We have it upon divine authority that music "is one of the most effective means of impressing the heart with spiritual truths." —Education, p. 168. "Rightly employed, it is a precious gift of God, designed to uplift the thoughts to high and noble themes, to inspire and elevate the soul."—Ibid., p. 167. Its charm, beauty, pathos, and power are all effective qualities that may be skillfully used to attract souls to their Creator and Redeemer. All who are blessed with the light of truth and who sense the responsibility of leading others to Christ should have an appreciation for this divine and important gift. They should know how to employ it best in the service of worship, as well as in evangelism, so that souls may be uplifted from the depths of sin to live in the new-found joy of the light of God's Holy Word.
We should recognize that the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus is the greatest task in which one can be engaged, and unquestionably the Spirit of God can be manifest in the rendering of sacred music, definitely influencing the sinner to surrender completely to God. The gift of music is closely related to the preaching and teaching of the Word, so much so that its use may bring success or failure to a worship or evangelistic service.
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High." Ps. 92:1. "Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing." Ps. 100:2. As we come into His presence' with singing, to praise His name, angels of heaven enter into the spirit of thanksgiving with voice and instruments. The rapture one experiences in sacred music is an introduction to the joy of eternal life, and in this way music meets its divine purpose.
It is necessary to recognize two divisions in sacred music: First, church service, where chosen selections render praise, adoration, and devotion in a reverent and dignified manner; and second,- the evangelistic service, where joy and praise are expressed in a dignified manner, but with the addition of hymns of appeal to sinners to hear the call to Christ. One is a service for those who know God to praise His holy name, whereas the other uplifts the cross of Christ and invites sinners to follow in His steps in the illuminated path that leads to Paradise. This effect may largely be accomplished through the efforts of the song director, who should ever remember the primary purpose of his work.
It is well for those with musical ability who have chosen, the ministry of music to engage also in personal work by visiting in the homes of those who attend the evangelistic meetings, and' reverently teach the Scriptures. The respect of interested ones for the song leader will at such times be helpful in opening a conversation on subjects of doctrine and truth. And in turn the song director will enter into the experience of learning the needs of souls seeking the way of God, which should guide his choice and rendition of sacred selections.
Sometimes we wonder why it is necessary for the song leader to urge people to sing. There may be several reasons, but let us consider the two that are perhaps most important.
(1) When one is not happy in his Christian experience, and does not feel a close union with God, his expression in song is not free. Therefore, while engaged in personal visiting, the song leader can strengthen his future song service by showing an interest in each one's spiritual welfare and helping him to know God better. The richer the spiritual experience, the greater the response in musical expression.
"David, in the beauty and vigor of his young man hood, was preparing to take a high position with the noblest of the earth. His talents, as precious gifts from God, were employed to extol the glory of the di vine Giver. ... As he beheld the love of God in all the providences of his life, his heart throbbed with more fervent adoration and gratitude, his voice rang out in a richer melody, his harp was swept with more exultant joy."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 642.
(2) Perhaps the song service itself has not been one of rich spiritual inspiration. This may be developed by the choice of hymns, the special selections, the appearance and attitude of the director, and the instrumental accompaniment. Enthusiasm, joy in Christ, reverence, devotion, and Christian dignity are among the refined characteristics that should govern this preliminary service to the presentation of the gospel of Jesus. That this high standard maybe obtained, plans should be made at least one week in advance. This can be done by selecting the numbers to be sung to accord with the subjects to be presented.
For some choirs there are numerous anthems that would not prove too difficult, and the diligent director would be well repaid for his efforts to use these, because they serve a double purpose. They will hold« the interest of the choir members as well as provide an opportunity to give a perfected rendition with less time spent in training. However, if one has the musical knowledge necessary for the arrangement of choice hymns, this feature is most ideal and also more certain to reach the heart.
Speaking choirs may also supply an interesting and effective variation, but there should always be sufficient rehearsals in order that a perfect blending or harmony of voices may be attained.
"Praise the Lord with harp : sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise." Ps. 33:2, 3.
"Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery." Ps. 81:1, 2.
"And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals." 2 Sam. 6 15.
"Call to your aid, if practicable, instrumental music, and let the" glorious harmony ascend to God, an acceptable offering."—Evangelism, p. 505.
"Let the singing be accompanied with musical instruments skillfully handled. We are not to oppose the use of instrumental music in our work. This part of the service is to be carefully conducted; for it is the praise of God in song."—Ibid., p. 507. (Italics sup plied.)
