The honor accorded the pipe organ in Christian worship represents a curious paradox. On the one hand, the Christian church through most of its history has had an abiding antipathy toward instruments; on the other, the organ (together with bells) has, since the late Middle Ages, become so identified with the church that it embodies the very essence of “churchliness.” How could this have happened?
Anthems sung by choirs and soloists have a long history in Christian worship. Many of the world’s finest composers have written anthems for use in worship. Yet the best anthems are those which unite such musical genius with concern for the text that is sung and the function of the anthem in the context of the entire worship service.
The chorale was Martin Luther’s important contribution to church music. Featuring strong rhythmic tunes and vernacular texts, the early chorales were songs for all worshiping people to sing. Since the Reformation, a long line of hymn writers, especially in Germany and Scandinavia, has contributed to this genre, leaving behind one of the richest bodies of music in the Christian church.
Although the Reformed tradition has been more restrictive about the use of music in worship than the Lutheran tradition, it nevertheless highly values the role of music in worship. This article describes emphases important in the Reformed tradition, largely in terms of the writings of Reformer John Calvin.
Among Protestant churches, the Lutheran tradition has the richest heritage of music for worship. It is based on the assumption that music is a profound means by which we enter God’s presence and render our liturgy of thanksgiving to God. Bringing together insights first developed by Martin Luther and practices that have grown out of almost 500 years of Lutheran worship, this article describes why and how music is used in Lutheran worship.
Two men from the eighteenth century have had a more comprehensive influence on church music in the ensuing ages than any others, with the possible exception of Johann Sebastian Bach. They are Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley. Watts (1674-1748) is actually considered the father of English hymnody. Born in Southampton, England, he was a precocious … Read more Great Eighteenth-Century Hymnists
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a master organist and composer. Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany to a family of noted musicians.