We have written a meaningful article on Worship and Music in the Bicentennial Issue of our Courier Magazine which was released last month. It can be read here. Worship and music involves all of us.
I believe that the Cathedral, whether in the Nave or New Sanctuary, should always be using and even developing some of the best music. Music connects us with God: and there is much that can be said about the theology of Worship and the Creative Arts. Music and Creative Arts will always have a voice and place in the world that God has created.
It is not just about the "sacred and secular”, as if God is only found in the Church and absent in the world. We approach creative arts with our worldview that our Creator God has created a creative world. Some evangelicals seem not to delve in the culture and art of music unless it has evangelistic purposes. But art needs to be appreciated and developed for its own sake and in so doing, its voice and beauty will turn hearts to our Creator.
Sometimes the faith is sung first before it is believed. Good music has that power to connect the world with the messenger (church) and ultimately to God, from Whom all blessings flow. Last month’s Bicentennial Christmas Carol Service is one good example of the wide reach of good Church music. This is true whether in traditional or contemporary services. The heavenly sounds of change ringing bells, beautiful harmony of voices, passionate prayerful pleas of a contemporary Christian song, to the booming bass of a timpani or electric bass guitar, all these are part of good music which helps us to worship or proclaim evangelistically the truth of God.
Each of us do have our favourite genre which appeals more to us and may find another standing in the way of worship. And here is why the Church uses a rich diversity as we seek to reach all and not just some.
As per the title of this message, it is about the Nave. Yes, the Nave is a natural sound chamber and we can understand why choirs and even orchestras would like to sing or play in her. However, as a Cathedral, what we do possess is a very rich heritage of Church music, from age-old Near-east and Middle East culture (including Jewish), from 5th century continental monastic Benedictine to 17th century Bach, from medieval Celtic to post-Reformation English music, it is an inexhaustible repository which we can use.
And when we couple it with the Scripture and the Church’s seasons, we can draw from a rich musical and theological heritage. Doubtless, any Church which is new or missional, such as ours will need time, maturity and training to tap skilfully on the Church heritage. My sensing is that our rather grown-up Cathedral is poised to grow and develop in these areas.
We currently have some of our musicians and singers in training in Theological or music colleges. On 15th February, we are also commemorating the evensong which was held here in the Cathedral on the same date in 1942, just after the British surrendered. This one hour service will be deeply meaningful for those who have loved ones who suffered or died during the war years. We are inviting the small Anglican Ensemble Choir (an inter-church choir) to facilitate this evensong. I am working with Chin Kai and his team on enriching the liturgy and music for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and where possible, draw from our Anglican heritage. We can expect some rich (even if sombre) use of liturgy and music, and our own choir, handbell choir and organists and other musicians will be serving. And we can expect a joyous ringing of bells on Easter Sunday.