Conversation and information about music and liturgy from a confessional Lutheran perspective.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The "Three-Year Worship Plan" (or "Our Quest for Authenticity in a Lutheran Parish") continues with a flash-forward: a link to a worship service held last night at Bethany. This is offered as a sample of what we do. I'm fond of quoting the great jazz pianist Thelonius Monk's observation that "talking about music is like dancing about architecture," and so offer this so that you can get a glimpse of where Bethany headed musically. I offer this because music is such an intrinsic part of the liturgical experience, and hope the sounds will inform your understanding of these ongoing conversation. The link also gives a few photos, so you can see not only our sanctuary, but other things that will be talked about this series of articles.

The service was Vespers last night at the Brothers of John the Steadfast convention being held here in Naperville. The congregation was only about 80 folks, but yet gave a sound that reflects what we do on Sunday services with fuller attendance. This is instructive because the members of the assembly were mostly visitors to our parish. And so it shows that true authenticity is not parochial, but catholic. Neither parochial extreme is in evidence here (congregationalism or denominational ism). Though a local setting was used, it was not a service that enabled only the 'regulars' to participate. Though the denominational hymnbook was used, the robust singing was not simply because the vernacular service held most in common by members of the denomination was used. (i.e. it wasn't DS III for LCMS Lutherans or the Haugen Mass for American Roman Catholics, etc.) The two hymns were not brand-new, but one was not in TLH and one was neither in TLH or LW - so certainly there was new music for much of the congregation to sing.

So scroll down the link, give the Vespers a click and fast-forward as your time demands. You'll hear how the church's liturgy and hymnody serve the church so well when the local musicians invest in it, the local pastors are devoted to it, and when those who assemble cherish it for the good gifts it brings: the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

And, many thanks go to the musicians who served last night: the men of Proclaim (Bethany's choir), Chris Johnson on guitar, and Trevor Magness (my son) on the synthesizer. Tomorrow about half of Proclaim will sing, and we'll be joined by Erich Keller on trumpet and Linda Komes on French horn. Hopefully I'll get that link up also. (I think the readers have surmised by the pace of posts that I'm either very lazy or very busy. Trust me: it's the latter!)


Unknown said...

Is there a reason the service is referred to as "Vespers" even though it was the "Evening Prayer" Service from LSB?

Phillip Magness said...

Hi Christina,

Yes, we used the Order of Evening Prayer from LSB. But in a larger sense, EP is just a variant of Vespers. Much like how DS I, II vs. III are all forms of the "Lutheran Mass".

We decided to have Vespers before the particular setting was selected.

Glad you gave it a listen. Did you notice how we used guitar & synth on the psalm w/o compromising the churchly character of the liturgy?

One side note, offered with a constructive spirit: you'll notice Pastor Erhard kept flatting on the Litany. He did not do so when I practiced this with him. What changed? A. MICROPHONE.

He was withholding his breath because of the mic. Had he kept it off (which Pastor Rossow does because the room is sufficiently live), he could have put proper air support behind his voice and, being the musical singer he is, would have stayed in tune.

SO, a reminder for all Cantors: if you use a mic - practice with a mic.

Unknown said...

I think you are right about some of the 'variants' in LSB being essentially the same thing. I would certainly say that is true for Matins and Morning Prayer, but it seems that Vespers and Evening Prayer have slightly different structures and different historical beginnings. I was just curious.

I did enjoy listening to the differences that can exist within the same liturgy as it varies and yet stays the same from one place to another. Certainly, here on the other side of the lake we have a different sense of 'churchly' sound, what with our closeness to Canada and such - haha! Seriously, though, I think using synth and guitar in a location where those are already the accepted sounds is a good way to move a congregation toward more reverent music and more faithful and liturgical texts. And in this way you can move them from the music of their secular and even 'pop-Christian' culture into what is belongs to the church historic. I love what you said in response to Pr. Weedon's post about cultivating our musical heritage and it got the Nebraska Farm Girl in me thinking. What does a cultivator do, and why? Cultivating turns over the old, rich soil in order to kill off the weeds that threaten the Seed. I think it's a gorgeous reminder of our responsibilities as c/kantors :-)