Heart Music…Day 6

Yes, I will admit it.  I can change my mind.  And I find out that I can, when enlivened, inspired, and amazed,  sit through a class in a bunker basement room on a beautiful summer day and be glad that I chose to be in that room instead of sailing on the Chesapeake (which was, by the way, my other choice).

And no, I am not writing this simply because our instructor read my blog the day BEFORE class and saw my reservations about an all-day class. 

There were so many insights and inspirations yesterday that I want to think about and write about, but what is most on my mind at this moment is the discussion we had about programming music for worship, and the importance of including what our instructor called “heart music”.

Heart music is literally music that bypasses the head and goes straight to the heart.  More than that, it is music that we take away with us…the hymn that just won’t leave us, the tune that we hum over and over again; the song that stays as a source of comfort and inspiration for years to come, maybe for our whole life long.  As such, it is music that changes us, whether we know it consciously or not.

I immediately thought of  Keith Green’s There is a Redeemer.   Okay, maybe you think that is a strange choice for a classical musician, but never forget that I am also a CHURCH musician.  And here is what I know:  we used There is a Redeemer as a call to prayer in worship during a certain sermon series, well ove r a year ago.  And to this day, no one can go to bed at our house until that song has been sung or played.  It is now part of our household faith practice, a song that is certainly outside my musical experience and that I had never encountered (nor probably would have without its use as service music).  Heart music, pure and simple.

In my days in the more “new age” branches of the Christian faith, we had a million of them, and we often had hour-long meditation services composed of singing, praying to music, and just listening to music.  So I must confess that in my mental filing cabinet, I had placed my understanding of the music and prayer services of  Taize and the Iona Community in the “new age” bucket and thought no more about them.

That is, until yesterday.  And until this morning. And, well, until I started writing this entry a little while ago. Until I started thinking about “heart music”.

You see, when I sat down in the choir this morning to sing through the hymns, I couldn’t help but notice that no. 430 in the Chalice Hymnal that we were to sing today, “Lo, I am with you“, came from the Iona community, words by John Bell, who also happened to be in town today doing a service at another church.  I also noticed that the text comes from Matthew 28, also know as the Great Commission.  When we finally sang that hymn in preparation for our time of prayer, I thought it ended too soon:  I wanted it to continue on and on.  Heart music.

And then, there was the moment at the end of the service, when the congregation stood to sing “Trust and Obey“.  I have the honor of looking out over that congregation most Sundays, but I have rarely seen them as bright and shiny and inspired as they seemed today.  And the singing!  I love it when I can hear the congregation sing out.  The old and familiar tunes can be heart music, too.  And today my community sang from its heart.

So, out of curiousity, as I was sitting down to write, I decided to check out the Taize website.  I downloaded a podcast of one of their services, and began to write.  Again, heart music.

I think, after all this, what I have discovered is that I don’t have enough “heart music” in my life.  And, too, that I must always remember in performance, to make certain that whatever I’m offering is presented from the heart.  There is no other reason to make music.

3 thoughts on “Heart Music…Day 6

  1. wondering if there might be such a thing as “heart blog entry.” this entry (and Butler’s and Ballenger’s 6/20 entries) seems to have bypassed my head and gone straight to my heart….

  2. I dragged myself out of bed after a 20-hour Saturday because I had looked at the bulletin and had seen that “Trust and Obey” was the closing hymn. I couldn’t miss the chance to sing an old favorite… For me it’s the grand old hymns that are the heart music, almost always… I miss them. “Trust and Obey,” “I Love to Tell the Story,” “Once to Every Man and Nation” (well, that’s when I’m stressed), “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” “God be with You Till We Meet Again,” and on and on… some of them I know have questionable theology, some are the best theology you can find, but they’re the ones when my heart and voice soar, and it doesn’t matter what else is going on, because in that moment, worship happens – despite myself, oftentimes.

    I have to really, really fight myself to know that for many people the more praise-style music is heart music… because it’s an absolute turn-off for me, and completely yanks me out of the worship experience. Even “Lo, I am with you,” came close to that yesterday morning. If I hadn’t been sitting with someone who was going through a time of grief, I probably would have lost all interest.

    But you’re absolutely right, that when we got to “Trust and Obey,” the congregation came alive, and sang out and participated to an extent that doesn’t often happen. It was wonderful.

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