Magazine article The American Organist

Sing a New Song

Magazine article The American Organist

Sing a New Song

Article excerpt

Everyone loves a new beginning. The turning of the calendar year seems always to offer a chance for some way to start anew. We make our New Year's Resolutions-some of which last even a few weeks into the fresh year. However difficult each of us finds keeping the resolutions we make, the year's turning brings back the impulse to begin again. That impulse is deep within us. If our plans and arrangements have fallen short or worse-been shattered-we long for a new chance. As when my grandchild says, after the puzzle table was bumped and many pieces scattered, "Oh, let's start all over." Or, after a disappointing rehearsal, we often think, "OK, let's start at the beginning and get this right!"

The desire for a new beginning comes because we are confronted with the gap between what we had hoped was true and the actual mess we are in. Or, in a more global sense, there is a great gap between the world as it is and the world as it "ought to be." Whether it is personal relationships that have come undone, or work that has proven frustrating or unfruitful, we want to have another try and do what we hoped for. Those of us who live a musician's life know this with special poignancy. As one of the Indigo Girls' songs asks: "How long 'til my soul gets it right?" So we do live in that gap. This is why the idea of a new start has such a deep pull on us.

Yet a new beginning need not wait on the turning of the year. Let's ask another kind of question: What does it mean to "sing a new song"? I have in mind those two wonderful psalms that both begin with the phrase "O sing a new song to the Lord"-Psalms 96 and 98. It is no accident that these are appointed for Christmas day as well as in the Easter-Pentecost seasons. These are feasts and seasons of renewal and rebirth. It is one of the glories of church music that a "new song" can be sung over time, thus addressing and redeeming our disappointing experience of failure and "caughtness. …

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