Music as a Communication Medium
Music is important.
Music has been integral to worship from the beginning. One of the earliest biblical references of communal singing is in the Gospels, at the last meeting of the disciples before the Crucifixion.Outside the Gospels, St. Paul encouraged the Ephesians and Colossians to use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Many other styles such as Gregorian chants, the Ordinary of the Mass, carols, spirituals, and contemporary Christian music followed.
Music is a teacher. Seems we’ve always known that putting something to music makes memorization easier. How many of us learned our ABC’s, or the states in alphabetical order to music. How many college students memorized complex concepts using lists put to music. Linking a few pieces of information, like “ABCD” and “EFG” to a part of a familiar song somehow forces that information into our memory faster.
Music breaks down barriers between those that know what’s going on and those that don’t. A familiar song can change your comfort level in an uncomfortable environment.
Music speaks in tongues. A song sung in an unfamiliar language still conveys meaning. I toured with a chorus in Europe 20+ years ago. I still vividly recall singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic to a Polish audience. Barely a single phrase into the song, and the whole audience stood up and sang with us. None of them spoke English, but they knew the words. They may not have known what the words all meant, but they knew what the song meant to us.
Music touches us at an emotional level, creating a connection to the message in the lyrics. It’s strange how notes played on an instrument, an inanimate object, can be happy, sad, joyous, mysterious, serious or playful. Even without the lyrics, you can often tell what a song is about.
Music recalls vivid memories. How many times has a particular song transported you to a particular place or time? Your Prom, the pep band playing at your high school basketball game, or your first wedding dance. How often has a song stirred up feelings for a past loved one?
Music can touch an audience and the performer in very different ways. My Barbershop quartet used to sing a song with lyrics that included the words “From the first hello, to the last goodbye, it’s been awfully nice to know you.” That song always makes me tear up, thinking about when my dad passed away. Our Lead singer remembered past quartets he sang with. I’ve heard countless audience members mention later what that song meant to them… stories very different from mine… emotions different than mine. Some smiled, some cried, some beamed with pride. And yes, I get tears in my eyes just writing this.
Music is therapeutic. Music has been proven to help reduce post-surgical pain, to help relieve stress and anxiety, to bring lucidity to memory care patients, and to stimulate children with developmental disorders.
Music relieves stress, enhances mood, heals, encourages, stirs emotions, recalls memories, touches hearts, and crosses boundaries.
We can’t underestimate the value that music serves in our lives and our worship.
We can use all of these aspects of music to enhance our learning and understanding of our faith. Messiah is working hard to use music in our worship, despite all the restrictions we currently face. Individual musicians are working hard to help lead our online services. Singers and instrumentalists have been individually recording performances so they can be mixed together into ensemble music that can be played during service. Our choir director is currently figuring out how to safely bring the choir back together to record service music to be used in our online worship. Hopefully the choir will be able to sing to you all in person this Fall.
David sang and played a drum and lute.
Jesus sang hymns.
Messiah will have in person worship and music again.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.