Why should the Presbyterians have all the good music?

January 24, 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about Christian music, but something this morning really made me pause and think.

Horatio Spafford is known for a few things, principally as a chum of great evangelist Dwight Moody and the writer of “It is well with my Soul” – a hymn inspired by the tragic loss of his four daughters in a shipwreck when crossing the Atlantic to holiday in England. The hymn, published by Sankey to a tune by Philip Bliss, is a standard in traditional protestant Christian churches, an inspiring message that whatever the world throws at a person God’s love and grace are sufficient to meet the challenge. It’s a hymn strong on key Christian themes, and recognised and sung across the English-speaking world.

Which is why I’m rather disappointed that Matt Redman nicked the chorus to shore up one of his recent compositions. Read the rest of this entry »

Harvest Songs – Where’s all the new material?

September 23, 2013

I’m playing at church on Sunday. My minister is talking to me about Harvest themed songs, and he hasn’t found much to enjoy from the “modern” worship canon.

Not that there is much really.

Harvest for most Christians is about thanking God for the abundance of creation. Even with all the skill in the world, farmers rely on nature to operate within normal tolerances and for us, that’s in the gift of Almighty God. We like a good knees-up. Anyone who thinks we don’t know how to party has never read about Jesus’ first recorded miracle – the whole water into wine thing. We are encouraged to celebrate, but apparently we must do it with a tragically dated soundtrack.
Read the rest of this entry »

Give me that old time religion… it’s good enough for me.

April 16, 2013

Church on Sunday was great. There was a fantastic sermon and some good old time hymns mixed in with the modern songs. I’m not saying church is all about the music, but given I was playing the piano, it was a key factor in my thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Psalm 150 – and why the guitar is an instrument of truth.

February 6, 2013

Have you read Psalm 150? It’s a bit of the Bible which is quite short and to the point, but also very clear on a single issue.

Praise God. Praise him with music, and dancing.

I can’t dance. Read the rest of this entry »

Clued up church worship.

July 5, 2012

I’m a huge fan of “I’m sorry, I haven’t a Clue” on BBC Radio 4. One of their famous games, and one we’ve tried before is “One Song to the Tune of Another” in which, well, you can guess.

As it happens, organists have been playing this particular game for years, dropping alternative tunes onto the unsuspecting congregation, sometimes without even the foreknowledge of the presiding minister, and occasionally without warning the choir. Read the rest of this entry »

Singing for the dead, to the living

March 14, 2012

I have just had the most surreal afternoon imagineable. This morning, while enjoying my free Starbucks latte, I read on Twitter that my mate @PastorEv was facing a tough afternoon, singing “Jesu, joy of man’s desiring” which is famous, twiddly, and quite high with a small funeral party who were mostly non-churchgoers.

I asked if he needed backup. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating in a minor key

November 26, 2011

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, and I’m leading worship at a little church in Darlaston. When I say leading worship, I mean “doing everything” – I’ve picked the hymns, will lead the prayers, will preach and generally stand at the front looking important. Read the rest of this entry »

Harvest Festival

October 1, 2011

I’m playing tomorrow for a Harvest Festival at my church. It’s a traditional affair with the usual harvest hymns, but I’m a bit stuck because of several limiting factors: Read the rest of this entry »

Music and Renewal… interesting bedfellows?

July 16, 2010

I know I haven’t had much to write about recently, but a post and a challenge from Rector Rich has had me thinking about the very little part of Christian Sunday Mornings that has been my “thing” for half my lifetime.

The Sunday singing, the sung worship, the time of worship, the hymns and psalms, or whatever you may choose to call it assuming you’re in my middle-class Protestant neck of the woods, is a source of huge discomfort and argument within churches and yet seems to have little immediate impact on those who view it from outside. Read the rest of this entry »

The future of sung worship

November 8, 2009

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!”