Playing and singing gospel music

dreadnut

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If you can't hear the congregation singing, something's wrong. If, during the music, the primary focus is on something other than the congregational singing, something's wrong.
 

sailingshoes72

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In the early ‘70’s and for a couple of years, I played a folk mass every Saturday evening at the Catholic church down the street with my buddy Dave. “I played” badly overstates my role: Dave rehearsed the two of us, arranged the music, led the singing, and played all the chords (even the hard ones). I hung out to his right and behind him, played what chords I could manage, and tried to not screw up too badly. (This is also when and how I met the girl who would become my wife.)


I remember some Saturday evenings were loud with song and participation and others quiet. The hymns changed with the liturgical calendar (thus not too often), so it wasn’t familiarity (or lack thereof) with the music.


I always chalked it up to the variability of the crowd.

I remember the "folk masses" of the early 70's. I grew up in Miami, FL and there was church over by the University of Miami, St Augustine Church, that had the acoustic guitar accompaniment during the service on Saturday evenings. I enjoyed attending those services. This was during the time that the Catholic Church was transitioning from a mass celebrated in Latin, to one using the English translation. There really wasn't much of an established worship Hymnal in English, so the "folk mass" really did draw a lot on the folk songs of the 60's. This helped to encourage the mostly young congregation to sing along! And it created an almost "gather 'round the campfire" kind of celebration. I remember one evening the acoustic group played a version of "Uncle John's Band" by the Grateful Dead. That was pretty cool! :triumphant:
 

adorshki

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For some reason this thread made me recall "Barney and the Choir":

(That was the episode in which Jim Nabors sings "Santa Lucia", btw. Think it was his TV singing debut?)
 
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dreadnut

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Haha Al, I just watched that episode on TV last night!

There is a gal who sings with us at Eldermusic, and she always sings quite flat. But I wouldn't point that out to her in a million years; she is one of our most faithful volunteers.
 

adorshki

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Haha Al, I just watched that episode on TV last night!

There is a gal who sings with us at Eldermusic, and she always sings quite flat. But I wouldn't point that out to her in a million years; she is one of our most faithful volunteers.
Kinda related, I remember several time over the years when I was in a "traditional" church, being told to open up the hymnal to page whatever, and wondering how the heck anybody ever managed to make out what the heck the melody was between so many off-key singers, (didn't anybody ever coach 'em?) or how I was expected to just jump right in on something I'd never heard before.
Also wondered why the pastor assumed everybody knew how to read music.
In retrospect, I realize I was probably assuming to much in my youthful naivete, and the hymnals were there primarily for folks to remember the words, and that "everybody" wasn't expected to be reading music.
But it was never explained to me and I don't think I ever thought to ask.
And this started when I would stay with my grandparents periodically, and grandma actually could read music and play piano.
Still, it was like the stuff never resolved the way I thought it should, the melodies were always muddy.
Maybe the folks who really wanted to learn joined the choir?
Maybe that's why "traditional" (Protestant) church music just never grabbed me the way the "Old Testament" stuff did when I went to some Friday night services with a Jewish buddy in junior high school.
My folks were very permissive about letting me go to whatever church my friends invited me to as a kid, although they never went themselves.
I think it helped me have an open-minded attitude about religion in general.
But that early bafflement always stuck with me..
 
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fronobulax

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If you can't hear the congregation singing, something's wrong. If, during the music, the primary focus is on something other than the congregational singing, something's wrong.
Agreed. But there are definitely congregations that choose not to participate by actually singing so "what is wrong" might not necessarily be the volume of the accompaniment. It is sad how many people were told 50 years ago by an insensitive but influential person in their life, that they cannot or should not sing. Overcoming that is not something easily done.
 

