Is Your Treasure the Word or the Soundtrack?

This is a guest post by Cheryl Magness.

Cheryl Magness
The recent BJS post “Firearms Training” discussed at some length the recorded hymn accompaniment tracks that were in frequent use at the LCMS national synodical convention in Houston last month. While the focus of the BJS discussion was the musical elements of the tracks rather than the use of tracks per sé, it got me to thinking. It seems that accompaniment tracks are becoming increasingly common in our churches these days, while real, living musicians are becoming less so, and that concerns me greatly. Whether the tracks contain the sounds of drumset and electric bass or pipe organ matters little to me, because both have the effect of replacing the authentic sacrifice of praise offered by a unique group of people at a singular point in time and space with something that is inauthentic because they cannot claim it as their own.

In October of 2009 Concordia Publishing House announced the release of The Concordia Organist (TCO), a collection of 31 CD’s that, according to the CPH website, contain “pipe organ accompaniments for all of the hymns and liturgical music in Lutheran Service Book.” Although various uses of TCO have been suggested since its release, it seems clear that its primary purpose has always been to accompany congregational singing. Rev. Paul McCain, editor at CPH, stated on his blog at the time of TCO‘s release that “the primary aim of the collection is to provide help to congregations that do not have competent organists” and Chris, blogger at Lutheran Kantor, recounted receiving an email from CPH that suggested that congregations seeking an “outstanding church organist” need “look no further” because with TCO that need had been met.

Shortly after TCO was made available there was quite a bit of discussion in the Lutheran blogosphere concerning the merits of such a resource: was it indeed a necessary and welcome answer to the question of how to provide musical leadership for congregational singing, or was it a case of good intentions gone awry? There were strongly held opinions on both sides of the question back then,  as there still were several months ago when TCO came up in the comments on a different BJS post.  In that comment thread Cantor Phillip Magness suggested, “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be,” and his reference got me to thinking, “Just what exactly does he mean by that?” I have heard him say it before but never really thought through how it applies to TCO. Until now. 

The quotation appears in scripture in two places. In Matthew 6 the context is the admonition to not be obsessed with earthly wealth: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)

In Luke 12 (the Gospel reading for today, Three-Year Lectionary, Series C), the focus is on not worrying, but trusting in God to provide:

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

“‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'” (Luke 12: 22-32)

As I reflect on how these two passages might apply to the question of congregational song, it occurs to me that the conviction that one cannot worship properly without a certain type of accompaniment–whether it is “contemporary” or “traditional”–is a kind of placing of one’s faith in an earthly treasure–that of the soundtrack rather than the Word. How much better to trust that God will enable the song of faith with the voices He has assembled and to encourage those voices with the instruments, however few or humble, that He has placed in their midst. If I might be so bold, perhaps the passage could be paraphrased thus: “Do not be anxious about your liturgy, what you will sing, or about your voices, how they will sound. For the liturgy is more than the organ (or praise band), and the song of faith more than the hymnal. . . . And do not seek what you are to sing or how you are to sing it, nor be worried. For all the churches of the synod seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added unto you.”

Now some will say, “But you don’t understand! You belong to a large, musically blessed congregation where you get to take part in some of the most beautiful worship there is to be had. You don’t know what it’s like to be in a place where there isn’t a skilled musician to lead.”

Well, actually, I do know what it’s like. I’ve worshiped at a lot of churches with limited musical resources. And you know what? I would much rather attend a church where the congregation is singing a cappella than one where they are singing along with a track, NO MATTER WHAT THAT TRACK IS PLAYING. The reason is that recorded music, as much as it has taken over our culture, has all in all done more harm than good when it comes to encouraging people to sing together. It has turned singing and music-making into something the professionals do while the rest of us listen because, after all, they are so much better at it, so why should we even try?

I see it everywhere. I see it in my piano students who drop out of lessons because they want to play “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and have it sound the way it sounds on the radio when Elton John sings it. When I try to explain to them that they are not ready to play it like that but that their version, simple as it is, is beautiful because it is theirs, they look at me dubiously. Luckily, some accept my assurances and keep on playing and working. But others give up, quit piano, and put on their headphones.

I see it, too, in the declining number of common songs that we as a culture share. Again I think of my piano students, who, so often when I assign a song that I think they will know because it is a folk song that I remember learning as a child, look at me blankly. I see it in the fact that we as a society don’t sing around the piano anymore because we are all too busy listening to our own recorded tunes (which by the way are so doctored that many of the musicians behind them would not be able to perform them live). And I see it in too many schools and churches that resort to recorded accompaniments for plays, Sunday school and VBS programs, and yes, even worship.

