Singing from the same song sheet

The value of developing a core repertoire

Sacred music has always been part of my life. My Mum sang and played piano and my Dad played piano and accordion. He also sang in the Male Voice choir at church. As a family, across the generations, we sang hymns and choruses for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a church with a strong tradition of quality music and congregational song and I sang there as a soloist, in the choir and as part of a youth group.

Most of us have favourite hymns that have special meaning or significance to us and so, to one degree or another, we almost unthinkingly develop a core repertoire; a selection of music that’s both familiar and uplifting. Actively developing and maintaining a core repertoire is, in fact, common practice among musicians across all genres. I believe that this practice translates very readily to family worship and congregational song and, indeed, that it’s fully appropriate. It all comes down to why we sing.

‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.’ (Psalm 145:3-4)

We can see from the words of this wonderful Psalm that we sing in praise of our matchless God. We can use our shared repertoire to declare His greatness and pass on our knowledge of Him to future generations. What’s more, a thoughtful and studied repertoire underlines Scripture and reinforces our understanding of theology so we can sing thoughtfully, worshipfully and with understanding. ‘I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.’ (1 Corinthians 14:15b)

In his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul exhorted the congregation to ‘… let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.’ (Colossians 3:16)

The primary purpose of our praise is to bring glory to God but it can also give voice to our gratitude, teach us wisdom and be a means of building up one another. In effect, as a congregation, our core repertoire serves to nurture our faith and our Church community.

Is there a difference between core repertoire for corporate, family and private worship? Yes, I think so but there’s plenty of room for significant overlap. My own personal repertoire tends to be more meditative but it’s good to sing music at home that we expect to sing in church.