Thursday, July 12, 2007

More from Mars Hill on hymns

Seems like my Baz Lurhman theory of modernizing hymns was not entirely misplaced. From what Mars Hill have published on their own site looks like they have a similar theory when it comes to singing songs that connect with the past but are in tune with modern culture.

Here's what Joe Day has to say on Why We Don't Use Mainstream Songs:

At Mars Hill we chose to not use mainstream contemporary Christian music for three main reasons. The first reason is their theological content is often pretty minimal. Of course, there are exceptions, but generally this is true. For the ones that do contain good theology, there’s a second obstacle – we have to pay to use them (due to publishing laws). Since we live in a place where songwriters and creative people abound, we’ve simply not considered paying for worship music a viable option. Instead, we opt to write our own music and rearrange old hymns. We rearrange the old-school hymns because their content is rich, the imagery is vivid, and the theology elevates Christ magnificently. Plus, they are in the public domain, which means we don’t have to pay to use them. The original arrangements are artifacts of the era in which they were written–often times very difficult to sing–but because the content is so rich, they beg to be rearranged in a way that makes sense in Seattle. And so we rearrange.
And here's what Pastor Tim Smith says about Christmas carols, which are also in the style of old hymns:

When it comes to Christmas music standards you have to leave the melody in tact—and rest assured we have. However, in keeping with Mars Hill’s philosophy of hymn arrangement we have done our best to frame these beautiful old melodies into a modern, musical context.

Historically speaking, many of the old hymns we sing have a separate author for the tune and the text. Over the years these texts have been put to a number of different tunes to fit with a particular people in a particular place and time. We see ourselves as a part of that continuum of people seeking to bring glory to Jesus in a way that resonates with the people of our culture.

In many ways this is how we are to live as Christians: we share an ancient message (the truth of Jesus) and we articulate that message in the current language and culture of our time.

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