Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

The Latin phrase "Soli Deo Gloria" is familiar to all church musicians.  Bach famously wrote it on his manuscripts, and many composers since then have picked up on the habit.  The picture with this post is from Handel, and you can see it has been shortened to SDG.  It can be translated as "To God alone be the glory."

This attitude pervades my own approach to church music.  I've always been uncomfortable with concert series in churches solely as concerts, and even special music during a worship service can veer dangerously toward the feel of a recital.  The purpose of music performed in a church is to glorify God and enhance worship.  Bach himself put it this way: "Music...should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamor and ranting."

This Sunday the Wittenberg Choir will be visiting, and they will be fully incorporated into the structure of a worship service that still includes readings and prayers and communion.  Maintaining the liturgical structure allows us to remember that the beautiful music is not an end in itself, but a symbol, a guidepost pointing in the proper direction.  The only difference between a hymn and an anthem, or between the prelude and the liturgy is the people who are participating directly in the music.  In all cases, the music is to the glory and praise of God.  Soli Deo Gloria.


  1. SDG is also the slogan of Concordia College, and reminds us that not only the music but our very lives should be lived according this creed.

  2. Soli deo Gloria: makes a Cobber heart proud!

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