As I sit in the loft and sing the glorious music set before me in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I reflect how in the everyday world of Church Music the reality is very different. I have occasion to visit many different church meetings in many different areas and wonder if church musicians are a vanishing breed. The quality of the organ playing and hymn conducting and choir performances and even the hymn singing of the congregations is generally very low and on its way to vanishing completely. As a visitor in the congregation, when I open my mouth to sing the hymns, I suddenly realize I am singing a solo. It is a rare occasion indeed when I get to visit a worship service where the congregation is truly uniting their voices in singing praises to God in a purposeful, joyous, and effective way. It isn't that they are unfamiliar with the words or the tunes. They just don't put forth any effort.
No, I do not think I am being a musical snob because I sing with a group of highly skilled musicians. This is not about wishing the lay ministry could be of professional quality. It is more a comment on our society as a whole nowadays. We are a consumer culture. We want to be entertained with no effort on our part beyond turning on our device. We want to do no work and definitely take no responsibility. How very selfish! What we are missing is so great.
Music is a gift from God. It has great power to lift the spirit and calm the soul. It can be used to motivate and influence mood and underscore life's dramatic moments. It can be used for good and evil. It has great power to unite people in a common experience.
Creating music is powerful, too. Live performance in creating worship music is a wonderful thing. It can channel thoughts and influence emotions. It can help invite the Spirit into your life. The simple act of hymn singing can do so much good.
My hope is that the people who play the organ and lead the singing will prepare themselves to reach a higher level of expertise and never stop working to get better and better. I hope that they will encourage better singing in the congregation by their preparation and example. I know that this can happen. I have witnessed it in my own life. I have moved many times in my life. In nearly every place we moved to, the hymn singing and musicianship of the members was pretty lack luster at first. But after a good dose of our family's example and encouragement, things improved. It can be done, but it takes effort and preparation and encouragement and a belief that there is a better way. Being a church musician is a great responsibility. Only you can make sure church musicians don't become a vanishing breed!
My name is Betsy Lee Bailey. I enjoy singing and writing all kinds of music. I have performed and directed or taught music all of my life. This blog is dedicated to all of the people who have been encouraging me to write about my experiences.