Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thoughts about sacred music

The United Voices of Edmonton (Robertson-Wesley Choir, Knox-Metropolitan Choir and the Willan Chorale) are preparing to undertake a choral trip to England. Because of this trip, I've been thinking about the community we're creating from 3 choirs, the grounding in an an age-old tradition of evensong, the beauty of the architecture of the buildings that we'll be singing in and of course finding inspiration in the music we'll be singing.

I've been pondering a couple of sermons on the Durham Cathedral (England) website given by The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove. One particular one about music has caught my attention.

Rev. Sadgrove describes music as entering into a "thin" place somewhere between earth (the tangible) and heaven (the intangible). Music is often associated with praise of God. But it goes much deeper for me - to all the arts and their power to inspire, create beauty, to comfort and allow mourners to grieve, to lift up someone who is down, and to create a sense of celebration.

I feel so blessed to have the job - the calling that I do - to be the one who enables those around me to find expressions for their joys and sorrows, their praises and prayers.

To quote from Rev. Sadgrove (linked above):

"Music gives our worship wings. It soars and flies, it beckons heaven come down to us. Music touches parts of us nothing else can quite reach. It enlarges our imaginations, it moves our spirits, it coaxes us to love in a new and deeper way. I could tell you how I first came to Christian faith through singing a piece of Bach's music as boy treble more than 40 years ago. We could all tell stories about how a hymn or a psalm, a song, a motet or a symphony had a profound effect on us. That's why we in cathedrals invest so much in our music. It's why parishes should never resent the cost of achieving the very best in music, whatever their style of worship. It's an investment in mission. It has converting power. Above all, it's for the praise of God. "

I appreciate that he says "achieving the very best in music, whatever their style of worship". I've been on the front lines of "worship wars" between "contemporary" and "traditional" - whatever those terms mean. The more important question for me is "Are we giving our best to God?" I've finally found the place where I'm free to express the scripture, the theme, the sermon topic, the day or the liturgical season in almost any musical form. My main criterion in this stage of my worship leadership is "does it fit?" - not "what style is it in?" or "who's going to be annoyed if I choose this piece of music?" For this freedom I am truly thankful, and I hope this freedom allows me to best serve God and God's people.

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