Forgive me for that there, Lord, and be with the Pygmies

And forgive me, Grandma. I know how you feel about the Gaithers. If you're reading this, you should probably just stop right now.

My choir's doing some selections from a musical-type-thingy for Christmas this year. This isn't unusual, but we've never done this one before. And I'm so sad. The Christmas Eve service is my favorite one of the year, and I'm the kind of person who likes things pretty solemn and reverent and beautiful and dignified. This year's musical-thingy features the music of Michael W. Smith. I almost cried just seeing that on the cover, because I knew what was coming. And I wasn't too far off in my predictions. Here's a sample for you: one piece consists solely of these lyrics: "Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty reigns. Worthy is the Lamb, You are worthy, are you Lord God Almighty." All well and good, but these are (I kid you not) the ONLY words in the whole song. And the song is TWELVE PAGES LONG! With many, MANY repeats. Basically, it's musical hypnosis. Oh, and we sing that song a couple times. Michael W. Smith gets paid for this stuff? Please. I'm in the wrong business.

And then there's this piece. With words and music by MWS and Gloria Gaither. Here are the beginning stanzas:

In the space of the beginning
was the living Word of light,
When this word was clearly spoken,
all that came to be was right.

All creation had a language,
words to say what must be said.
All day long the heavens whispered,
signing words in scarlet red.

Still some failed to understand it,
So God spoke his final Word
On a silent night in Judah's hills,
a Baby's cry was heard.

Why does this irritate me so much? First of all, there are so many assumptions in those lyrics that it's not even funny. Secondly, God's "final word?" I guess He's not speaking anymore, huh? That was it? And then there's the feeble attempt at being poetic and artsy, with the "signing words in scarlet red" line. That doesn't even make sense. And how stupid do I feel singing that? This is the kind of poetry I was writing in sixth grade, where I was making up stupid phrases just to fit the rhythm and take up space. They're empty words. They don't really say anything. Filler. Mileage, as my freshman year english teacher would say.

And why is it that the words above make me want to scratch my eyeballs out, while this verse gives me chills and makes me wish I had the kind of talent the composer had:

Crown Him the Lord of years, the Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres, ineffably sublime.
All hail, Redeemer, hail! For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail throughout eternity.

God save us from contemporary composers. It seems like the last twenty or thirty years are just a wasteland of cheesy praise songs and poorly written anthems. Bryan Jeffrey Leech is the worst offender. The only two exceptions I can think of at the moment are John Rutter and Ed Childs.

And then, just to rub it in, at choir tonight we went straight from the MWS train wreck to rehearsing The Messiah. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

I'm going straight to hell for this post. I know it.


Barbara said...

No more than I'm going to hell for this post about one of the MWS songs you mentioned. Or this post, for that matter.

Shoot me, but I actually like some of the MWS Christmas stuff. Just don't get me started on that "Above All" song that he sings: "Like a rose trampled on the ground, you took the fall and thought of me above all." What kind of simile is that?!? It makes no sense!!

Clint said...

Quit being an old person and embrace contemporary music!

Graf Spee said...

Nah, you aren't going to hell. Or I am as well, since I actually agree with you. This is a long topic, and one I don't have time to discuss in this post. Come to think of it, I should probably put my own thoughts on it on my blog.


P.S. Do I get in trouble for pointing out that the Messiah has really repetative lyrics also?

Kristy said...

You're SO in trouble for that. Especially since I knew I was setting myself up, and that someone would point out that exact thing. But there's a difference: the Messiah is art, and contemporary choruses are mass hysteria.

Oh, and Clint: it's not that I'm an old person, it's that I'm a smart person. :)