Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Happened to Singing

Check out most music programs at public middle and high schools and you will hardly find one that teaches choral music.  In my own community, solo work or sing-a-long with cd accompaniment is the norm (and the singing is melody only).  Our own parish purchased tons of sacred music from a school that was confident none of it would be used there again.  It is not that people do not like to sing -- they sing all the time.  All ages know the words and melodies of their favorite songs and sing with radio or mp3 player or cd all the time.  Why then has choral singing seemingly disappeared from the public school system?

I am sad to say that most of the Lutheran parishes around me (even in a very wide radius) have no regular choir and not a few have seasonal or festival choirs for the high and holy days.  When I look at the ages of the choir members in my own parish, too many of them are on the other side of age 50 and not enough of them are on the underside of age 30.  Part of this is due to the fact that singing in parts is alien to many of those under age 30.  They have to learn this in order to sing in the parish choir (not that it cannot be learned -- it can and I heartily encourage folks who have never sung in parts before to give it a try).  Part of it is due to the fact that churches have abandoned so called "traditional" worship in favor of praise bands where everyone is a soloist and everyone sings melody.  Plus the miniature microphones that flow out of the ear toward the mouth are just too cool for words.

Choral music is a particularly Lutheran domain.  We have the giants among the field of composers (Bach, Schutz, Praetorius, etc) as well as great representation among the newer composers (Schalk always comes to mind).  I have often spoken of the need for a sound track to match our piety to our confession and choral music is one particular area where Lutheran piety is well-expressed.  My own day begins with choral music for an hour or two in the early moments of the morning before everything else steals the day away.  I feel the lack when this time is lost to me.

So I would encourage all those singers out there to join your parish choir.  I would also encourage folks to purchase some cds of choral music and listen to them.  I enjoy every Sunday morning at 5 am listening to Sing for Joy in which the lessons of the day are presented from a musical (choral) perspective.  This is not a matter of a lost art being recovered or even an aesthetic appeal but a call to remember why God gave us this things called music, why He equipped our voices to sing, and what glory there is when His name is raised in choral song.  No, I could not imagine liturgical life without music, without hymns, and without choral song. 


Ted Badje said...

It would be a great treasure lost if Lutherans no longer have choral music. This should be promoted in the day schools.

Master of None said...

Thank you for the link to SING FOR JOY. What a wonderful resource.

Anonymous said...

All the more reason to encourage choirs of children as young as 3-5 and up within our parishes.

Also a good place to plug Lutheran Summer Music Program - a yearly program for high school aged youth interested in both vocal and instrumental music. This is an outstanding pan-Lutheran program which encourages growth in both music and spirituality.

Check out

Jesse Penny said...

A little bit off topic but I was out late last night and came across a syndicated radio program on one of the XM stations entitled "Millennium of Music."

Looking at their website, they mostly play music predating Bach by about 1000 years. They have old shows up on their website for replay. It might be something to check out if you have some time.

Dr.D said...

It is not Lutheran, (but rather Anglican,) but there is some marvelous choral music at this URL:

Anonymous said...

Many public schools have been making
cut backs in the fine arts due to
budget shortages. In some suburban
school systems this has not been
necessary and high school choirs still exist. In the Midwest it is
not unusual to see show choirs from
various schools compete at well-
attended festivals for trophies in
both the Fall and Spring. There
are some talented directors here.

Anonymous said...

Chorus of 20,000 singing the Sanctus to a new original tune. Absolutely beautiful.