Music Resource

LEARN THE PSALMS THROUGH SONG!

One of the best ways to learn Scripture is to put it to music. Dr. David Erb, director of music at Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho, and Fellow of Music at New Saint Andrews College, has composed new music for many of the Psalms and Hymns. Roman Roads Media has been filming Dr. Erb singing through his compositions, as well as a few other songs and hymns, with the music on-screen. This allows those wishing to learn the tunes to combine both auditory and visual learning at the same time.

We hope this music blesses you and your family as it has blessed ours. My four year-old son often hums these tunes, and is starting to add the words, which are straight from Scripture!

Blessings,
Daniel Foucachon
Founder, Roman Roads Media

5 Essentials to a Christian and Classical Music Program

God’s first written revelation to us tells us that we have been created in His image.  Zephaniah 3:17 informs us that our God is a singer: “He will rejoice over you with singing.”  Throughout the Bible we are called to sing, God gave us a song book with 150 Psalms, and we see God’s people singing in times of joy and sorrow throughout the scriptures.  Singing is the primary corporate activity which we actively do together in most of our primary functions: we sing at worship, weddings, funerals, birthdays, baseball games, etc.  Singing and making music is not an activity for some interested or “gifted” people; rather it is part of our DNA. What follows is an attempt to provide some guidelines which I believe are necessary for and will be evident in an excellent music program.

 

 

  • A Biblical Understanding of and vision for music is foundational.

 

God commands us to do something pleasant to our souls which in turn blesses us.  As we sing His praises and hide His word in our hearts, we are blessed with comfort, courage, and wisdom.  This is why we are commanded to speak to one another in Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs. When we do, the word of Christ dwells in us richly.  The riches are God’s grace to us. To keep this vision of music, it must therefore be a sine qua non for the board, administration, and music faculty.  They must then communicate it to the faculty, staff, and families.  It must ultimately be fleshed out and executed by skillfully trained music teachers.  For example, the Bible teaches:

    1. Sing to the Lord all the earth. (Ps.96:1)
    2. Play skillfully…Sing praises with understanding. (Ps.33:3, Ps.47:7)
    3. The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. (Ps.118:14)
    4. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  (Col. 3:16)

 

  • Skillful Teachers must be sought out to train up future generations.  If a student will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40), then we must seek out music teachers with thorough training.  As John Milton Gregory says, the first law of teaching is that a teacher know the subject. Zoltán Kodály noted that: “It is more important who the singing master at Kisvárda is than who the director of the Opera House is, because a poor director will fail. [Often even a good one.] But a bad teacher may kill the love of music for thirty years in thirty classes of pupils.” (Houlahan and Tacka, Kodály Today, p.20.)  This presupposes a:

 

    1. Vocationally trained musician.
    2. Theologically wise Christian.
    3. Pedagogically grounded educator.
    4. Lover of learning AND teaching.

 

 

  • Music Literacy is the focus of the curriculum.  Music literacy will give students keys to the treasure trove of music gifted to us by our forefathers.  We want to provide the student with the tools of learning so that they can read, write, and think music just as with any other language.  We want to create independent musicians so they are not dependent on a teacher to rote-teach them all of the music. Some components of such a curriculum would include:

 

    1. Providing daily, systematic, separate K-12 training.  Ensembles aside, why is it common to have K-6 music classes together when we never have K-6 english, math, history or even PE together?
    2. Structuring the training according to the Trivium (Grammar-Logic-Rhetoric); not allowing concerts/entertainment to become the tail that wags the dog.
    3. Teaching music linguistically (sound before symbol) vs. a subject-logic approach (symbol before sound).
    4. Using a sequential and systematic methodology (i.e. Kodaly).

