Hitting the right note

13th October 2023

I can remember as a child, begging my parents to let me give up piano lessons. I wanted to swap them for riding lessons; like many little girls I was obsessed with horses and I was envious of my friend Kay, who went riding every Saturday. My parents insisted that I should keep going with the piano and now, of course, I’m thankful for that – music is one of the great joys of my life.

I believe that performing or listening to music is one of the most basic desires of humanity and it has been fundamental throughout history. There is evidence that music was part of the prehistoric way of life;
flutes from the Paleolithic era and cave paintings of figures playing flutes have been found in Europe. We know that music was an essential part of all cultures in the ancient world. In the bible, there are plenty of descriptions of musical activity; music was used in temple ceremonies and people played instruments, sang and danced at times of celebration. The psalms, of course, are hymns and some include directions for how they should be performed. In more recent history, music can be found everywhere, from the humblest peasant folk song to the most intellectual and refined of instrumental music.

The bible tells us that God sings. Zephaniah 3 v 17 says that God will ‘rejoice over you with singing.’ In the King James translation of the bible, Psalm 22 says that God ‘inhabitest the praises of Israel’. I love both these images – when we sing our praise to God he draws near – he lives in our praises and maybe even joins in with the singing! Perhaps that is why music touches us emotionally and is so good for our mental health. Of course, music is not always joyful; it can express our deepest sorrows and God draws near and experiences those sorrows too.

The technical quality of music in churches ranges from the ever-so-slightly painful to the sublime. For many reasons, I think it’s important for all church musicians to produce music to the best of their ability, whatever that best may be, but I don’t think God minds at all how technically good we are; I think it’s the
heart of worship that he loves. And that goes for congregational singing as well. What does it matter if you think you can’t sing? God gave the gift of music to everyone and he loves hearing everyone worship.

Have a wonderful and musical week,