"The Service of Song" formed an important feature in the Tabernacle and Temple of old (1 Chron. 25) and will also form an important part of the future Temple in the Kingdom of Christ where there will be appointed "Chambers of the Singers" (Ezekiel 40:44, see also Psa. 149:5-6). Singing and praising with music is one of the rare precious things that we can participate in now that will also continue on into eternity.
The Scriptures mention many who sang, wrote music and hymns, played instruments and instructed in the Service of Song: Elohim, Moses, Israel, Hoshea, Deborah, Barak, David, Heman, Asaph, Ethan, Chenaniah, Jeduthun, Levitical priests, Solomon, Christ and his disciples; and in the future The Bride of Christ, The Redeemed, the nations of the earth, all the earth and Jerusalem.
Hundreds of times the Scriptures teach us to:
Sing Praises to God
Sing Praises with understanding
Sing praise unto God's name forever
Sing with thanksgiving
Sing with grace
Sing with gladness
Sing in the midst of the Ecclesia
Sing in your heart
This Service of Song has an important and essential part in the Ecclesia now.
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs.
We hope to sing a joyful melody of thanksgiving and praise with The Redeemed in Zion:
and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
"Upon this bright blue Sea, purified by commingled fire from the colossal feet of the Rainbowed Angel,
the victorious saints will stand with harps of the Diety (Rev. 14:2-3).
Each one will himself be a living harp, a living embodiment of melody and song.
And such music will ascend as no concert of earth-borns has executed,
and no inventor has composed before.
The Rainbowed Multitude, in throng which no man can number,
will sing what none beside themselves can sing --
the great song of their redemption and triumph (Rev. 5:9-10; 15:3-4)."
Bro. John Thomas
Practical Suggestions for those in the Service of Song in the Ecclesia
Play the best you can, sing the best you can - it's not about you - it's about worshipping God. Our Service of Song is never a performance so everyone that has breath should sing. Even if we are tone deaf, we know that what is important is the intent of our heart to offer praise and thanksgiving and not how far our best comes to good musical ability. Although worship is for God and to God, the closer we all get to God the closer we come to one another. So singing helps strengthen our closeness and fellowship to one another as we sing together as one voice of our Faith and shared Hope. Singing can help the Ecclesia experience unity in worship.
The Service of Song is not about what we get out of it or whether we like the songs or enjoy singing or playing an instrument. Our Service of Song is not just a chance to choose all our favorite tunes for a sing song. It is a serious and vital part of our worship of Yahweh.
There are many brethren and sisters in the Ecclesias who help with the singing by accompanying on the piano or organ. The instrument is secondary, a service or aid to singing, keeping the congregation together as one voice.
Be careful not to play too loud. If the congregation can't hear others singing they usually don't sing out. The sound of the voices is more important than the sound of the instrument.
A dear brother once mentioned to me in kindness that if the organ makes an uncertain sound that the congregation does not know what to sing or when to sing. Many musicians in the Ecclesias are not technically advanced but spend many committed hours practicing and working to overcome their nervousness in order to help the congregational singing. No matter what level of technical ability, prayer, preparation and practice are always necessary. None of us would presume to offer to God that which costs us nothing. Lack of care in preparation can lead to distractions and uncertainty. So when we do make those unfortunate "uncertain sounds" from the organ, we know that it is just a weakness of the flesh and not a lack of care in our preparation.
It is helpful if the musician makes it very clear to the congregation when it's time to begin singing. Play a clear introduction, a louder "stand" note, a clear break (take a breath yourself), and a strong starting first note that lingers a bit until the congregation has caught up. This builds confidence because if everyone clearly knows exactly when to start singing, they won't hold back or worry about coming in at the wrong time.
The "stand" note should be held long enough for everyone to stand, including the elderly, and find the place in the hymnal. If there is more time needed, that extra time should be incorporated into the "stand" note and not in the breath space, which should always be the same amount of time (one breath). So no matter what goes before, the time before singing is consistent for a sure start every time.
