Music in Lent?
It’s no secret that I’m no fan of Contemporary Worship, or CoWo. PowerPoint and prerecorded music are not appropriately dignified, nor respectful of the Divine Liturgy. I am however a lover of Christian music, good Christian music, especially hymns, and I’ve no problem with hymns being reinterpreted for entertainment, or listening outside of church. I love the banjo, and if the picture above is any indication Luther liked the lute. I’m not even against new arrangements of hymns in the Folk, Jazz, or any other idiom being used in Worship, so long as the focus is on God and not the singer. Music should be like that of Bach where he tried “to produce a well-sounding harmony to the glory of God and a permissible delight of the spirit.”
It seems that the Presbyterians produce the most interestingly arranged collections of traditional hymns: Bifrost Arts, The Welcome Wagon, Sufjan Stevens. I’m really nor sure of the denominational affiliation of Sufjan, but I think he’s some sort of Calvinist. There is, however a Lutheran group that is putting out some very good interpretations of traditional hymns in contemporary styles: Koiné.
I came across Koiné some years ago when looking to add some Advent songs to my music library. I was glad to find hymns like O Savior, Rend The Heavens Wide and Comfort, Comfort All My People in contemporary arrangements. I do have some criticisms of their music: It can be a bit too earnest, with an unfortunate Dave Matthews feel, but that is sometimes charming in a sweet Mid-Western kind of way. I’m also not a fan of the more politically correct translations or updating of hymns that Koiné sometimes uses. It was due to these lyrics that I thought that they came from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but I was wrong.
The members of Koiné are, for the most part, congregants at Saint Marcus Lutheran Church, and part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I discovered this while doing research for my post Church and Family a post about my familial connection to WELS and the churches of Saint Jacobi Lutheran Church, and Saint Marcus. The connection to a more conservative branch of the Lutheran family tree makes sense. The hymns they choose are mostly Lutheran, or can be found in the older Lutheran hymnals. The few original songs they sing hold true to Lutheran doctrine. It’s refreshing. They also have recordings that include music appropriate for almost every season in the liturgical calendar.
I’ve been listening to the Koiné versions of Jesus, Refuge of the Weary and Glory Be to Jesus as part of my Lent mix. they also have a version of All Glory, Laud, and Honor. I am specific enough to only listen to lenten music during lent, but I don’t separate out Palm Sunday or Holy Week. Koiné does have a DVD that may be used as a lenten devotion and they are doing a series of concerts of this devotion too. I would not consider these proper services, proper liturgies, but something more a kin to a Bach Cantata, or Oratory that may be a faithful expression but not worship.
I just wish someone would do an album of Easter hymns. There are plenty of albums claiming to be Easter albums that only contain one Easter song, and the rest of the album is Lenten.