Saturday, January 16, 2010

Congregational singing

I've actually been thinking about this for some time. I saw this article awhile ago, "In Defense of Congregational Singing," and that's what I think too.


Jim said...

I liked that post, too (but what're you doing reading a Lutheran's blog - you don't want to get pulled over to the Dark Side of high church! :o)

I am going to step a bit softly here, because my wife reads this blog AND sings in the band that is part of our "Faith Rocks" service, the 5:00 pm service at our church that is the only service our family attends. What gets me is when the church makes it HARD to sing along. There are at least two components to that.

The first the Lutherans have a good lock on, and that's with our traditional liturgical hymns. Some can be, um, "intimidating" to sing, especially if you don't read music or don't read it well (like me). I mean, what the hell does "8, 8, 7, 7, 8, 6, 8, 7" across the top of the top line of music mean, for example?

The second is related to that, and she brushed against it in her blog post, and I've whined to my wife about it as well. If you're going to have contemporary Christian music and you aren't going to have sheet music but only slides with the words AND you expect everyone to sing along AND you want to introduce new songs every week, then it seems intuitively self-obvious to me that:

1) The song should follow a traditional meter and have singing begin on the "1" beat.

2) It shouldn't alternate between really-fast-so-fast-you-can't-understand-the-words verses that only the band can possibly sing right (because they have the music) and slow parts.

3) It should be sung in a key that everyone, especially the men, can sing. Our church's band has wonderful singers (stepping carefully here - "Hi, Les!" :o) but they're all women and sometimes the leader starts them at a key so high there's no way for me or any other male to even harmonize (or even hear it, really - remember, high-pitched hearing starts waining in men first).

Anyway, that's my rant. I don't mind singing in church and there are songs I LOVE to sing, but mostly I get tired of trying because of the above. And that's why I think I like the old Methodist/Baptist/"bluegrass" hymns. Everyone knows 'em, so there's no guess work, for the most part they follow a regular and discernible beat and start on "1", so there's no embarrassment from early starts, and they were WRITTEN for harmony.

My two cents. Thanks for letting me get it out.

dan horwedel said...

I couldn't agree more! This is one of my pet peeves, actually. I like to sing (and I like new songs too), but I hate it when people make it HARDER for the congregation to sing along. Sometimes it's almost like somebody DOESN'T want the congregation singing!

I don't remember where I heard this from, and I don't know that it's the best way, but what we've always done is:
- First, we cut down on the number of regular songs we do. We only have maybe 60-70 songs in rotation. Sometimes songs get old, but I would prefer that we sing songs we KNOW, than that we can sing a LOT of songs.
- When we do introduce a new song (which I used to try to do maybe once a month - at most - and now it's maybe once every six months) I will play it on cd during the time before church while people are mingling, for a couple weeks. Then we'll sing it as a congregation 3 or 4 Sundays in a row. Then maybe once every couple of Sundays after that, lessening it as we go.

Again, the challenge is to keep songs from getting "old." But how many people listen to "oldies" radio? I especially think in church it is important that we not have to spend our energy trying to figure out *how* to sing, so we can concentrate our efforts on WHO we're singing to. But that's just me.