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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lift every voice and sing

One of Agapella's newest members is from the Church of Christ tradition, where worship is conducted a cappella. What a privilege for our minsitry to be blessed with this new dimension! This also nudged me to research various perspectives on worship. The article I found below is interesting and instructive...

The Ascending Voice 2007, a four-day international symposium of sacred a cappella music touted by organizers as the first-ever international gathering focused on the study, celebration and performance of a cappella worship music — drew an estimated 400 to 500 scholars, theologians, musicologists and singers.

The program mixed scholarly presentations on topics such as “A Comparison of Singing Among Crow and Cheyenne Indian Christians of Montana and Euro-American Mennonites of Indiana” with more practical sessions with themes such as “A Hymn of Praise, a Joyful Noise or the Song of Fools? Evaluating Contemporary Christian Hymns from a Musical Standpoint.”

Performances ranged from Gregorian chant and classic hymns to shape-note harmony and contemporary gospel. Singing groups from Pepperdine, Harding and Lipscomb universities — all associated with Churches of Christ — joined a Spanish-speaking choir from Medellin, Columbia, in performing hymns newly written for a cappella congregational singing.

“As far as I know, no one has ever assembled Christians of such diverse backgrounds before,” said Frederica Matthewes-Green, an author and speaker who is the “Khouria,” or spiritual mother, of Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Baltimore. “It was exhilarating to meet with other believers and worship in song in so many varying styles.”

For Denny Kruse, a member of the Rocketdyne Road Church of Christ in Neosho, Mo., the symposium provided an emotional reminder of why a cappella singing has survived 2,000-plus years of church history.

“In a time when some in our fellowship seem to be running from our tradition of congregational a cappella singing, the Pepperdine symposium embraced it as our strength and warmed our hearts in powerful ways through scholarly presentations and especially the singing itself,” Kruse said. “I, for one, am hoping to take a glowing ember home with me and rekindle a passion for the beauty and power of a cappella singing in our area congregations.”

The symposium represented the brainchild of Darryl Tippens, provost of Pepperdine and a lifelong Church of Christ member.

Tippens grew up in southwestern Oklahoma among Mennonites who sang, like he did, without instruments.

Through his personal experience and reading about other Christian groups, Tippens knew Churches of Christ were far from alone in the use of a cappella music.

“So, the idea began to form in me,” he said. “What if we heard from one another?”

Tippens, with help from Pepperdine music professor N. Lincoln Hanks, endeavored to bring together groups that use no instruments, along with others that maintain a cappella services, even if the groups are not exclusively noninstrumental.

“It’s not a tiny little group in one corner of the world that has this idea,” Tippens said of a cappella singing. ‘It’s a worldwide phenomenon.”

'BEAUTIFUL, POWERFUL’ WAY OF SINGING

Before the symposium, 20-year-old Karen Mannino of Spokane, Wash., had no idea that some Christians believe in a cappella singing only.

Mannino performed at the symposium with the Gonzaga University Gregorian Schola, an ensemble whose members sing chant and Renaissance polyphony at the Catholic university’s weekly Gregorian chant Mass.

She said she left the symposium with “a renewed love for the simple songs of prayer and praise that speak, in their very simplicity, to the deepest levels of our souls.”

“I’m a violinist as well as a singer so I can never put an exclusive value on a cappella as the only music suitable for worship,” she said. “But there is something very special and powerful about the unaccompanied human voice lifted up to God. I would like to celebrate that kind of worship.”
Tippens said he hoped the symposium would inspire churches to look at congregational singing with fresh eyes.

“I think we have too long emphasized the fact that everyone else is doing church music wrong,” he said. “We have said far too little on what’s right — beautiful, powerful and spiritually formative — about a cappella singing.”

From The Christian Chronicle

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