Age 9, I had no great love for music. My mum and dad played records, usually light classical pieces, and my sister liked whatever was on Top of the Pops. But none of this did anything for me. Until one day my mum brought home a copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. I’d never heard anything like it. I fell in love with that record. The infectious melodies, the intricate arrangements, the way the whole thing flowed and fitted together, even the four faces peering out at me from the gatefold sleeve. I was smitten.
Forty-three years later I still love the Beatles, but from that initial smitten-ness came all sorts of other musical loves, from Stravinsky and Taverner to Aretha and Coltrane through to Dylan and U2.
Music, more than any other art form, speaks to me and speaks for me at a deep and profound level. It has soundtracked my life. It has given me the language to express things I didn’t know how to say. It has put me in touch with the mysteries of the human heart and the mysteries of God more fully than anything else except the Bible.
Throughout history, when Christians have gathered, they have sought to worship and encounter God through music. Be it congregational hymn singing or the performance of a singer or choir, Latin texts sung to a plainsong chant or a brand-new song accompanied by guitars and drums, Christians put their praises together in music. I could find something to engage with in almost any type of sung worship but I’m not sure I could survive spiritually in a community where sacred music was not a feature.
We have been thinking about this at Derby Cathedral lately. Canon Richard Andrews has recently begun his ministry with us as Canon for Liturgy, with responsibility for our musical life. We are presently recruiting for a new Director of Music to succeed Hugh Morris, now Director of the RSCM. Also, we have recently opened the new Derby Cathedral School, with its music specialism.
Music sits at the heart of our faith, our worship, and our mission. It is God’s gift to express the yearnings of our own heart and to be drawn towards him in beauty and majesty. Speaking for myself, it is one of the gifts for which I am most grateful.
The Very Revd Dr Stephen Hance
Dean of Derby