Music Crimes

I couldn’t help but smile reading a couple of pieces today. One here is entitled “On Musical Crimes in the Church”.

There are aural assaults going on regularly in churches today, as this piece from Christianity Today points out. Volume, many church bands believe, will make up for the fact that the “singers” are actually tone deaf. Churches are now reported to be full of “life” if the state-of-the-art sound systems can make attendees actually “feel” the music, like you would in a club. People totter out into the parking lot after the service, congratulating themselves on having found a church that isn’t “dead.” They won’t be able to say as much about their hearing after many Sundays in a place like that.

The other one is here and is entitled “Memo to Worship Bands”:

Can you hear me? You can? I’m sorry if I am shouting, but I have just spent half an hour in a church service with a typical worship band, and my ears are ringing. I’m sure to be fine in a minute. Or hour. Or day—I hope.
Why does everything every Christian musician performs nowadays seem to require high amplification?

Reminds me of an interesting situation here in the church I am attending.

The pastor is very fond of singing hymns, especially Chinese hymns, his native language. A few months ago he shared about how blessed he was when he started to spend part of his devotional time singing hymns out of his old Chinese hymnbook. The interesting thing is that though he loves to sing, he is tone deaf. During his private devotional time that is not a problem. But the problem comes when he is holding the mike during public worship. When he sings into the mike at preaching volume, it drowns out the entire congregation AND the piano and either drags others along or people stop singing in confusion.

In Chinese culture you cannot correct or advise one in authority such as a pastor. You never refer to him by name or even with the pronoun ‘him’. It is always Bok Su, pastor. So what to do? I have been amused at how this has been handled. Shortly after announcing his love of singing, he decided to join the Chinese choir. You can’t refuse Bok Su. So what they do is put him in the back row as far from the mike as possible. That way he can sing his heart out and yet not interfere with the song.

The other situation arises during communion when he is in front with the mike and gets to lead the singing during the passing of the elements. The PA system is controlled in a booth at the back of the room. So what they have started doing is parking a choir member in the front row with a mike. During the critical time of singing during the passing of the elements, the person in the back quickly switches the dominent mike to the one the choir member is holding and then back again to Bok Su when it is time for him to speak. Pretty clever, eh? This is a win-win situation for everyone – Bok Su can sing his heart out and so can the congregation!

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Filed under church music, cross-cultural, joyful sound, music

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