It is no secret that the tradition of singing is strong in my family heritage.  In fact, I was born when my parents had moved from the Canadian prairies to Detmold, Germany in order for my dad to pursue his education as a singer.  There are many musicians in my extended family. Many music teachers.  Enough to form a choir – and possibly a small orchestra. The ability to play an instrument is completely ordinary, reading music is assumed.  I am grateful for this heritage – and as we celebrate Father’s day this week, I thank my dad who in his quiet way, laid a foundation of song for me.  A foundation that I stand on to this day.

Sing praise to God who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of pow’r, the God of love, the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul is filled, and eve’ry faithless murmur stilled.
To God all praise and glory!

What in almighty pow’r was made, God’s gracious mercy keepeth.
By morning glow or evening shade, God’s watchful eye ne’er sleepeth.
Within the shelter of God’s might, lo! All is just, and all is right.
To God all praise and glory!

Our God is never far away, throughout all grief distressing,
An ever-present help and stay, our peace, and joy, and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band.
To God all praise and glory!

Then all my gladsome way along, I sing aloud thy praises,
That all may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises:
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart! Both soul and body, bear your part!
To God all praise and glory!

Singing is one of the great joys in life.  Every human being on this planet has a voice. Some are small, others large.  Some are shy, others bold.  Some are less than beautiful, but filled with spirit and emotion.  Some are glorious as though coming from a higher place.   Some are merely enthusiastic.  Others have yet to be discovered.  All cultures sing in one form or another.  It is free, requires no equipment, can be done in any context and with any number of people or completely alone.  It is our birthright; it is our privilege.

What I like about this hymn, written way back in 1675 by Johann J. Schütz, is that it is an unapologetic use of song as a means of praise. The writer is stating an admiration of his God through his singing voice.  It is an important act to do so – implying that a loud voice devoted to song is an appropriate form of worship; an appropriate means of celebrating that which was, presumably, of great significance.  A voice singing, unwearied and with both soul and body.

So, why do I sing?  For lots of reasons.  It is my tradition, beginning before I was born.  It feeds my spirit like nothing else.  It is my livelihood and profession.  It allows me to connect with others – both within and as a result of the songs.  It expresses emotions that I may not otherwise be comfortable expressing.  It shows me things of beauty that open my eyes to others’ experiences – some shared, and some completely unfamiliar.

But mostly, I sing because I must.  Because I have a voice – as we all do – that wants to rise and fall; that loves to combine with other voices; that simply enjoys being part of beauty.  There are times when the beauty is obvious, and times when it is not.  Some things I sing well, others sound terrible.  But the beauty isn’t always just about what it sounds like.  Often it is about the experiences surrounding the music.  The words, the notes, the memories, the satisfying work of learning, the sharing of the harmonies, the driving in the car, the laughter at mistakes, the rewards of achieving excellence, the insight into a composer’s genius or a songwriter’s perceptiveness.

And, I sing because it is good.  It opens space to express all that is valuable to me.  To any of us.  Maybe it is about spiritual matters, or feelings or emotions.  Maybe it is about our stories, our history, our desires, our hopes, our dreams.  Maybe it is about our pain, our trauma, our expectations of a better world. It is a means, as this hymn writer knew, of saying things of the utmost importance in ways that can be ingested both easily, and with greater depth for those willing to dig. Allowing us to examine ideas in the context of beauty; giving us a chance to consider and evaluate and, importantly, to participate.

These hymn texts are important to me.  As a singer and an observer.  They tie me to the past, to the present and to the future. They allow me to see others’ ideas about so much that I both need and wish to think about.  Singing the words is a beautiful act – thinking about whether the words I sing are still relevant, is challenging.  In some I find great wisdom, in others tremendous distaste.  There is a kind of beauty in this too, unravelling our histories and understanding none of us is without error.

So, I will continue to sing.  Alone and with others.  Experiencing the magic that is the human voice.  Expressing the variety of experiences found in the limitless collection of songs that we possess.  Singing for understanding.  Singing for excellence.  Singing for fun.  Singing for beauty.  Singing for praise.  Singing because I have a voice, and it will not lay silent.