I will start this note by stating the obvious: music, and singing
in particular, draws people into churches like little else can.
Most of us probably know several people who go to church primarily
to sing or to listen to singers. Church singing can also evoke
unpleasant feelings—anxiety, embarrassment, confusion, inadequacy.
At one time or another, we’ve all been part of a mumbling,
sheepish crowd dragging out the meter of hymns whose melodies
dampen our spirits and whose words bore or vex us.
There are so many ways to think about and talk about and critique
and just plain do church singing. And at St. Gregory’s,
the birthplace of this journal, congregational singing is central
to our worship: most of our liturgy is sung without accompaniment.
Thus, after a decent interval, we decided to dedicate another
issue of God’s Friends to singing—there’s just
so much more to say. (To read articles from our November 1997
music issue, go to our website, www.godsfriends.org.)
We are delighted to welcome two new voices to these pages. Singing
with her fellow congregants anchors Joan Kenerson King in her
centuries-old Mennonite community in ways she limns beautifully
here. Marilyn Haskel uses her experience as an editor of the hymn
book Wonder, Love, and Praise to illuminate her sense of what
works for congregational singing, and why. Two of the voices that
anchor St. Gregory’s sung liturgy are here, too. Anyone
who’s ever seen music director Sanford Dole in liturgical
action knows how good he is at getting a whole congregation to
sing with gusto; here he tells how he does it. And Scott King,
composer, cantor, and baritone, shares his process of writing
a hymn people will (and do) actually sing.
Finally, the art in this issue, by Gary Blum and Chris Graefensteiner,
evokes the best of our experiences of singing together. These
pieces are lyrical and exquisitely layered, both ethereal and
deeply grounded. The duotones reproduced in the printed edition
of this journal give a hint of their loveliness, but if you can,
check them out in color online at www.godsfriends.org.
—Clancy Drake, Editor