From eucharistic hymn to Christmas carol

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence” is a hymn about Holy Communion.  But now it keeps showing up as a Christmas carol!  That’s how it’s presented in Christmas concerts, holiday recordings, and on many of the renditions on Youtube.  But it is “an ancient chant of Eucharistic devotion.”

I can see how it would shift over to the Christmas canon.  It has a beautiful, otherworldly melody of the same sort associated with Christmas music.  It talks about how “Christ our God to earth descendeth” and that He was “born of Mary.”  But the point is that “He will give to all the faithful/His own self for heavenly food,” “in the body and the blood.”

But this is quite fitting to associate Holy Communion with Christmas and vice versa.  What other Communion hymns could work as Christmas hymns?  What other Christmas songs could work as Communion songs?

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Government crack down on music teachers

The Federal Trade Commission is bringing to bear its anti-trust, anti-price-fixing powers against the Robber Barons who give little kids piano lessons. [Read more...]

And now, the worship DJ

Trying to be “contemporary,” as in contemporary worship, requires hitting a moving target, since, by definition, what is up to the minute changes every minute.  This is especially true when it comes to pop culture, which depends for its commercial success on spinning out fashions that rapidly go in and out of style.  And what is “out” becomes looked down upon even more than it was considered cool a few months ago.  (In contrast, what is “classic” never goes out of style.)

So what are churches that want to feature contemporary music supposed to do? Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post writes about a congregation that has gotten rid of its praise band and brought in a DJ.  Read about it after the jump, but here is the killer quote:

And to people younger than 30, the drums and electric guitars of the contemporary rock that dominates much of American Christianity are not only not edgy, “but for them, it’s like singing hymns,” [DJ Hans] Daniels said. “Why does the music you worship to and jam out to have to be completely separate?”

How would you answer that question?

And let’s test the premise:  Those of you who go to dance clubs, do you really want that same kind of music in church?  Wouldn’t you find that embarrassing? [Read more...]

Christianity without the Atonement

The committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has thrown out a popular praise song, “In Christ Alone,” not just because it refers to the “wrath” of God, as originally reported, but because of the word “satisfied.”  That is, because it says the wrath of God was satisfied in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  What was objectionable is the doctrine of the atonement.  (See Abby Stocker, writing for Christianity Today, and follow her links, which show how this bedrock teaching of the Christian faith has become controversial lately, even among many ostensible “evangelicals.”)

What is the point of Christianity without the atonement?  It becomes turned into another religion.  I suppose the attraction is that it gives us another religion of law, which people somehow prefer to a religion that says they are sinners in need of forgiveness and, yes, atonement.  Jesus becomes the example we have to emulate, though surely those who are honest will have to admit that this is an even higher standard that they fail to live up to.

At any rate, after the jump I quote Timothy George on the controversy, who, though he focuses on “wrath” rather than “satisfaction,” makes some excellent points as he puts the controversy in the context of church history.  I also appreciate his account of how hymns have been tinkered with.  See, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle choir version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and what the Unitarians have done to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” [Read more...]

The Tulsa Sound

J. J. Cale died, the musician and songwriter responsible with Leon Russell for developing the so-called “Tulsa Sound.”  This was a bluesy, rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, often adorned with a honky tonk piano.  The most notable exemplar of the Tulsa sound was the non-Okie Eric Clapton, but it can also be found in the numerous collaborations of Leon Russell and in groups like the Tractors.

As someone who grew up near Tulsa and went to college in Oklahoma in the 1970s, I can say this is my kind of music.  (In addition to the music, the Tulsa scene at that time included late night TV with “Mazeppa Pompazoidi,” a.k.a. Gailard Sartain, a comic genius who would later go to Hollywood for Hee Haw and other mostly bit parts unworthy of him, with Gary Busey as Teddy Jack Eddy.  Busey also went to Hollywood and had a pretty good career.  Though known for some meltdowns, he became a convert to Christianity.  Did anyone else out there stay up late for the The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting?)

After the jump:  J. J. Cale playing his most famous song and a good survey of his life and music. [Read more...]

Bono talks about his faith

Bono, the lead singer for U2, did a radio interview with Jim Daly  of Focus on the Family.  He gets really explicit about his Christian faith.  Note especially what he says about Jesus. [Read more...]

Food as the new rock ‘n’ roll

Odd and questionable–but unintentionally amusing–cultural commentary from Chris Richards in the Washington Post:

Over the past decade, we’ve seen the rise of the foodie class and decline of the record industry. Are the two related? When did we start talking about new food trucks instead of new bands?. . . .

Today’s gastronomical adventures provide the thrills that rock-and-roll used to. New restaurants appeal to our sense of discovery. Our diets can reflect our identities, our politics. For fans of thrash metal and/or live octopus sashimi, food is a way to sate cravings for the maximal, visceral and extreme. [Read more...]

Van Halen and the brown M&M’s

Ezra Klein gives the rest of the story about that anecdote about rock stars’ wretched excess, in the process formulating what he calls the “Van Halen Principle”:

Right there on Page 40, in the “Munchies” section, nestled between “pretzels” and “twelve (12) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,” is a parenthetical alert so adamant you can’t miss it: “M&M’s,” the text reads, “(WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES).” [Read more...]

An opera about Katie Luther

Remember Lori Lewis, who used to be a frequent commenter on this blog?  She is a musician who used to be involved with the contemporary Christian music scene, discovered confessional Lutheranism, and became a critic of that genre.  Now she’s a professional opera singer (as well as the mind behind the online lifestyle and arts magazine Everyday Opera).  Her latest project:  an opera about Katharine von Bora, the fascinating wife of Martin Luther.

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Maria Tallchief

Maria Tallchief died. perhaps the best-known American dancer in the field of ballet.  I confess to not following that particular art-form, though I’ve seen a few ballets and was quite impressed with them.  I want to honor Maria Tallchief here because she was a fellow Northern Oklahoman, born in Fairfax in the Osage Nation.  I drive through the Osage countryside virtually every time I go back home, and in my opinion it’s among the most beautiful landscapes in Oklahoma.

The story of how a young girl from an Indian reservation in the 1930′s went from dancing at rodeos to the New York City Ballet is quite a tale. [Read more...]