I am a music snob. I really am, I am ashamed to say. I don’t mean styles of music. You can like your punk/funk/heavy metal as much as you like and I’m not fussed. Each to their own and I’m (mostly) happy to say that it’s just a matter of preference (but screaming, is that really music?). When I say I’m a music snob, it’s in a far worse way than disliking a particular style. I mean church music.
In the last while I have been to a few different churches or places where church music is played (e.g. college). Each church has different resources (in terms of musicians available and qualities of sound systems and things like that). And I have realised that I am a snob about church music.
I realised this recently when we were in a church singing a song that I knew well and the song leader and congregation sang a note wrong. They sang two lines exactly the same without the subtle difference of one note. It was only one note, but it annoyed me.
Now, I quickly realised that this probably affected only me. My snobbery caused me to lose joy in what I was singing, to focus more on the music (the tune, the instruments, the tempo) instead of the words that I was (meant to be) singing in worship to God. It distracted me from what I should be focusing on while singing in church.
I know that this is probably my problem and not something I can blame on someone else. I could say that the musicians should “work harder” and get the song “right” so that the music is good and doesn't distract anyone. But I’ve been in far too many small churches to know that this just isn’t possible. Your drummer is young and enthusiastic and plays too fast and loud, or your guitarist taught themself and can only play certain types of music, or your singers are shy and never know when to come in. But there’s no one else who can do it, so you use what you have.
Sure, my problem may be fixed by a talented music team who play well together and produce polished church music. I will be able to entrust myself to their music and focus on the words and what I am singing to God. There will be nothing in the music that jars me out of my focus on God. But what if I’ve learnt the song incorrectly in the first place? What I think is right and won’t jar, is actually not right, and even if the musicians play the song perfectly (or we sing along to a recording, arguably as perfect as you can get), my problem will still happen.
So much of the way we do music at church is communal. We learn together and we teach each other. We may get used to the way that our church music team plays a particular song, and this becomes our favourite and comfortable way to sing it, even if it is “wrong” in certain aspects according to the original composer(s) and performer(s).
My music snobbery is just something that I need to get over. I can’t control the music at any church and getting upset about it just puts a barrier in my way to worshiping God through what I’m singing. I want to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the way that God has blessed the church with the people who are there, and I want to focus on the words, more than the music. Any time I hear that jarring of music not–quite–right–to–my–ears, I hope it reminds me to refocus on the words, to mean what I am singing, and ultimately, focus not on myself, but on my God.