All Music Sunday

The East Shore Mighty Choir will be presenting its spring concert as part of the service. On the musical smorgasbord will be several brand-new pieces written specifically for the ESUC choir, a few light-hearted numbers, some light choral classics and two pieces returning by popular demand. As is always the case with the East Shore Mighty Choir, expect the unexpected, and plan to be touched, delighted and moved! (And, for those interested, choir rehearsal is every Thursday evening in the Sanctuary from 7:30 – 9:00 pm. All interested voices are welcome!).

“Music and Religion”

The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,

Is fit for treasons, startagems, and spoils;

The motions of his spirit are dull as night,

And his affections dark as Erebus:

Let no such man be trusted.

                                Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act v., Sc.1.

Notes on music and religion…

For me music and religion have always been linked, because we had beautiful music at my church. My Mom knew all the well-known choral pieces and would sing along to the radio. My Dad liked show tunes and dance number. And they both liked to dance.

In surveys of UU preferences in worship, almost invariably the sermon is of first importance, followed closely by the music.

And here at ESUC it’s been a part of our congregational life since 

Regarding the relationship of Music to Religion, I did a little researchTop of Form

 (COPYRIGHT 2005 Thomson Gale) and discovered that…

Music and religion are closely linked in relationships as complex, diverse, and difficult to define as either term in itself.

Religious “texts” have been sung, not written, throughout most of human history; and religious behavior has found musical expression in almost every religious tradition.

  • Navajo priests are “singers”;
  • the primary carriers of Sinhala traditional religion are drummers and dancers; and
  • the shamans of northern central Asia use music as their principal medium of contact with the spirit world.

Through the centuries, priests, monks, and other specialists have sung the

  • Christian masses,
  • Buddhist pūjā s,
  • Islamic calls to prayer,
  • Hindu sacrifices, and other organize ceremonies across the religious spectrum.

The forms of religious music are as diverse and culture-specific as the religious traditions in which they are found—with some intermixing. Intercultural religious musical traditions include Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and West African/Latin American chanting and praise music.

There’s a lot of diversity in religious music. Christian music, for example, runs the gamut from Gregorian plainsong, Palestrina masses, Protestant hymns, and Bach oratorios but also the resonant basses of the Russian Orthodox choir, the ornate melodies of Greek Orthodox chant, African-American spirituals and the percussion-accompanied dances of Ethiopian Coptic worship, and more.

Religious traditions often stress a distinction between vocal and instrumental music and frequently assign a higher value to vocal music. In some traditions (Mennonite churches, Theravada Buddhist monasteries) vocal music is performed a cappella.

The close relationship of music and religion suggests, as some myths and legends claim, a common origin. Perhaps, as Hindus believe,

  • Music originated in a primordial divine power, the nāda-brahman “God-as-sound,”
  • Or in the efforts and discoveries of such human originators as Jubal and his father Lamech, briefly mentioned in Jewish and Islamic traditions (see Gn. 4:21),
  • Or thanks to Fuxi and Huangdi of Chinese legend, the discoverers of music and its mathematical-cosmological basis.

Who knows? Whatever its origins, we here at East Shore Church celebrate its power to heal and transform us, to open us up to deep emotions, and to bring us joy. For which we are thankful.

May blessings abide. Alleluia!