La, la, la
For a variety of reasons, one of which is that it sometimes sparks post ideas here, I regularly read some of the most thoughtful columnists in other genres of Christian music. When it comes to worship music, one of those voices is Bob Kauflin.
Several weeks ago, he posted a column on generic syllables in Christian songs at his Worship Matters website. He notes an increasing trend in worship music to sing “lengthy portions of songs using vowel sounds rather than actually singing words.” Of course, this is a more prevalent phenomenon in worship music than in Southern Gospel, but we still see it on occasion in our own genre.
Kauflin’s examination of why we sing words with our melodies (and melodies with our words) is well worth taking the time to read his column. His thoughtful conclusions, though intended for congregational singing, have relevance for any genre of Christian music:
This seems to be a matter of balance. If there was one song or even an occasional song that used “oh’s” as a filler, this would be a non-issue. But when every third song we lead incorporates vocal sounds rather than words, we’re developing an unhealthy pattern and could possibly be teaching people that the feeling of singing is more fulfilling than the truths we express. . . .
Single syllables are easy to learn and people tend to belt them out passionately. In fact, at times I’ve heard crowds at their loudest when they’re singing generic syllables. As I lead a congregation, my hope is that they’ll be most excited about who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. It’s not hard to get a crowd singing “oh oh oh” at the top of their lungs. What is harder and certainly more fruitful is to lead them in loudly singing something like, “And on the cross as Jesus died the wrath of God was satisfied.” The point isn’t how loud we sing, but why we sing so loud.