Wednesday, November 7, 2012


This is not a concession.

I want to remain on record in opposition to the use of projected congregational song lyrics without giving access to a printed melody. In the culture I live in, the ability to read a  melody is not that unusual, and if you want the greatest number of people to engage with a song as quickly as possible, you will take the extra step, the extra time, the extra expense if necessary, to provide that aid.

Don't limit your worshiping community by your own limitations. And don't worry about seeming cool. The really cool kids are doing this. (See Redeemer Presbyterian New York, and City Church San Francisco, for example.)

But if you are going to limit your singing community to reading projected lyrics, then please for the love of God('s people), try to:

* Get the punctuation right.
John Mark McMillan's "How He Loves" was new to me earlier today. I didn't realize I was singing a cool song.
            He doesn't dig poetry.
            He's so unhip that
            When you say Dylan, he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas.
            Whoever he was.
            The man ain't got no culture.   (Paul Simon, A Simple Desultory Philippic, 1965)
 So I didn't know if the words were supposed to be
He is jealous for me
Love's like a hurricane - I am a tree
[as they appeared on the screen]
He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane - I am a tree
[as I now see, online, is what Mr. McMillan wrote, 2009]

Hey you, putting the power-point together for the chapel, the service, the small group . . . Yeah, you! That apostrophe you added matters; it changes the meaning. And, after all, you do want people to sing with the mind as well as with the spirit, don't you? Because, you know, it is a biblical precept of worship. The same thing goes for commas and periods, by the way. Even the properly placed exclamation point. Are you theologically aware enough to employ the semi-colon?

(And for the nonce I'll resist the impulse to digress on whether the song was actually written to be sung by a random group of worshipers and not - you know - the David Crowder Band.)

* Divide the lines of text so that they scan with the musical phrases.
Seriously. If you aren't going to print the melody for us, and unless really I am the only person in the room who has never heard what we're singing, could you give just a little hint at where that musical phrase is going? You might begin by assuming a line/phrase is marked by some kind of punctuation. [see previous asterisk] Please tell me you're not just typing into the ppt slide and letting the auto returns do your work for you. Here I forget which forgettable song (and slide) from earlier today failed on this count, in a big way. For illustration purposes, I am going to pick a song I really like, just to demonstrate. Try to picture these words on a screen:
My soul finds rest in God alone, my 
rock and my salvation; a fortress strong 
against my foes, and I shall not be 
This excellent setting of Psalm 62 is helped along by some fine punctuation (which, I now see, if you're checking lyrics online, you probably won't see. Umm . . . don't take your accuracy cues from random lyric sites, OK?) If you don't know this song - well, learn it! But if you don't, you won't know at a first quick read, the kind of read offered to singing worshipers, where it's headed. But when you see it lined out properly on a screen:

My soul finds rest in God alone, 
my rock and my salvation; 
a fortress strong against my foes, 
and I shall not be shaken. (Aaron Keys, Stuart Townend, 2006)
Then, my projecting-lyrics friend, you will help the people whom you are supposed to be leading in worship. You will help them understand the meaning of this solid psalm setting; and you will help them figure out where the music is heading. And when the next verse comes around - and is also properly parsed on the screen - they will sing it better, more strongly, and with more understanding.

And I won't have to write about this again. OK? Thanks for this little chat.


Anonymous said...

My wife and I are musicians, and this is a big complaint of hers, particularly if we visit a church and sing music that is unfamiliar to us where only the words are projected. It is very hard to take part in the service if you are struggling to figure out the melody of a song, even if it is repeated a couple of lines. Melody lines would be terrific!!

Claudia Gerwin said...

Amen. If I write much more, it will be considered ranting. You've said it so much more succinctly and kindly than I'm afraid I would have.