How do You Learn New Songs?
I love the worship team at Montecito Covenant Church. Each week we have a gathering of very talented people (young and old) who lead the congregation in worship. They are not up front performing, but helping the congregation enter into worship on the theme of the day.
Between services last week, we were talking about a glitch in the system. One of the numbers had two verses on the power point and the team wanted to sing four, but the bulletin had only the two printed verses also (power-point and bulletins match up). One young woman asked, why do we need bulletins anyway? I answered that for shorter and younger people, who get blocked by those standing in front of them, it enables them to see, plus it is a good devotional aid to take home during the week, especially when some of the songs have really great and deep lyrics. Another leader (my age) gently told her about the generational divide where some of us "older types" like holding a bulletin and reading off of it and not looking up to the screen. This answer bewildered her a bit. Why read a bulletin when you can look up, hands free and sing?
Then I realized that musical notation has no power for her (and many others). The words they love to sing, they memorize and can sing effortlessly with their eyes closed and hands raised in genuine prayer and praise. The thought of being chained to paper (or much less a heavy hymnal) is less than inspiring. Musicologically they learn by ear, memory, and repeating, not by reading.
The question I asked my musician friend this morning is, how do you learn and take in new music? Where do you get new songs from? When I suggested the Bryan Jeffrey Leech song "Glimpses of Glory" for Transfiguration Sunday, none of the worship team had ever heard it and there were not mp3's of it that they could listen to. It's presence in the hymnal was not of real help.
Then I realized the down-side of a memory-only song community. The songs they sing are limited to the known repertoire of the leadership at that time. Someone has to already know a song before it can be learned. Going to a hymnal (or sheet music) and sight-reading new songs does not work with the larger group. Our worship leader reads and composes music, so it works for him, but not the team.
I wonder if a good project would not be the compiling of great songs and hymns into both an mp3 format that could be down-loaded and listened to and provided the notation and chords for those songs we want to stretch into? Would it require all new copyright stuff to add chords and digitize some of the great hymns in the Covenant hymnal? Is there conversation about a new, web-based way of sharing great worship music?