The Spice of Life (Steeple 2014.10)
I work hard to program music that spans the centuries, and crosses the globe. It fosters a more healthy understanding of the breadth of Christian choral music, and in so doing, espouses one of my philosophies, that no matter the time or place, church musicians all tell the same story and perform the same task as each one of us in the Edwards Church choir. That being the case, though, we tend to land in the late 20th century and current day when it comes to the repertoire we sing. That’s the music that is most available when purchasing new issues, and it is more likely to draw on the progressive theology that we follow here.
This month, we will sing two anthems that bridge the gap from an older period, to one with which we are more familiar these days. On World Communion Sunday, we sing a piece that “started it all”, so to speak, as it comes from a cantata called Celebrate Life, first published in the early 1970s. This cantata’s massive popularity, in a way, ushered in the use of folk instruments and singing style to the church. The following week, we revisit the late 1960s and a piece called “The Church Within Us” which you will, if you search for the title on YouTube, is highly influenced by the jazz harmonies of the period, in effect telling congregations of that day that it was acceptable to worship in a style foreign to the music of J.S. Bach or C.V. Stanford. In a way, each of these anthems seems “dated” to our ears, but as harbingers of the wealth of music that we enjoy most Sundays, it is important to perform them and recognize the revolutionary work of composers such as Buryl Red and Kent Schneider.