Singing in spirit and with the understanding also, making melody in your heart to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:18

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Every time I come upon this passage, my mind touches upon a setting by the Colonial American composer William Billings. I like the idea of “silent singing” as I settle into worship.

Akin to the art of studying Scripture and its translation is the matter of performing classical music, where there’s no escaping the text, the notes and markings of the musical score. With the exceptions of editing and of stylistically appropriate embellishments, the performer cannot depart from what the composer has laid out on the page. And yet, because of this intense discipline, the art of great performers becomes even more extraordinary: within the rigid demands of the page a host of personal expressions appears – the phrasing of individual lines, the balancing of different clusters of notes, the delineation of musical structure, pedaling for a pianist, selection of stops for an organist, the determination of just how fast or slow a particular marking should be undertaken, the very coloring of sound and of each note itself. Indeed, from my perspective, the greatest artists play the silences between each note and phrase as intently as the more orthodox players work at filling in the spaces. If you think that all performers are essentially the same, ask one Dover Friend about Jose Carreras – and why his work moved her in ways Alfredo Kraus, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and dozens of others didn’t. In other words, something quite individual emerges from a central source.

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Yet I do acknowledge, that while I saw no further, and did sincerely serve the Lord in the Way which I walked in before, hoping it might be right, because reform’d in many Things to what some other Ways of Worship are, the Lord was graciously pleased often to administer some Comfort and Refreshment to my Soul, through the Ministration I then sat under: And in like manner I do believe his Dealings are with all the Upright-hearted, who are seeking after him in the divers Ways of Worship; which if they continue seeking him in the Integrity of their Spirits, I doubt not but he will seek them out, for his Seed’s Sake, and in due Time bring them to the Mountain of his Holiness, where his Dwelling is. (Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


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