Slides (pt 2) — into the juke joint

Not all slides use gravity.  Not all of them go down.   Remember the Slip-n-Slide?  🙂

From the annals of a cappella church music, consider Stamps-Baxter music.

For the uninitiated — and I sincerely hope no one is being initiated into this today! — Stamps-Baxter is a colloquial arrangement style applied to gospel songs.

Some years ago, someone illuminated me by describing Stamps-Baxter music as distinctly instrumental in origin and orientation.  Note such favored examples as “He Bore It All,” “Paradise Valley” . . . and another song in the same style, but not actually written by Stamps or Baxter — “Ring It Out” (affectionately known as “the washing machine song”).  In all these examples, an instrumentally accompanied style is clearly seen.

Moving on … since those who perpetuate the Stamps-Baxter style tend to fall on the relatively conservative side of the “CofC issues” fence, a curious dichotomy is set up.  By this I mean that many of them would be horrified to be linked with instrumental music styles in church music, since they believe it is against God’s will to use instrumental music in corporate worship.  Fact is, though, they are singing in a style that tips more than the hat to instrumental march and country styles.  Before they know it, they have “slidden” into the juke joint!

Side note:  I recently happened onto a blog in which someone claims to be a “worship leader” and also serves on the staff of the Stamps-Baxter School of Music.  Talk about poles apart!  I have never found worship content within Stamps music.  (But then again, I haven’t ever been inclined to look, because I’m so repelled by what strikes me as stylistically trite entertainment instead of substance.  I sincerely invite any reader who believes otherwise to offer me an example of worshipful words in a Stampsy song.  I would absolutely love to be proven wrong, and I imagine I can be proven wrong.  The Stamps songs that people tend to know and love, however, are anything but worship-driven.)

. . .

Now, for even more irony than that found in the corpus of (stylistically) instrumental Stamps music . . . Keith Lancaster’s brainchild A Cappella and its offspring, the A Cappella Vocal Band, once provided for considerable camaraderie, effectively constituting a rallying point for a cappella Church-of-Christism.  Yet they performed music that was largely instrumental in nature!  Simply being “pure voice,” technically speaking, does not guarantee vocal music in terms of character/quality.  Lancaster’s A Cappella enterprise went beyond instrumental styles, making a veritable art form out of mimicry of instrumental sounds.  Although I liked some of their music, I’ve never been sure what the point was of claiming “vocal” when it was really so very instrumental in nature.

. . .

A decade or so ago, one by one, a few prominent CofC churches began “going instrumental” — sometimes starting with youth events or non-Sunday-morning gatherings.  It’s a slide, so to speak, because it was moving down a pathway — and, perhaps, something was deteriorating or at least slipping away, in one way of looking at it.  This wasn’t necessarily a downward slide, though.  Although such a move may be found to have been tantamount to parachuting in the wind or even proceeding without caring thought, it is my impression that great care has typically been exercised in these circumstances.  That a cappella music deteriorates does not mean a vertical spiritual sliding board has been installed in the backyard of the people involved.

I recently heard that a widely known, experienced CofC worship leader is spending a lot of time working with ICC (Independent Christian Church) groups.  He’s reportedly helping them move toward using instruments in more of a supporting role, while enhancing the congregational singing dynamic.  I think this is fantastic, and I wish more churches would move in this direction.  This motion constitutes an upswing, and certainly not a downward slide!

It could even be that enjoyment (from all vantage points) could result from this particular slide. . . .

Throwback: The Slip-n-Slide!

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