 

  • Great Literature must be the backbone and the telos of the curriculum being studied and performed.   Beauty is at the forefront of the cultural battle.  It is the first thing to be attacked and the first bastion to be ceded by many Christians and Christians institutions.  However, it is also the most self evident attribute to those who have been carefully cultivated in a culture of beauty. Exposure to good literature will nurture fat souls and will help produce students who are ruined for the world.  They will learn to insist on Beauty and will be less likely to consider that goodness and truth could be situated or relative. From well crafted folk songs with beginning students to masterful motets, anthems, etc. for the older students, good to great compositions from Western culture should be the daily bread of a music program just as it is for our literature, bible classes, etc.  Some food for thought:

 

    1. Truth, Goodness, AND beauty are all categories to which objective standards can and should be applied.
    2. While the music must be suitable to the age and skill level of the student, this shouldn’t lead us to employing “dumbed down compositions or arrangements.”  Note that most of the greatest choral music written in western civilization was meant to be sung by pre-pubescent boys.
    3. The goal is to perform music by the masters, not learn about them or just listen to their compositions.  This is true in everything else that we teach. We want our students to read books, to solve equations, to play the sport – not just watch, listen, or learn to “appreciate” them.
    4. Knowing and performing music by the masters is a part of being a literate and liberally educated person both musically and generally.

 

 

  • Classical Teaching on Music has viewed music as central to the training of youth even to being foundational to the formation of their soul from Plato to Luther.  Consider the following:

 

    1. Plato: “Education in music is most sovereign, because more than anything else rhythm and harmony find their way to the inmost soul and take strongest hold upon it, bringing with them and imparting grace, if one is rightly trained, and otherwise the contrary.” (Strunk, Source Readings in Music History: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, p. 8.)   
    2. Quintillian: “If there were anything novel in my insistence on the study of music, I should have to treat the matter at greater length.  But in view of the fact that the study of music has, from those remote times when Chiron taught Achilles down to our own day, continued to be studied by all except those who have a hatred for any regular course of study, it would be a mistake to seem to cast any doubt upon its value by showing an excessive zeal in its defense. (Weiss & Taruskin, Music in the Western World, p.11.)
    3. Aristotle: “It is plain that music has the power of producing a certain effect on the moral character of the soul, and if it has the power to do this, it is clear that the young must be directed to music and must be educated in it.
      (Weiss & Taruskin, Music in the Western World, p.19.)
    4. Luther: “Necessity demands that music be kept in the schools.  A schoolmaster must know how to sing; otherwise I do not look at him.  And before a youth is ordained into the ministry, he should practice music in school.”
      (Schalk, Luther on Music: Paradigms of Praise, p.30.)
Psalm 149:5-6 says:

Let the saints be joyful in glory;

Let them sing aloud on their beds.  

Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,

And a two-edged sword in their hand.

Why?  To what end?  The concluding three verses tell us.

To execute vengeance on the nations,

And punishment on the peoples;

To bind their kings with chains,

And their nobles with fetters of iron;

To execute on them the written judgment –This honor have all his saints.

Praise the Lord!

If all of the above is true, then it seems incumbent upon Christian and Classical educators to train up the students in their care to skillfully wield the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God which is to dwell in us richly and proceed from our lips musically.  I pray that our day schools and home schools will grow in its vision and understanding of music from a biblical perspective and act accordingly; I pray that God would raise up skillful music teachers to lead and train future generations; I pray that such work would bear much fruit and that God would prosper it that we may be conformed more and more into the image of Christ; I pray that God would be glorified and magnified through our skillful singing and playing of the best music we have to offer.  May God bring it to pass in our times and for all times until we find ourselves singing with the many choirs before the throne of the Lamb in heaven.

by:  David R. Erb

Fellow of Music
New Saint Andrews College

 By  In CULTURE 

Of Course, the Lame Can’t Waltz: Refocusing Current Music Discourse in the Christian Church

Guest post by Jarrod Richey

Asking why the church doesn’t sing hymns or even why men don’t sing in church is a bit like lamenting over the lame man who can’t waltz on the dance floor. While it is a valid question, the more immediate question would seem to be, “why doesn’t the lame man walk?”

There have been a number of blogs and articles of late noting the lack of singing from Christian men in the church today. While there is plenty of commentary on the reasons for this, most of the analysis, I find, skips over the fundamental reason which causes such problems in the first place.

Remembering the basics

I am reminded of the well-known anecdote from hall of fame Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi. After a demoralizing defeat, he gathered his football team around him and cited the need to get “back to basics.” He then lifted a football he was holding into the air and calmly said, “Gentlemen, this is a football”. Likewise, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves when it comes to music in the life of the Christian Church. We must make some similarly rudimentary explanations for music in the church.

