Singing in Spring

by Colin Howland May 11, 2018

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God —Colossians 3:16.

Singing biblical truth with thankfulness is at the heart of Christian worship. Musical praise is nothing less than singing the truth about God, which he has given us in his Word, back to him in love and devotion. Throughout its history the Church’s worship has been filled with music of various kinds. At the center is congregational song: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. But even as spoken prayer is voiced by the congregation and led by individuals, so have the sung prayers of the Church been offered by the whole church as well as choirs and soloists. So, while the main diet of music in the modern church is congregational hymns and metrical psalms, there is also a multitude of other musical forms which contribute to our musical praise.

Perhaps no other church music exceeds the drama of oratorio. In fact, the origin of the form, dating from the 16th century, is the setting to music of sacred plays. Oratorios come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and those that are on a grand scale are set for symphony orchestra, chorus, and soloists and may be performed with staging. The best examples for use in the Church are based on stories from the Bible, many of which have librettos taken entirely from Scripture. Such is the case with some of the most famous of these works: Handel’s Messiah and Israel in Egypt, as well as Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St. Paul.

It has been a common practice in the Church’s history to have so-called “choral services.” These are worship times in which the sung praises are predominantly led by the choir, but also include congregational song as well as the other elements of worship. For example, “choral evensong” is simply a musical version of an evening prayer service as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer. On occasion, Tenth has had a similar practice, including the annual Reformation Hymn Festival and Spring Choral Service.

This year’s Spring Choral Service is taking place during the evening service on May 20. The children’s and adult choirs will join to sing movements from several different oratorios including Haydn’s Creation, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and St. Paul, and The Apostles by Edward Elgar. The goal of such a service is not to parade our choirs before you, but for us all to come together to praise God through his Word. To encourage us toward that end, here are some of the texts which will be sung:

From Elijah

O rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him, and He will give thee thy heart’s desires. Commit thy way unto Him and trust in Him, and fret not thyself because of evil-doers (from Psalm 37:7).

From The Apostles

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (from Isaiah 61:1).

From St. Paul

O great is the depth of the riches of wisdom and knowledge of our God! How deep and unerring is He in His judgments! His ways are past our understanding. Sing His glory forevermore. Amen (from Romans 11:33).

©2018 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Colin Howland. ©2018 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org