A class of churches I’ll call Impossible to Sing. Which I’ve delved quite deeply into now. So deeply it’s a bit depressing. Like visiting a city destroyed by flood. Destroyed by floodwaters from the local river that have risen. Oh. Let’s say into the first and second floors of all the houses and businesses.
And now you’re driving through the city on a Sunday morning. The flood waters having receded. And there are no people to speak of. Nobody around. Just the professionals and the evacuated buildings. The empty evacuated buildings resonating to the sound of a drill or a nail gun or a saw. Their contents removed. Trucked off to some dump somewhere. Empty. A silence punctuated by the sounds of power tools. A silent hollowness presiding.
This class of churches. The music intricate. Difficult. Subtle. The hymns rather dirge-like from time to time. A dirge type of tone to them moving in and out.
And the music, a flood-like discipline. The music flooding into the silent buildings and out. The people silent and gone. Lost. Their city lost in the floodwaters. In the passing of the floodwaters. The people sorrowful that they can no longer sing because this is too difficult. Too sorrowful. Too subtle and intricate. Too arcane. People who have not been trained in counterpoint. In minor keys. In half-notes.
People who are after all quite simple. Who only want to praise and glorify. Who want for a little while to stop thinking so much and sing with their whole voices. Their whole bodies and souls. To God. Who would like to expel themselves in notes that they hold whole and long. Who would like to shout to God. And not feel like a bunch of simpletons.
But in this class of churches, this is not possible. It is nuance and complexity that the music wants. The music here seeks the professional. Draws the professionals into the empty structures of an almost mathematical or economical play. And they are the singers. And we are the audience to their complex worship.
And so we go away as from a performance. A performance provided by others. In which ours is an incidental and inessential part.