Happiness is a wonderful gift among God’s saints. Within the church family, one of the greatest times to share that happiness is in congregational singing. The moment to spread your joy is during the singing that is such an integral part of the worship service. Together we sing songs of praise and thanksgiving to our God and Maker. The focus this month is on the fact that the body of Christ should understand singing this way: we sing with one another and to each other.
In the sanctuary, we sing with each other before God. The aim is the honor and glory of His most holy name. Also, we sing to each other. The goal is to have each other’s needs in mind, hoping to nurture fellow members in the care God has graciously provided.
Accomplishing this through singing is done with the Psalms. In singing these songs of Scripture, our faces should never appear careless and bored. Instead, our faces will shine with thoughtfulness and devotion, promoting brothers and sisters around us to do the same. If we understand what we sing and what we are so happy about, members around us will notice.
The thoughtfulness we need for this comes from knowledge of the Psalms—an understanding of the words we sing to music. When the meaning is taken to heart, the music from our lips must fit. Joyful words require a joyful tune. Solemn words require a solemn tune. Plaintive words require a plaintive tune. Often in music, an Italian phrase or expression is given to communicate the tempo or style necessary. In order for the music to be suitable for the Psalm, we need to be conscious of the tempo and style we are supposed to sing. Singing, congregational singing, is such a grand avenue for portraying Christian happiness- but only if we sing happily.
Therefore, we can take a closer look at some of the versifications we sing along with a description for each.
Affettuoso (with warmth):
“When in the night I meditate on mercies multiplied,
my grateful heart inspires my tongue to bless the Lord, my
Guide.” — Psalter #28
“The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.” — Psalter #53
“On the good and faithful God has set His love;
When they call He sends them blessings from above.”
“Rest in the Lord with quiet trust,
Wait patiently for Him;
Though wickedness triumphant seem,
Let not thy faith grow dim.”
— Psalter # 100
Largo molto (very slow and deliberate):
“While I kept guilty silence, my strength was spent with grief,
Thy hand was heavy on me, My soul found no relief;
But when I owned my trespass, my sin hid not from Thee,
When I confessed transgression, Then thou forgavest me.”
Largo molto e legato (slow, deliberate, and smooth):
“Thy lovingkindness, Lord, is good and free,
In tender mercy, turn Thou unto me;
Hide not Thy face from me in my distress,
In mercy hear my prayer, Thy servant bless.”
Piangendo e piano (plaintively and softly):
“To Thee I lift my soul,
In Thee my trust repose;
My God, O put me not to shame
Before triumphant foes.”
— Psalter #60
“Amid the thronging worshippers, Jehovah will I bless;
Before my brethren, gathered there, His Name will I confess.
Come, praise Him, ye that fear the Lord, ye children of His grace;
With reverence sound His glories forth and bow before His face.”
— Psalter #51
“Because He is righteous, His praise I will sing,
Thanksgiving and honor to Him I will bring,
Will sing to the Lord on whose grace I rely,
Extolling the Name of Jehovah Most High.”
— Psalter # 13
“Uplifted on a rock
Above my foes around,
Amid the battle shock
My song shall still resound;
Then joyful offerings I will bring,
Jehovah’s praise my heart shall sing.”
— Psalter #71
Allegro con brio (lively, with vigor):
“The voice of Jehovah, the God of all glory,
rolls over the waters the thunders awake…
His voice makes the mountains and deserts to tremble…”
“Thy power has set the mountains firm,
O God Almighty, girt with strength;
At Thy command the waves are still,
The nations cease from war at length.”
— Psalter #176
Allegro con spirito (lively, with spirit!):
“For grace and mercy ever near,
For foes subdued and victory won,
All nations of the earth shall hear
My praise for what the Lord has done [!]”
— Psalter #36
“My grief is turned to gladness, to Thee my thanks I raise,
Who hast removed my sorrow and girded me with praise;
And now, no longer silent [!] my heart Thy praise will sing;
O Lord, my God, forever my thanks to Thee I bring.”
Often, we will find two or more moods expressed in the same Psalm. These require added study and appreciation. For example, sing #140, verse 2 affanoso (sadly). “I have sinned against Thy grace and provoked Thee to Thy face…” But sing verse 3 more aspiratamente (aspiringly). “Thou alone my Savior art, teach Thy wisdom to my heart.”
When you open to #69 in church, slowly and solemnly sing the first verse- grave. “Be Thou my judge, O righteous Lord; try Thou my inmost heart…” But, bring enthusiasm to verse 7 and singing allegramente. “Redeemed by Thee, I stand secure in peace and happiness. And in the church, among Thy saints, Jehovah I will bless.”
“Among Thy saints, Jehovah I will bless.” What a wonderful way to summarize our thoughts here! To sing anything affretando (in a hurry) would be disgraceful to God’s Name. Expressing happiness does not allow for vivace (fiercely fast). In praise to the Lord of our lives, avoid pianissimo (very soft). No group has the corner on pianissimo like a young people’s afternoon mass meeting. And that should not be. We have reason to be happy. Being happy requires happy singing! These are weaknesses to fight.
But the most subtle, and most harmful tendency is to sing everything andante (moderately).
Andante… everything the same way,
andante… always moderately,
andante… no change in voice
andante… no change of expression.
No Psalm calls for this kind of “happy” singing.
“Among Thy saints, Jehovah I will bless.” The purpose is to sing with and to the other members—all in praise to God. Congregational singing is such a blessed occasion to show your happiness. Why are we putting our happiness to music?
“Come, hear, all ye that fear the Lord,
While I with grateful heart record
What God has done for me.” — Psalter #175
“Among Thy saints, Jehovah I will bless.” Sing it and share it! Sing, sing, sing!!! When we sing out our Christian gratitude, other members need to be able to hear it in our voices. It has effect on those around. This especially applies to allegro con spirito. In plain language, allegro con spirito could be described: friends around us even feel good when we sing it lively, with spirit. With respect to the Christian brethren we love, that is quite a blessing from heaven. So sing it, show it, and share it. ❖
Tom is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.