My sister came for a quick visit this last weekend to attend a going-away party for our older son, who is off to prep school. On Sunday, my wife took the gang to church for 9:00 a.m. Sunday school. My sister and I dawdled behind, aiming to be late for the worship service at 10:00. Why? We were both agreed: We hate praise music.
Praise music, for those who don’t know, has sprung up in the last couple of decades as a replacement for traditional hymns in “Bible” or “Gospel” churches. In its tunes, it resembles modern pop, soft rock, or country music. It is generally played by combos — in church! — that include guitar, bass, drums and piano. There are generally a handful of singers, usually including unschooled sopranos.
It used to be said that singers like Aretha Franklin, who made the jump from gospel to pop, sang music much like they used to sing in church, only substituting “Baby” for “Lord” or “Jesus” or “God.” Gospel music at least has the benefit of soul, that ineffable quality of passionate excitement that adheres to the black voice. Praise music, by contrast, is pure whitebread.
And it just isn’t very good.
CONTRAST THE CLOSING “PRAISE” SONG we sang in church that Sunday, “You Are My All in All,” with “O, Worship the King,” the traditional hymn that our praise band played during the dismissal. You can listen to “You Are My All in All” at a Barnes & Noble site here (scroll down). “O, Worship the King” may be heard at the Cyber Hymnal, here.
“O Worship the King,” with its stately, beautifully harmonized tune, illustrates its theme — “God is our king” — in its every word and part, without ever literally saying so. It has a distinguished history. In its original lyric, it appeared in the Genevan Psalter of 1561. Robert Grant modernized the words in 1833. It appeared as “Old 104th” in Whole Book of Psalmes, by Thomas Ravenscraft in 1621. The current tune and harmony? Johann M. Haydn.p>There are six stanzas. I quote two: br> /p> blockquote> em>O worship the King, all glorious above, br> O gratefully sing His power and His love; br> Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, br> Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. /em>