Properly rendered, and done in whole-hearted fashion, music holds a tremendously important place in the evangelistic effort. The public is first introduced to the message through the work of the song leader, his accompanist, and his choir. Realizing what a marked effect first impressions have on the mind, we should feel it our solemn duty to give of our very best to make the song service and special music a success. Since the opening exercises of any service are to prepare the hearts of the listeners for the message that is to follow, what a solemn responsibility is ours in this respect!
There are many factors which contribute to making a pianist an asset to an evangelistic effort. First, he must waive the idea that he is a soloist, and co-operate wholly with his song leader. To do this, he must adapt himself to that particular song leader's technique, his emotional make-up, his every characteristic, so that he will be prepared for any idea which the chorister may inaugurate after having taken his place on the platform. Particularly is this necessary in accompanying soloists. He must provide a substantial 'foundation on which the singer may build his song message without feeling instrumentally overpowered on the one hand or insufficiently supported on the other. It takes much skill to be a sympathetic accompanist.
I would stress the need of omitting all suggestion of jazz and syncopated rhythm in our hymn playing. All too often we find those who make hymns almost unrecognizable through such embellishments, and other adornments that are definitely in bad taste. To adhere to the strict rhythm, adding just enough contrast between stanzas by using notes of the higher or lower registers, yet maintaining the dignity of the hymn throughout, is indeed a fine art, and one which might well be practiced by those whose main purpose seems to be to fill in every "vacant spot" in the hymn with unlimited decorations.
With this might be coupled the need for rhythmic control in every hymn—holding each note for its full value, and never clipping it almost in half because it may have been sung that way for years before our time. The laws of musical etiquette demand a regular metric pattern which can be adhered to firmly. In special music this need not be held to as strictly as in congregational singing, for a soloist must naturally have an emotional leeway that would be perilous for a group of amateur voices.
In the realm of preludes, offertories, and postludes, an illustrative example might prove helpful. While I was working with the Reeves evangelistic effort in Toronto, the order of the service was somewhat as follows, and proved successful. First, a brief recital of appropriate classical music was played on the piano as the congregation assembled. Then, at a signal from the chorister, the choir entered singing "Near to the •Heart of God." Following the song service and preliminaries the offering was received as the choir sang the evening anthem. At the close of the sermon the choir sang one stanza of "Good Night," and the congregation was ushered out to the rhythm of a brisk but appropriate martial tune.
Let those of us who are privileged to work in a musical way in the vineyard of the Lord take every precaution against putting our individual ambitions first. Let us co-operate wholly with the plans of the song leader and the evangelist, to make the music a part of the service that will long be remembered for its beauty.