Music of Worship at Westminster Abbey

Last Updated on 2022-11-16 | Originally Posted on 2020-04-23

Dr. Zehring reminisces about his doctoral research in London in the early 1980s.

After arriving in London, I spent eight hours a day for six straight days in a small windowless room in the bowels of the old British Library, in self-imposed isolation, sifting through 300-500-year-old books – church registers, music manuscripts, Royal warrants, anything – looking for mention of Richard Minshall, Robert Devereaux, any evidence at all that I could use to connect either one of them with the other.

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Te Deum – Psalms to Charlemagne

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I was asked much earlier in my career if I’d ever taught a continuing education class for church, or whether I’d consider doing so. Up to that point, I’d never done it, but I was open to the idea. The possibility has since then intrigued me, but until recently I hadn’t put together a plan. Now that a date is on the calendar, October 16th, it’s becoming real. I’m teaching a class in sacred music at church!

The Course

The course is based upon the book Te Deum: The Church and Music by Paul Westermeyer. I became familiar with Dr. Westermeyer through his work with the American Guild of Organists, and was impressed that an ordained Lutheran pastor would spend so much time associating with organists! He has spent his career steeped in teaching both seminarians and church musicians, so this book has an interdisciplinary approach.

I warn that the text has a scholarly bent, which is probably no surprise given the scope of the topic. For those who wish to take this journey with me, there will be quite a lot of reading involved, though I’ll parcel it off to make it manageable. As a reward, you will receive musical samples from each period to illuminate the weekly readings.

More Details

As the title of my post hints, the first five weeks will be covering just a portion of the history of sacred music. A continuation of this class will continue the exploration, beginning at the Reformation and continuing through modern times. In this session, we’ll cover music in Old and New Testament times, the First Centuries, and Before and After Charlemagne. I realize that this period may not be glamorous to some, but hopefully you’ll join me anyway. For those who are curious about what exactly is covered in later on – yes, there is a section on the Wesleys! Even a Lutheran like Westermeyer knows it’s best not to omit John and Charles!

Call to Action

Will you be joining me?

Posted 2019-07-18

Maundy Thursday Taizé

Did any of you do anything exciting or new during Lent? I did! I participated in a Maundy Thursday Taizé service, my first full-length Taizé style service ever, complete with supporting choir and soloists. If you have never worshipped in this style, try it! I’m sure we fell short in many ways compared to what is done in Taizé, the tiny town found in the Burgundy region of France. But I also think we got a lot of things right. We even had one point in the final chance where we had choir members singing in French and English simultaneously! Multilingual singing is a common occurrence among the pilgrims who flock to France from countries around the world.

I must give credit to several people: Rev. Les Oliver at Central UMC in Rogers provided me with Taizé scores and an icon for an earlier service that served as a trial run. Rev. Jeanne Williams at First UMC Bella Vista had the vision to do this, along with great ideas on how to execute it. When you are in sync with your clergy, great things can happen! Below are some pictures of the service, shared by Amy O. Fulton, and a link to the service on YouTube, posted by church Webmaster Sarah Charlsen.

The entire service is available on YouTube. I apologize that the songs were inadequately miked. There is silence near the end of the service. Although it’s an important part of the actual experience, you may wish to skip it.

Maundy Thursday Taizé worked for us. Have you experienced Taizé? Would you be interested in trying this in your church?

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Silence During Taizé
Silence During Taizé

The Taizé Altar
The Taizé Altar

Posted 2018-04-11