This past Sunday we sang "Seek Ye First" as an Offertory. At one of the services, our Schola Cantorum (3rd-6th grade parish choir) was the choir for the liturgy, and so in addition to the other things they sang I had them add the traditional descant to "Seek Ye First" on the last stanza of the hymn.
After the service, a father of one of the choristers came up to me and excitedly told me how much he loved that descant. Turned out he had sung it himself as a boy. Even though this hymn was written in the 1960's, there is now a tradition behind it that connects the generations.
There are other times in our parish life where kids sing something the parents have sung. Every three years on Christmas Eve we do the Quempas Carol with the children, for example. Some of this music is newer, like the famous Willcox descant for "O Come, All Ye Faithful"; other pieces are centuries old, like Bach's "Zion Hears the Watchmen Singing". Our life together in Christ is manifested and celebrated as adults enjoy hearing the next generation sing favorites from their youth.
How much of this do we miss out on when we pick new music? Do we stop and ask ourselves what would we sing if we weren't doing this new piece? Is the new piece really better from the hearer's standpoint? Or is it just something fresh for the director? What is really best for the singers and the hearers? I think we should ask these questions.
And churches that don't share the living tradition of the church's song with their children have some more critical questions to ask themselves. What are their kids missing out on? And what are the adults missing as well? And are any of the new things they are doing something that the next generation will want to sing or hear?