Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Music and Memorial Day

Photo credit: Kimberly G.
Last month there was a national holiday, we know it as Memorial Day. A family at our church held a day of festivities that included a time for music and sharing. Esther and I played two pieces together, one of which was titled The Lord Shall Supply Thy Need .

Why Memorial Day? What are remembering? Many things; Providences of God, our history etc. Keeping in mind that one of the foremost reasons we have Memorial Day, is for saying thank you to those who have died in the past for our liberty, as well as for the Christian Faith, the words to The Lord Shall Supply My Need seemed fitting for the day.

I can imagine that these words might have given great comfort to those Christians fighting in the battlefield, as well as those facing the burning stake.

My Lord Shall Supply Thy Need

My Shepherd will supply my need: Jehovah is His name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed, Beside the living stream. 
He brings my wandering spirit back When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake, In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death His presence is my stay;
One word of His supporting grace Drives all my fears away. 
His hand, in sight of all my foes, Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows, His oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode, And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest, While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest, But like a child at home.

Psalm 23, paraphrased
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Posting topics for July

Come back in July to read about:

  • Pentatonic Music
  • What Leonard Bernstein thought about J.S. Bach
  • Eleganza Strings Studio Recital
  • A wedding at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Ag and Arts Tour 2013

A few weeks ago, we spent two whole days at Leegacy Farm, playing live harp and violin music for the 2nd. Annual Arts and Ag Tour. We played a collection of Scottish, Irish, Folk, Sacred and Classical selections. The West ladies also joined the team at Leegacy Farm for the two days. It was enjoyable to listen to their great toe tapping music when we were on break.  Fried pies, lemonade, and plenty of handmade items were in abundance......

We were situated under a canopy by a trickling waterfall....so relaxing!
Arts and Ag Tour , here we come
Rocking chairs in abundance, as well as a porch swing ( my personal favorite )
There were rabbits for sale
West ladies booth

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Book Review-- Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns by: T. David Gordon

My concluding thoughts on Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns are as follows:

 I agree with Gordon in that we should care about singing appropriate music to God on Sundays ( and every day ). And certainly we must encourage others to care about singing the good old hymns, but I think for those of us who have studied music, and have been convicted about singing theologically sound worship music ( the Trinity hymnal for example ), must be careful that we don't look down our noses in a very arrogant and prideful way because we think we're "more godly". We must remember that it's only by the grace of God that we know what we know, its nothing we've done or deserved.
When we share our thoughts and convictions on Hymnody, it should be out of true love for the brethren and fear of God. Soli Deo Gloria, this is what it's all about.
Gordon addresses the issue of worship music in a very gentle and sensitive way, and he is by no means condemning of others or haughty in his approach of the subject. May we all learn from his example.


Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal

Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns
Written by: T. David Gordon
Reviewed by: Hannah DeLadurantey

Gordon's purpose in writing this book:
  1. Prove that music in worship is significant, and that we should take more care finding out more about it.
  2. How to evaluate worship music
  3. Find out why hymns are unpopular in our culture, and if it is a problem, how to help cure it

Why Is Music Significant?

“ Music may be religious or profane, sublime or mundane, pious or pernicious, but music is not insignificant. It would not be a universal reality in all cultures if it were insignificant.”

In the first chapter or so, Gordon defends why God cares about worship music. As the reader, your taken on a journey to the Old Testament, where Gordon gives scripture references to allow you, the reader, perspective into how important God's place of worship was (the Temple). Gordon goes on to explain that if God took so much time and detail to explain how He wanted the Temple to look, wouldn't He care very much on what type of music was sung and played for the worship of Himself? Indeed He does care.

How does music affect us and do we have to evaluate it?

“ Like worship, music is a reality that involves us emotionally and sometimes deeply, and therefore it is difficult for us to establish the philosophical distance necessary to evaluate it on aesthetic or musical grounds. Worship music, then, is almost hopelessly impossible to discuss because it combines the passion we feel about worship with the passion we feel about music, and the whole enterprise becomes so fraught with emotion that philosophical distance is extremely difficult for most to acquire. Nonetheless, it is our duty, once we raise the subject, to do the best we can to evaluate it with all the resources available to us. ”

How to Evaluate a Hymn/Worship Music

Hymn Criteria

  • theologically orthodox lyrics
  • theologically significant lyrics
  • literary apt and thoughtful lyrics
  • lyrics and music appropriate to a meeting between God and his visible people
  • well-written music with regard to melody, harmony, rhythm, and form.
  • musical setting appropriate to the lyrical content

*Historical note: the Trinity Hymnal mentions the goal of compiling a hymnal that has three traits: “truly ecumenical...theocentric in orientation, biblical content”

  • “ Study the psalms and ask whether, on lyrical grounds, the various form of contemporary worship music demonstrates anything like the theological or literary integrity or profundity of the individual psalms.”

Gordon presses the point that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful (1 Corinthians 10:23 ). This he says; “is an important point to remember when evaluating worship music.” Is it helpful, is it appropriate? Gordon also points out that when making decisions on worship music, there must be a reason and some type of rationale for determining, for certain purposes, why one hymn/song is superior over another.

Gordon also lists 5 properties from Aaron Copland's book on music. Gordon says that all composers of music must make skillful choices with them: rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, and form.
Gordon poses this question to get us thinking ( in regards to pop music in comparison to the psalms ): Do our popular tunes and words have the same effect on us as the psalms of the Bible?


“ God Himself is our aesthetic standard, just as He is our ethical standard.......Human creativity is a matter of imitating God the Creator; it may very well be the most significant thing humans do, so it is not ' merely anything ', and it is surely not 'merely a matter of taste.' ”

Meta Messages/Form and Content

Gordon, in his chapter on Meta Messages, challenges us to think about worship songs/popular hymns. Do the lyrics go with the tunes? Gordon goes further on to exhort believers that Christianity is a demanding religion, it is sacred, that is, not common. Our words must match our actions just as the lyrics of our music must be paired with fitting tunes.

“ ...if even the substantial minority of the culture associates contemporary music with the trivial, the inconsequential, or the ironic, why would the church wish to use a form associated with the trivial or ironic, and employ it for worship? Is the content of worship trivial or ironic? And if not, then why attempt to put serious content into a non-serious form? People may be amused by it, and some may tap their feet to it, but would Jesus have addressed the rich young man in such a tone? ”

“ We might say, for instance, that we take God and faith seriously, but do things that seem contrary to that message......and if the culture observers are correct, the meta-message that contemporary music sends it this: Nothing is important everything is just amusing or entertaining. This is hardly a Christian message.”

Music Genres

Gordon explained a few components of music genres (their pros. and cons.). Gordon's leanings on worship music are more towards the folk genre, mostly because its music is more accessible to people.

  • High/Classical: multigenerational, timeless, speaks to significant matters, communal, restrained, disciplined ( Matt. 7:14 )
  • Folk:transcendent, multigenerational, significant, communal/ yet more accessible then Classical.
  • Popular: immanent, banal, individualistic, accessible, idiosyncratic.


In the end, Gordon concludes that a change is needed in the church concerning its worship music, but that it must be a slow change. People are set in their ways, and just have not been taught what it good music. It must be a humble, slow explanation and change that will bring our churches back around to good biblical singing, not a thump on the head with the Trinity as you quickly snatch away the slide projector.

“We've lost our capacity for the sublime, and have acclimated ourselves to the mundane even to the point that we are not troubled when worship itself is mundane. We don't deny per se that worship has something to do with the sacred; we've lost the category of sacred itself.”
-T. David Gordon


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