From the Psalter:
My heart is firmly fixed, O God, my heart is fixed;
I will sing and make melody.
Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp;
I myself will waken the dawn.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 57:7-8 (BCP Version) – February 3, 2014.)
I am neither a musician nor a singer. Years ago (in public junior high school) I took instruction on the B-flat clarinet and the bass clarinet, but then I attended a private high school which had a drum-and-bugle corps rather than a full band with woodwinds, so no further playing of the reeds. As an adult, I tried to learn to play the guitar, the piano, and the bassoon, all with the same result: I do not play any instrument.
Although, as a result of all those attempts at music instruction, I can read music, I cannot vocally reproduce what I see on the page. I am in awe of those who can look at a sheet of music and start singing a piece they’ve never heard before! My eyes, brain, and vocal cords just are not connected in that way. I have to hear a piece at least once (usually several times) in order to reproduce it in any recognizable form. And don’t ask me to sing any part other than the melody; if I try to sing something else, I will inevitably wander back to the melody line.
And yet, I love music! I love to sing. I don’t understand people who won’t sing. That tired old excuse, usually put in their heads by some cruel music teacher in grade school, “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” should be banned from the church. Everyone can sing! The human voice is the instrument God gave every one of us. Every human being should join the chorus.
We may not all be able, like David or like those talented sight-readers, to “sing and make melody,” but we can all “waken the dawn.” God’s commandment about vocal praise is not “sing beautiful on-key harmonizations pleasing to your neighbor’s ear;” the commandment is “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” (Ps. 100:1, KJV) We can all make noise! In the narthex (entryway) of my last parish we hung a sign reading, “If you can’t sing good, sing LOUD!” Mark a joyful noise!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.