Mid Week Reflection – beautiful music

At the beginning of 2022, I received this greeting from a friend ‘Happy New Year to you and here’s hoping for a happy, healthy and blessed 2022 – filled with beautiful music!’ I had just finished the reflection on St Cecelia and the words ‘filled with beautiful music!’ struck a cord, if you will excuse the pun. It seems right to follow the reflection on St Cecilia, the patron saint of music and musicians with a reflection on music itself.

I am not a musician, I wanted to be from the time as a toddler when I sat on my Nana’s knee as she played honky-tonk piano. She played in the style of Winifred Attwell, – who you may ask? Well! use your search engine find out. She was the first professional musician I heard play.

I should perhaps add that Nana was not my grandmother or even a relation. We lived in her rented flat in South West London. She was lovely, a Cockney women and a real character, also she had been in service of Lord and Lady de Frece or Vesta Tilley, the Music Hall star.

To say I did not enjoy school would be an understatement but there were some highlights outside of the classroom and with no books to read or writing to be done. It was where I was introduced to classical music. I remember Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches being played and there were occasional visits from The British Army’s school of music, Kneller Hall, Twickenham just down the road from the school. I also strummed a bass, a tea chest with a broom stick in the middle and some string and I played washboard in a Skiffle Group organised by one of the few insightful members of staff. He was popular with the children but not some of the staff.

We often had the walk from school on a Sunday morning to Twickenham Parish Church for Mattins and this was where I was introduced to choral singing. Looking back, I think it was here where I started to understand that I did not need to read or understand the words to appreciate the different sounds of the organ and the range and tone of the voices and be moved by the music. Obviously, as a child I did not try to analyse what was going on. I just enjoyed the sounds, the atmosphere, it was a good place to be, a Sunday morning sanctuary. Unfortunately, we did not go every week.

Over the years I was introduced to many styles of music, some I enjoyed more than others. What I have learnt is that music can lift us up, sooth us, excite us and for people of faith it can spiritually strengthen us and has a Divine quality. Music can also teach us something about diversity and living with differences. How does a church bring into its worship the rich diversity church music available today? I would suggest with difficulty, yet there is beautiful music from ancient chants through the hymns of Wesley to Kenrick and the Wildgoose collection from, Iona and we have 21st Century hymn writers.

I hope your lives will be filled with beautiful music, whatever that may be and I hope you will continue to make a joyful noise to the Lord.

‘Be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

A reading from the Psalms

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth;
break into song; sing praise.
Sing praise to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
shout with joy to the King, the Lord.
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell there. – Psalm 98:4-7

Praise God in his holy sanctuary;
give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.
Give praise for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his great majesty. – Psalm 150:1-2

Let us pray

We thank you for all those bring us the music that inspires and lifts us up in our worships and as we go around our daily tasks. We thank you for string instruments, wind instruments, percussion, digital instruments and for the singers which invite us to lift our voices with theirs in praise.

Lord God we ask that you bless all who guide us through this ministry of music and worship. May their music bring you praise and glory

Lord, bless us with courage and imagination,
and give us the power to use music to praise you
from the depths of our being.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever. Amen.

Now let us draw into our circle of prayer our:

Local church and its leaders
wider community
widening our circle to include:
those in government and positions of authority
those who are oppressed
those who are hungry and homeless
those who are ill
those facing death
Merciful Father, accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

You spoke
And a universe
Burst into existence
You breathed
And an ocean
Broke against shore
You laughed
And a wild goose
Flew across the horizon
You sang
And a love song
Was played for the world

Now may God’s blessing go with us,
God’s love surround us, God’s footsteps guide us and God’s strength supply us throughout the day ahead.
(John Birch)

Derek Akker
(Derek is a retired Anglican Parish Priest and a member of the congregations of All Saints & St James)

Parish of Kirklees Valley, Bury, (All Saints, Elton & St James, Woolfold)
In the Diocese of Manchester
CCLI Licence Number 1243418 Church Copyright and Streaming Licence