“If music be the food of love, play on…” is the opening line of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Of the plays I have seen or read, this is one of my favourites and contains the famous ‘The Box Tree’ scene and is a marvellous example of the humour of the times although you need to to read from the beginning of the play because it leads up to the scene. Read on it’s own it would not be at all funny.
Should you think I am continuing where I left off my last article I am not, I am going to move on to share some of my recent musings on music, particularly worship music.
From childhood I have always loved music and learned to play the recorder at Junior School, tried the harmonica and guitar and taught myself to play the piano just well enough to entertain myself. I loved singing too, however it is not a good idea to stand within earshot when I do! I am blessed with a husband who has never complained, or even ventured an opinion though my father’s tolerance was limited!
As soon as I could get the money together I brought myself a second hand record player and began to buy chart singles as and when finance permitted. I count myself as fortunate to have been at a school where we heard and sang all kinds of songs and music. Traditional folk songs and Gilbert and Sullivan for example and on a Friday morning the whole school would gather and not just sing but also listen to one or two recordings of classical music. Pop music was my main fondness at that time but by and by I started to buy the odd piece of classical music, instrumental film theme tunes and so on. These days my taste is far ranging though it does not extend to heavy metal – no surprise there I don’t think.
Music as the food of love, I think, seems quite evocative and I wonder what inspired Shakespeare to write those words. All writers need inspiration, all must start with an idea however small. Rightly or wrongly, it occurred to me that perhaps Shakespeare drew on the psalms for this line, after all the psalmist often links our love for God with music. We use music, both singing and instruments as an expression as our love for God, in fact we bring them to God as an offering, to give Him something rather as one might give food. Think of the animals sacrificed as offerings. The psalmist urges us to praise him using all sorts of instruments – no such things as a piped organ magnificent as some of theses are. In leading worship, I have sometimes had the children playing various percussion instruments as a way of encouraging their active participation during the singing of worship songs in general use.
Worship music and songs is something which I have been musing over and is something that I am not going to delve into deeply, not where angels fear to tread! I shall stick to merely offering a short personal view that I do think that if if it is a mixed congregation it must be all inclusive, if it is to copy the style of contemporary chart music then it should be for a young people’s gathering.
Likewise, it is unlikely an evening of Sankey hymns will appeal to the young people. In the past I have had mixed feelings regarding ‘pop’ style however, I have come to the view that the essential requirement of any musical worship is that it can be clearly recognised as expressing our love and faith for God, giving him honour, glory, reverence and praise. If it does not, then it is not worship. God rejoices in our worship and praise expressed through music therefore, if music be the food of love, play on.