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Make a Joyful Noise: Music and Ministry

Christian-Music

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Make a Joyful Noise: Music and Ministry

Whether accompanied by organ, handbells or electric guitar, or not accompanied by an instrument at all, Christians have used songs and music to worship God throughout history. Let’s take a look at musical instruments in the Bible, the history of music and worship and how different denominations of Christianity use music today.

Musical Instruments in the Bible

David’s lyre is perhaps the most commonly known instrument in the Bible, but there are many other instruments mentioned in Scripture. (1)

Stringed instruments

Old Testament: Lyres of several types, including the kinnor (10 strings) and the nevel (12 strings)

New Testament: Lyres of several types, including the Greek lyra (between 3 and 7 strings) and the kithara (usually 7 strings)

Wind instruments

Old Testament: Pipe, nehilot (flutes), shofar (trumpet made from antelope or ram horn)

New Testament: Greek salpinx (trumpet)

Percussion instruments

Old Testament: Tuppim (frame drums), metsiltayim/tsiltsilim (cymbals), mena`an`im (castanets or clappers), pa`amim (bells)

New Testament: Chalkos (gong), kumbalon (cymbal)

History of Music and Worship in the Christian Church

From Gregorian chants to electric guitar and everywhere in between, worship services have incorporated music throughout the ages.

112 A.D.

Pliny the Younger writes a letter to the emperor Trajan stating that early Christians “were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god,” one of the earliest non-Biblical accounts of Christians using song to worship Christ. (2)

Ephesians 5:19 (NIV): “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.” (3)

190

Clement of Alexandria writes, “Leave the pipe to the shepherd, the flute to the men who are in fear of gods and intent on their idol worshiping. Such musical instruments must be excluded from our wingless feasts.” Instruments are associated with pagans during this time, and the use of music in Christian worship is frowned upon. (4)

Mid-300s

Known as the “Father of Christian Hymnody,” Ambrose of Milan introduces rhymed, metrical hymns that become the basis of the hymns we know today, contrasting with earlier unmetered, prose-like psalms and prayers. These hymns are a cappella, sung without accompaniment. (5)

590-604

Pope Gregory I collects and codifies what is now known as “plainchant,” or Gregorian chant, a choral vocalization of verses sung with one unaccompanied melody line. The Roman Catholic Church uses Gregorian chant to this day in liturgical music. (6-8)

900s

Music becomes widely notated for the first time, allowing plainchant to become more complex: Choirs can now easily reproduce a melody that would be difficult to share using only the oral tradition. (9)

1100s

French composer Pérotin introduces polyphonic music to the church – music that uses multiple parts to harmonize with the melody. (8)

Psalm 57:7 (NIV): “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.” (3)

1400s

Organ music catches on in the Roman Catholic West, though the Orthodox East eschews the accompaniment. (9)

Early 1500s

During the Reformation, Martin Luther gives music a central place in the Lutheran Church, encouraging the entire congregation to sing along at certain times to polyphonic chorales. John Calvin favors congregational psalm-singing to monophonic tunes, forming the Calvinist liturgical tradition. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church continues to use instrumental and organ music performed by musicians and not the congregation. (9)

Early 1700s

Fed up with the “dull indifference” of traditional hymns, Isaac Watts writes about 600 hymns during his lifetime, paraphrasing Scripture in a way that pleases many but upsets others, who find his work sacrilegious and refer to his songs as “Watts’ whims.” (9)

Early 1800s

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, uses religious lyrics set to secular music performed by lively brass bands to attract people to the church. His practical approach to liturgical music is best summed up with the quote, “Why should the devil have all the best tunes?” (10-11)

2 Chronicles 5:13 (NIV): “Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’” (3)

Meanwhile, songs known as “Negro spirituals” become popular with enslaved African-Americans. These songs featured reworked Protestant hymns set to new melodies and harmonies, becoming the first uniquely American sacred music. (12)

Late 1800s to early 1900s

Following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the spirituals evolve into an ecstatic form of singing born in California Pentecostal churches, creating the foundation for gospel music as we know it today. Composers such as the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey pioneer the genre. (12-13)

Psalm 95:1 (NIV): “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.” (3)

1970s

Larry Norman, considered the “Father of Christian Rock,” popularizes setting religious lyrics to rock ‘n’ roll. One of his most beloved songs, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?,” references William Booth’s famous quote. (9)

Today

Christian denominations still frequently disagree on the role of music in worship, though there has been a movement to understand other traditions rather than simply condemning them. (9)

Colossians 3:16 (NIV): “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (3)

Different Ways of Worshiping Today

Not only are religious groups within the umbrella of Christianity differentiated by doctrine – they also differ in methods of musical liturgy.

Roman Catholic (14-15)

Founded: 1054

Adherents: 65 million in U.S., 1.5 billion worldwide

Musical tradition: Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, chorale hymns accompanied by an organ or occasionally other instruments

Eastern Orthodox (7, 14, 16-17)

Founded: 1054

Adherents: 5.9 million in U.S., 225 million worldwide

Musical tradition: Byzantine – melodic chanting, call-and-response singing, no instruments; Russian – sacred polyphony, harmonic chorales, no instruments

Lutheran (14, 18)

Founded: 1530

Adherents: 8.4 million in North America, 66 million worldwide

Musical tradition: Rhythmic chorale, contemporary praise and worship

Presbyterian (14, 19-20)

Founded: 1560

Adherents: 2.5 million in U.S., 75 million worldwide

Musical tradition: Hymns with a wide variety of musical styles, generally performed on organ, piano, harpsichord or handbells

Methodist (8, 21-22)

Founded: 1787

Adherents: 13.5 million in U.S., 25.6 million worldwide

Musical tradition: Hymns, both traditional and contemporary, with a wide variety of musical styles and instruments

Anglican (Church of England)/Episcopalian (American Anglicanism) (23-26)

Founded: 1534

Adherents: 2.3 million in U.S. (Episcopalian), 70 million worldwide (Anglican)

Musical tradition: Episcopalian hymnal has 720 hymns ranging from monastic chants to modern music, sung by entire congregation; Anglican choirs do most of the singing, which ranges from plainchant to call-and-response to four-part chorales accompanied by organ

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Sources:

1. http://www.rakkav.com
2. http://faculty.georgetown.edu
3. http://www.biblestudytools.com
4. http://www.bible.ca
5. http://www.smithcreekmusic.com
6. http://www.catholicchant.com
7. http://www.newadvent.org
8. http://www.britannica.com
9. http://www.christianitytoday.com
10. http://www.ctlibrary.com
11. http://www.movements.net
12. http://www.projectmusicworks.org
13. http://www.allmusic.com
14. http://www.religionfacts.com
15. http://www.stjosephbristol.org
16. http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org
17. http://www.liturgica.com
18. http://www.lutheransonline.com
19. http://www.pcusa.org
20. http://www.trinitypca.org
21. http://www.adherents.com
22. http://www.umfellowship.org
23. http://www.episcopalchurch.org
24. http://www.episcopalcafe.com
25. http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk
26. http://www.bbc.co.uk

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