Again, some will say, “But you don’t understand. You’ve got the best. You’re like Marie Antoinette who, out of touch with the masses, said, ‘Let them eat cake.'”

Granted, I’ve got a pretty good Cantor. And yes, I’ve been fortunate to be the beneficiary of his worship planning and musicianship for quite a few years now. But here’s the thing that troubles me deeply: I firmly believe that if there had been a Concordia Organist 25 years ago, there would not be a Cantor Phillip Magness today. Why not? Because of that message: “Look no further.” You see, the way that my husband came into church work was that there was a NEED. He never intended to be a church musician. I married a pianist who, in his early years, worked as a freelance musician, teaching privately and at a local community college while playing a variety of “gigs.” When we joined an LCMS church and started singing in the choir, that’s all the music we expected to do at church. He wasn’t, after all, an organist or a choir director.  Then came that fateful day when our pastor came to Phillip and explained that the current choir director was tired of dividing her time between her home parish and the one we attended, and she really wanted to be able to exclusively attend her own church, and would he consider taking her place? He said, “But I’m not a church musician, Pastor!” His response? “You’re the best we’ve got!’ Phillip accepted the job. Not long afterward, a mission congregation of the one to which we belonged asked if he might consider helping them out as organist. He explained that he didn’t know how to play the organ, to which the reponse was, “Would you be willing to learn?” He was willing. He took lessons. And before long he was playing organ and directing choir at both congregations (and hoping against hope every Sunday morning that he wouldn’t get held up by the train as he traveled back and forth between the two). But if either of those congregations had given up on having a live musician–if either of those congregations had decided to “look no further” and resort to tracks–there would have been no need for him to  learn (or for folks to patiently wait and bear with him while he did). Thank God that wasn’t the case!

Every church has its challenges. I have never attended a church that was not struggling in some way, but I have repeatedly seen God use those struggles to turn people toward Him, to teach and strengthen them in the faith. There have been times in my life that I would have gladly sacrificed musical abundance in exchange for God’s taking away some of the other burdens that my congregation was facing. But looking back I realize that those burdens were ultimately used by God for good. If your burden is the lack of a skilled musician, I have no doubt that God can use that for good, too. “‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

I think it’s important to remember that we are a synod, which means that we are to “walk together.” The call to walk together is the reason we have “worship wars”–because we understand that the radically different ways that many of our churches worship are not indicative of walking together. The call to walk together is also a reminder that we as a synod are one body, and that what happens in one of our congregations has implications for our church body as a whole. One might ask, “But why do you care if we sing CCM (contemporary Christian music) or use tracks? It doesn’t affect what you are doing in your church.” But the answer, of course, is that it does. Everything that we do in one of our churches extends, for either good or bad, to all of them. And it is my belief that while the use of recorded music may have short-term benefits for individual congregations (an assertion that I think is debatable), it is going to have long-term negative consequences for the Church. By providing a way for congregations to easily fill a need for music by writing a check and popping in a disc, it is going to discourage the cultivating of current and future musicians for the church, something which impoverishes not only the Church but its members (music ministry is as much about nourishing musicians or potential musicians in the faith as it is about serving their congregations). By providing the perfection that can only come from recorded music, it is going to send the message that the sacrifice of praise offered by the people of a certain time and place is not good enough to stand on its own, effectively negating the gifts of every flautist, pianist, guitarist, or percussionist who might help lead the Lord’s song. By providing music that has no human element, that is not sensitive to the living, breathing assembly that it is “leading,” recorded accompaniments send the message that the real song is the one coming out of the little black electric box at the back of the church, since if the singing stops it will just keep going (as long as there’s not a power outage, of course).

I understand the appeal of tracks. I, too, have wondered, “But what about this church? What about that one? They don’t have the resources we have.” My heart goes out to congregations that don’t have skilled musicians readily available in the same way that my heart goes out to churches that don’t have pastors, or churches that are facing serious budget shortfalls, or churches that are experiencing division and schism. But I think with all of those challenges we must not give up and “look no further” but must continually keep our eyes on the big picture, not only of the present but also of the future. The path of least resistance is not always the best path, and the perfect is the enemy of the good. The use of recorded music for worship–and this includes The Concordia Organist–might mean easier, more beautiful worship NOW, just as sweeping congregational differences under the rug by deferring to the loudest voices might buy temporary peace.  But both are examples of choosing present ease over future good.


