Yesterday was an adventure. During the course of said adventure, I earned $84.00, free parking in a parking garage ($26.00), a free dinner and dessert with Melissa at The Cheesecake Factory ($41.00 combined), and all mileage expenses paid for.
First I made money teaching piano lessons in the morning. Then, I went to Vision New England's Congress at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. Melissa and I had been asked to provide music at the Gordon College booth there. It was a "fifty bucks plus all expenses paid" type of thing. We ended up just playing through a hymnal's worth of hymns, which is easy but fun. It's nice practice for double-stops - each of us would take two parts at once when we could, so that all four parts were covered. Some hymns are easier than others to do this sort of thing, of course, and it depends largely on the key. G, D, F, B-flat, and those sorts are very nice, while A-flat and E-flat are less friendly. And G-flat is the worst, so G-flat hymns we just played in G instead!
A lot of people would stop to listen, and then ask us, "Do you know these hymns?" "Well, yes.." "I mean, are you familiar with them? The words, too? And you've heard them and sung them in churches?" "Of course!" At this, many people would be very pleasantly surprised. It's sad, really; a lot of people from my own generation are so divided from their own parents' and grandparents' generation because of differences in worship styles. Many people my parents' and grandparents' age are surprised to find that I might actually know hymns! One elderly gentleman thanked me for the music, and said it was refreshing to hear hymns when so often today he only hears "praise songs" at church. Then he quipped, "Don't get me wrong: I'm sure there are rock bands in heaven. But I'm equally sure there'll be a place for me to get away from them!"
The matter of music in worship is a complicated one, of course. The adult Sunday school class at church has been doing a five-week series on this very topic, taught by a music professor at Gordon. As church organist/pianist, FavoriteBoy has been involved in leading hymns to commence each class. He's also been featured as a panelist both last week and this morning to answer a series of questions. He's so intelligent and articulate; I was very proud of him. Everyone applauded him, too. The congregation feels blessed to have him at the church... and so they are! He's the best. He doesn't convey the faintest trace of "music snobbishness," either, which really helps in the music in worship discussion - I've discovered over the past five weeks just how touchy of an issue this can be!
Today FavoriteBoy was to talk a bit about how his particular area of worship in the church could grow or be improved. Rather than recruiting people for 'up-front' kinds of music, he turned to the group of congregants and asked a series of questions of his own, to each of which they were to answer either "quietly" or "strongly." First: "If you are a musician and believe that you have a great voice, how should you sing in church?" "Strongly!" Then: "If you don't know much about music, but can carry a tune, how should you sing in church?" "Strongly!" And he continued with more questions, ending with, "If you can't follow a line of music to find your way out of a paper bag, and think you have the worst voice imaginable, how should you sing in church?"
The answer? Strongly, of course! He quoted how the Psalms command us to sing joyfully and loudly and skillfully to God, and reminded everyone that God knows exactly what kind of voice He gave you (regardless of what you or even your neighbor thinks of it). God doesn't offer exceptions or caveats in the Bible - so you'd better be lifting up your voice to Him!
Anyway, I enjoyed hearing FavoriteBoy in this setting - church music is one of his passions, and he's just so good at it. He'll be embarassed that I wrote this, of course - that's because he's humble, too.
Among the many issues of worship music - excellence, making value judgments, and many more - is one that was brought up in Sunday school today: The 'new' music might bring in the youth, but it also might drive out the older generations! It made me grateful for the connection I have to my grandparents through knowing hymns. It's their means of worship, and they have so many memories tied to that music. Over the summer I made my grandparents a mix CD of songs they knew and loved. It was one of the best parts of my summer, just seeing how much they seemed to love it - enough to try to learn how to operate a CD player so they could listen to it even when we grandkids weren't around to play it for them! One of the songs I put on the mix was "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." I love that hymn, and so do they. That's a connection we have. We have many others as well, of course, but knowing something of their time, their history, and their music... that's important.