The Music in an Effort

The power of song.

By F. W. AVERY, Pastor, Moline, Illinois

We are told of the power of song in the book "Education :" "Song has wonder­ful power. It has power to subdue rude and uncultivated natures; power to quicken thought and to awaken sympathy, to promote harmony of action, and to banish the gloom and fore­boding that destroy courage and weaken ef­fort."—Pages 167, 168. Because of these in­herent qualities in music, it has been closely associated with the divine worship of God throughout all time.

Ever since sin entered the world, there have been those with rude and uncultivated natures. God has chosen the medium of music as a powerful weapon in subduing barbarous inclinations and tendencies. We are acquainted with the experience of Saul, king of Israel. When the evil side of his nature was given full rein and he sank into deep melancholy, it was the sweet music of David that brought return to normalcy and dispelled darkness.

Someone has said, "Music washes from the soul the dust of life." Therefore, with pro­priety it can be said, "Blessed is the evangelist who can lay hold of this mighty weapon and use it to its best advantages." One of the first tasks of the evangelist is to secure the sym­pathy of his congregation. Music is ordained of God to perform this work. The people who make up the congregation come from all walks of life—some from the slums, some from the upper strata of society. The evangelist must secure their sympathies not only toward him­self, but also toward one another. He tries to weld them together into one body.

This task is largely accomplished by congre­gational singing. In this exercise there is a fusing tendency. All are engaged in one com­mon endeavor. If the music were always sup­plied by choirs, soloists, etc., the optimum re­sult would not be secured. The congregation would not be removed from the critic's chair. They would be thinking about choirs they have heard which are much better. In moving the people out of this attitude, congregational singing plays one of its most important roles.

During the heyday of the Catholic Church, individual expression was completely sup­pressed. Their music was, and still is, fur­nished by a few trained musicians. But with the Reformation concept, and as one of the greatest contributing factors to the Ref orma­tion, the idea of congregational singing was ushered in. Luther's mighty work was due in no small measure to his encouraging individual participation in the singing. Thus the Refor­mation was born "on wings of song," and thus is any mighty movement of God advanced. Charles Wesley gave to the Methodist move­ment over six thousand hymns, many of which have become classics.

Music has power to "banish the gloom and foreboding that destroy courage and weaken effort." As an effectual testimony to this truth, witness how, in times of war, men are led to give up their homes and loved ones, and rally to their country's need to the rhythm of martial music. One's pulse beats faster when he hears the "Star-Spangled Banner" played by a stirring band. Soldiers need a music "bracer" when they go "over the top." It like­wise takes courage for an individual to give up his job because of the Sabbath, and face the ridicule and sneers of his family and associ­ates. He, too, needs the divine help of music to assist him "over the top."

Thus in a general way we see the importance of music, and what it will accomplish when rightly used. We believe that a general under­standing and appreciation of music by all would be most helpful in employing this mighty weapon against the forces of evil. But for the most part, we are particularly interested in knowing what to use, and when and how to use it.

It seems appropriate at this juncture to de­fine and distinguish between a hymn and a song. This will be helpful in choosing appro­priate music. Specifically, a hymn is addressed to God. It is objective, and is primarily a song of praise and adoration. A gospel song, in contradistinction, is usually addressed to the congregation and describes one's own feel­ings, aspirations, and convictions. It is sub­jective in its scope. Samples of each are: "The Church Has One Foundation," and "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." With this rule in hand, one can see that most of the songs we sing are gospel songs, and some gos­pel songs approach very nearly the hymn, as does "Lead, Kindly Light." The gospel song is used most appropriately in evangelistic meetings. The hymn is used most appropri­ately in the Sabbath morning worship hour.

Since it is the object of the evangelist to break down prejudice, to win sympathy, to subdue rude, uncultivated natures, and to strengthen courage, the music should largely be congregational singing. In this way those in the audience cease to be spectators and be­come a part of the meeting. This is the first step toward getting people to accept our mes­sage. The so-called "special music" should never be furnished with the idea of entertain­ing. This, if indulged, merely reduces itself to the theatrical. Special music is used to introduce variety and rest. A long, uninter­rupted song service is wearisome, and people will soon cease to sing. Instrumental music can well be used to provide variety. It, too, should be of such a nature that the congrega­tion will not detect the element of entertain­ment.

It is my conviction that a song service of not more than twenty minutes, and not less than fifteen, is productive of the most good. We must recognize that we are living in a stream­lined age, and that it becomes more and more difficult to sustain people's interest. We must time ourselves to the tempo of the age in some degree. If the song service lasts half an hour, it is encroaching upon the time of the speaker. A long song service, instead of preparing the people for the message, detracts from it. Music must always be subordinated to the preaching.

The song service, if it is to solidify and fuse the audience, will of necessity be conducted in a pleasing, spontaneous, and informal manner. However, this does not give the song leader license to yell and stamp his feet and relate humorous anecdotes. He must not resort to buffoonery. A legitimate practice, if the con­gregation is large enough, is to vary the sing­ing by having the women sing one stanza and then the men another, and all join in the chorus.

Song slides break down prejudice. Short choruses introduced and sung from memory give variation and freedom to a service. His­torical notes on a particular song, related by the song leader, add interest and variety. Never should the song leader let the people feel that they are being educated to sing better songs. This produces antagonism and completely nul­lifies his efforts. The jazz age is having its baneful effect upon gospel music. Caution should be exercised that it does not creep into our music.

It is my conviction that a good song service depends as much upon the pianist as upon the song leader. He can enhance what the song leader is attempting to do, or he can completely nullify it. If a good song leader cannot be secured, then get the best pianist possible.

In conclusion, this statement from "Patri­archs and Prophets" predicates our ideal: "Music forms a part of God's worship in the courts above, and we should endeavor, in our songs of praise, to approach as nearly as pos­sible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs. . . . Singing . . . is as much an act of wor­ship as is prayer."—Page 594.


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By F. W. AVERY, Pastor, Moline, Illinois

March 1941

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