Cheryl is a pianist, writer, editor, cantor’s wife, and homeschool mom. She blogs at roundunvarnishedtale.blogspot.com.


Comments

Is Your Treasure the Word or the Soundtrack? — 81 Comments

  1. Timothy Schenks @ #18,

    For some reason this appears to you as snobbery. Let me assure you it is not.

    I have worked with Cantor Magness now for about 10 years. He is all about supporting congregational singing. He is also one of the best team players I have ever worked with. He is a military brat and knows how to recieve and follow orders. He exists as a staff person at Bethany to serve the Lord’s song which is entirely patterned to support the singing of the congregation.

    Here is a great example. When we first interviewed him we were all excited that we might have some cantatas and community concerts with our music folks. He told us flat out that this would not be his choice of emphasis. He said he would do it if we made it a priority but made it clear that he preferred to spend his time working on getting the congregation to sing better. He said in time we could do some cantatas but that was secondary.

    In those ten years congregation singing has increased 10-fold. And we are not talking about the hymnal favorites. There is hardly a tune in the LSB, difficult or easy, ancient or contemporary that our congregation cannot sing. He has taken some of the least liked tunes (at first blush) and turned them into congregation favorites.

    This is not snobbery – this is about church music that amplifies the Word of the Lord preached, read and placed onto the lips of the congregants. We are truly blessed.

    The Rev. Dr. Timothy A. Rossow
    Administrative Pastor
    Bethany Lutheran Church and School

  2. In honor of “George in Wheaton”, I think I will retire to our family room and play a few tunes on my bagpipes.

  3. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #8

    Dear Paul,

    A comment on HOME devotions (not sure it’s been mentioned in this thread – can’t read the whole thing right now).

    I think TCO is fantastic, and I’d purchase it for home use if I could justify it. What we use at home instead are the TLH midi files ( http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/ ) . These can be played straight, which normally result in piano patches being selected, or spiffed up with different instruments in a midi editor (… I would not recommend midi organ!)

    So, I’d like to appeal here, as I did in person a few years ago to a very nice member of the Commission on Worship whom I know, for LSB midis to be published. I would not expect them to be free (but cheaper than TCO), and I’d expect a church-use license to cost extra. But something is needed for home use, and since we use and encourage others to use LSB, TLH is getting harder to work with, even at home.

    Thanks for considering! Glad to see you here.

    mbw

  4. For home use I use “The Lutheran Hymnal Pocket Organist”. It’s 20-30 dollars per set of CD’s, depending on how many sets you purchase. The CD’s are of each hymn in TLH, just one verse recorded in such a way as to facilitate the repeat function of a CD player.

    http://the-lutheran-hymnal.com/pocket.htm

    (Full disclosure–I make nothing on this. I’m not even sure where I first heard about it. And I don’t know the people or person who produced it.)

  5. Pastor Tim Rossow :Timothy Schenks @ #18,
    For some reason this appears to you as snobbery. Let me assure you it is not.
    I have worked with Cantor Magness now for about 10 years. He is all about supporting congregational singing. He is also one of the best team players I have ever worked with. He is a military brat and knows how to recieve and follow orders. He exists as a staff person at Bethany to serve the Lord’s song which is entirely patterned to support the singing of the congregation.
    Here is a great example. When we first interviewed him we were all excited that we might have some cantatas and community concerts with our music folks. He told us flat out that this would not be his choice of emphasis. He said he would do it if we made it a priority but made it clear that he preferred to spend his time working on getting the congregation to sing better. He said in time we could do some cantatas but that was secondary.
    In those ten years congregation singing has increased 10-fold. And we are not talking about the hymnal favorites. There is hardly a tune in the LSB, difficult or easy, ancient or contemporary that our congregation cannot sing. He has taken some of the least liked tunes (at first blush) and turned them into congregation favorites.
    This is not snobbery – this is about church music that amplifies the Word of the Lord preached, read and placed onto the lips of the congregants. We are truly blessed.
    The Rev. Dr. Timothy A. RossowAdministrative PastorBethany Lutheran Church and School

    Pr. Rossow, this specific instance is the only time I’ve ever had a difference with Phillip Magness. He’s a good guy. I remember when BJS was in its formative stages a couple of years ago when you put me in touch with him; he gave me some advice regarding upholding the Office of Holy Ministry in the voters’ assembly which was put to good use. I thank him for that. I do realize that the blog is not the end all to be all of BJS and am still looking forward to BJS developing those items under The Organization link on the top of the page.

