MWM: tentacle music

[This is an installment in the Monday Worship Music series.]

Fairly recently, I’ve blogged on John chapter 9—a chapter that, through the years, keeps drawing me.  Both the event and the account compel me like few others, and that’s saying a lot.  Shortly I intend to revive that study, but for now, I wanted to comment briefly on a few songs and hymns that, similarly, continue to attract me. . . .

Do you feel this way about songs—that some of them seem to have friendly-octopus “tentacles”—pulling us toward them, time after time, and even swimming with us for a while? Some of these songs don’t even let up as years transpire.

I want to share a few lists of songs I find to have such tentacles — and plan to do so in a (weekly?) mini-series this month, ordered by category:

  1. contemporary worship songs
  2. songs from hymnals
  3. other contemporary spiritual songs
  4. secular compositions

For brevity’s sake, I’ll keep each list to five.  (But I might just have to append other lists of five later!)  Today, I’m starting with list #1–contemporary worship songs. This won’t match your top 5 list exactly, and it might not be my top 5, either, but I do find these songs compelling, substantial, and worthwhile.

Shout to the Lord
Descriptors such as “worship classic” or “one of the top 10 best worship songs of all time” have surely been used many times over to describe “Shout to the Lord.” Yet these types of labels do not convince me; they tend to betray not only the provincialism of the writer, but also a rampant chronological dwarfism.  Still, I acknowledge the strong and relatively time-tested appeal of this song, and I like it myself quite a bit — even after singing it in multiple churches, many times over, and after arranging it for Lights, a now-defunct group I directed and sang with in the 90s. There’s something about this song that binds together groups of gathered Christians, impelling us Godward.

I Love You, Lord
When I first heard a polished version of this song, it was a Maranatha! recording of singers, sans instrumentals.  The solo vocalist didn’t have my preferred type of voice, but boy, did she seem to be worshipping.  I played this cassette over and over again.  Despite the fact that countless thousands have learned this song incorrectly because of a melodic error in published arrangements, and despite its lack of energetic musical motion, this is a pure worship song that deserves to be sung for as long as Christians are worshipping on this earth . . . and then some.

Draw Me Close
Without question, this is a heart song.  It’s almost impossible to sing it a cappella without karaoke or a higher-end backup group.  Really … don’t try it with your a cappella congregation unless you have a handful of members of First Call or Glad or something in the group.  But listen to the song, sing with it, and meditate on it.  “You’re all I want.  You’re all I’ve ever needed. . . .  Help me know You are near.” Here is some simple, fine, worshipful prayer.

How Great Is Our God
I’d almost forgotten about this one and was reminded of it in a recent conversation.  Worthwhile expressions and a good musical setting combine to make this a strong offering.  Note:  since there are many, regular “long notes” in the melody here, it is not the best song for a cappella groups—unless there is a strong accompaniment in the supporting parts, that is.

Breathe
The word “fresh” is cliché in discussions of new worship music (or probably any new music).  Yet when “Breathe” arrived on the scene, it was fresh.  Something about a song that describes God as the “air I breathe” is patently fresh, isn’t it?  Several other unique expressions and a soulful, resigned melody come together in this beautiful song of submissive, needful worship.

So, there you have it.  Five “tentacle” songs that keep grabbing me through the years.  The next list will probably come in a week, and it will probably be the songs from hymnals.

[This is an installment in the Monday Worship Music series.  Find other, related posts through this link.]

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