I've been thinking a lot lately about melody, or more accurately the need for melodic craft in songs and hymns for congregational singing. Big arena, lots of potential for disaster in it, and always the risk of pitting "my opinion" against yours.
I think when it concerns me most is when I hear song after song in student settings, with good words, interesting and apt rhythms (maybe), but directionless melodies. Non-tunes, really; often repetitive phrases with no developmental structure. And hey, I'm not exactly a music theory geek; certainly not a form & structure expert.
In a conversation yesterday with a student headed off to his freshman year of collegiate music studies, I was struck with his observation that so much more could be done in youth group music, to attract students to Christ and the Church. He was talking about preparation, and he was talking about craft. One observation that came out - why do we take such an interesting message and set it to such uninteresting tunes?
This student does not plan to study "classical" music, but "commercial." He isn't, in other words, some nerdy 18-year-old Baroque fanatic (yes, I've known those), more a "show choir band" dude. But he's thinking about the same things I'd want him to consider if he were contemplating a vocation in church music.
I am (theoretically, or at least perceived) "too old" to have an impact on the youth culture in my church or the church at large. But I hope I can still get to those who think, plan, and lead young "worship musicians" and help them see that the music really does matter. If we really have something to sing about, let's make sure it's sung in a way that is worth hearing and listening to. Let's write melodies that live up to the great words we use. Let's plant songs in our students' hearts that will stand up to the challenges of their minds, hearts, and experiences. Let's out-melody the chaos around us!