Westerly Wood

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It is sad how many people were told 50 years ago by an insensitive but influential person in their life, that they cannot or should not sing. Overcoming that is not something easily done.
always sad when that happens.
 

fronobulax

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Kinda related, I remember several time over the years when I was in a "traditional" church, being told to open up the hymnal to page whatever, and wondering how the heck anybody ever managed to make out what the heck the melody was between so many off-key singers, (didn't anybody ever coach 'em?) or how I was expected to just jump right in on something I'd never heard before.
Also wondered why the pastor assumed everybody knew how to read music.
In retrospect, I realize I was probably assuming to much in my youthful naivete, and the hymnals were there primarily for folks to remember the words, and that "everybody" wasn't expected to be reading music.
But it was never explained to me and I don't think I ever thought to ask.
And this started when I would stay with my grandparents periodically, and grandma actually could read music and play piano.
Still, it was like the stuff never resolved the way I thought it should, the melodies were always muddy.
Maybe the folks who really wanted to learn joined the choir?
Maybe that's why "traditional" (Protestant) church music just never grabbed me the way the "Old Testament" stuff did when I went to some Friday night services with a Jewish buddy in junior high school.
My folks were very permissive about letting me go to whatever church my friends invited me to as a kid, although they never went themselves.
I think it helped me have an open-minded attitude about religion in general.
But that early bafflement always stuck with me..
Tradition. There certainly were times and places where any child who had made it through sixth grade knew how to read music. In the traditional organ/choir set up the choir was expected to be able to lead the congregation "by example" and the music director was expected to stay near the familiar and provide some kind of "training" otherwise. But using a hymnal with words and music was a strategic decision and making the decision required some kind of provision for people who did not read music.

It is well known that the verse/chorus song structure is easy to learn by rote since people hear the chorus several times. There are traditions, and the associated hymnals, that leverage this structure to increase participation.

You were frustrated by not reading music. Perhaps my most frustrating church music experience was attending a service where my nephew and his wife were the worship leaders in a mostly acoustic praise band. In keeping with the tradition of that congregation, there was no music available anywhere and the words were projected on a screen. Since all the songs were new to me and the genre was not one I was totally comfortable with, my attempts to participate were reduced to a pitch-less recitation of the words. I redeemed the worship experience by giving up on the words and melody and singing what I would have tried to play on bass.

This was an interesting topic of discussion on the car ride home and one key point of agreement was that whether you use a hymnal or project lyrics, there will be people whose participation will be hindered by that choice and a worship leader needs to understand how that inclusion/exclusion plays out in their congregation.

Back to dread's "course" I would expect the Eldermusic experience has a lot of practical tips on how to teach people songs and encourage participation and as a participant in the course, I'd love to walk away with some of that knowledge.
 

dreadnut

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Preach it, Bro Frono!

Here's another observation. I lead music with "Special Friends" sometimes, they are all people of different abilities who live in foster care homes. They come together once a month to visit, eat, sing, etc. I'm here to tell you, they could teach most congregations something about uninhibited worship!
 

steve488

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I spent three years on summer staff at a church camp and the years in between working with the youth at two different churches. I had lots of fun and enjoyed my "service" but I was never the lead. As was quoted earlier by WWood "a man's got to know his limitations". I am no singer but I think it is still acceptable to be in the crowd along the lines of "making a joyful noise". I figure if my heart is in it the Almighty knows it whether I sing like an acappella star or an old sick cow. In the interim I can play guitar and be acceptable (but not great!)
 

Westerly Wood

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I am no singer but I think it is still acceptable to be in the crowd along the lines of "making a joyful noise". I figure if my heart is in it the Almighty knows it whether I sing like an acappella star or an old sick cow. In the interim I can play guitar and be acceptable (but not great!)
well said!
 

