Not That You Should Insult Their Intelligence

“We mean by ‘congregational sense’ the capacity for composing what people who are unmusical without being tone-deaf can sing readily. This means making one’s point in language which does not itself give trouble to the singer—language he is more or less used to. The piece may be composed by a person who has a very large vocabulary at his command, but in writing what people ‘catch on to’ he is obliged to use that part of the vocabulary which is common to him and them: just as a preacher whose sermons tend to contain words like communicatio idomatum and hypostasis, no matter how excellent his arguments, is unlikely to hold the attention of a parish congregation.” (Erik Routley, Music of Christian Hymns)

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More on Instruments

A description of a Buxtehude service that Bach attended in his famous 4-month AWOL from Arnstadt.

The musical presentations included both large organs and featured several instrumental and vocal choirs positioned in different galleries; and the end, at least of Castrum doloris, had the entire congregation join in as well. …The instrumental requirements as outlined in the librettos are particularly striking and were apparently without precedent or parallel. The intradas require two bands of trumpets and timpani, a ritornello “two choirs of horns and oboes,” a sinfonia “twenty-five violins in unison,” and a passacaglia “various instruments.” (Christoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: the Learned Musician)

Unfortunately, the Buxtehude scores themselves are lost. Still, a stirring description.

Luther Plundering Egyptians

From Music in the Western World: A History in Documents: “One of the ways in which the Lutheran church met the problem of quickly acquiring a musical repertoire of its own was to take existing songs, often secular ones, and adapt the words to devotional use. This method, known as parody, had its detractors, who held that the inclusion of familiar popular songs in the religious service could only demean it. Luther, on the other hand, saw in their very popularity an asset to the chorales’ acceptance and potency. According to what is undoubtedly his most oft-quoted remark concerning music, Luther could not see why the devil should have all the best tunes.”