Sing!

I have been thinking about Singing!

This line of thought was prompted especially by the service for Queen Elizabeth held in St James’s Church on the eve of her funeral.

The church was crowded that night, with people who routinely worship at St James’s, at Riding Mill Methodist church and Ministeracres but also by many others who wanted to acknowledge the death of our dear Queen and show due respect for her life of service.

One of the beautiful things about the service was the singing – the power of the many voices singing together the carefully chosen hymns was extremely moving. The words and music were familiar and brought us together to be comforted and to celebrate the life of our late Queen.

Singing together, is a powerful medium.

Think of football matches – the singing unites the supporters of each team and songs often being associated with particular teams, for example Liverpool Football Club and You’ll Never Walk Alone. This “anthem” has been associated with the club since 1963 – it became a message of hope, not only for the outcome of games, but of great significance following the death of many fans in the Hillsborough disaster.

The Women’s Institute, at their meetings, sing strongly together the hymn Jerusalem. This hymn was composed by Hubert Parry, ‘to brace the spirit of the nation’ during the First World War. The hymn was initially associated with the Suffrage movement, first sung by a massed group of women at a rally held in the Royal Albert Hall in 1918 and then in 1924 it was adopted by, and inextricably linked to, that other great women’s movement, the Women’s Institute.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, when we could not hold services in church and then, when we returned to church but did not sing together, so many people told me that singing together was one of the things they missed most about the amended worship.

Being able to sing with others the familiar words to well-known hymns which speak of our needs, offer praise and our hope to God, was something we lost (temporarily) from our communities.

The calm that singing brings is well known in the settling of children to sleep. We have always sung softly to our children and grandchildren at bedtime. Usually it is the same song, often repeated a few times as sleep gently closes the eyes of the little one.

My youngest grandson cuddles down to Golden Slumbers and recently as I had to pause in singing, to clear my throat, a little voice said “Ga, kiss your eyes…” he was carefully following the lullaby and knew where we were in the song and was directing me back to the phrase where I had had to stop!

So it is with us as adults – we can gently sing the familiar and know where we are, the familiar is calming and can be meditative.

Classical music has many rousing choruses in its repertoire – The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s opera Aida and The Prisoners’ Chorus from Beethoven’s Fidelio – which give us strong tunes with inspiring words with which one may join enthusiastically!

Prisoners’ Chorus

Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
The dungeon is a grave.
We shall with all our faith
Trust in the help of God!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.

So, we sing to enjoy, praise, offer thanks and celebrate.
We sing to ask for our needs and acknowledge our pain.
We sing to bring hope into our individual and collective world.

Singing out loud is great with other people, affirming our sense of belonging and community but we can find ourselves joining in with recorded music when alone or spontaneously raising our voice to God in need or in joy, using familiar words and tunes, externalising through song what we are carrying within.

Perhaps we can raise our voices individually, joining in with a performance of Handel’s Messiah, the Hallelujah Chorus or the aria, I know that my Redeemer Liveth.

We can affirm our faith by singing, with a recording of the Credo in Unum Deum, from Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass. In meditation, to calm ourselves, we can sing a Taizé chant…

Ubi Caritas et Amor
Where there is charity and love, God is there.

Or…

O Lord Hear my Prayer.
Oh, Lord hear my prayer.
Oh, Lord hear my prayer.
When I call answer me.
Oh, Lord hear my prayer.

And in joy, we can sing…

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Baptistery Window at Coventry Cathedral. Photo by Lauren Kennedy.

Baptistery Window – Coventry Cathedral. Photo by Lauren Kennedy.

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