RICHARD D. DINWIDDIERichard D. Dinwiddie is music director and conductor of The Chicago Master Chorale, and visiting professor of church music at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

How can our music harmonize with the music of the spheres?

God is not tone deaf. A perfect God must have truly “perfect pitch”—no variance of intonation ever escapes him.

He knows, for instance, whether or not the church’s sanctuary piano or organ is in tune and how close the soloist really is to the melody. All too often I can imagine him raising a divine finger before an errant singer and pleading, “G-sharp! His ear is better than the finest conductor’s. He understands fully the most sophisticated harmonic and rhythmic structures, and he hears whether or not our performances have stylistic integrity, appropriate phrasing, the right tonal color, correct tempos, and proper dynamics.

Our limited insights cannot possibly approach the musical understanding of the Master Musician. Yet, on any given Sunday, our practices show that we apparently assume we have unlimited freedom to indulge personal musical prejudices in the service of God without serious reference to his views—as if what he may have to say about music could not be important.

The results of this misconception have been far reaching and disastrous—in ministries and in individual lives.

Ministry must always be rooted in the Word of God, and the ministry of music is no exception. A proper theology of church music is centered in God, not man, and God is intensely interested in the music of his creation—especially that which is used to worship him. He has much to say on the subject, and when we understand his views more clearly we are able to use music in ways that are more ...

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