For those out there interested in the direction church music is taking, Les Freres Bayly have put up a link to an EP that their worship band has put together. More or less, it is traditional lyrics set to modern instrumentation and with some of the musical cues used by modern pop musicians.
In doing this, they are overcoming one of the chief objections that I have to most modern music; lyrically, most CCM hardly ranks as any kind of equivalent to mediocre hymns, so a good starting point for including modern music in worship--especially in our literature-starved day--is to "recycle" the great works of the past. This EP succeeds there. As the Baylys noted in another post, there is a lot to be said for proceeding from the heights our fathers reached.
Musically, there are high points and low points. Being a naturally pensive person, I particularly like track 5, "Jesus with thy Church." It's a bit slower, meditative, sometimes even melancholy. Overall, there is a much greater range of musical style than is typical in church services; it speaks to a level of musicality that can be attained in a church with a number of members employed by and studying at Indiana University's College of Music.
Perfect rendition? Of course not. That said, it's worth noting that Isaac Watts wrote something like 700 hymns, maybe 1% of which are reproduced in modern hymnals. Similarly, the Wesley brothers wrote 7000 or so hymns, and even Methodists only keep about 10-20 hymns by Charles and John Wesley today. So there were a lot of eminently forgettable things done 300 years ago, so we need to be patient here.
So what can we do in our own churches? My first thought is that we can do little better than to remember that music is part of the Quadrivium, and start learning our Bach, Wesley, Tehillim, along with learning a bit about poetry while picking up an instrument.
Even if it's the accordion. Don't forget for a minute that the goal of good music is to communicate, and we can only learn by trying, even if we fail.
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