Without properly planned music, the hour of worship or the evangelistic service will lose much of its charm and power. Planned music calls not only for ample preparation but for proper selection of the music to be used. Naturally the music will need to be religious, except perhaps for certain patriotic occasions.
All religious music should be edifying, evangelizing, and soul warming. When it ceases to fill these specifications the musician should take inventory and evaluate certain factors.
The factors in the preaching service are three: the messenger, the message, and the audience. Likewise, there are three factors in the musical part of the service: the musician, the music, and the audience.
The most important factor is the audience. The meeting is for the audience and not for the aggrandizement of the evangelist or his singer. Unless the messenger and the message, the musician and the music, are bent to fill the needs of the audience, the meeting will not succeed. Any spirit on the part of any member of the evangelistic company toward self-inflation is selfish, and has no part in soul-winning activity. The need of the audience is the thing to keep in mind. Every audience has a particular need. The time, place, occasion, and special mood of the audience must be taken into consideration constantly if the music is to be soul warming and soul winning.
The audience, whether large or small, is made up of single individuals. The musician is dealing with the individual mind. The best speakers make the individual in the congregation feel that he is the most important one there. A good song leader does the same thing. There is constant danger that public men, even in the church, may forget that the individual is of the greatest importance. Christ died for individuals.
The musician should have a technical knowledge of music. He should have training in dealing with individuals and groups. He should have sufficient theological training to know what the goals are for the meeting. Of course, all his training, like framework, must be hid den. The best art hides its technique.
All other preparation on the part of the musician will be of no value unless he makes a special heart preparation. He must be kind, tolerant, and understanding if he is to reach the hearts of the individuals in the audience. The preparation he gets on his knees cannot be overestimated. The speaker has forty minutes for his message, but the singer giving one song has but three or four minutes. He should literally prepare his song on his knees.
The music itself has three ingredients: melody, rhythm, and harmony. Melody is essential if the audience interest is to be held. However, if the melody is too sweet and too sentimental, it will defeat its purpose.
All music has rhythm, but if it is too marked, or is distorted, or if the rhythm is predominant, the effect will not be religious. Audiences love music that can be sung easily in harmony. If the harmony is too complicated, the average audience loses interest because of the difficulty of singing such music.
Music is a vehicle to transfer a message from the heart of the musician to the hearts of the individuals in the audience, or to bring home to the individuals in the audience a special message. Therefore, the congregational songs must be simple, solid, and in keeping with the occasion. The musician cannot always write what he needs, but he can make a wise selection.
Various Types of Songs
Broadly speaking, there are two classes of religious songs from which to select songs for congregational singing: hymns and evangelistic songs.
The hymn is a song sung by the individuals in the audience, but it is an act of worship that is between the individual and God alone. The hymn may be meditative, joyful, militant, or penitent. It may be a hymn of thanks, a prayer, or simple communion between the individual heart and God.
The evangelistic song is more of a religious- fellowship song. It usually stresses fellowship experiences in religious activity. The hymn may be used freely in evangelistic services, but seldom does the evangelistic song fit so well into the worship hour, unless it be at the close of that hour as a congregational response to the sermon.
The selection of songs is an important task. The song leader, of course, must be a master at selecting the right song for the occasion. Various evangelistic meetings need a special se lection of songs. Besides, there are all kinds of occasions outside of the evangelistic meeting, each of which demands its peculiar kind of song. Early in his experience the song leader will meet these special situations. The funeral, for example, is an occasion for solid, comforting thinking. It is not a time for extremely sentimental music. Unless the bereaved have designated the songs, the singer has an opportunity to select songs that will bring hope, courage, and comfort. Many of the so-called funeral songs are too sad and dismal.
The wedding is another occasion when good taste should be used. Sentimental songs hardly have a place in the church sanctuary. There are good religious songs available for such occasions. Marriage is a religious ceremony, and should be so treated. The sentimental songs, which are appropriate outside the sanctuary, may be sung at the reception.
There are songs to be selected for the Sab bath school, the prayer meeting, and family worship; songs for sunshine bands to sing for shut-ins; and songs for social occasions.
Then there are the special songs to be sung at the evangelistic meetings. The solos will be better received, as a rule, if they are of the hymn or the gospel-song style. Occasionally a song of a more formal kind can be an inspiration, if it is particularly well done. Usually the more formal songs are better for the worship service.
Duets, trios, and all kinds of good ensemble selections are acceptable for the evangelistic audience. People love a good arrangement of a familiar hymn.
Instrumental music also can play an important part in the evangelistic program. Solos and all types of arrangements and combinations of instruments are interesting. Care should be exercised in using nonclassical instruments that is, novelty instruments. Experience and good judgment as to time, place, the particular audience, and how well the novelty number is done will help in the occasional use of such music.
Good instrumental accompaniment is necessary in a service, although the song leader will find it very stimulating to sing an occasional stanza with no instrumental accompaniment. Unison singing is also an interesting variation. In congregational singing the instrumental accompaniment should not be so heavy that the leader cannot hear the congregation. Band or orchestral accompaniment will often destroy the audience interest in doing nice congregational work. The congregational participation is very important. In fact, if an evangelist must make a choice between a song leader and a soloist, he should always take the song leader. Likewise, if only one kind of music can be had for a specific evangelistic meeting, then use audience-participation music.