How Well Do You Know Your Common Church Music Terminology?

Although music has no doubt been an important part of life for many cultures since antiquity, it was in the hands of the Western Christian Church that music underwent important developments that were to send it on a series of courses leading ultimately to classical forms and then on to influence today's myriad of musical styles. It was in the hands of the church that musical notation was invented and then refined.

Doxology - This term refers to a short prayer or hymn of praise that extols the glory and majesty of God.

Prelude - An introductory performance or piece of music that precedes a principal matter or event is called a prelude. It is oftentimes the music opening a church service or an introductory voluntary.

Interlude - This is a musical composition inserted between the parts of a longer composition or a religious service.

Postlude - This t he instrumental music played at the end of a church service or a performance.

Oratorio - It is a musical composition for solo voices, chorus, orchestra, and organ, to a religious text generally taken from Holy Scripture. The most prolific oratorio composers are Georg Freidrich Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. The most famous oratorio ever written is Handel’s Messiah.

Chorale - This is originally a hymn of the Lutheran church sung by the entire congregation.

Spirituals - It is a term used for religious folk songs, usually of a deeply emotional character, created and first sung by African Americans in slavery.

Hymn - It is a type of song, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer. It is commonly used both in private devotions and in corporate worship.

Magnificat - (latin) Mary’s song of praise saying, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour." - Luke 1:46-55. incorporated into the liturgical services of the Western churches (at Vespers) and of the Eastern Orthodox churches (at the morning services).

Requiem - It is a musical composition with a theme of prayer for salvation and redemption commonly used in masses immediately preceding a burial, and on occasions of more general remembrance.

Contemporary church music - This is a genre of popular music defined by its lyrical content performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. However, a common theme is praise, worship or thanks to God and/or Christ.

The Beginnings of Blue Danube Waltz

Johann Strauss’ most famous composition was perhaps his most signal failure.

Immediately after Austria had been defeated by the Prussians in 1866, The Blue Danube Waltz was composed.

At the first performance, it was performed with a chorus which sang a political poem, a wretched poem, to the effect that things would get better in spite of the defeat, Austria would rise again.  The audience, gloomy and ashamed, remained unconvinced.  Strauss shrugged his shoulders—what was one waltz more or less to him?    The following year he appeared at the Paris World Exhibition.  He remembered the “Blue Danube” and he now performed it as a purely orchestral composition, without the words.  It proved an immediate sensation. Paris went mad over it.  He had to perform it every night.  The Prince of Wales heard it and, returning to London, whistled it to his mother, Queen Victoria.  It made its triumphant way through Europe and America, and though it has been maltreated in a hundred versions, and though it is over-familiar to all of us, it still delights and enchants – if it is played well.

Here it is played in its original version, as Strauss played it in Paris.

Step Into the Music: A Teacher's Recital Message to Students and Audience

In every music program, the theme reaches out to the audience through the message of the music director or the teacher. It is always part of the SOP of most concerts, including ours, to have a message printed for the performers and the audience. This serves as an introduction and an acknowledgement to everyone involved.

In the summer of 2007, we featured "steps" as a focal point of our piano recital. Here's the message I wrote for the students and audience for the recital theme "Step Into the Music."

"In this program, we present compositions inspired by the action of the feet such as walking, hopping, running, dancing, and marching in the literal and psychomotor definition of the word 'step.' In a more profound context, to step into the music means to involve one's self in that wonderful realm of sound and emotion.

"Apart from the sound heard when produced through the physical action of the fingers, arms, or the other parts of the body, true music comes from the performer's inner persona - translating notes on paper from an intellectual experience permeating from the mind and soul of the artist delivered to the audience who will simultaneously experience the music with the performer through their personal senses and emotions. It is only then that one has stepped INTO the music.

"Music is a communal experience, and we hope that it gives you a greater appreciation for the art of music and movement, its physical and artistic demands on musician, and the love for the craft instilled in every hardworking student.

"Music has brought me great joy and fulfillment throughout my life; I believe it can do the same for you.

"Let us now "Step Into The Music!

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The Difference Between an Art Song and a Folk Song

What is the difference between a folk song and an art song?

Songs are natural and instinctive means of self-expression of human beings. A song combines two musical elements of universal appeal – melody and the human voice. Hence, a song can be defined as a short vocal composition that can be performed with or without accompaniment.

Folk Songs

Folk songs had it roots in the cultures of the country folk. It is futile to trace the original composers of folk songs for these have been handed down orally from generation to generation.

Every race has its own folk songs. Different races ten to develop different song idioms – the use of particular scales, melodic intervals, etc. The song idioms commonly express racial characteristics in a definite way. Therefore, when we hear a folk song, we can often guess by its style from what country it comes from.

Folk songs are characterized by their deep emotion, freshness, and spontaneity. It is really refreshing to hear folk songs in their natural rural setting.

Art Songs

An art song is a song consciously written by a composer who blended the poem and music as an artistic whole. The vocal melody is presented with an instrumental accompaniment that gives it harmonic background and support. The accompaniments of many art songs are important as they are not merely a decorative support to the songs, but an integral and equal part of them. The inner meaning and emotion of the poetic text is expressed by voice and instrument in an unsurpassed unity. On the whole, a successful art song requires the pleasing combination of verse, melody, and accompaniment.

Mozart, The Masons, and The Magic Flute Opera

Undeniably, it has comic elements, but spiritual threads where also interwoven with it throughout the opera.

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The Magic Flute was labeled by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as a comic opera. Undeniably, it has comic elements, but spiritual threads where also interwoven with it throughout the opera.

When actor, stage director and poet Emanuel Schikaneder organized a company for the Theater auf der Weiden in Vienna, he asked his composer friend Mozart to write for him a Sinspiel, a new type of comic opera incorporating music and spoken dialogue. Mozart completed it on September 28, 1781 and was presented two days later, with tremendous success.

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Since both collaborators were Masons, it is understandable that the libretto of this magical fairy-tale is filled with all kinds of obscure Masonic references, symbols and figures. Tamino’s journey represents initiation rituals for new Masons in Vienna. The basic struggle between good and evil was personified by Sarastro and the Queen of the Night. Pamina and Tamino , the idealistic young lovers, can come together only after the trials of fire and water. The use of the number three, which is an important number in masonry was generously used throughout the opera: at the beginning of the overture, there are three long and solemn chords that evoke Sarastro , the awesome priest of high ideals; the main key of the music is in E flat major having three flats. In the characters, there are three young boys, three ladies, and three trials. The trials symbolize Masonic rituals and ceremonies.

The opera concludes with a lively tune that is fully elaborated upon, giving a foretaste of the charming bird seller Papageno and his comic mate Papagena.