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ll never thought that the previous article, “Ka Gemma and the INC Hymns” would create such an enthusiastic response among the brethren. Surprisingly, not even a single reader downgraded Ka Gemma with respect to her position as Overall Choir Coordinator. All of the comments were basically constructive criticism, i.e. the choice of words, arrangements, translations to other languages, and so forth. The brethren were not too concerned with the person heading the choir sector but definitely they were concerned with how the sacred hymns should sound in relation to worshiping God. And vocal did they really get. This subject alone in just two days carried and hit the site’s 2 million mark.

In a sense, it reflects Ka Erdy’s previous comment to a District Minister’s appeal for forgiveness when a ministerial student during worship service unintentionally advised the  brethren to stand up for the opening prayer when he should have actually just stated that  the worship service would start with the singing of hymns to be lead by the choir.  This happened at the templo and Ka Erdy with family were attending service that time. It just so happened that none of the brethren stood when the student advised them to stand. Well, Ka Erdy smilingly just told the District minister that all was well, “Hindi matatalikod ang iglesia [The church would not be overturned].”  

Here’s one comment from 10-minute email –

“Dear friends,

It’s been a while since I last commented here, but I’m always checking updates and reading comments even when I don’t make any comments myself. Last year, I recall making some comments about changes in our hymns and lyrical translations. And since this post is also about the choir, I cannot resist responding because this office is so near and dear to my heart even though I’m no longer performing it.

15668293248_16c7d7d5d2_cWhen it comes to the choir, I never really care or think about one’s musical background. My belief is that if God truly calls you into a duty, He also gives you the means to fulfill it. Our Almighty God doesn’t call choir members based on their musical background, He doesn’t appoint them based on completion of university and graduate studies. And there are many people who are capable of singing and/or playing musical instruments, understanding music theory, arranging/composing songs (or hymns), and directing and conducting music and choral groups and choirs during practice as well as performance… people who don’t necessarily have pieces of paper certifying their musical qualifications based on the standards of man.

With that in mind, I’m honestly not arguing for or against Sister Gemma’s ability to perform the aforementioned music skills, nor do I care to engage that topic. More than that, I personally question her lyrical composition… because it consists not only of music skills and know-how but also strong language capabilities. Here is where I find our hymns fall short, often because of poor word choices and poor grammar that affect a hymn’s message and delivery.

My questions include:
– Who composes the hymns? Who writes the lyrics?
(Note: Composer and lyricist initials used to be on every hymn until one day when we were told these weren’t important because they were all ‘for God’. As a result, we were told to blot out all the initials on every hymn, and these haven’t been printed on any new/revised hymns for some time.)
– Who gets the final say in what lyrics are used in our worship services?
– Who gets the final say when lyrics are translated into different languages?
– Why are there so many poor word choices and grammatical and sometimes syntactical errors in our more recent hymns?
(Note: Poor word choices sometimes means using larger words and vocabulary that are too complicated or don’t work well with a hymn’s melody.)
– Why doesn’t the central office in charge of our choir accept corrections?

As Mag the Mighty has mentioned above, there are undoubtedly a number of recent songs that may indeed sound glorious provided that a locale or group worship service has the resources to perform it. Many of the recent hymns are complex and require a four-voice choir at the very least, while there are other hymns that require even more (SSSAATTBB, for example, with high descant soprano voices). As I mentioned earlier, God doesn’t call choir members based on musical background, which means there are choir members who aren’t quite up to snuff. Not for a lack of trying or for a lack of heart, but simply because it’s out of their natural capabilities. However, a choir without numbers only hurts its performance.

Before, hymns were simple enough for choir members to sing and for the congregation to join in. But now, hymns are so complicated and discouraging for the congregation to sing, and are even quite difficult for choir members themselves to perform. That said, I can’t help positing another question: is God pleased by these complicated hymns riddled with bad lyrics that neither the congregation nor the choir leading them can sing?

  • 10-minute email”

We’ve been discussing Hymns so far. But how is Hymn defined in relation to a worship service. Wikipedia says –

“A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification. The word hymn derives from Greek ὕμνος (hymnos), which means “a song of praise”. A writer of hymns is known as a hymnodist. The singing of hymns is called hymnody. Collections of hymns are known as hymnals or hymn books. Hymns may or may not include instrumental accompaniment.”

In short it is a form of “prayer to God”, thus everything related to a prayer should accompany a hymn. Solemnity, propriety, acceptance, humility, etc. I read somewhere during the start of the computer craze in the late 90s when almost everyone were downloading Registry Fixers and Memory Boosters on their PCs to make it run faster. The problem was it only made things worse. So someone made a brilliant advice, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” I guess the same goes true with our hymns. Why try to fix it, when it’s good as it is.

As a side thought are you aware that there are famous musicians who never read a single note?  Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, just to mention a few. How about the Classics? Who hasn’t heard of Ludwig  van Beethoven. Though he could read music, he was already deaf when he composed his greatest pieces by heart.

Beethoven“Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of the Holy Roman Empire, Beethoven displayed his musical talents at an early age and was taught by his father Johann van Beethoven and by composer and conductor Christian Gottlob Neefe. At the age of 21 he moved to Vienna, where he began studying composition with Joseph Haydn and gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist. He lived in Vienna until his death. By his late 20s his hearing began to deteriorate, and by the last decade of his life he was almost completely deaf. In 1811 he gave up conducting and performing in public but continued to compose; many of his most admired works come from these last 15 years of his life.”

There are also others not known as musicians but respected in their own field of expertise who did very well in creating brilliant musical compositions like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Clint Eastwood, Charles Chaplin, Leo Tolstoy, and many more.

But like in all great compositions, to give it justice, we need expert arrangers, and extra-ordinary interpreters. It is a group effort to bring out the best in a musical score.  That is why in the local scene we have the likes of Louie Ocampo, Ryan Cayabyab, the late George Canseco, Basil Valdez, Lea Salonga, Jose Mari Chan, the list goes on and on. And what is the common denominator among all these greats?

Heart my friend, Heart.  Without it you’d just be a void, an empty space, deprived of anything beautiful, sacred, and holy. And what does Heart represent? The answer is quite simple – Love. We all know what that means.

Rephrasing, the Holy Scriptures put it very clearly –

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and exult in the surrender of my body, but have not love, I gain nothing.… [1 Corinthians 13:1-3]

Here’s a rendition by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman of “Time to say Goodbye”, a very beautiful song –