There is a good chance that you have seen some of the videos of Italians singing from their windows during their social isolation because of COVID-19. It is very moving.
Here’s a compilation of many different scenes of singing.
This singing also reminds me of one of the things I love about church – singing with others.
Yes, I love singing with others because it strengthens my faith but that isn’t the only reason. There is just something magical about the act of singing with other people. Especially when it is about solidarity rather than performance. I love it so much that I actually believe that if I lost my faith in Christ (I haven’t) I might seriously consider still going to church just to sing with other people. In my opinion, it is difficult to find such singing outside the church. It happens, but it is rare, and that saddens me.
Just look at the videos of singing in Italy. They are singing songs that are common to them (patriotic and religious) or they are just playing prerecorded music on a PA and making noise along with the recording. For everyone to sing it requires music that is known by the majority of people involved. Most songs don’t ever get that near to universal, and most venues outside of churches don’t have songbooks or projected lyrics for those who don’t know the song to be able to sing along.
Some pop stars have been tweeting examples of their songs being sung, which are, as you would expect, almost all fake. This makes sense because while some pop songs get very popular only a very few of the historical classics reach the point that most of a neighborhood would know the lyrics. Seriously, how many of my friends and family who read these blog posts know most of the lyrics to Katy Perry’s song “Roar”? I, as the writer of this post, don’t know the chorus off the top of my head (I just looked it up and now know it is “Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh”). Of course, I pretty much only know modern music that my sons have introduced me to, so I may be the exception here rather than the rule.
The church gives you an opportunity to sing in solidarity with others. I’m not really talking about choirs here, though they are nice. As far as I am concerned congregational (crowd) singing is where it is at. That’s where the real solidarity happens. The church is one of the few places where modern American life involves singing with groups that aren’t doing it for performance. It does happen sometimes, like the crowd at a the Tom Petty Wiltern Theatre August 6th 1985, “Southern Accents Tour” concert singing “Breakdown” (this is awesome by the way), but like I said I believe it is rare outside the church.
In many ways, church songs are the majority of our cultural musical heritage. If you want to sing a song that everyone knows the lyrics to, you are pretty much going to sing either a few patriotic songs, a few protest songs, a few classic pop songs, many Christmas songs (which are usually basically church songs), or songs that are a part of a faith tradition. These are basically the only songs we all tend to know. Or if you don’t know them the church songs are probably the only ones you will get the chance to sing with a group. Because outside of the church, you are rarely given the lyrics to a new song that you then get to sing with others.
I sing to myself so many of the songs that I have learned by singing with others in the church. I sing them in moments where I need hope, I sing them in moments when I feel joy, I hum them at all sorts of time. Even when I can’t sing them with others the act of singing them to myself strengthens me by reminding me of the time I loudly confessed the truth of the songs by belting them out with others in a church worship gathering.
I am so thankful that I get to sing with others. I wish we all could right now.