A Reflection on Harmony

One of my students at St. Tikhon’s, Fr. John Kennerk, delivered a beautiful homily this past Sunday, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, a feast that commemorates the triumphant restoration in 843 of the use of iconography, and by extension sacred art generally, in Christian worship. Fr. John drew some lovely connections between the spiritual life, iconography, and the work of making music in the Church. I thought I’d share a selection from his homily with you all: “The Christian…

Good Church Music Starts with Kids

In response to some important questions I’ve gotten about teaching kids to sing in church, I’ve asked my wife Maria Sheehan, a longtime music teacher, to write a guest post based on her experience. — Benedict *** I have been a vocal music educator in some capacity for the past 20 years. I’ve taught pre-schoolers and retirees and every age in between, folks with “no ear” and folks who have been making…

The Sacrifice of Praise

In almost every Orthodox service we pray at some point for “those who labor and those who sing.” I once quipped to one of my students that we should add “and those who labor at singing.” If you’re trying to give it your best, church singing is hard work. For those with training and experience enough to have the rudiments of singing come fairly easily, it remains a considerable challenge to convey meaning and intentionality…

Addressing the Crisis

Part II of the Musical Culture in Crisis series: Orthodox church music in America is collapsing. What can we do? The first step is simply to recognize that a collapse is taking place. However, before I propose any concrete solutions, let me enumerate some of the more obvious remedies that I think do not work. 1. We can’t continue to lower our musical standards Humans have a remarkable capacity to inure themselves…

A Musical Culture in Crisis

The longer I spend working in church music—conducting, singing, rehearsing, teaching, composing, arranging, copying, stapling, along with the myriad other things I do as a full-time church musician to try and improve the musical state of affairs around me—the more fundamentally pessimistic I become about the general state of Orthodox church music in America outside my own immediate sphere of activity. Granted, I’m a native New Englander, so a certain degree of…