Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bach No More - God's I-Pod Part 2

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Grade School - I was the little fat kid who played the hymns on the piano for the class to sing. Most of the elementary teachers couldn't play piano worth a dam, one finger with lots of mistakes was typical - they were all too glad to have me in their class. I could sight-read those suckers. For morning devotions, and right after lunch, I'd have to pick out a hymn - there were 660 of them in the Lutheran Hymnal to choose from. I'd write it on the chalk board, and walk over to the piano to lead the hymn.

In a past post, I've told you about the "Bringing In the Sheaves" incident - how Pastor Kay took me in his office and told me that God didn't like that sort of thing - He preferred the hymns in the Lutheran book, and things written by Bach and Buxtehude. I kind of liked the strong march tempo for a recessional - getting everyone out of the church as fast and efficiently as possible. But Pastor Kay assured me that any organist who liked his position would play something that God liked.

But then as we got into High School in those '60s, God had a change of heart. For awhile, I continued to lead the hymns for the teenage Youth League gatherings, until one fateful day. Somehow, in a way I to this day do not understand, God descends to the level of a stoned hippie. The Synod required the pastors to attend retreats focusing on How To Reach Our Youth - as if The Youth were some foreign species. Prayers have to be crude, halting, self-indulgent. The Service, re-done for Youth, is stripped of all elements of tradition, the chants, responses, hymns -- all scrapped. Rows of chairs? Too straight for God. Let's arrange them in a circle - now we've got God surrounded! Or, let's just dispense with chairs altogether- what the hell, let's sit on the floor. And of course, of the 660 hymns we had all practiced all our lives - none of them is appropriate for Youth Worship.

And, the music! Oy, how God has changed his mind about His musical tastes. Now music must only have two chords, and one of them has to be E minor. Acceptable instrumentation is a badly-played guitar -- that open-string E minor is still whanging in the back of my head whenever I think of Youth Music. No more joy. No more praising God in a major key with an ever-changing palette of chords and intricate harmonies. It's all Kum Ba Ya from here on out. Now we're singing Negro Spirituals, calling on the Lord as we did back when we worked in the cotton fields. (ironically, at the same time, blacks had moved on to Gospel music based on the more traditional hymn forms.)

Well, in the end, I was Kum Ba Ya'd out of a piano playing job. After many discussions with the minister, and failed attempts to indoctrinate me, I was left as an incurable curmudgeon at the age of 17, which I remain to this day.

Thanks for listening and contributing. For up-to-the-minute thoughts, come on over to I'm @dimbulb52

1 comment:

Leslie Hanna said...

I love the word "curmudgeon". ;-) You are such a rebel! ;-)