“Sacred” Music

We had a moment in worship this morning…

The Cornell University Glee Club visited Flagstaff and led most of our time of worship today. While I know they are capable – and have a repertoire consisting – of far more, they shared a number of selections of sacred music with us, drawing from pieces drafted across the centuries! Ancient Latin alongside modern pieces, all sung a cappella by 40 some male voices. As they sang, a few thoughts came to me that I thought I’d share…


When I closed my eyes, the music seemed to surround me as though in waves. Maybe it is because of familiarity with the physics of sound being a wave, but I imagined the voices mingled together like the waves of the ocean  – bass voices flowing like the undertow of the beach, baritone the shifting swells of waves, tenor (or higher) like the waves crashing at the top. I could almost see the waves as they sang.

I could also picture some of the great cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe. I remember hearing some choirs rehearse in them as I wandered, decades ago; and the mixture of voices filling our worship space this morning were reminiscent of those choirs I’ve experienced, or of choirs innumerable through centuries of faith.

I was reminded that our ability to express beauty (not to mention divine reverence) in music is inherent, and not dependent on instrumentation. Long before there were base guitars, synthesizers, drums, pianos, organs, trumpets – there were voices. While I in no way want to denigrate instruments or musicians – especially because I hold many of my friends with such talent in such awe – the power of voice on display today was inspiring. Voices raised together in melodious harmonies, they transcend the individual and invite listeners in to a moving experience of community.*

So, today, we had a moment. 🙂

*A few years ago, a book came out titled “We are smarter than me,” which emphasized communal knowledge. Listening to the choir this morning, I was reminded a bit about the nature and power of communal worship; of the lifting power of community.

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