Jim’s thoughts on choosing music for online worship…..

In the Redruth Team we are about to send out a questionnaire about how we proceed with services during the rest of Covid-tide in the coming months. Each week a communion service has been streamed live on ZOOM and relayed through Facebook and later placed on YouTube for folks who would like to see it later.

Each weekday there has been a service of Morning Prayer led by a different member of the ministry team at 9am which have been on ZOOM only but has featured a wide variety of liturgy from Common Worship to Celtic services.

Since the rule changes, there have been simple weekday communion services throughout the benefice on weekdays but we are now wondering how best to proceed; hence the questionnaire.

Reading the suggested music question really got me thinking, especially after Monday Morning’s Coffee with the Chaplain / Solomon’s Portico discussion with Licensed Lay Ministers- again using ZOOM.  Music in church turns out to be a complex business with wide opinions and high stakes if one gets it wrong. Here are a few of my own thoughts which are not necessarily representative of the ministry team, nor of all the Monday Morning group.

 Music for Worship should be:

  • Tunes that are well known or predictable enough to pick up and learn
  • Avoiding unnecessary key changes, instrumental breaks or frilly background wailing.
  • Have some link in the lyrics to the theme of the service as a minimum!
  • In a key that is sing-able by the average congregation member.
  • Avoid multiple repetitions especially of choruses because watchers can get lost (not to mention the person trying to scroll though the PowerPoint slides) which will put people off joining in.

In zoom services singing along with “Songs of Praise” type videos from YouTube is the most successful because they have words to follow and a good general set of voices to sing along with. The wonderful St Martin’s in the Field choristers who produced a set of hymns to sing with and made available on the C of E website are pitched too high for untrained voices and can be a struggle for us mortals.  

Of course it is lovely to have wonderful songs to listen to and inspire as well – but if we are preparing music for online worship (quite apart from copyright issues) we need to be aware that people are watching and listening to it on a wide variety of equipment which will vary vastly in quality. The wonderful song we think we are playing might be a tinny-sounding mess on some old laptop speakers or a phone.

So what of worship songs?  I don’t dislike all worship songs – there are some great ones, some even follow my golden rules but like all music there is good and bad. There are traditional hymns I hate singing, either because I find the lyrics make no sense at all or because I dislike the tune. The trouble is I meet people who love the things I loathe. “The pastures of the blessed are decked in glorious sheen” is one example of a lyric that puzzles each time!

I might well expand more on this next week…… but for now  I need to reign in the vast array of funny stories and great wit. Well….. perhaps one story about inappropriate church music. At one service I was administering the chalice- when the organist stuck up “Edelweiss” – it was hard to keep a reverential expression and not to sing “Blood of Christ” along with the strident waltz.

Do share your thoughts and stories with me and I will share the best ones! In the meantime…… cartoons / memes on the subject.

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