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.

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The Wonderful Mystery of Harmony Singing                            Ten Principles for Church singing

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