Hymns and Choirs

I use choir music on a lot of my writing playlists, because the joining together of voices evokes so many things—emotion, and mystery among them. I love just about every type of choir. My most favorite is probably the very fancy choirs like King’s Choir at Windsor, followed very closely by the gospel choir. Even though they are very different vibes, both do something to my heart.

Sometimes as I am scrolling through and listening to choir music on Spotify, I think about congregational singing in the churches I have attended. I love that, too. I have attended low brow, high brow, and middle brow churches, churches with pianos, churches with pipe organs, churches without instruments, and churches with bands. All have something to offer.

I love the seriousness of the high brow church hymns. The holiness of sound in hymns like “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer” and “Lord Of All Hopefulness”—usually accompanied by a pipe organ. I love the way the togetherness becomes oneness and blocks out everything but communion with you and God. I love how the lyrics are simultaneously thought-provoking. I love that I have tears streaming down my eyes by the end because the loftiness of it always moves me.

I have been in churches where contemporary songs are sung with amazing bands and vocalists leading. I have seen the electrification of a crowd when lyrics strike a personal chord. Some of the most beautiful songs I have heard are a contemporary songs. 

I love the exultation in the hymns of African American churches. I love the special rawness of a cappella hymns. I love the timeless beauty of the oldest hymns. But most of all, I think I love the middle of the road, every day church hymns sung by every Christian congregation.

I love the way we settle into our patterns of the ones we know well. I love how we practice them by default and offer up a polished noise. I love how, when we sing “It Is Well With My Soul,” the women somehow know to sing the first line of the chorus, and the men somehow know to sing the second, and we keep alternating until we come together again for the triumphant final line. I love the way “Amazing Grace” is always the loudest. Everyone knows it. Almost as if it is stamped on our hearts. I love how it builds and builds as the verses are all sung, and I love the unbridled joy that accompanies the deafening final verse, building to the final line, “We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, than when we first begun!”