Musical Ratatouille

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“…Sometimes it can just be ratatouille”

I made that comment at the end of a recent conversation and realized I had a great headline/subject for a blog post.

The topic was church music, in particular, special music and worship music for services.

We are a performance culture. Everyone wants to do something bigger, greater, different, to stand out more. But that isn’t the way to provide good worship music.  As was commented in this blog about the difference between congregational worship and a concert:

In other forms of musical performance, musicians and bands will want to improvise and “be creative,” offering new renditions and exhibiting their virtuosity with all sorts of different trills and pauses and improvisations on the received tune. Again, that can be a delightful aspect of a concert, but in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.

This reminded me of a recent “special” I did in church. It wasn’t anything big, it wasn’t anything flamboyant. It was just a medley of three hymns, with transitions written between them. Apart from a short “choral” ending at the end, there were no flourishes. I hadn’t read this blog at that time, but my musical style was the same as that described below:

Alice Parker, composer, arranger, conductor, and enduring champion of good congregational singing, notes that congregations sing best when led by a vocalist who is not about putting their own personal spin on the performance, but who can sing clearly in tune, with good vowels and a pure inflection.

My only “affectation” was to be very deliberate in singing the meaning of the words — care in enunciation and lyrical phrasing. That phrasing and the singable familiarity is why I could see faces smiling and lips moving among the congregation as I sang — singing along with me, not just in lip but in heart and mind.

Which leads back to the conversation I was having. People think with a special they need to do something different, something bigger, something better, I said, “when sometimes it can just be ratatouille.”

And if you don’t understand that cinematic reference, my allusion, my metaphor, you need to go watch the movie:

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