  6. Eric Ramer :@Timothy C. Schenks #29 I have become increasingly weary, of late, of people who automatically jump to worst construction polemics like your closing comment about people “attacking” TCO.

    Mr. Ramer, you wrote that you are weary, of late, of people who automatically jump to worst construction polemics. But aren’t you one of the signers, of late, of the ACELC worst-construction polemics letter?

    Tim

  7. @Old Time St. John’s #56

    > For home use I use “The Lutheran Hymnal Pocket Organist”

    Thank you for that reference! My main issue right now is not having anything to go with the LSB. The MIDIs are more than sufficient for my use of TLH. Our congregation integrates LSB quite well and we want to make better use of LSB at home. I can play keyboards but I am not a fluent music reader. That’s not going to change much at my age. If copyright issues were handled for TCO, I’d like to know what it would take to publish MIDI files for home use.

    I am one person who believe that getting the best hymns and songs from all of our hymnals “out there” is a very good thing. More familiarity (and we must agree that general familiarity out there is very low) would lead to MORE demand for trained church musicians, not less.

    I am one who gets quite emotional at hearing very good classical and liturgical music performed very well. I directly support such efforts. But I also see great value in low end solutions such as recordings of organ renditions (TCO) and MIDIs for home use. I see no conflict at all. There’s a lot of “dynamic range” to the reality of this issue.

  8. @Timothy C. Schenks #58
    Mr. Schenks:

    I am indeed a signer of the ACELC letter, thanks for asking. I take umbrage with your charecterization of it as a “worst construction polemic”. The letter and all associated documents were carefully written to be as gentle, loving and non-polemic as one can possilbly be in calling group (in which I include myself) or person to repentance. I’m pretty certain that our letter is relatively devoid of pointedly harsh and confrontational language of the type S. I. Hayakawa (I’m guessing on the spelling, it’s been 20 years since college and I can’t find his textbook right off) refers to as “purr and snarl” words when he discusses the topic of Polemics. Furthermore, our letter doesn’t place the worst construction on anything; it simple says: we’ve observed these things that we think are errors. Please come to the table so we can discuss them to see if we are wrong, or if they truly are errors. Please try not to read more into this article, or that document that is actually there. ‘Nough said on that topic, thats another thread. Thank you, and God bless.

    Respectfully,
    Eric Ramer
    Kearney, MO

  9. MBW,

    Just so we’re not being understood. We have no objection to TCO being used for home devotions, personal enjoyment, hospital visits, shut-in calls, etc. And we highly recommend it for organists to listen to and learn from, whether students or long-time amateurs.

    There is indeed a range on this. My DP and I have discussed this several times and always have fun with this issue. Where does one draw the line? We both agree that its great he has this to listen to for his personal and home devotions – and that it is wrong for a pastor or congregation to use TCO a way to replace three organists just so the pastor doesn’t have to “deal” with them and so that the congregation can save money.

    I think most of us see there is a continuum here, and I appreciate the many helpful comments on this thread that have advanced this conversation.

    Early on, a seperate, related question was asked by Robert (#3): “Do you have any thoughts as how to increase the interest, education, and money needed to finance additional musical vocations in the Church?”

    I think this merits a separate post, which I hope to offer soon.

  10. Just to be clear above: the two examples cited from my conversations with my DP were the EXTREME ends of the spectrum. They were provided so that other uses may be placed on a continuum between those ends.

    In no way were these examples set forth as reflecting the intentions of the anyone associated with the production or marketing of TCO. Just observations regarding actual use, ranging from what I think is the most desirable (for study) to least desirable (to replace organists who are capably serving their congregations).

  11. I can’t seem to find either of the Magness’s under the LCMS.org directory under Church Workers. Can we be told their credentials and what criteria is required to be an LCMS Cantor?
    Thanks.

  12. CJ, I do not consider myself a “church worker.” I am the part-time staff pianist at Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois, where my husband is full-time cantor. I would say, though, that I came at this article from the perspective of a lay woman who has been involved in parish music as either a volunteer or a paid musician from the time I was about 14 years old. Just to give you a little more background on who I am personally, I have a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance and Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English. I have divided my professional life between piano (teaching and accompanying) and English teaching. But the most important work I do is to take care of my family and our home.

  13. Live musicians can be tempermental, I am married to one, the CD Player does not have nearly the frequency of malfunctions.