Piano or organ, two pianos, or a piano and an organ are conducive to building inspiration into the song service. But here again special attention should be given to the thought, "skill fully handled." God is not pleased with any careless playing on instruments. He holds a high standard for all that pertains to His service. It must be remembered too, that hymns written in church hymnals were arranged for voices and not instruments; therefore, the introduction of variations for some hymns adds the needed touch to inspire the singing. Keen judgment is necessary here, however.
Variations may be more effectively used with the piano than with the organ. "The Glory Song" and "He Lives" may be mentioned as hymns to which the pianist may add much, but to attempt variations to such a grand hymn as Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" would prove poor taste, and possibly appear ridiculous.
The accompaniment to "I Am Coming, Lord," "Just as I Am," and "Why Not Now?" may be much improved by the introduction of arpeggios and chimes. It must be remembered, however, that it is all accompaniment and should never be overdone to the extent that the attention will be focused upon the musician instead of the music. Such an act would 'show a lack of wisdom and would ruin the true purpose of accompaniment—that of aiding and inspiring the singing.
A final word should be added concerning the rhythm. Never should this be broken. Far better would it be to omit the additions and keep the rhythm smooth.
Scripture calls our attention to a number of instruments which were used in the services of the children of Israel, a few of which are the harp, the timbrel (a sort of drum or tambourine), the cornet, and stringed instruments. Truly it would be a great blessing if we had more skillful players. Too frequently we sense the problem of talent without consecration, or consecration without talent. Of the former, we are instructed that we are not to depend upon worldly singers, as they cannot be expected to have the spirit and understanding of the sacred message in song. (Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 143.)
On the other hand, no mediocre musician should be permitted to play merely because of his consecration, for this would not represent the high standard of God's work. Consequently it would give a very poor impression to the stranger who may be judging the value of the message by the musical presentation. Let it be emphasized again .that there is a real need for more talented musicians and for the consecration of their gifts to the service of God.
When skillfully .handled, obligate and solo work prove to be helpful.' Many selections for choirs have fine obligates for the violin, and a capable vocalist may also choose selections with obligates. A few choice numbers are "A Dream of Paradise" (Hamilton Gray), "Come Unto Me" (H. N. Bartlett), "O, Divine Redeemer!" (Gounod). This is only one method, however, in which instruments may be employed. Our song directors would do well to study to know how to employ available instrumental music.
It will be observed that one instrument may be more effective for one selection than for another. A cornettist, a trumpeter, or a pianist may play "Onward Christian Soldiers" and in spire the audience with a desire to go onward, whereas the best violinist might fail to produce this inspiration. But the well-known hymns 'that generally appeal to the heart, such as "Nearer My God to Thee," "Abide With Me," "Alone," "Just as I Am," are best rendered by a violinist, because the instrument itself is more capable of producing deep feeling and expression. A vibraharp will also add much beauty and assistance to a successful musical program.
It seems appropriate at this time to devote some consideration to the appearance or dress of the soloists. In church services where choir robes are worn, and the soloist is a member of the choir, no problem of dress arises. It is when a special number is played or sung that the question of appropriate dress for ladies taking part might prove to be of importance. That which meets with most approval generally is a full, ankle-length skirt, high neckline, and long sleeves. The use of black with a little color would be sure to be in order, but for young women the pastel shades of a dull finish provide an attractive and appropriate appearance.
Soloists should remember that they are rendering the highest service when called on to sing or play. Only one's very best should be brought to the service of God. Concert soloists always perform without music. This is evidence that studied preparation has been given before their public appearance. This same standard should be maintained by those engaged in gospel work. After sufficient practice, and then a rehearsal with the accompanist, one should pray that God will control the memory and give skill to sing or play in a manner that will glorify Him and reach the hearts of the people. We are also admonished that "the heart must feel the spirit of the song, to give, it right expression." —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 594. Having dedicated one's gifts in this way, the artist may then step out in confidence, trusting that the music rendered will accomplish the purpose God designed it should.
Lastly, one might ponder upon the reward for such difficult and noble service. Remuneration in dollars may not be received, but still there is the greater satisfaction in knowing that our musical rendition has helped to uplift many, so that they may here on earth enjoy a little heavenly bliss. But far better is the eternal re ward for all who serve faithfully.
"The prophet caught the sound of music there, and song, such music and song as, save in the visions of God, no mortal ear has heard or mind conceived. The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' 'Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.' 'As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there.' "—Prophets and Kings, p. 730.