A New Trend In Church Music [& Roy Orbison]

crying roy Orbison

In 1964 I went to college — lost.  I was saved under the evangelistic ministry of Harvey Springer [1] — a cowboy evangelist.  Years later, my mother accepted Christ as her Saviour, at the age of 60.  She would often say . . .

“I love reading the Bible in German.  It speaks to me so differently. 
“German” says it differently to me than the “English” words.”   

German was her native language!  It was her childhood language for 16 years – plus.

Mom came to America at the age of 16.  She was sent over by her parents during the rise of Hitler.  Her parents have serious misgivings and fears of where her country was going as it saw the rise of his power and the rise of wars.  She was sent to live with her uncle — “Uncle Louie” — a German tailor who lived in North Jersey. 

During the years of raising us, mom and dad often spoke German.  They attended a German-Methodist church where the adult services were in German.  Throughout her life, she was fluent in speaking “High German” [not “Platt·deutsch”/Low German, like dad, who was raised on a farm in Bremerhaven, northern Germany].    We “always” heard mom speak German to others who knew the language — and in North Jersey, there were many!

She was always self-conscious about her ability to speak English, though we never understood why.  In fact, in her early years in America, she became a legal assistant for an attorney.  Then in our pre-teen years pursued an education and career in nursing.  She worked as a nurse at Paterson General Hospital into her 70’s.

Again, she would often say that she loved reading the Bible in German.  Why?  The fullness of meaning and word usage that accompanies a learned language and culture were part of what made reading it rich in German.  Language is not merely words, but a culture, an upbringing —  an emotional diary of events and personal historical nuances.

. . . . . . 

“Music” Two Artforms: 

“Music” is a combination of two elements — two artforms — the poetry and the musical score.  There is an obvious trend that is occurring today, and it can be heard when listening to Christian music on the radio and in the church.  Different musical scores are being used when playing and singing well-known hymns of the faith.

I am not addressing the “arrangements” of great church hymns.  “Arrangements” of the hymn, which typically follow the original musical score, or arrangements which “begin–vary–come back” to the original musical score, is not my contention.

Nor am I making the argument that “changing up the musical score” has no merit, but there should be clarity and understanding as to the ramifications.  The frequency and breadth of this trend may well be indicative of such a lack of understanding of the ramifications — or just a disregard of them regardless.

Church music, like a native language, carries with it an experiential history. [2]

“Music” is more than words; it like a “childhood learned language” carries with it the emotions, the experiential and cultural chronicle, and the original congregational worship context.  Sing “The Old Rugged Cross” to a different musical score and then sing “The Old Rugged Cross” to its original musical score and tell me that it is the same musical experience!

Again, that is not to contend that there is no merit in changing up the musical score.  Nevertheless, do not do so thinking that the “ministry dynamics” have not changed. [3]. Do not believe that nothing has been lost in regards to the worship value for those who learned that music in their “native tongue.” 

Let me also argue that variant musical scores often disregard the creative “musical” elements that went into the original creation of that hymn.  The musical score works with the poetry for it to reach its fulfillment and become a well-known and liked hymn over centuries.  The proof of that is seen in listening to some versions of “It Is Well With My Soul” played in a minor key.  When I hear those versions, I often say — They messed up that hymn.

To go to the metrical index of the hymn book, and attach the “hymn” to an alternate “musical score,” disregards how the music draws out the fulness of the poetry, and the “emotional diary of events and personal historical nuances” which ARE all part of that hymn. [5]. This trend of taking the words and attaching them to a different musical score is to — “Read the Bible in ‘English’ when the native tongue is ‘German.’ ”  That is why people say — “I miss the old hymns of the faith!”

Worse than this trend is the trend to repeatedly choose and use musical scores that repetitively bear a particular composer’s marks.  The revisionist music begins to all sound the same.

. . . . . . 

. . . . . . 

1. Harvey Springer — see below


2. Not only church music, but all “music.”  That is why those who lived in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s still love listening to the music of their era.  It carries the overtones of that age.

3. An easy way to make that argument is to ask — Where do you see this happening in the secular musical world.  They understand how the musical score affects the significance and appreciation of the song — I have not heard the classic Roy Orbison song — “Crying” attached to a different musical score.  Has anyone done a musical score “remake” of the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” — There are arrangements, but no “remakes” where the words were put to a different musical score!  

“Crying” (1961) was a popular song on “American Idol.”  Carrie Underwood sang if on her finale night!  None of the singers “changed” the musical score –Kree Harrison / Billy Gilman
— (Crying, Roy Orbison – 1961 — Remember — I was saved in my late teens.)

Even the Spanish version preserves the musical score!

4.  Take a hymn that little-to-no-one knows or has ever sung, change up the musical score, and nothing is lost.  Why?  Because it has no experiential history.  Sing that hymn using that variant musical score for months, and it develops its own attachment to that musical score.  Now, have the choir sing it as written in the hymn book.  

5. I have heard some old hymns of the faith put to a different musical score, and it worked.  At times, it drew out some of the elements of “poetry,” which lacked that musical color.  But that has been rare in my humble experience.  

♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦ 

Fiery Evangelist Harvey Springer Dies

The Rev. Harvey H. Springer, fiery fundamentalist evangelist who built the Independent First Baptist Church and Tabernacle of Englewood into one of the largest congregations in Colorado, died at 11:50 p. m. Friday in Swedish Hospital after a heart attack. He was 59. Rev. Mr. Springer was stricken at Silver State Youth Camp in Jarre Canyon near Sedalia, which he operated during the summer. Some 3500 children are attending this year’s camp session at a rate of up to 400 a week. The pastor, who long referred to himself as the cowboy evangelist. addressed the campers Thursday night and again at the noon meal Friday before he was stricken. Rev. Mr. Springer headed the Englewood church, which is independent of other Baptist churches, for 30 years. He made many radio broadcasts, published a weekly newspaper and wrote and published numerous books and tracts. Rev. Mr. Springer was a hellfire and brimstone preacher who often made tours of the South. He was a shrewd businessman who formed many organizations to foster his activities.

Rev. Mr. Springer was an executive officer of the ultrafundamentalist International Council of Christian Churches. Rev. Mr. Springer for years published the weekly, “Western Voice From Out of the Rockies”. He was born January 18, 1907, in Oklahoma Indian Territory, the son of Otto W. and Delia Phelps Springer. He spent most of his earlier years in Oklahoma. In 1925 he married Miss Evalena Shaffer, daughter of the founders of Shaffer’s Crossing southwest of Denver. He appeared in Englewood in two evangelistic campaigns, then became pastor of his Englewood church in 1936. Funeral services were at 2:00 p. m. Tuesday in the Independent First Baptist Church and Tabernacle, 3170 S. Broadway, Englewood. Burial was in Littleton Cemetery. The Rev. Victor Sears of Ft. Worth, Texas, pastor of Castleberry Baptist Church, and the Rev. Sam Morris, a San Antonio, Texas, evangelist, will conduct funeral services. Surviving, in addition to his wife, are a sister. Mrs. Ruby Riley; a brother, Byron E. Springer: a nephew and four nieces, all of Denver. Silver Heights, north of Castle Rock, along with the Silver State Youth Camp and the Silver State Nursing Home, all in Douglas County, were products of the dynamic leadership of Dr. Springer.

The Rev. Harvey H. Springer — 1907-1969 

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