Johnny can’t sing hymns because Johnny can’t sing

I’m thankful for the dialogue generated by books like T. David Gordon’s Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns. But before we question why Johnny can’t sing hymns or why men don’t sing in churches today, we must simply ask and answer the more fundamental question, “Why Can’t Johnny Sing?” It almost seems too simple to ask, but it is precisely the question we need to answer in our present musical discourse. But it must be addressed if we are going to reverse the modern musical trends in the Church.

The proverbial Johnny has not been trained to see the importance of music and singing in the creation in which he lives. As a result, there is little importance given to the training in music and in making music as a response of praise. I don’t want to start up a debate on music form in hymn styles, etc. Rather, I want us to back up and rethink why we are not training our children to sing at all. When we do have music programs and curricula in our schools, we often miss the mark in training our students to be singers who are able to use their voices skillfully in praise to God. Instead, despite good intentions we are only giving our students a survey of music. They are not given the tools to be music makers themselves. They are only able to speak about composers or significant points in music history. That is not what we want to settle for in the long term. Rather, we want to be able to “sing praises with understanding” as the New King James Version of Psalm 47:7 exhorts. As we grow in our understanding of who we are as children of God, we must grow in our understanding of what it means to better reflect the glory of the Triune God. The God whose glorified speech created the heavens and the earth from nothing is the same God whose glory echoes throughout creation.

God sang creation into existence

It is not adequate enough to say God spoke all things into existence. We would do well to refine that it means that He sang this glorious melody of life, and it continues to echo to His praise and glory in a grand symphony. He set the temperament, tuned the world and is continually tuning the world. Therefore, it is our business to view ourselves as part of this symphony. How we live each day is a part of the gospel harmony on a macro level. But at the micro level we must not miss the opportunity to resound the triune melody in new and more glorious ways. Music making is the tool for that. What a joy to grow in how we reflect the musicality of God. He creates; we go forth and “wee-create”. In singing and making music, we are being like God, and we are better able to exhibit what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God. This is why we must train our students to be such re-creative singers.

The First Steps to Change

To start, we’ve got to put music back in the Christian school and homeschooling co-ops. Beyond that, we must have pastors and elders who exhort their flock to be like God, who joyfully sings and enjoys all of His creation singing back His praise. When we start, we must start small. Instead of viewing music as an artistic aside, we must think of it as language-like, in that it has components and tools that must be studied if proficiency is to be achieved. In other words, we must have students trained in music literacy in such a way that they can read, write, and sing (or think) in terms of music. This doesn’t mean they have to be career musicians. It means that our people will be musicians simply because they are humans made in the image of the Triune God. If the Lord calls them to a vocation in music, then we should value and encourage that. But we should not resist the idea of music training because we have a stereotype of what it means to be a career musician.

So, if you are reading this and think, “we’ve got to do more, but what first?” then you need to have someone help teach your folks to sing. Have your kids in music lessons, find courses on singing and reading music. Have folks who have experience in Kodály or other music philosophies that can give children to adults the sequenced tools that will enable them to grow as singers first and musicians second. That’s where you must begin. Then, if you are older, you must pour your energy and resources into the younger ones in your family and church. Use what provision and means you have to help others come to a better understanding of music than you have currently. This after all is what we are about as Christians. We are seeking to move from glory to glory. We want our children and our children’s children to build upon our strengths and understanding to new and more glorious ways of living and serving their creator.

Do not be discouraged. Do not be grumpy. We must not forget that The Lord is working his purposes out in his own timing and purpose in regards to music and singing. Our job is to be thankful in all things and to press on to see a more faithful generation that will seek to reflect God’s glory through faithful living and praising our Creator in songs and hymns and spiritual songs.

Jarrod Richey currently lives in Monroe, Louisiana with his lovely wife Sarah and their four children. He is both the Director of Choral Activities and Pre-K4 through 12th grade music teacher at Geneva Academy. In addition to this, he has been on staff at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church since 2005 handling both church media and choral music responsibilities. Jarrod has recently founded Jubilate Deo Summer Music Camp in Monroe, LA that seeks to train joyful worshippers and young singers with the above goals built in to the very core of the camp. For more information on the camp visit, www.jubilatedeo.org or search Jubilate Deo Summer Music Camp on Facebook.com