Music In Christian Worship
In those very early days we read of the Jewish people singing, playing instrumental music and even dancing. Such activity was widely used as a means of expressing faith. Music played an important role in many acts of celebration and worship. It was into that society that Jesus was born.
Over the two thousand years since Christ's life the use of music in Christian worship has gone through many phases and many musical idioms. It is really over the second of those two thousand years that church music, as we know it today, has developed.
One of the most important events in the whole of the world of music came about through the work of a Benedictine monk, Guido of Arrezzo who lived from about 995 to 1050. He didn't actually 'invent' staff notation but he perfected it, completing the evolution of the earlier neumes into plainsong script, which was the forerunner of what we know today as 'tonic-solfa'. All music had previously been passed down by aural tradition so the facility to write down music for others to read and perform was a massive step forward. Almost all musical expression since that time has come as a direct result of that development.
From that time on, composers were able to create substantial works for use in worship. This early church music was written to form the framework of an act of worship. The music was performed primarily by professional musicians attached to the church and was not for congregation participation. Composers did eventually begin to incorporate chorales (hymns) into the liturgy which gave the congregation the opportunity to join in at certain points in the service.
Many of the greatest composers over the centuries have added their voices to the ever growing repertoire of great church music. Bach, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven and many others have given us masterpieces adding to the wealth of music in Christian worship. We tend to know many of these works today through concert performances, forgetting that many were originally created as liturgical pieces for use in church services.
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Robert Hinchliffe is a professional musician and Methodist local preacher. This article is a result of his recent research into the history and development of music in Christian worship. Would you like to know more about his research? If so please visit www.robsworshipmusic.com/mcweb.htm and find out how you can access a FREE copy of Robert's contemporary Christmas song, "The Greatest Gift".