Holy Week 2019
It's time now for the latest episode of "Ask Mr. Liturgy Person". Mr. Liturgy Person believes strongly in the principles of good liturgy, as well as scripture, tradition, reason, and the Oxford comma.
Q: Is this treatment of EASTER HYMN and the following instrumental arrangement of a chorus from Handel's Messiah [appeared in the original video, posted on the website of the parish in question, now a private video] appropriate for liturgy?
A: No. In fact, the rubrics restrict Saturday Night Fever to the Vigil.
To be clear: it does not seem that any of this is appropriate. Mindful of the fact that local congregations have their own tradition that supersedes denominational customs, this performance doesn't seem to be in keeping with what we generally understand as the best practices of sacred music -- in whatever "style".
Had this been our first Sunday at St. Mark’s it’s unlikely we would have returned.
So what went wrong? This little church was trying to be something it’s not.
St. Mark’s is a traditional church. And it’s very good at being a traditional church. But it’s a lousy contemporary church.
Murrow, David. "Why traditional churches should stick with traditional worship". A Few Grown Men, from Patheos. 17 April 2013.
A timely note on this, the Feast of St. Mark. May this St. Mark's, all parishes named after that Evangelist, and all worshipping communities, be most authentically themselves, and not try to violently sever themselves from their pasts.
I believe that we on Sinden.org have already covered this territory: see Brooks, David - on why Anglican Church music helps form our identity
Every now and then, there's a hymn you've never heard before. This week it came from the BBC broadcast of Evensong from Truro Cathedral. (You've only got a few days from this post to listen to this broadcast. Permalink to a different performance below.)
It's a wonderful little Easter hymn set to an Irish tune. The accompaniment (New English Hymnal) is clever, and gives it a more "carol" feel, a la "Now the green blade rises" sung to NOEL NOUVELET
Walking in a garden at the close of day, Adam tried to hide him when he heard God say: "Why are you so frightened, why are you afraid? You have brought the winter in, made the flowers fade." Walking in a garden where the Lord had gone, three of the disciples, Peter, James and John; they were very weary, could not keep awake, while the Lord was kneeling there, praying for their sake. Walking in a garden at the break of day, Mary asked the gardener where the body lay; but he turned towards her, smiled at her and said: "Mary, spring is here to stay, only death is dead."
Eastertide: a season for singing
Easter is a time for singing. On this day we shout “Alleluia!” and sing “Jesus Christ is risen today.” The season that follows (the “tide” in Eastertide) flows out of our most holy feast day and gives deep meaning to our worship together.
It is highly appropriate that we sing together in worship as Christians, even though we do surprisingly little singing in our daily lives in 21st century America. Even the baseball game, the basketball game, and the NASCAR race, which have long been bastions of “secular congregational song,” have fairly recently been taken over by that amplified American idolatry of the microphone.
[A notable, recent exception:]
The services in our church may in fact be the only place that you regularly sing in your life. And I want to tell you that even if it’s the only place you sing, it’s okay to sing in church – it always has been, and it always will be.
Consider the words of John Wesley, writing in a hymnal from 1761: “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.”
Consider the anecdote of young American composer Charles Ives, who as a boy complained to his father about the off-key hymn singing of the town blacksmith. His father said, “Don’t listen to the notes, or you might miss the music.”
St. Augustine proclaimed that he or she who sings, “prays twice,” and there is no place where we should be more free to pray and sing than in our church.
Even if you really think you can’t sing, please follow along in the hymnal, and allow yourself the opportunity to try. At the very least, you may find richness in the words of the hymns and songs of our faith that you did not expect.
The joy of singing in community is that we all sing together: those of us who have sung for years, and those of us who are learning the songs for the first time; those of us who enjoy the sound of our own voices, and those of us who would prefer that others not hear us. In community, all voices are heard as one, and all rely on one another. We are all free to join the rising tide – the Eastertide – of song.
Not only that, but we join our voices with those whose voices we cannot hear: the saints who have gone before us, and the angels who perpetually sing around God’s heavenly throne.
It may seem odd to speak of taking up your cross in Eastertide, but the empty cross proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. I would emphasize Wesley’s words: if singing is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing. Don’t let yourself miss the music for the notes.
You will find singing a blessing, and the church will find your singing a blessing, as we bless God together.
Excepting the embedded YouTube video, this article is reprinted from the Epistle, the newsletter of St. Paul's, Richmond.
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