Friday, April 24, 2009

"Make a Joyful Noise..."

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises." Psalm 98, v. 4

Needless to say, at Revival, we made a lot of joyful noise, as well as more meditative and solemn sounds. I don't think that you can bring a group of celebrating, worshipping Christians together and not have them express their hearts and souls in music. And we enjoyed the full range of music styles.

In previous posts, I've described the joyous outpouring of the Pentecostal worship style and the contempletive rhythms of Taizé. We heard traditional hymns and choral arrangements from the All Souls choir. From the choir loft the song seemed to float directly from heaven. We enjoyed the talent of Rick Fortner, one of the music directors and a professional pianist with a jazz flair, whose improvisation and beautiful accompaniment brought special blessings to every gathering. Flute, violin, electronic keyboard, organ, voices. Our music cups were overflowing!

I'm a singer myself and play guitar for accompaniment. I've sung and led worship music with several praise and folk groups. I've also sat in the pew and closed my eyes to drink in the harmonies of Bach or sink into a soloist's hymn. I also learned to distinguish music purpose: hymns where the words and the theological message are important; Gospel music where expressing emotions is the focus, Taizé for meditation, listening versus participating. Music speaks to our souls, transports us into the transcendent, can give us an out-of-body experience when we least expect it. A gentleman at Revival shared a description of music's power--Grounded Euphoria. Oh, yeah! That's what we're talking about.

My Polish heritage has a saying that when you sing, you pray twice. I've heard that this saying is part of almost every culture. With the music we shared at Revival, I'm sure we prayed a dozen times for every song.

One of most surprising experiences was the Revival tradition of the Hymn Sing which happened after dinner on Friday. Now, because of my background in leading worship, I figured I knew a lot of Christian music, and I was ready to sing my favorites. I learned very quickly that my music repertoire comes from the Catholic/Anglican tradition; the hymns most requested at the Revival Hymn Sing were from the Protestant tradition. Big difference. Big. I heard this observation from other people at Revival who grew up on the Catholic side of the Christian aisle. No wonder we Christians can hardly communicate; we don't even share the same music!

It's not as bad as all that. Many of the tunes were familiar, and I enjoyed learning new songs. It did get me thinking about my UU Christian fellowship back home. What music selection would best fit our services? Clearly, we would need a range across the Christian traditions to welcome people coming from different music directions.

So here's today's question. What worship hymns or songs do you love? Post the titles or the first lines or whatever you can remember in a comment.

I'll start.

Be Not Afraid. On Eagle's Wings. We Bow Down. Shine, Jesus, Shine. He Is Able. City of God. Here I Am, Lord.

Your turn.


  1. Wish I'd been able to attend but had to be in Portland. I love your writing about the experience, especially this one about the music. I was lucky enough to experience some of that "gospel UU" music at a district annual meeting several years ago. I swear, usually staid UUs were almost dancing in the aisles.

  2. thanks. We are going to try to widen out the hymn sing repertoire starting at the uucf hymn sing dinner annual meeting program at general assembly in salt lake this June. Good ideas. revival hymns are more associated with revivals which are more associated with Protestant low church traditions but no reason to be limited to them. I can't wait to read the selections offered and will post this inquiry to our online communities too. Blessings Ron Robinson