Christianity in Music

Accounts of Jesus’s last supper with his disciplines say that they concluded by singing a hymn. Music thus seems to have been a feature of Christian worship from its beginnings. Christians have a tradition of declaring their faith through music; today gospel songs form a substantial part of all CDs sold.

Choral singing has been the basis of Christian sacred music, ranging from the Gregorian chants of monks to the rhythmic beat favored by contemporary Pentecostal groups. Many great composers have written settings for the mass, of which those by J.S. Bach and Mozart are perhaps the best known. Bach also composed a new cantata every week for the choir at Leipzig, as well as settings for the various gospel stories of Jesus’s passion. Handel and Haydn wrote famous oratorios, Brahms and Verdi equally well-known requiems. The music of the church however drew heavily on the popular music of the times; why, asked Luther, should the devil have all the best tunes? Christmas carols are perhaps the best example of drawing on folk sources.

Music is not the place for theological argument, but for many people it is the best way to express religious feelings. It offers a unique way of grasping the spirit of Christianity.