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I enthusiastically sing the Psalms, both in private and public worship. Therefore, I am grateful to live in a time when new resources encouraging their use appear regularly.
My friend John brought to my attention the iPhone/iPad app for the RPCNA’s The Book of Psalms for Worship. If you are unfamiliar with tunes in the Psalter, the app enables you to view printed metrical psalms while singing along to suitable tunes. The obstacle of not knowing the tune is overcome.
Many books and articles extol the benefits of Psalm singing. Dr. Terry Johnson makes the case with clarity and brevity.
Let me add another benefit of singing the Psalms: it promotes a pace of reading the text suitable for understanding, reflection, and prayer.
During my four years at Sewanee, Mr. Theron Myers taught the Sunday School I attended at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. At the time he was in his mid to late 80s. Each class was a feast from God’s word. His learning was considerable and his life applications always timely. Mr. Myers recommended readers use the King James Bible because its Elizabethan language does not lend itself to skimming, and slows down the pace at which modern American Christians read the text.
The singing of Psalms does the same. In addition to its other many other benefits, Psalm singing forces worshippers to take a step back from the frantic pace of modern life as they come before God with the songs of prayer he has graciously provided in his infallible word.
If you need assistance in learning to sing the psalms, this app will prove a valuable resource.
In Singing and Making Music by Paul Jones, organist and music Director of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, describes the church’s music program for children, The Tenth Schola Cantorum:
From the Middle Ages the Church was the center of musical, religious and even general education. Churches had schools of singing called schola cantorum in which the music of the church was learned by young choirboys and men. In the twentieth century the Church’s role in the education of children was greatly reduced, and the public or private school today that provides meaningful musical education for children is a rarity.
Singing is one of the few known eternal activities (Isa. 6; Rev. 4-5). We must reclaim the right and responsibility to teach young Christians ‘to sing and to make music for the Lord.’ Parents, it is incumbent upon you to help us in this regard. A child’s musical aptitude is formed fully by the age of nine years, so it is important to reach children early in life. The benefits of music in learning development, memory, abstract thought, math and so forth are well documented, but aside from such benefits, the primary advantage is musical literacy. Yet the Church in recent decades largely has ignored this important opportunity to train children.
Therefore we have decided to introduce a comprehensive church music education program for the purpose of developing musical literacy in children ages 3-12, focusing on the ability to sing. Inherent in such a program will be a biblical view of music in worship, an historical perspective as it relates to church music, and a dynamic application of musical skills through choral ensembles. Learning nine hymns annually (one each month of the school year, September-May) will be a fantastic complement to the Scripture memory program in place in the Bible School.
The objectives of the Tenth Schola Cantorum are:
~ To develop the children’s musical literacy (defined at the highest level as the ability to vocally perform unfamiliar music from notation with tonal and rhythmic accuracy combined with appropriate musical expression) for the purpose of participating in individual and corporate worship through music.
~ To develop the children’s singing voices through training in correct vocal production and to increase their enjoyment of music through all aspects of the program.
~ To develop the children’s understanding of and appreciation for the roles of music in worship and worship itself as taught in Scripture. ~ To deepen the children’s comprehension and love of hymnody.
~ To deepen the children’s knowledge of Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ through the texts of the songs that constitute the program curriculum.
Children will be involved in tonal and rhythm classes (with many activities) and in choir, with a snack break involved. There is no fee to any child or family. Parents will complete a registration form for each child, and the child’s regular attendance is necessary. The staff will be comprised of professional music educators who are members of the church, assisted by others, under the authority of the Music Director and the Family Life Commission.
This may mean a change of current Sunday schedules and considerable effort for many parents, but we sincerely hope that such an important opportunity for your children will be viewed favorably. It will take commitment, but the rewards (spiritual, musical, social and intellectual) will be great. s.D.g.”
– Paul S. Jones, Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today (Phillipsburg, NJ: P &R Publishing, 2006), 151-152.
“The church actually used to be the center of musical education, but this responsibility was handed over to the state decades ago. Sadly, more and more we are witnessing the removal of music from the core of American education. Where does this leave the church now that most public education has made music an extracurricular subject? If the church does not teach the children of God to sing, who will? If the children of God do not have something to sing about, then one might well ask, ‘Who does?’ When we abdicate this responsibility, we forfeit our right and duty to teach to covenant children the songs of the people of God. What songs will be learned instead?
“Research tells us that a child’s musical aptitude (or potential for making music) is in flux until he or she is approximately nine years of age. Before that, a child’s musical environment has a significant effect on this aptitude. This means that children’s music-making potential can either be increased by solid music teaching and environment or be lowered by an instructional or environmental deficiency. Another crucial revelation of current research is that early instruction has a measurable result on a child’s aptitude. In other words, we need to reach children early in life in order to effectively increase their musical potential. One reason for the music crisis in American worship is that neither our church-music heritage nor music itself has been properly learned or valued from childhood. Most of our parents could not teach us because they did not learn it either. If we are to encourage a modern reformation in worship and Christian living, we must begin by reaching and teaching the next generation of church leaders – the children.”
– Paul S. Jones, Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today (P&R: 2006), 149