  14. Hi CJ,

    Good question. Cantor is an honorific given by congregations. So I am not an “LCMS Cantor”, simply a lay Cantor in the LCMS. Some Cantors are Reverends, some are DCEs, some are rostered teachers, others are laymen like myself. Many even spell cantor with a “K”.

    There is a rostered “Director of Parish Music” position, a few of whom have congregations who honor them with the title cantor, but they is no official synodical designation for the office. It is just a centuries-old Lutheran custom to so address the chief musician of a parish, dating back to Luther himself. Its use today signifies that a congregation (or seminary or university) highly values our Lutheran liturgical practice and heritage.

    As far as credentials go, I think they are over-rated. They usually signify whom you pleased and whom you gave money to. But, for what it is worth, in my case I have a B.M. and an M.M. from the University of North Texas and 20 years experience in parish music. In the areas of service to the church in the area of music and worship, I chaired the LSB Introduction Committee, was a keynote speaker at the last Institute on Preaching and the Liturgy (teaching also at the previous institutes), have served as musician for numerous conventions, convocations, and retreats (i.e. leading much music outside my own parish), and am co-founder of Liturgy Solutions. My broader experiences in our Lord’s ministry include serving as an elder, being on my district’s Board of Directors, and, now, being elected to the LCMS Board for International Mission.

    I’m not sure what all of the above is worth, but there it is.

    One last thought for the day: if one is convinced that recorded music is necessary to lead the Lord’s song in a given context, I think recordings of small choirs singing a cappella would be the way to go. Singers are the best models for singing, and, over time, the volume could be turned down as the congregation finds their own voice.

    Again, I appreciate the positive contributions many have made to helping us think about this issue. May we treasure the Lord’s song always in our churches, for the sake of the Gospel.

  15. I wish The Concordia Organist was available as a download because there’s no sales tax on downloads, while the sales tax on the CDs comes to $48.65. In California, we pay high sales taxes to help pay for the wages, salaries and benefits for state and local government employees who make far more than most of us earned when were employed doing equivalent jobs in private industry.

    I see these CDs being useful much in the way that Pr. Noland does. In the small congregation I am a member of, I am the choir. I occasionally can get a couple of brothers to sing with me, but so far have been unsuccessful in getting any women to participate even though we have some who sing beautifully. There is one woman who sometimes sings solos. She is out of town more often than not, so she usually only sings at Christmas and Easter. She has a very powerful voice and I think she’d overpower us men if we tried to sing with her, but she’s very good and has a degree in music from Pepperdine. While she was in college, ELCA church used to pay her to sing for them.

    Back to the point, I’m not good at sight reading. Usually a couple of times a month I buy the Acclamation propers from CPH and use SmartScore to recognize the PDFs and convert them to ENF (SmartScore’s proprietary format) so I can practice them in advance. The only opportunity I have to practice with the organist is Sunday before the service. I have occasionally used some of the propers from Phil Magness’s company, but they aren’t available for the entire church year and many of them require 3 or 4 parts. I would like to be able do those, but I need to have other people willing to do them who are able to teach themselves their parts at home, which is something I’m not good at myself. Also the liturgysolutions.com web site needs to be fixed so it will work properly with all common browsers, including Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Currently, results are unpredictable if you aren’t using Internet Explorer, as you sometimes can’t buy music or are not able to download it after you’ve purchased it if you use a different browser.

    I have been going to Sacred Harp singings about once a month and I may learn to get better at sight-singing from this, but so far I have stuck to the tenor (melody) part. One thing that’s odd about Sacred Harp music is that the written notes are only relative and not absolute pitches. They also use four different shapes, which is supposed to make it easier to sing, but which only serve to confuse me. People sit on the side of the square corresponding to the part they are singing. There is no accompaniment. Most of the songs tend to be strongly Calvinistic, though some of them are okay and some have been incorporated into the LSB, but usually the harmonization is different and sometimes even the tune (e.g., the Christless hymn “Amazing Grace;” I don’t know why they didn’t add Pr. Cwirla’s Trinitarian stanza in the LSB).

    While “The Concordia Organist” might not be ideal for churches to use during worship services, I think it has its uses. I’ve seen its predecessor used to good effect at a Henderson, NV, church a number of years ago.

  16. My parents told me about our first pastor, Martin Koehneke, when he came to our new mission church in Texas. No one knew how to play anything, so he learned to play one hymn on the piano each week and the congregation sang the ones he learned Sunday by Sunday. That was back in the early 40’s, I believe.

