Impossible to be silent

Although my 16 year old daughter is well acquainted with the distinctive features of different film genre, there is one filmmaking convention with which she cannot abide: the Hollywood musical – with the notion that normal people could just burst into song in the middle of a conversation. It doesn’t matter where they are or who they are with, they just sing! Now don’t get me wrong. She and I both love watching these musicals, Singing in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music all being on our favourites list. But for her, this ‘random singing in real life’ just lacks all credibility. We have some hilarious debates about it!

Victor Hugo is credited with saying, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”

In these film narratives the characters literally burst into song because they can’t help it! Simple dialogue just will not do for these characters (or for that matter opera singers and Broadway actors, or the composers and screenplay writers behind all these). Words cannot express the largeness of their thoughts and emotions. They are compelled to sing.
Is it any different in real life? We sing at the football (well I have heard people do!), at birthdays, to our babies. My husband sings strange songs to our girls at times, most often in the morning when trying to get them out of bed.

So is it any wonder that God’s gathered people must sing. How could we NOT sing?
The gratitude we feel because our sins are forgiven, the awe we have for God’s amazing grace, the freedom from shame. . . All this cannot be expressed adequately by mere words. The wonders of our God must be sung! He is beyond the limits of our spoken words and imaginations. So too the astonishing nature of his salvation plan for mankind. If I could find a statistic about how many new praise songs are written about and to God each day I would include it here – but Google was no help. Probably the number was beyond the grasp of Google’s search engines.

So think then….what is the effect of encouraging people to sing God’s praise, when they don’t feel like it? Or when they don’t really know God? Does this work in reverse? Does singing the words inspire the feelings that would have made us burst out into to song in the first place? And what about churches who do not sing when they gather? What does that say to them? to us?
Comments welcome, as always.

You may also like:

The Wonderful Mystery of Harmony Singing                            Ten Principles for Church singing

6 thoughts on “Impossible to be silent

  1. I like what you say Ros, well mostly. I’m not a natural singer but do sing sometimes in church (other gatherings of Christians) and away from church. Yet I’m not inspired to sing many of the songs in church. It is not whether the muso’s are inspiring or not it is these songs (many not all) seem gooing and foreign to my cultural background. I’m not sure what the answer is as maybe I’m the only one or rare group of people who thinks and feels this way. I live for the Lord and am filled with awe of God and express to Him my gratitude, amazement and joy in words from my open heart. I often share this with my family and the closest of heart friends. I’d be interested to hear your response. Thanks for a well thought blog. Peter


    • Yes Peter I understand your view and feel for the people who find it difficult to join in with songs of a musical style that is not necessarily designed for groups of people to sing easily. That is the trick I suppose, to have a balance of songs that are good for groups, which hymns are generally, plus contemporary songs of a new generation. I’ll refer you also to a post I wrote a while ago about why sing new songs. Thanks for your comments!!


      • Thanks for coming back Ros. Different churches around the country have different styles of worship, music and songs. Yes, that is why, whether we agree or not, people move churches to a fellowship worship style that they are at home with. I know from young adults I’ve met during my pastoral ministry years and who have moved on to other churches shared their reasons for leaving was because of music and songs. Many moved to Pentecostal churches where they also found God’s word preached that spoke into their lives. I checked out your older post also. One blessing that is coming from all of this is a deeper hunger for God and good God talks and prayer with others. Thanks Ros for revealing your heart for God. : )


  2. Great topic Roz!
    It’s amazing how singing is so integrated into our beings and lifts ones spirit despite the circumstances.

    A good reminder of this is the many early blues/jazz folk songs which were formed during the afro-slave trade movement. They would sing tunes together in the darkest moments of their labour…Songs like “O’ freedom”, to regain focus on eternity rather than their momentary turmoil & affliction on Earth.

    Praise God for singing – such a great tool of expression and encouragement for our souls.


  3. “….what is the effect of encouraging people to sing God’s praise, when they don’t feel like it? Or when they don’t really know God? Does this work in reverse? Does singing the words inspire the feelings that would have made us burst out into to song in the first place?” If our best, most genuine praise, whether it’s sung, spoken, or even ‘sighed’; in fellowship or in private, arises out of our best, most genuine experience of God, then (probably) when He is made the object of our experience (in ‘church’ or anywhere else) like David, and those extra-ordinary characters in the movies, we will praise well.


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