Ok, I admit it, I prefer the traditional when it comes to music and liturgy in the context of a church service: time-tested tones and minimalist ornamentation. I am most comfortable with historically-rooted and word-laden worship. I also enjoy music…quite a lot. However, in a church setting, I am skeptical about the use of music to manipulate or distract. With that said, I resonate with Jaroslav Pelikan’s statement that, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” Yes, there is a fine line. Thankfully living tradition is often revived. In fact, you can count on it.
There is a lively revival happening among the traditionalism of various streams within the Reformed tradition. Churches everywhere are returning to the idea of music and liturgy as the “work of the people.” This has resulted in a wide range of exciting music projects stemming from local church contexts. The de-centralization of artistic power, brought about by advancing technology, is being embraced in the world of Reformed worship. Here are a few examples for your listening pleasure. They are rooted in the words and charisma of Reformed and Evangelical traditions, while breathing life into musical forms stemming from early “of the people” traditions (such as early American Folk and English Hymnody). These examples are filling up tradition and breathing life into healthy impulses. For more on this movement, be sure to visit Bruce Benedict’s Cardiphonia blog. His is a fine example of how this movement is collecting and spreading. Many samples, and even lead-sheets, on the Cardiphonia blog.
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Karl Digerness is the Music Minister at CityChurch in San Francisco, CA. This is a recently released collection of tunes written and used at CityChurch over the last few years. Minna Choi helped with arrangements and strings. She directs the Magik*Magik Orchestra, and is composer-in-residence at Tiny Telephone Studios. Of note: Minna is responsible for some of the strings on the new Death Cab for Cutie Album “Codes and Keys.” Stream and buy “Fragments of Grace” here.
Faith Redeemer Church of Knoxville, TN put out this collection during the season of Lent. I love this one. They tapped the talent of many local congregants and artists. Stream and buy the album here.
CityLife Church in Boston is on the cutting edge when it comes to the marriage of hymn texts to “indie” and “americana” vibes. Very creative arrangements that push the envelope. Stream or buy their latest album here.
And finally, Sarah and I have enjoyed the music of Sojourn Church over the last few years. Their latest project “The Water and the Blood” reinterprets the hymns of Isaac Watts. Stream or buy the album here.