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.