Tag: church music

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My eight-year-old grandson Huxley was baptized last Sunday in a Lutheran church. The Lutheran minister wore a pair of worn Levis, a tee-shirt with a faded graphic of some kind, and a pair of plastic garden clogs. I’m not much of a natty dresser (grey running shoes, black sweatpants that look like regular trousers, and […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How Lame Is Our Awesome God?

 

“When He rolls up His sleeves / He ain’t just puttin’ on the Ritz” must be one of the least promising ways to begin a worship song ever. Nobody rolling up their sleeves is “puttin’ on the Ritz.” The rolled-up sleeve-position used for manual labor is the opposite of the sleeve-position used for an old-fashioned fancy night out. And yet, that’s how Richard Mullins’s best-known song, Awesome God opens. Mullins himself considered Awesome God something of a failure, remarking, “the thing I like about Awesome God is that it’s one of the worst-written songs that I ever wrote; it’s just poorly crafted.” And yet it’s a song many of us remember fondly. Why?

To be fair, the lyrics get better from there: “There is THUNder in His footsteps / And lightnin’ in His fists.” Although not by much. Awesome God alternates patter in the verses with an expansive chorus, and the patter is hardly scintillating prose, much less verse. (“Eden” rhymes with “be believin’” — really?) The patter does, though, address themes often left out of “Jesus is my boyfriend”-style worship songs. God as Judge. Sin and its wages. God as God not just of happy, shiny, fluffy things, but also of the storm. And, when the song is sung at proper tempo (no slower than Mullins himself performed it), the rapid-fire, syncopated sixteenth-note patter creates an effect that surpasses its individual words. Especially when the worship leader delivers the patter in a half-snarled, half-whispered mutter, as if he’s letting you in on the secret of something dangerous — which he is: Aslan’s not safe, after all, just good. Notice I called the worship leader he. That’s important. Awesome God is made for a masculine musical delivery, and the difference between liking the song and hating it can simply be the difference between having learned it as masculine and driven, or crooning and wimpy.

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Casually perusing the interwebs, seeking music with zeal, quickly revealed two musicians using “zeal” in their brand name. They could hardly be more different, both in genre and inspiration. Consider Zeal Music, and Zeal and Ardor. Zeal Music is “the home of select sacred music by American composer, Scot Crandal.” He composes everything from hymns, […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Suckers for Jesus! Or, Holy Kitsch!

 

I can’t call it “only in America,” because kitschy and silly, though harmless, religious trinkets seem to be a universal phenomenon. Still, there is something endearingly American about this online Christian storefront, selling Testamints, crucifix-shaped lollies, gourmet Scripture suckers, chocolate tulips (must be for the Calvinists), and little gummy Jesus “footsteps”: show that you walk in His footsteps by eating His feet!

“Take and eat… do this in remembrance of me.” In a religion based on the Eucharist, I suppose it’s not exactly blasphemous to consume Jesus in gummy form, though I doubt my grandmother would have agreed: she would have seen candy shaped like all or any part of Jesus as blasphemously irreverent, even if abstract religious symbols were commonplace in eats where she came from. Part of the wider Christian culture in America is to downplay aesthetic differences: high church or low, contemporary or old-fashioned, why argue adiaphora, huh? At the same time, aesthetics go to the heart of worship: whatever we think “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” means, it only seems fitting to give of our best (whatever that is) in acts of reverence. Religious kitsch occupies a funny place, not just strange, but amusing — and not just amusing to snobs who wish to disdain the rubes. The Babylon Bee, a favorite site of many of us here, often pokes fun at Christian kitsch, and it could hardly be said to disdain American Christians: it pokes fun at the kitsch because it’s run by American Christians.

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For those of you wondering how my preparation is going for my second attempt to try out for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir this fall (see previous report here), the poem below sums it up. Also, here’s a quick summary of my training so far this year: singing lessons three times a month, theory study once […]

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. So You Want to Join the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

 

By MoTabChoir01 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What a coincidence! Joining the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been a long-time dream of mine, too, but until recently I’ve been too busy with work and family to even think about it. This fall, I finally went through the full application process, and—having kept it a secret from just about everyone but my family in the meantime—I can now act as your guide on the ins and outs of auditioning for what Ronald Reagan dubbed “America’s Choir.”

As a volunteer group, the Choir constantly rotates through members who either retire (reach age 60 or the 20-year service limit) or leave for personal reasons such as changes in family, work, or living situation, so annual tryouts are held to select new members based on needs for each vocal part. They don’t tell you how many of each part they need, but generally speaking, the competition is a little more intense for women than men.

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This is something of a sidebar to Vicryl Contessa’s post about modern church music. It is relevant to the post, but something of a long tangent, so I’m putting it out here instead. A church’s music often reflects the underlying health of the institution. When the congregation is singing, and especially when the congregation is singing […]

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