PittPastor

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I spent three years on summer staff at a church camp and the years in between working with the youth at two different churches. I had lots of fun and enjoyed my "service" but I was never the lead. As was quoted earlier by WWood "a man's got to know his limitations". I am no singer but I think it is still acceptable to be in the crowd along the lines of "making a joyful noise". I figure if my heart is in it the Almighty knows it whether I sing like an acappella star or an old sick cow. In the interim I can play guitar and be acceptable (but not great!)
The Almighty created the song of the whippoorwill and the bullfrog. I have to believe he loves them both.
 

adorshki

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oh crows are the worst
The official state bird of Hell.
:biggrin-new:
Coming back round full circle though, it occurs to me that perhaps Dread had a particular type of worship music in mind when he started this thread.
Most of my life I've had it associated with tuneless 4/4 along the lines of "A Mighty Fortress Is My Lord" and tended to overlook the whole "Gospel Music" segment like "This Little Light Of Mine" and "He's Got the Whole Wide World", probably 'cause I never got invited to that type of church.
And in fact it's one of the roots of soul music.
And the oldest roots were primarily if not entirely a capella.
Eventually you've even got Elvis performing "Peace In The Valley".
After all the title of the thread is "Playing and Singing Gospel Music" and now I think Dreadnut meant the popular definition of the term as even described on Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_music
But that still leaves me at 50/50 for whether the words or the instruments are more important.
I just like that stuff a whole lot better than those hymnals full of post-depressionist dirges.
And I wonder if the whole question came up subsequent to his recent health issue that cut back on his singing capabilities.
That can't be fun at all.
From that perspective I'd say "Use Whatever Ya Got to the Best of Your Abilities".
How could anybody possibly be any worse than crows?
:glee:
 

PittPastor

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Most of my life I've had it associated with tuneless 4/4 along the lines of "A Mighty Fortress Is My Lord" and tended to overlook the whole "Gospel Music" segment like "This Little Light Of Mine" and "He's Got the Whole Wide World", probably 'cause I never got invited to that type of church.
Well, actually those are more what my church sang in their Sunday school. I grew up with the old hymns. I miss them. We don't do them in our church because I handed the music selection over to my son, who is in his mid twenties, and doesn't have the affection for hymns I do.

But, for the record, many of the hymns were actually sung to well known tunes of the day (Some even say they were drinking songs -- something the Methodists and Lutherans fervently deny.) But "Greensleeves" became the tune for "What Child Is This, "Beethoven's 9th was used to set "Ode to Joy" to music, and there is even a hymn called: "He Looked Beyond My Faults," that is sung to the tune of Danny Boy.

So not all of them were dirges.

Eventually you've even got Elvis performing "Peace In The Valley".
Oh, he sang more than that. He grew up singing in the church, like most southern boys. He knew the whole hymnal. And Amazing Grace is probably the most covered song of all time. Everyone from Elvis to Ani Defranco to Steven Tyler.

After all the title of the thread is "Playing and Singing Gospel Music" and ... that still leaves me at 50/50 for whether the words or the instruments are more important.
I can't speak for Dread -- but to me it seemed he was saying that the modern worship style (as opposed to the modern music songs) are more about making it loud and performing, and he was thinking it was better when the musicians lead the people in singing, rather than performing for the people.

I agree with him, if that was his point. Believe me, as someone who grew up in, and never left, the church, I have a lot of complaints about the music. But you still sometimes get surprised when everything comes together and it is just right.
 

adorshki

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But, for the record, many of the hymns were actually sung to well known tunes of the day (Some even say they were drinking songs -- something the Methodists and Lutherans fervently deny.) But "Greensleeves" became the tune for "What Child Is This, "Beethoven's 9th was used to set "Ode to Joy" to music, and there is even a hymn called: "He Looked Beyond My Faults," that is sung to the tune of Danny Boy.
So not all of them were dirges.
Oh to be sure, I was aware of that and was laying it on a bit thick for humor's sake.
Also know Elvis loved his gospel, was just citing the first one that came to mind.
I can't speak for Dread -- but to me it seemed he was saying that the modern worship style (as opposed to the modern music songs) are more about making it loud and performing, and he was thinking it was better when the musicians lead the people in singing, rather than performing for the people.
Now that you mention it I think he did say as much, but I was thinking of an entirely different genre so just wanted to revisit the subject..
And I have actually done "Amazing Grace" in 6/8 swing time much like Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things".
Chords only, no fancy stuff, because I basically want to singover it.
:friendly_wink:
 
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