    On another note, when I went to a worship workshop dealing with the introduction of Lutheran Worship, there was a group session for pastors from small churches led by Dr. Schalk. Someone asked him about what to do if they were not sure about how to do the chanting. He told him to ask his music director. It seems to me that many in Synod have no idea of the situations in many small congregations.

  17. @66 Phillip Magness
    Yes, I am familiar with Kantors, we had one at my previous parish. I was just curious what your ‘official’ status was, synodically and with the local parish.
    Blessings!

  18. I wish I could guarantee that such a resource as TCO would only be used in extreme situations of REALLY no other options. And boy do I wish Cantor Magness would write a book (in his spare time, ha, ha, ha!) with lists of other ways to accompany the congregation when an organist is not available or cannot be afforded.

    The state of musical education is so poor that even when there ARE a few strong singers in a congregation who could easily help lead a cappella singing, the chances that you could convince them to do it are very small.

  19. Our congregation is small, as are several of the congregations in our LC-MS circuit. Sometimes we are caught in situations where the organist is unavailable, sick, or just doesn’t show up, especially for Advent or Lenten services where the attendance is very small.
    We have a small pipe organ, which puts out a pretty good sound. I have considered just playing the melody for the congregation, as they do sing well. This may be an answer to the above question (other ways to accompany the congregation when an organist is unavailable). If congregational singing is the main emphasis, then the accompanist need not be fully trained or excellent at playing.

  20. Hi Stan,

    I’m surprised that you are saying that Liturgy Solutions is hard-to-use. While it is true that a few of our clients have needed help with receiving a download, we have a built-in feature where the music can be automatically emailed to the purchaser. So we have a “double fail-safe” built in. And, because there was some user error in understanding how to go back to the site from PayPal in order to release the downloads, we’ve added clarifications to the site to address that.

    You mention other browsers. I used the site with Chrome last year and had no problems. There sometimes are Firefox issues, and we apologize for that, but evidently not all Firefox users have trouble with the site. At any rate they can still just have the files emailed to them. I don’t know about Safari – but if it that is Apple/Mac browser, I know we have folks in that world who use our site.

    Actually, we have a “triple-safe” built in: prompt customer service. On the occasions when someone for some reason doesn’t get a download, we send the files immediately when we are alerted about a problem. Sure, this means waiting a few hours so that either me or Stephen Johnson can respond to an email, but one still gets music from us very quickly – much more quickly than waiting for a print order.

    Perhaps your troubles were before our site redesign. Whatever the case, I invite you to come back and try the site again. Contact me off-list and I’ll give you a 95% discount code you can use. If there is a problem, we’d appreciate your help in finding out exactly what it is! 🙂 Thanks.

  21. @Anonymous #1
    “Every Voice A Song” was the name of the collection of cds tied to Lutheran Worship. When it came out, I was the full time pastor of a deaf congregation. Music and musicians were obviously not a priority in such a situation, nor were they available. Nevertheless, we had hearing parents of deaf children and hearing children of deaf parents. “Every Voice A Song” was a great blessing in providing music for hearing people to sing hymns while deaf people signed them. It replaced my crummy home-made recordings of a local organist. I realize this comment is not germane to the thrust of this thread. I agree with the main point of the article – recorded music is generally not a good permanent solution for congregational singing (for a variety of reasons). However, my story is an example where recorded music can serve very well in a special situation.

  22. Skipping over the last 2/3 of comments–no time to read all of it, excellent points made on both sides.

    I am one of those pastors who is becoming increasingly “in a bind” for church musicians. Dual parish. First cong. has a very small building, with a balcony barely big enough to put in a new Johannus Opus 20 last fall. Our old Baldwin had fried. Re: “real” music vs. “electronically pretended” music–1. Don’t even have the space to put in pipes. 2. Better, fuller sound out of that Johannus than out of some pipe organs I have heard. (And let all on this list sing a Te Deum with me that I was able to keep my people from grabbing the Hammond thing that was suggested to us. Cool instrument in many ways–though it wasn’t a “real” Hammond with the spinning speaking, rather, the YamahaorSuzukiorwhoever bought out Hammond computerized version–, but *not* for the Church at Gottesdienst!)

    Second cong. has a late 40’s vintage pipe organ which serves well, but needs a ton of attention–which ain’t cheap. Besides that, I have an organist who learned to play the keyboard via the accordion, whose eyesight is going. She does amazingly well, considering, but her days are numbered. Don’t hardly have a single backup for them.

