Instrumental Music in Church

To worship and glorify God should always be the objective of the musical parts of the church service.

By H. B. HANNUM, Music Instructor, Emmanuel Missionary College

To worship and glorify God should always be the objective of the musical parts of the church service. This can usually be met without difficulty in the vocal music because of the aid of the sacred text or words, but it is somewhat more difficult to attain in the use of instrumental music. The true church mu­sician, however, will see that all instrumental music is in harmony with this ideal.

The ideal instrument for church use is the organ, of course—either one of the excellent, though inexpensive, reed organs available, or a pipe organ voiced for church music. Some of the electronic instruments may also serve as church instruments in the hands of a skilled player. The organist should recognize that there is a clear distinction between music that is theatrical in type, and that which is sug­gestive of a church atmosphere. Popular music played on organs over the radio is a good example of what is meant by "theatrical." Such a style has no rightful place in the church, although it has crept into some of our houses of worship on sacred occasions.

Where it is impossible to secure an organ, the next best choice is a piano, kept in tune. Surely the Lord must be displeased by the out­of-tune instruments to be found in some of our churches. We would not think of using soiled linen on the communion table. Neither should we dishonor God with an instrument grossly out of tune.

The violin and the harp are also adapted for use in church music. Other instruments are admissible, but care should be exercised to exclude any type of instrumental tone which has the secular flavor. There is no instrument which is sinful in itself, but certain instru­ments are better than others for use in church. Just as we associate certain types of archi­tecture and lighting with a church building, so there are certain types of tone which seem better adapted to religious services.

The Prelude.—An important instrumental part of the church service is the prelude, which has for its objective creating an atmosphere of worship. When the members of the church assemble, their thoughts are often far from unified in an attitude of worship. Under the influence of the organ prelude, they are brought more or less into an emotional unity which is conducive to spiritual unity and the spirit of worship. This is the spiritual func­tion of a prelude. Any music which accomplishes this result is successful. Naturally, a well-known love song, or music which re­minds one of the concert hall, is unsuitable for church music.

The Offertory.—The music for the offer­tory should also be conducive to the act of worship. It should be of help to the congrega­tion in their meditation upon spiritual things. Personally I believe we should avoid the fa­miliar and hackneyed melodies for both preludes and offertories, such as Rubinstein's "Melody in F," Schumann's "Traumerei," Schubert's "Serenade," and others of this type. This music is suitable for social occasions, but it is too common for the sanctuary.

If our church pianists will inquire at the music store for reed-organ music or for pipe-organ collections, they doubtless will find ma­terial that can be used on a piano and which will be much better for church use than much of the piano music commonly available. There is a wealth of suitable material to be found in organ collections which can easily be adapted to the piano. Such a collection is "Songs of Syon," by J. Alfred Schehl. Al­though written for the organ, the pieces are on two staves and are not at all difficult to play. A good collection for the piano is "Sab­bath Day Music for the Piano," by J. C. Randolph. An exceptionally fine series for the organ is "Musica Divina," in three vol­umes, by Philip G. Kreckel. Other suitable collections are:

"In Modum Antiqum," by Garth Edmundson. "Eight Little Preludes and Fugues," by J. S. Bach. ''Selected Festival Music for the Organ," by William C. Carl. 

Vol. 1. Christmas Service.

Vol. 2. Lent and Easter Services.

Vol. 3. Special Church Services.

Vol. 4. Wedding Service.

Vol. 5. Funeral Service.

The Postlude is the closing instrumental portion of the service. It is usually played while the congregation quietly leaves the church. It may be joyous or meditative in character, depending largely on the nature of the church service. Sometimes a simple hymn makes the most effective postlude, and some­times a festive sound of praise is in place.

Never should the church musician feel that he is playing a concert, or that he has a solo part in the service. The personality of the player should be hidden behind beautiful music which is played solely to the glory of God.

"Songs of the Message—No. 1"

For years, The Ministry has had, as one of its definite objectives, the development of high ideals and practical achievement in the music of the church—with composition and rendition comparable in spirit, form, and con­tent to the expectation, of our God for such an hour. To this end, its monthly section "Music of the Message," has appeared, and approved gospel songs have found a place in our columns from time to time—as often as our limited budget would admit of making plates. We now take great pleasure in an­nouncing a gratifying extension of this plan, which, in brief, is this : Certain songs of merit, which have already appeared in THE MINISTRY. together with other brand-new songs of rare beauty and musical excellence, composed by our own musicians, are about to be released as an eight-page collection, song-sheet size, for the very nominal price of 50 cents. This choice initial collection is being printed by Review and Herald arrangement under the attractive title, "Special Songs of the Message —Group No. 1," and will be available through your Book and Bible Houses by May is in North America, and shortly thereafter over­seas.

Our gospel musicians, our institutional and private music teachers, our local church musi­cians, and friends of gospel music everywhere in our institutions and churches, will wish copies of this song leaflet and will wish to encourage its circulation. Be it particularly noted that upon the reception and circulation of "Collection No. r," will depend the issuance of "Collection No. 2," which should appear some six months later. If this venture proves successful, the plan, as a continuing series, should constitute a real contribution to the advent movement. Better and ever better music should issue from the hearts of conse­crated, talented musicians of the advent move­ment. These compositions will all have passed under the scrutiny and have received the ap­proval of a competent music committee of experienced musicians, and they will thus con­form to the high standards set for such corn­positions.—Editor

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By H. B. HANNUM, Music Instructor, Emmanuel Missionary College

June 1939

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