Is there faith without song?
Is there life without music?
The whole body seems to move to a rhythm
The base of music is found in the heartbeat
Can the mind imagine a silent heaven?
Angels that refuse to sing
The awesome sight of God’s glory
Every inhabitant dumbstruck
Can the heart be moved without music?
Music seems to be everywhere
It seems at times music informs reaction
For music is chosen for words
The music plays and tears flow
So many sing with or without skill
Discord and harmony blend together
Joy is not always a thing of art
There is a moment of technical perfection
A room filled with silent people
Musicians playing as their skill allows
Will we all be invited to make music with the angels?
Voices sing according to ability
An offering of all we have
Though we are ashamed to give our filthy rags
We give, and as God receives there is a miracle
Though our voices are bound to the limits of Earth
Our spirits can be raised until they see heaven
One thing that always confused me was the 18th and 19th century testimony against music. I understand that Friends began to fear emotionalism, and it is well known that music touches the emotions — yet, as Barclay saw the singing of Psalms as a normal event in worship, just as prayer silence and preaching are, the near complete rejection of song and music seems incredible.
In all truth, it seems that Friends forgot that in the 17th century, while George Fox still lived, Friends were a diverse group that did not always agree with dear George. Fox and Barclay had a different approach to understanding faith — and Barclay even used logical tools that Fox condemned. When Friends started standardizing, they lost much. A vital faith, that included spirited debate and big dreams quickly became a silly poor gospel about wearing the right clothes, talking the right way, and marrying the right people. Rapid growth and dynamic personalities was replaced by a legalism that ejected any who failed to conform. In these centuries, it seems that my Quaker family was disowned from their meetings about every generation.
Friends learned how to sing, and to value art as a valid ministry in the 20th century, undoing generations when people hid their musical instruments out of fear they would be discovered, and when painting was a guilty pleasure which could lead to disownment. Perhaps we have not yet learned moderation — but, it is an improvement over putting people out and baring the doors.