    Have organist by committee (of wonderful ladies, only one of whom has had any formal organ training, far as I know) at the first cong. The Johannus has a piston that provides low-end support so that pianists can get some reasonable “pedal sound” without playing the pedals. This is a very good thing, because now I have a 75 ish-yr-old lady in the cong. who will now take one Sunday a month. But here, too, the handwriting is on the wall. My 8 yr old will begin piano this fall, God willing, but we’ll run out of organists before he’s ready to step in. 🙂

    So, upshot–I do not *like* to have to consider using TCO, but I’m glad it’s available. I may not have any choice. A capella is not a long-term solution, even considering I’m better than the majority of pastors I’ve seen at leading congregational singing (cough, cough). My first cong. is pretty good–we’ve chanted Setting 1 and 3 a capella (35-45 people in the pews) a few times when I just ran out of options. (Have even gone a cap. with the 20 or so at the second cong., which does *not* sing as well, and no complaints from the Faithful or from me). That was fine, but there would be some newer hymns in LSB that they don’t know and I don’t know well enough to be able to teach and lead them in. And it really wouldn’t do to have a capella become our *norm*.

  23. In my mind, TCO is just a TOOL. And that tool can be used or misused. Over the course of my dad’s 50 years in the ministry, he served some congregations that struggled for organists/choir directors and some that didn’t. The one I remember most was a congregation of AT MOST 150 members that still had 2-3 people who could play the organ to various levels during services (not including my two sisters who learned as children and my mother who could plink out a melody line if forced to due to winter storms preventing the other organists from arriving). The capabilities of the organists varied widely, but the whole congregation felt blessed to have so much musical talent in such a small place, and were thankfulk for what they had.

    Pesonally, I can’t play a musical intrument to save my life (except an occasional blow on my harmonica that is not fit for public consumption). However, I love to sing, and recently acquired the TLH Pocket Organist to accompany my personal attempts at hymn singing, as well as the recorded version of the Treasury of Daily Prayer to learn the various tunes in there. The recorded music allows me to learn things I can’t otherwise. I might even have bought my own copy of TCO if it had been more affordable (That is how much I like to sing the hmymnody).

    Yes, I know about the stories like that of pastors totally firing organists they can’t get along with and replacing them with TCO. In my mind, that is a problem with the pastor and the elders of that congregation, not the TCO. I have been in congrgations that have had “knock down drag outs” over such things as banners, vestments, nativity scenes, flags (both US and Christian), organ volume levels, heat levels, light levels, and Thanksgiving Cornocopias, just to name a few. I would never call for the elimination of these things in chruches because of these debates. Instead, I would call for an examination of the people who are using these items.

  24. Rahn Hasbargen :
    Yes, I know about the stories like that of pastors totally firing organists they can’t get along with and replacing them with TCO. In my mind, that is a problem with the pastor and the elders of that congregation, not the TCO. I have been in congrgations that have had “knock down drag outs” over such things as banners, vestments, nativity scenes, flags (both US and Christian), organ volume levels, heat levels, light levels, and Thanksgiving Cornocopias, just to name a few. I would never call for the elimination of these things in chruches because of these debates. Instead, I would call for an examination of the people who are using these items.

    I’m aware that some members of congregations have demanded that our already-underpaid organists work for free (“I don’t get paid to teach Sunday School…why should the organists get paid!” and that sort of craziness). Things like that make me dread the voters’ yearly budget meeting. I am not in favor of running off the organist for the sake of purchasing TCO but I know that it is going on.

    I agree with you on the temperature and volume levels. We regularly had contradictory complaints within a few minutes of each other — it’s too cold/it’s too hot; the organ is too loud; turn up the organ I can’t hear it, etc. We had an old trustee who used to tell us that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

  25. @Pastor Tim Rossow #51

    @Pastor Rossow:

    Thank you for pointing that out! I agree 110%. I WAS going to just “ignore” that comment #18 myself, yet it still REALLY bugged me. I got to 51 and was glad to see it was addressed.

    If anyone ever had the opportunity to observe the musical staff at Bethany, there is NO WAY you could EVER walk away with that impression as post #18 made reference to.

    Extreme talent often times gets criticized as just “enterainment” in the church. I’m sure there are many church musicians who do it for pure self gratification. However, knowing what I know, and experienced what I’ve experienced, I can assure you there are NO soap boxes within Bethany’s gift of musical talent the Lord has provided them with. Every SINGLE note played and every single word sung and caused to sing is all done to the Glory of God, and nothing more.

    Using the gifts God gave them, and using them for nothing other than that reason is certainly what God expects those who can! Furthermore, being able to curtail ones obvious passion for music in general, yet still CLEARLY put God first and foremost in worship while doing so is very admirable.

