I will ever give to Thee . . . "
~ from the hymn Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer (1745)
This site is dedicated to one of the most beautiful and powerful forces in human experience: sacred music. This wondrous gift from God, bestowed on us through divine inspiration and the faith, talent, and hard work of those who have created it, has changed me profoundly. I want to share the treasure with others, in hopes that it will help bring happiness and the peace of God into their lives, as it has into mine.
Most posts to this blog will be devoted to a particular hymn, song, anthem, or other work that I (among others) have found particularly moving, or which has come to be especially beloved, popular, or important in the realm of sacred music. A typical post will provide historical background on the piece's writing and composition, including the writer and composer; the text or lyrics of the piece, if any; links to one or more videos of the piece's performance, if available (most of these will be in-line, so you don't have to leave my site to view them); and my own reflections on the piece's meaning and significance. Some posts may focus on the life and works of a particular writer or composer, and others on some theme or passage touched on in many works of sacred music. Often, posts will correspond to holidays or seasons, or other events in the calendar. From time to time I may even muse on spiritual things apart from particular musical pieces.
By "sacred music," for purposes of this blog, I mean all forms of choral and instrumental music that reflect or inspire faith in or devotion to God, or a sincere seeking after Him. This includes (without limitation) hymns, gospel songs, "spirituals," liturgical music, anthems, oratorios, and other forms of religious expression set to music. This blog focuses on music reflecting a Judeo-Christian faith, including works in the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Latter Day Saint (Mormon), and Jewish traditions.
Speaking of "tradition," most of the works featured here will have been written or set to music more than 100 years ago, if only because, in contrast to the nearly two millennia preceding them, secular composition has vastly predominated over the spiritual in the 20th and 21st centuries. Though there is today a considerable and growing body of "contemporary" Christian music, this blog will be selective in its presentation because much of what passes as such is heavily influenced by "rock," "metal," "pop," and other secular styles that are intrinsically discordant, violent, cynical, or banal. However, I will include contemporary pieces that are written and performed in a reverent, harmonious, and uplifting or reflective tone. Happily, there are more of these than I would have thought.
Why am I blogging about sacred music? I am not a musician, professional or otherwise (though two of my children are musicians and work professionally in the arts field). Visually impaired since infancy, I have never been able to read music competently; I have never studied music theory; and as a singer I can barely carry a tune. Nevertheless, I have passionately loved good music since the earliest age. While exposed to chant and other aspects of the Catholic tradition as a child, my interests turned (of course) to "popular" music as an adolescent, and to folk, jazz, and classical music in young and middle adulthood. During these years, while my faith and knowledge of scripture steadily evolved (see the About Me page), my familiarity with religious music was pretty much limited to what of that genre was also part of the classical or folk repertoire. In the last few years, though--largely through Internet music portals like Pandora that allow a listener to craft his or her own "station" based on pieces of like musical character--I have discovered for myself the richness of traditional English hymnody, which in turn gave me a new interest in chant, gospel, and other forms and traditions of religious music. Save possibly for scripture itself (and the loving voices of my family), nothing speaks to me so powerfully as these heartfelt prayers and beautiful expressions of faith, contrition, thankfulness, praise, wonder, and joy.
As I am neither a musician nor a clergyman, you will not see on this blog learned theological discussions or technical analyses of music (for a more in-depth discussion of hymns, their composers, and their scriptural foundation, written by an actual clergyman/musician, see the excellent site Wordwise Hymns). Nor am I extensively schooled in hymnody or sacred music generally. As a result, a few things I write or fail to mention may reflect my ignorance of matters better known to those who have dedicated their lives to the study of scripture and/or music. I am simply a Christian layperson who is touched to the core of his soul by words and sounds woven together to bring into this world the wonders of faith, hope, and divine love. My only object here is to share with others the priceless things God has shown me through this precious form of expression. In this I pray to fulfill the charge of Colossians 3:16: