Singing from different sheets

Last Saturday, I officiated at a wedding of a couple from Iceland. It was a very small, intimate occasion. The wedding took place in the choir and sanctuary at St Michael’s. The couple (whose names I struggled to pronounce) chose some beautiful music and we sung in both English and Icelandic. The repertoire was broad, contemporary and traditional, sacred and secular. I especially enjoyed assuming the role of Captain von Trapp as we sang edelweiss. The couple processed through the church and narthex only to be greeted by a Jazz band who led the wedding party through the streets of Summertown.

Music, like sport, can be used as a universal medium for gathering villages, tribes and nations together. Church music has the same potential. However, too often music is used to define, to order, to categorise churchmanship in a way that is divisive. “We don’t have that type of music here” is a too familiar, condescending refrain heard in the nave and choir.

I believe that there is a movement which is beginning to blow this sort of myopia away. Music, which is a measure of our emotional temperature, can be a force for unifying discordant voices. Some churches are beginning to mature through the fragmented classifications of ‘evangelical’,’catholic’, ‘liberal’ by providing a breadth and depth of worship which is beyond labels. The most important criteria is that of the quality of musicianship, that it be given to the glory of God. This is the subject of the hymn, Angel voices, ever singing by Francis Potter in the mid 19th century:

Yea, we know Thy love rejoices
o’er each work of Thine;
Thou didst ears and hands and voices
for Thy praise combine;
craftsman’s art and music’s measure
for Thy pleasure all combine.

Music-making is one of the three areas of mission and outreach which we would like to share with the local community in Summertown. We delight in various choirs, orchestras and ensembles coming to experience the magnificent acoustic. We are always wanting more people to join our very sociable and accommodating choir. (The choir is singing at Norwich Cathedral in 2 weeks time). We are also wanting to recruit more musicians to play in the services. So from Baroque polyphony to Jazz vespers to Celtic folk we hope to sing from different sheets combining to praise the one God! Join us in the ‘craftsman’s art and music’s measure for Thy pleasure’ if you can.

‘Let all the world in every corner sing’ is one of the many beautiful hymns which we will sing this Sunday at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown, at the 10am Eucharist. If you are not so musically-minded, we can cater for you at the contemplative 8am Eucharist.

No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! See what’s going on by clicking here which will transport you to our website.

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.