By Dr. Charlotte Kroeker
- Universality. Good music speaks across locations and cultures. Chinese folk melodies, tribal Kenyan dances, Mozart in Tokyo, spirituals, are examples of music that crosses boundaries. A plastic spoon will break in all but soft foods; sterling will not.
- Timelessness. The same characteristics in chant from medieval times are present in Bach, Duke Ellington, shape-note melodies, and American folk tunes. A sterling spoon will function across generations.
- Involvement of the whole person. Good music will appeal to body, mind and spirit — not only one of those elements. If it is only intellectual, it is hard to become a good friend. If it is only emotional, it will not last. A sterling spoon not only satisfies a practical purpose but it has lasting aesthetic qualities.
- ·Ability to speak uniquely. Good music functions in an almost undefined way that cannot be duplicated. Sometimes we call this inspiration or genius. It is what we aspire to in planning for worship: transcendence.
Jane Marshall goes on to say that it takes time to learn what is the finest of music. Only prolonged exposure can hone the skills required to identify universality, timelessness, ability to capture a total human response, and the uniqueness of any piece of music. People with these skills are who CMI gathers repeatedly, to reach for the “best.”
One more important aspect of church music, and one that is vitally important to how Church Music Institute functions, is accessibility. Accessible music and good music are compatible criteria. Good music can be accessible to everyone.
In order for church music to work in any one time or place and for any gathered group of people, it has to be accessible as a vehicle for worship. How is that determined? By the good judgment and knowledge of the clergy and musicians in that congregation who understand what will be possible for the congregation. They will know what music is immediately accessible, and how to prepare for any other music.
What does this mean for the Church Music Institute? It means all of our music must be categorized so worship planners can find music for their particular congregation. That is how our libraries are built! With many search criteria, a congregation of any size and resources can be served with the “best” music to worship God for their time and place.
* Jane Marshall, Grace Noted. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing. 1992.