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Bands in the back?

October 18, 2009

I know that some churches, like Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, have their church choir and musicians perform from the back of the church, in order that (among other reasons) they may not distract from the message of the song or hymn. Other churches have their musicians perform from behind a screen. These churches consider it unfit to draw attention to the musicians; they take real and practical steps to emphasize the music and text over the performers. (This is a pretty good example of the way culture works.)

A friend of mine and I were discussing our church’s building and the sparsity of space on the platform. This lack of space, he reasoned, ensured that any future “church band” at our church was an impossibility.

Not so, I jested. We could put the band in the back of the meeting hall, like these other churches do.

This made us wonder just how many church bands perform out of sight in order to avoid causing improper distraction.

I determined that I could assert without any doubt or possibility whatsoever of contradiction that no such church band exists.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. George permalink
    October 30, 2009 6:00 am

    Good post. The performers should be nearly invisible. The music is to support the text. Admittedly, though the great majority of entertainment addicted attendees would not show under such “worship in spirit and in truth” conditions.

  2. November 2, 2009 7:33 am

    Ryan,

    I had a very interesting experience this weekend, observing the “musicians in the back” concept for the first time. A couple PCA churches in the Atlanta area put on a Reformation Heritage Conference where Paul Jones was the main speaker. The conference was held in Midway Presbyterian’s stunningly beautiful new sanctuary, built with the organ, organist, choir, soloists, and orchestra, all situated in the back balcony. I had heard about this type of set up before but never actually seen it in person.

    The last night of the conference they had a reformation hymn sing with full choir, soloist, brass, and timpani. Dr. Jones played the organ and gave remarks prior to many of the pieces that we sang. It was humorous to me to watch what the congregation did during the singing. People kept turning around and looking up at the choir and musicians as they played. Obviously the philosophy behind their choice to put the musicians in the rear was and is very important to them. I can’t imagine how many millions of dollars must have gone into the construction of this building (they spend $750k on the organ alone from what I was told) and there is no going back now. As an outside observer, though, I thought it was a fairly awkward set up that didn’t accomplish much from a practical standpoint, other than give people sore necks.

    The music and singing was glorious. It was a great way to spend Reformation day.

  3. November 2, 2009 7:57 am

    Thank you, Andy. I wish I could have been their to enjoy the service as well!

    Arguably, they find the craft of worshipping God something on which to spend their resources, and lavishly at that.

    Sometimes we fundamentalists spend our financial resources on gymnasia.

    It shows you what is important to them.

  4. November 5, 2009 10:37 am

    In many of the grand old churches of Europe, there are little cubby-holes along the side for the singers. Unless you’re standing by the altar, you won’t see the actual singers. Keeping the musicians out of the center of attention is an ancient idea, really.

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