Daily Gleaning - Common Song
Singing in unison or in parts is consistent with the concept of worshiping through "Common Prayer." By contrast, just as in the modern church we often suffer clergy-centric worship, so also we suffer performance-centric music. We also far too often follow the musical norms of our culture, especially in terms of "background music."
These all were bad ideas that evolved in the late 17th century. At the peak of the Reformation (16th century), music (the singing of hymns specifically) was understood as a divine gift given to humans alone, second only to the Bible in terms of its ability to communicate the Gospel (Martin Luther) . For the same reason that Reformers were eager to translate God's Word into the vernacular and to put printed Bibles into the hands of the people, so were they also eager to write hymns in the vernacular language for congregational singing.
From a Reformed Anglican point of view (late 16th and early 17th century), congregational worship and singing were designed to be done in common. The Reformed Anglican musical tradition tends to de-emphasize choirs and concerts in favor of simple congregational singing, characterized by the participation of members either in unison or in harmony.
Explaining some of these concepts, here are two items by T. David Gordon. I especially recommend his lecture (because it is free):
- Lecture: "Our Profoundest Oxymoron"
- Book: "Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal"
Incidentally, Martin Luther was of the opinion that if a man could not sing, he had no business leading a congregation of Christians. It's something to think about.