Comfortable phrasing and tempo is so important. The music is for singing which requires breathing. It would be better to play too slow than to play too fast. Singing with an emphasis on understanding the words is very difficult, if not impossible, when the music is so fast that you have to "banana" through the words and it leaves you dizzy or gasping for air. If a brother did the readings or delivered his exhortation as fast as some of us sing praises to God, it would be considered disrespectful.
One way to slow down the music is for the musician to actually breath with the congregation. Take a breath yourself and your phrasing and tempo will be more comfortable for the singers. The break between stanzas should be slightly longer than a breath for a phrase. This extra time for a bigger breath can be worked into the holding of the last note in each stanza so that the break between music and restarting is always consistent. Try not to be so rigid with the "correct" timing as written. Use your own "private interpretation" in the technical music timing to aid those who are trying to breath and "sing with the understanding also" (1 Cor. 14:15).
The very best way to play with comfortable phrasing and tempo is to memorize the words. Yes, all the words to all the hymns that you can play. This is invaluable. This is the only way to "play" with the understanding also. While your eyes are on the notes, your heart will be in tune with the words and the singers. You will automatically know when the words indicate a softer or louder volume. You will automatically feel the appropriate times to emphasize notes to correspond with the words. You will automatically know when to add extra time to allow for a breath. You will automatically know when the last stanza concludes the hymn. If you are asked to help select hymns that are subject appropriate, you will be able to readily recall special phrases in hundreds of hymns. And best of all, you will be able to add your "voice" to the singing by offering your praises to God from your heart.
Hymns and Hymnals
Musicians can also help keep the Ecclesial hymnals in good supply and in good repair. There are several different "old", "new", "newer" and "newest" Christadelphian hymnals available today. There are good and useful individual hymns that are "included" or "left out" of the different hymnals. It may be that a selection from all the hymnals not in current use in the Ecclesia could be compiled into an Ecclesial Supplement (with the approval of the Arranging Brethren). Many Ecclesias find a supplement satisfies the favorite hymns of the older members and the newer hymns (especially those written by brothers and sisters) that are often sung at Bible Schools and Fraternal Gatherings.
A few of the "Supplemental Hymns" that we sing are:
Hymn 162 in the "Logos" 1932 Hymnal, "Oh! why should Israel's sons, once blest, Still roam the scorning world around?"
Hymn 167 in the "Logos" 1932 Hymnal, "Come, thou glorious day of promise" (Also Hymn 312 in the "Newest" 2002 Hymnal).
Hymn 174 in the "Logos" 1932 Hymnal, "Oh, Yahweh, full of grace" (same tune as Hymn 110 in the 1964 Hymnal).
Hymn 192 in the "Logos" 1932 Hymnal, "Hear! hear! O earth the watchmen cry" (also Hymn 400 in the "Newest" 2002 Hymnal). The words are in the 1964 Hymnal but with an awkward tune, the "old" tune is moving and fits the words nicely.
"Christ Our King is Coming" by Sis. Sharon Carroll, the words and the music are moving and uplifting. Available from Sis. Carroll
"Have Courage, Fight the Battle" by Sis. Sharon Carroll, very moving words and music. Available from Sis. Carroll
Suggestions for Meetings without Pianists
When no musician is available to accompany singing, there are several alternatives to singing a cappella (which can be very moving if the singers know the tune.) We have a wealth of excellent Christadelphian CD's, tapes and even computer midi files today with which we can sing along. The key, as always, is care in preparation. Here are a few hymn choices from our list to give you an idea how to compile your own list. Our whole list has 284 choices. (The hymn numbers are all from the 1964 hymnal.)
Hymn 2- "All people that on earth do dwell" - Voice of a Psalm CD - Track 1 - No intro, words from 1932 Logos Hymnal, good speed, postlude.
Hymn 4 - "Be merciful to me O God" - Christadelphian Hymns CD, Vol. 1, Track 2 - Piano only, Intro.
Hymn 55 - "Immortal, Invisible, God only wise" - 30 Hymns for Memorial Cassette, Side A, #1947, Intro
Hymn 73 - "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation" - Royal Oak Ecclesia Memorial 7/4/99 Cassette, Side A, #54, Intro and stand.
Hymn 79 - "The spacious firmament" - MWBS Choir '98 Cassette, Side A, #990
Hymn 85 - "When all Thy mercies O my God" - The Lord is My Shepherd CD, Track 10, No Intro, nice speed
Hymn 173 - "Bread of heaven on Thee we feed" - Until He Come CD, Track 24, Piano and violin only, One note intro, nice speed
Hymn 202 - "Come Thou long expected Jesus" - The King is Coming CD, Track 2, No intro.
Hymn 321 - "The day thou gavest Lord is ended" - One Faith, One Love CD, Track 22, No intro, a cappella, ends with "amen"
Hymn 339 - "Now may He who from the dead" - The Promised Land CD, Track 20, a cappella
Hymn 347 - "O mourn ye for Zion" - Hope of Israel CD, Track 8, No intro
Anthem 22 - "Lead me Lord" - Computer midi file "Lead" - Intro
Supplement 315 - "Have Courage, Fight the Battle" - Our Blessed Hope CD, Track 9, Intro, postlude
If you have limited resources, the best quality, price, and selection of hymns comes from the three volume set of CD's "Christadelphian Hymns".
A wonderful new website is available at: www.christadelphianmusic.org
This website contains the music to all 438 Christadelphian Hymns in the new 2002 Hymn book. The format is played on the piano (by Bro. Peter Clausen of Mentor, Ohio) for ecclesial singing including an introduction. Ecclesias without pianists can download these hymns for worship and praise meetings. They are also very useful for learning new hymns or for individual enjoyment. This music is highly recommended and a very useful tool in our "Service of Song" to Yahweh. (-L.C.)
Children and Singing
Start young. Start with whatever ability the child has developed. Can the child stand still for three to five minutes? This can happen as early as age 3. Then during the hymn, the child should stand. Can the child stand and hold a hymnal? This can happen as early as age 4. Then during the hymn, the child should stand and hold a hymnal. Can the child stand, hold a hymnal and recognize numbers? (5-6) This can be such a cute stage. I've seen my own children stand for the hymn and then gently turn the pages looking, looking, looking for the hymn number. When they do find it they beam! By the time your child can find the hymn numbers with ease, they are probably starting to read too. During this period they can follow the words with their fingers as each year they add more and more words and more and more tunes. Before you know it, they are singing their own praises to God and they don't remember a time when they did not respectfully participate in the hymn singing.
I can still remember with joy times when I heard behind me (or beside me) children clearly singing a memorized hymn that had been taught them at home. Music can be a powerful teacher for children to easily learn the saving principles contained in hymns, especially those hymns that are taken directly from the Scriptures. I also remember the thrill of having a child come up to me after Meeting letting me know that "Crown Him" or "Open Ye the Gates" is one of their "favorite" hymns.
Introducing New Hymns
Singing practice is the fastest and easiest way to introduce new hymns. This can be 30 minutes (or longer) before a scheduled study class. If Singing Practice time is not practical for the Ecclesia there are other ways to introduce new hymns. Open and close with the same new hymn at any scheduled study class. Often if the Sunday School teaches the children a "new" hymn then the parents will learn it too. A new hymn tune can be played as part of the musical prelude before Memorial. Then when the hymn is scheduled to be sung many will find they know the tune already.
I remember several times introducing a "new" hymn that I never recall the Ecclesia singing before only to have the older members singing away because it was one of the "old" favorites.
Whatever abilities we may have, let us strive to reverently offer unto Yahweh our best praises and heartfelt thanksgiving especially when we assemble all together in one place.
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped:
therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever:
with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations...
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,
and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.
Praise ye the LORD.
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