement of new material? More importantly, how many times can you play something new before it becomes old?
We are instructed in the Bible to present ourselves as offerings before God. For a creative bod such as me, that can mean presenting the things we have created, particularly if that means material for the use or benefit of the church. I accept this leads to a fairly high level of trite or poor quality stuff that needs recycling before it does any lasting damage to the tastes of the listener. However, we now use a tiny proportion of the material composed for church use since the dawn of Western music. That’s a lot of natural wastage. Some music is written for the moment. Some is more enduring, but that’s not the real point.
If we do not create, we risk stifling the nature God gave us. So, to produce new material is a natural and normal consequence of our creation by God. We should be happy to accept the new and integrate it into our Sunday worship. The new could even be the old, repackaged. Retro is good.
We must have new worship songs because the needs and focus of the members of our church aren’t static, and the creative output of our musicians is valuable as an act of worship and devotion.