SEARCH Journal

The music of what happens - some thoughts on music for liturgy

ANGLICAN churchman W. R. Inge once wrote, “When our first parents were driven out of Paradise, Adam is believed to have remarked to Eve: ‘My dear, we live in an age of transition.”’ Transition is something churches often struggle with, and especially when it comes to music in worship.

This is a topic bound to bring forth strongly held opinions, whether from the stronghold of dearly held tradition and resistance to change, or the frontiers of progressive innovation, or perhaps somewhere in between these two redoubts. It’s a topic somewhat akin to a minefield, where various explosives such as musical taste and styles of churchmanship lurk beneath, awaiting detonation. In order to pick our way through delicately, it seems sensible to remind ourselves of why we have music in church in the first place. The American priest, musician and theologian Marion Hatchett summarises the role neatly: “From the early days of the Church, music has been integral to the worship of God. Music gives solemnity, beauty, joy and enthusiasm to the worship of the community. It imparts a sense of unity and sets an appropriate tone for a particular celebration. It is an effective evangelistic tool. It nourishes and strengthens faith and assists worshippers in expressing and sharing their faith. It heightens texts so that they speak more fully and more cogently. It highlights the basic structures of the rites. It expresses and communicates feelings and meanings which cannot be put into words.”

* Full article available in printed copies.

Mark Duley

Mark Duley

is a freelance organist and conductor. He is organist of the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas in Galway, and artistic director of the chamber choir Resurgam.