A global history
A global history
By Tim Dowley
Lion. 246 pages. £20.00
ISBN 978 0 745 953 243
The book aims to give a ‘comprehensive coverage of the history of worship music, from ancient times to the present day’.
This really is a very comprehensive history of Christian music, and very much a global history too!
The author, along with many collaborators, has gone to every effort to research well the origins and development of music from hundreds of traditions — Gregorian chant, Orthodox rites, the Renaissance, the Viennese Classical Mass, American gospel music, Hillsong, etc., along with briefer accounts of Christian musical developments in India, China, Latin America and other less well-known traditions. Interspersed throughout are colourful diversions into the use of organ music, church bells, etc. and insights into famous people and their music. Handel and Mendelssohn share a platform with Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan.
The book is beautifully presented and illustrated, and the author is careful not to commit himself to any theological view-point, while not holding back from discussing the battles that have been fought over the place and practice of church music.
As with any historical book, there’ll be parts that will interest everyone, and parts that readers will want to skip over very quickly. As an evangelical I found it much more informative than edifying (those looking for a biblical defence of the place and purpose of Christian music will be disappointed), but the information has given me a much better handle on why some of the misunderstandings about church music have arisen, and how to deal more graciously with those who practise a different musical tradition.
Overall, I’m very grateful that someone has written this book, and I’m very grateful that it wasn’t me!
who lives in Islington, and co-ordinates the music at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate