Hopeful harmony: Salve for the weary soul

I love to sing, and I love to hear good singing. While it is always a blessing for me to sing with other believers in church, it is especially sweet to hear those who sing harmony. A couple of weeks ago, I stood next to (we stand when we sing at my church) my wife at church and enjoyed singing while also listening for the sweet sounds of her harmonizing with the songs. She usually sings with the worship team and so I don’t always get to experience that.

Sadly, it is a sound that is going away it seems because fewer and fewer people sing harmony. I would point to the increasing use of PowerPoint and the decreasing use of hymnals as one theory. I don’t want to go down the path of arguing against the use of PowerPoint because we can still lift our voices and sing and praise God. But when you don’t see notes, you may not think of different singing parts and therefore little harmonizing happens. I miss it.

Thankfully, I had my spirits raised this morning by a wonderful clip that Robert Cottrill posted on his Wordwise Hymns site. On this date composer Joseph Philbrick Webster was born. Among many compositions, he wrote the music for Sweet By and By. I nearly cried when I heard this  — for the beauty of the words I was hearing and because it had been a long time since I had sung in a group that way: people singing parts with no accompaniment! I just savored that. Today, it was a salve for me as I live between two worlds.

We shall sing on that beautiful shore
The melodious songs of the blessed
And our spirits shall sorrow no more,
Not a sigh for the blessing of rest

In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.