Church needs to lead a singing revolution
As a Marriage Officer, I have married over a hundred couples – most of them unchurched. 15 years ago, every couple wanted the guests to sing a song or two. A wedding is a joyous occasion, and the joy was expressed in singing together. I built up a varied repertoire of suitable singable songs from which they chose the ones they liked. And everyone sang them.
This singing tradition began to wane. I worked hard to ensure the Wedding Singing was not a damp squib. But, over the past 5 years the couples I married (with the exception of Black couples) have chosen not to sing a single song at their weddings. Just this week a couple, whom I will marry in March, said it bluntly, in an email: “We don’t particularly want the ‘song’ for the congregation to sing, as in my experience MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE SINGING”.
That’s the verdict of typical non-Christian youth today “Most people don’t like singing”.
That’s the (Western) world we live in. Today’s cultural trend. People don’t like singing. Previous generations used to enjoy it, but this generation doesn’t.
We can all identify other symptoms of the 21st century’s aversion to Singing:
- The many who listen to music, with headphones as they walk, don’t even move their lips.
- One hardly ever hears white people humming a melody to themselves any more.
- Hardly anyone knows what a ‘folk song’ is.
- At school rugby matches one seldom hears the full-throated war-songs motivating one’s team to victor
- Those enjoying a social hour at the pub no longer break out into group singing.
- Those who enjoy listening to music made by others don’t make music themselves
- Many know a lot about the artistes, their band and hit songs, but cannot sing their songs.
This anti-singing trend disturbs me. I find myself lying awake in the wee hours worrying about it. I wonder why people deny themselves the high pleasure of sing-along songs, secular or sacred, which have lifted my spirits so often in the past. I’ve been searching for reasons ….
1) Is it because much of today’s music lacks a singable melody line? This morning a car stopped at the robot 20 metres from where I was standing. Its speakers bellowed a repetitive two deep-bass notes, totally tuneless. During this past ‘silly season’ I found Safm radio’s “news and information leader” seriously lacking in news and information, and overflowing with what the witless announcer called “music for your enjoyment”. Most of it was mere synthetic noise produced by cacophonous electronics, with a wheezing or shrieking voice feeling its lost way among the decibels. Disorganised noise. No discernable regular beat, no actual melody line. No actual melody line. No melody line.
How low has the popular ear-ppetite sunk? You couldn’t sing-along to such noise, even if you wanted to. No melody-line in ‘music’ is the same as saying there is no taste in your food, no outline to the objects you see, no colour in the rainbow. Just mist. Dreary, boring, confusing mist. And just to make sure we really get it: the same noise, the same phrase, is repeated over and over again until one is ready to puke. People will listen, but they don’t like singing.
2) Has singing died because of the dominance of professional artistes? They are so ‘perfect’, their music is mixed so professionally, their songs are in a class of their own – what ordinary mortal can sing like they do? It is easier to sing-by-proxy. Just listen to them, enjoy their expertise. Perhaps their professionalism discourages ordinary folk from attempting to sing-along themselves, so that “most people don’t like singing”.
3) Has sing-along singing been killed by money? The professional singers build their reputations and their bank-balances by the money which their thousands of Listeners pay to listen to their songs. The more famous they are the richer they become. The richer they become the more famous they are. Huge expensive Concerts raise their profile and pull in the hysterical crowds. Crowds don’t pay to get hysterical at a sing-along event. And the ordinary hoi poloi population is feeding with finance the frenzy these professionals develop, rather than trying to create their own entertainment by singing along together. Why make music when you can buy music? After all, “most people don’t like singing”.
4) Has electronic amplification stifled the desire to sing? Go along to a Concert, or even a gig in local night-club, and the noise is (literally) deafening. Even if you want to sing along you won’t be heard. So what’s the purpose? Just enjoy the vibe, leap around and jerk your rubber-neck, but you won’t bother to sing. Because “most people don’t like singing”.
That’s the world of music and song which we live in today. Plenty of Song, but very little Singing. Except by the professionals on stage. “Most of the ordinary people don’t like singing.”
Sadly, many of these negative, anti-singing traits are spilling over into the Church. The shallow religious veneer covering the core worldly-music style somehow confers on the event the title of “Worship”. The ‘congregation’ has become the ‘audience’, because in the church as in the world, “most people don’t like singing”. Look around and see how many people are actually giving all they’ve got to ‘singing’. Are they “singing and making melody with ALL their heart to the Lord”? Listen – do you even HEAR the people around you ‘singing’? Or are they drowned out by the speakers on the ceiling and walls? Even in Church, “most people don’t like singing”.
It’s time the Church rebelled, and led a revolution against these worldly trends, so that at least the people who come into the presence of the Lord “come with SINGING”! Let us “SING to the Lord a new song”. “Oh come, let us SING to the Lord, to the rock of our salvation!” “Be filled with the Spirit so that you address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, SINGING and MAKING MELODY to the Lord with ALL your heart.” (Psalm 100:2, Psalm 98:10; Psalm 95:1; Ephesians 5:18,19).
Will YOU join me in this Rebellion? Will YOUR CHURCH be part of this SINGING revolution?