The Theological Basis of Music

Below is a brief statement providing the theological basis for music. I have begun to place it in concert programs and read it before concerts, even children’s recitals. It is never too early to educate children about God’s gift of music. It gives them a purpose and a reason for practicing and learning their instrument. Music ministries in Christian churches may also find it useful. The statement may be used… Read More »

“Wolcum Yole”: A Carol for the Seasons of Christmas and Epiphany

On this, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I thought you might enjoy the carol “Welcome Yole!” It is one of the few that mentions the Twelve Days of Christmas and its Feast Days specifically. The text is relatively simple enjoining us to celebrate Christmas, its Feast Days, and the New Year together. The most well-known setting is the second movement of A Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten (1913-76). Below… Read More »

“Silent Night” – A New Metrical Translation of All Six Stanzas for Both the Original and the Modern Melodies

A new metrical translation of all six stanzas of “Silent Night” in their original order that can be sung to either the original melody or the melody commonly sung today. The translation better reflects the meaning of the original text, but also has the exact same meter in each stanza so that it can be sung easily to both melodies.

Christmas and the Spectacular Music of Michael Praetorius

In 1994 Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort released an absolutely stunning recording of sacred music. In the previous years they had released three recordings: A Venetian Coronation, a recreation of a coronation that took place in Venice, Italy in 1595 (released 1990); Christmas Mass in Rome featuring the music of Palestrina (released 1993); and Venetian Vespers, a recreation of an evening service as it might have been celebrated at… Read More »

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and the Advent Season

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” is one of most popular musical works of all time. However, what are its origins? Interestingly, it has a connection to the Church Year and the Season of Advent. Let’s begin in the little village of Nazareth in the region of Galilee around the year 1 AD.

Robin Leaver on “The Eternal Song”

In 1984 the eminent scholar Robin Leaver, whose work has focused extensively on sacred music, published a monograph of the Passions of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). On the first page of this monograph he provides succinct and profound insights into the Biblical theology of music. For your convenience, I provide them below with links so that you can easily study the Bible passages yourself. The links sometimes include more Bible… Read More »

Handel’s “Messiah” for Children

A Blessed Easter to all of you! Children love picture books. Now it is possible to introduce children to Handel’s Messiah, one of sacred music’s most beloved and frequently performed works. In so doing, you will not only introduce them to a great piece of music, but also teach them the Biblical story of salvation (see my previous blogs Handel’s Messiah – Biblical, Christological, and Eschatological and Text Study –… Read More »

A Christmas with Paul Gerhardt in 1659

I pray that you enjoyed a Merry Christmas, even in these difficult and strange times, and were blessed by a lot of sacred music. I came across a story about the 1659 Christmas Day service at the Nikolaikirche (Church of St. Nicholas) in Berlin, Germany that I thought I would share. One of the pastors at the church at that time was Paul Gerhardt (1607-76), one of the great hymn… Read More »

“And Take They Our Life” – More Thoughts on “A Mighty Fortress”

The short phrase “and take they our life” is the fifth line of the fourth and final stanza of one of the greatest Christian hymns in all of sacred music, “A Mighty Fortress” (EIN FESTE BURG) by Martin Luther (1483-1546). This phrase consists of five words in English and only four in the original German, “nehmen sie den Leib,” but behind it lies Luther’s entire Theology of Martyrdom which points… Read More »

A Virtual Hymn Sing Pandemic Style

Sacred music and the singing of Christian hymns is a corporate activity that all came to a halt a few weeks ago when this pandemic began. To address this problem, Kloria Publishing (www.kloria.com) began a program called “Sing Hymns with Me.” Every week they are posting a hymn appropriate for the Bible readings of the upcoming Sunday of the liturgical year and inviting people to sing along. They then make… Read More »