Tuesday, 22 November 2011

"Sing and make music..."

I was prompted to think about music and musicians this morning, as I was reminded that today is the Feast of St Cecilia, the Patron of Church music.

Music is a very important part of my life. I don't think a day goes by when I don't listen to music, and thanks to the wonders of digital technology I can now carry my music collection with me wherever I go, and listen (almost) at will. Music can aid relaxation, or can stir one to action. My tastes are diverse, with everything from Bach to the Beatles, from Stravinsky to the Sex Pistols, and from Miles Davis to Iron Maiden. My particular predilection is for Progressive Rock, from the 1970s to today - the great thing about Prog is that it keeps on evolving and pushing the boundaries, which can only be good in the end, as fresh musical expression is found.

Music has the ability to lift the soul, to raise the spirits, and to burrow truth and beauty deep into the psyche. Charles Wesley, through his hymns, used popular music of his day as a way to teach Christian doctrine to those who couldn't read the Bible. At this time of year, as Christmas approaches, I'm always amazed at the ability of music to stir memories of times past, and to bring Scripture to mind. Handel's wonderful combination of stirring music and Old Testament prophecy in 'Messiah' is just one example - I cannot read those words without hearing his melodies: the two for me are now intertwined.

I belong to a Christians tradition that was 'born in song': worship just doesn't seem like worship to me if it doesn't include singing. Having spent the last weekend away on a course it seemed really odd for the times of worship in which we shared to be non-musical. That's part of who I am. St Paul (if 'twas he) urged the Ephesian Christians to 'speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord' [Eph 5:19] and that, to me, is the most natural expression of devotion and worship.

I found the following quote in Butler's 'Lives of the Saints'. At the end of the chapter on Cecilia, he writes:
"As to music as an amusement, too much time must never be given to it; and extreme care ought to be taken... that children be not set to learn it very young, because it is a thing which bewitches the senses, dissipates the mind exceedingly, and alienates it from serious studies, as daily experience shows. Soft and effeminate music is to be always shunned with abhorrence, as the corrupter of the heart and the poison of virtue."
I'm not sure I could agree with any of that. What do you think?
  • How important is music to you in your life?
  • How important is it to you in your devotions?
  • John Miles wrote: 'To live without my music would be impossible to do'. Do you agree?