    Now, before I get accused of being on a “soapbox” as well….I’ll just finish my comment on this post. My feelings on TCO is this: “The Lord will provide”

    What is so hard for any Chrsitian to grasp about that? “The Lord will provide.” Isn’t this ALL this is? The Lord provides congregations with extreme talent for those who can afford to do so. Does this mean the rest need to keep scrounging and begging and taking anything someone can hammer out on a piano, harmonica, water glasses….what have you? There IS a need and I feel that the TCO meets that need when that is ALL that can be afforded or maybe found. Why would there be such a debate in the first place?

    I shake my head in pure dis-belief and embarrassment at times on how “Christians” react to such things. I have to ask where their hearts really are at times. All too often, I afraid were able to see where they’re not.

    What’s wrong with that picture? …..Which brings me back to my first point that didn’t set well. Knowing and witnessing a Christian heart myself and seeing someone attack that person(s) in such a bold, opinionated, cold way by another Christian REALLY bothered me.

    However, I know, and will continue to take that to the one I know can help me best with that.

    To God be the Glory!

  26. Ron, here’s a very good answer to your question from Rev. Peter Berg, who posted this on the old “Motley Magpie” site a few years ago:

    Myth: Luther used bar songs in his hymnody. Ergo it’s permissible, even advantageous, to use popular forms of music in the church today. (Note: One of our esteemed editors recently visited the web site of a WELS congregation where the church’s CCM group justified its existence based on the “fact” that Luther used bar songs.)

    Truth: Luther did not use bar songs but rather his own creations and the musical heritage of the church catholic. The term bar refers to the type of staff notation used in medieval musical composing*. Luther did wed one sacred text to a popular tune**but later regretted this dalliance with love ballads. The relatively new academic discipline called Sentics has demonstrated that music can independently generate two very different reactions and emotions, termed Dionysian and Apollonian. The first is emotive and turns one inward. It is self-gratifying and clearly anthropocentric. The second, while not denying the emotional impact of music, maintains control and gives room for the intellectual processing of the truth of the text. In the first type, the music dominates the text. In the second, the music is in service to the text. Christian Contemporary Music, a bad clone of popular music, is clearly Dionysian. Luther called Dionysian music “carnal” and he wrote his music to wean people away from the love ballads of his day.

    And now let me add two comments:

    *The musical notation was simply a repeat sign, known in Luther’s day as a “bar”. Yes, believe it or not, some wacky American Lutherans saw Luther’s referrence to “barred music” in German and changed the repeat sign into a pub! Why did Luther write positively about “bar(red) music”? Because it went with the musical form A A B. He thought that the repititon of the music of the first phrase would help in learning, and then the B phrase would give the balance of variety. Hence, many chorales are written in this way. Then the bars were used to save ink & paper. You see this even in 19th and early 20th-century hymnals: the music for the first line ends with a repeat sign, and then the second verse of the first stanza is written in.

    Example:

    First line of music (A)
    Salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor (repeat sign)
    Good works cannot avert our doom, they help and save us never.

    SECOND line of music (B)
    Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer.

    **The the one instance to which Rev. Berg refers is “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”. It is critical to note that this exception proves the rule: the tune we sing to “From Heaven Above” (VON HIMMEL HOCH) is NOT the popular ballad Luther first used, but a “more churchly tune” of his construction that he wrote AFTER he realized that his hymn was going to be used in the church. What happened was this: he wrote the hymn as a Christmas gift for his children, using a tune that was a popular “guessing game” song used by masked suitors of the day. The clever trick: change the “guessing game” from “who is courting you” to an angel playing the game of “Whose is this advent of which I proclaim?” So it made sense to use the popular tune. However, when others began singing the hymn, he quickly wrote, in his words, “a more churchly tune”, so that it would be musically appropriate for the Divine Service.

  27. I have only heard the title “cantor” being used in one place. That of course is in the Church of St Thomas in Leipzig, Germany. Generally most congregations have “Minister of Music” as a job tile for the person in charge of the congregation’s worship music. This person is skilled at playing a pipe organ or any keyboard instrument and capable of directing a choir.

    I do remember once dropping in to join an LCMS congregation in Chippewa Falls, WI once for their Sunday worship service. They were giving PR for their VBS program that Sunday and they used a recorded track to accompany the congregation on a hymn for that purpose. I had often heard soloists singing with tracks in my home congregation, but accompanying the congregation with a track seemed very awkward to me.

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