Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring, Easter, and a brief harangue

Easter continues! Who doesn't love the season of spring? My drive to church gets greener every day, and the sun is up when I leave home now. Plus, we get to sing Easter hymns week after week, and those are some of the greatest and most popular hymns.

But why don't we sing them at the top of our lungs? Why, in particular, do congregations always sound so timid about the high E-flat at the end of "Christ is Risen! Alleluia!"? The title has two exclamation points in it, and it was our closing hymn. On a sunny morning, it should have been a chance to sing loud and proud.

Musicians often face the question of quantity versus quality. I grew up singing Boy Scout camp songs, and I sided with quality, asking people to do their best to carry the tune properly. I still do love good music, but I've come to think of quality as people singing their personal best. In so many settings, and especially for a congregational hymn, the blending of voices creates its own beauty and quality that transcends the individual voices.

Besides, we sing an E-flat every week at the high point of the liturgy (the sanctus or "Holy, Holy, Holy"). When we sing "The Star Spangled Banner" we typically hold an even higher note for an even longer time for the text " of the free-ee-ee."

Is it a Lutheran trait? A mid-western trait? Or perhaps a Cleveland self-effacing attitude? Maybe we've all heard the lesson about not praying too loudly in church one too many times. Instead, let's focus on not hiding our light under a barrel. Let's sing joyfully, loudly, to the best of our ability. Don't be afraid of the hymns, but embrace our congregational sound - especially during the season of Easter!

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