Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why I like traditional church music.

I was looking for words to explain why I like traditional church hymns, and that's it - gravitas. The churches who have some guys play guitar or other newfangled instruments strike me as (1) kitsch (okay, not kitsch. That's too harsh.) It doesn't do anything for me, and (2) without gravitas.

At First Presbyterian, our late (and long time) organist Ron Miller, liked to play loud. He openly said that. And I mean loud, like, feel the deep bass in your chest loud.

One one level, if you didn't know him, it sounded like the bragging you would hear from a teenager in a garage rock band, but that wasn't it. I think that gravitas had something to do with it. 

Just like the cathedrals were built to demonstrate the power and majesty of God, I think Ron Miller wanted to invoke a similar feeling with his music when he played.

I loved his Doxology every Sunday. It would start right at the end of whatever different hymn we would have each week, and he would start with the chords from that hymn, in that key, and transition to the familiar chords of the Doxology, which he would play really loud.

I liked that better than the sermons sometimes. It never failed to give me chills. I miss Ron and his organ. I like it loud, too.


  1. I agree. I especially like the *really* traditional church music that is sung without accompaniment. Renaissance a cappella polyphony is the highest form of church music. The cascading, twining lines and block chords depend on precise composition and great acoustics to magnify the physics of the music. Next Advent, come to Trinity Thursday evenings at 8 for a 30 minute candlelight service, sung a cappella.

  2. But from humming and strumming, or happy, clappy, dear Lord deliver us.

  3. Gravitas is one way to say it. I say it must be glorious. Truly glorious music makes my spine tingle. I shiver. The organ at First Presbyterian, played well, can (and has) done that. That said, I enjoy a well-played non-amplified piano accompanying a congregation of non-professional singers just as much. Gospel "improvisational" piano is good. (Give me that Old Time Religion!) I also enjoy guitars, humming, and strumming, though I associate that with camp fires at church camp. I'd hate to have to choose only one genre of worship music... I like Gregorian chants, as well!

    1. Very true. I think I could enjoy all sorts of different instruments in different venues. Just like you wouldn't drink a mint juelp in a ski lodge in February, or you wouldn't drink a martini at a BBQ - I prefer traditional music *while in church* and perhaps less formal music in less formal settings.

      Well said.