A Sample Favorite (by Ben Bowman)

As a musician and a Worship Minister, one of the most common questions I get asked is “What’s your favorite kind of music/song?” For me, answering this question is always both complicated and very enjoyable.  I’ve been blessed to grow up being influenced by a very wide range of rich musical genres. From classical music, both sacred and secular, to jazz and most of its sub-genres, to blues and old school R&B, to classic rock and most of the “pop” variations thereof over the last 40 years, and of course parallel to secular music I’ve always had an even stronger dosage of classical hymnody and CCM (Christian Contemporary Music).  If you were to take a look at my music collection you’d literally find a fairly balanced collection of all of those genres, probably with a little heavier amount of classical sacred music than anything else.

I’m not just a person who enjoys listening to music. I’m a student of music – I always have been, which adds complexity to picking favorites. That doesn’t mean I can’t relax and just enjoy music that doesn’t qualify as a favorite for me. On the contrary, that’s one of my favorite things to do. It just means that I have relatively high musical standards and often my reasons for a certain piece of music to be a favorite are probably different than just a simple “I like it”.

In addition, as a Worship Minister, my Christian theology and spirituality is usually playing a role in my decision-making process about what music I choose as a favorite.

So, here’s my THREE PART answer to the question, “What is your favorite kind of music/song?”:

1) If you posed the question like this: “If you were stuck on an island with a sound system and you could only have one genre of music to listen to, which would you pick?”, and then you tied me down and forced me to answer the question by any means necessary – in that case I would probably say that I would pick my English Reformation Choral Music.

2) Having said that, my official position is that it is unfair to make my pick.

3) For those of you who read this and think, “Dude, relax – it’s just music…” What can I say… I’m a hopeless music nerd. It’s one of my life’s great passions.

I leave you with an example of one of my favorite pieces of music. This is an unforgettable, haunting setting of “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” that moves my soul every time I listen to it. It was written by Sir Edward Bairstow (1874-1946). Two of the many reasons I love this setting:

1) The text is different than the traditional hymn we sing on Sundays. Specifically, note that there is no equivocation about Jesus himself being the very food for the faithful. It is not just a nice idea, or a nice metaphor. It is the truth without which we are lost.

2) There is a reverent gravitas to this music with this particular text that whenever I listen to it, consistently reorders my understanding of God’s judgment and mercy. I feel the angels’ “Alleluia” at the end not only as a powerful praise, but as a word of warning to all who would hear that “this is God Almighty, Creator of the universe, and he’s not kidding around”. In short, it accomplishes the very purpose for which it was written: it causes me to be silent and stand in fear and trembling. And rightly so.

Here it is. May it bless you! (You may need to turn your speakers up quite a bit to hear the softest parts. Either that or wear your headphones):

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And stand with fear and trembling,
And lift itself above all earthly thought.
For the King of kings and Lord of lords, Christ our God,
Cometh forth to be our oblation,
And to be given for food to the faithful.
Before him come the choirs of angels,
With every principality and power.
The cherubim with many eyes,
And winged seraphim who veil their faces
As they shout exultingly the hymn:
“Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And stand with fear and trembling.

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Filed under Art, Bible, Church History, Discipleship, Prayer, The Holy Spirit, Worship

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