The Development of Church Musicby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Trace the developement of Christian music starting with the Gregorian Chants to Contemporary Rock.
Throughout the years, church music has changed immensely producing new forms of worship and various opinions on how one ought to worship God. Beginning in the Middle Ages and ending up in the 21st century, music has developed due to changing times and people groups.
European church music during the Middle Ages was sung in Latin and was comprised of the chanting of sacred texts. This style, known as plainsong, was monophonic meaning it contained one melody. There were several forms of Plainsong but the most popular was know as the Gregorian Chant. The Gregorian chant stayed in constant use during this era and paved the way for similar types of music.
As music progressed, polyphonic music became accepted into church services in the 16th century. Many melodies were now contained in one song but the lyrics stayed similar to that of the Gregorian Chants. Martin Luther hugely impacted the church and encouraged those with musical talent to use it for the glory of God. He wrote many hymns and rewrote former chants to better suit congregational singing. Many of Luther’s hymns are still being sung today such as “A mighty Fortress is our God” which was based on Psalm 46. His words were so rich and assuring that worship became more meaningful to the church.
Many critics have claimed that Luther wrote hymns patterned after bar songs sung in taverns, but this is a falsehood. Luther wrote many hymns in a medieval form called bar tune which was a pattern of stanzas for poetry writing; however, it has been thought of as literal drinking songs and that is not true. Though Luther did indeed use the method of bar tune or bar form, it cannot be believed and must not be misinterpreted that his hymns were inspired by corrupted bar songs.
Chorales and four-part singing were popularized in the 17th century but due to the Thirty Year’s War, church needs changed and people developed better personal worship. Though the choirs shrunk in numbers, members of the church still felt the need for individual devotional with God. Hymns with comforting lyrics and heaven bound themes were emphasized as the war took its toll on the church.
The next era burst forth with new composers and vibrant organists such as Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach’s motto in playing music was “To God alone be the Glory” and he became know as one of the main contributors to church music of his time. Cantatas, operas, sonatas and other forms of music grew during this age of musical excellence.
African slaves were being brought over to North America in the 18th century
and they influenced music with their captivating rhythms. With the arrival of
more slaves came new percussion instruments but mainly drums. They also brought
a style of singing known as call and response. This is where a leader sings
a phrase and the congregation repeats it and is used in modern day churches.
The new attraction to drums became disliked among many because they are not
mentioned in the Bible as an instrument of worship. Drums were thought of as
evil for several hundred years because of their association with pagan rituals
During the 1800’s, camp meeting and revivals spread across the the United States. From the meetings came folk hymns and spirituals. These tunes were known for their simplicity and repetitive nature; however, their impact was powerful, leading many to Christ. These folk songs were popularized in order to serve as outreach tools and were not intended to replace the hymns sung in church though many felt they dominated the services.
Contemporary Christian music and praise music grew rapidly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Many churches accepted guitars into their worship as well as drums and other percussion instruments. Church worship became more lively and contained new praise songs as hymns slowly dwindled away as compared to earlier years. Many churches retained traditions and kept the treasured hymns alive but most contemporary churches used fewer hymns and added variety to their services as the times changed.
Church music has played a vital role in the church for hundreds of years and is still continuing to thrive though there have been many drastic changes. As composers have developed new styles of music, the church has gradually welcomed many of them into its services and ministry. As Bach said, “To God alone be the glory.” No matter how we praise the Lord or sing unto Him, that motto ought to be our goal when worshipping God.
1. Which composer of the 16th century wrote the hymn “A might Fortress
is our God?”
A. Dwight L. Moody
C. Martin Luther
D. Jahann Sebastian Bach
E. Fanny Crosby
2. Which instrument was brought from Africa?
A. Mouth Harp
3. Why were drums considered evil in the 18th century?
A. They gave headaches
B. They were too expensive to make
C. They were used in pagan rituals
D. They were too loud
E. The beats lured mice into the church and they couldn’t afford mouse traps
4. Spirituals and Folk Songs were popularized in which era?
A. Middle Ages
About Plainsong and Gregorian Chant. 2003 DoveSong Foundation Inc. 18 Oct.
500 Years of Lutheran Music. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. 18 Oct. 2003
Kinard, Mike. A Retrospective of Drums in Worship: Then and Now. 18 Oct. 2003
McIntyre, Dean B. Worship. 17 April 2001. The United Methodist General Board
of Discipleship. 18 Oct. 2003 <http://www.gbod.org/worship/default _body .asp?act=reader&item_id=2639>.
Watkins, Terry. Drums and Christian Music. 18 Jan. 2001. Way of Life Literature.
18 Oct. 2003 <http://www.av1611.org/cqguide.html>.
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