« Jennifer Knapp on Larry King Live on Friday | Main | Over the Rhine + Joe Henry = Something Amazing »

April 23, 2010

'Crucial That We Not Lose Our Singing Voices'

So says Pepperdine Provost as his university prepares to host sacred song symposium


Pepperdine University is gearing up to host The Ascending Voice II, an international event celebrating sacred a capella music. The mid-May symposium will feature some of the world's leading authorities on this rich style of music, while the daily concert lineup includes performances by top college choral groups, the Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni Ensemble, and Grammy-winning men's choral group Chanticleer.

I especially appreciated some of the comments from Pepperdine Provost Darryl Tippens leading up to the event:

"Many people think that group singing is in danger of extinction in America," Tippens said. "As financially strapped schools cut arts programs denying children the opportunity to sing; as we become a somewhat passive, listening culture, accustomed to highly produced professional musical recordings; and as mega churches employ bands and orchestras, thus replacing congregational singing with performance, there is a real question as to whether group singing by ordinary people will survive. This concern must be squarely faced—not through complaint, but through action. This is the purpose of The Ascending Voice.

"We think it is crucial that we not lose our singing voices. There is no substitute for the exquisite beauty and power of the human voice joined in harmony with others. Unaccompanied (a cappella) singing is as old as the human species, and long a distinctive feature of Christian worship. We believe it is worth preserving and enhancing.

"Singing has a transformative effect on both the singer and the listener. Group (or congregational) singing has been central to Christian worship for 2,000 years. While it has taken vastly different shapes in different cultures over the centuries, in the East and West, among Protestant and Catholic, charismatic and liturgical traditions—still, it has the power to resonate deeply and move us to tears, to joy, and to action.

"Singing lay at the heart of the Reformation. Singing was central to the Civil Rights Movement (“We shall overcome. . . .”), to the anti-war movement of the 60s. It retains this same transformative power today, but one has to hear it and do it to fathom fully its life-changing power.

“'Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise,'” said Martin Luther. In the words of Karl Barth, the great 20th century theologian, 'Singing is the highest form of human expression. . . . the community which does not sing is not the community.' Art and the sacred have always been intimately acquainted. Sacred music is perhaps the greatest expressions of this truth."

Amen, and amen.


Agreed, and I have been worried about this trend in the "West' for some time. I am a retired pastor, giving my time to conducting Weddings for unchurched people, and seldom do they choose sing-along songs, even secular ones. I offer a repertoirse of songs, sacred and secular, to well-known tunes, with either a live musician to accompany them, or recorded singing trax that I hav specially made. But only one in five will include a song. I've found that if 30% of the people know the tune, it will go well. Yet even that percentage is too high for our modern "Listening" culture. I blame the modern technology which is taken music out of our mouths and canned it for our ear alone.

BUT, living as I do in South Africa, singing is Alive and Well in black African culture. The drought afflicts Western White groups only. When i conduct African weddings, the singing is spontaneous and always a capella. Long may African wedding culture live! May it infect white western culture too.

So PLEASE KEEP UP THE MOMENTUM OF YOUR ASCENDING VOICES! Unless you stop me :-( , I plan to include the essence of your report (with credit) in a forthcoming DEEP & WIDE email conversation which I host, promoting congregational singing andf integrated Worship. Anyone may subscribe to this at my email address wetmore@pixie.co.za