Engaging And Excellent

“From the Editor”

Ten minutes before starting time the auditorium was full. The room was alive with anticipation as people crammed into the rows and chattered happily while they waited.

The singers were well known throughout the state of Indiana, and it was big news that they would be performing here free that night. “We’ve received a lot of good publicity about this program,” conference attendees were warned. “People are coming from all over the city. Make sure you arrive early to get a good seat.”

What was the big deal? The men’s glee club from Purdue University was the guest that evening. They appeared, in a concert open to the public, as part of the National Church Music Conference that met all week at Plainfield (Indiana) Christian Church.

After a brief introduction, the choir burst into the auditorium, filling every aisle with their energy and exuberant singing. Later that night, the music majors in the audience would compliment the glee club’s perfect musicianship, but laymen like me were satisfied simply to experience the goose bumps their performance created.

Their singing was superb, but these 60 young men did so much more than sing. They smiled. They swayed. They charged off the platform to croon old fashioned love songs on bended knee into the eyes of ladies on the aisles. They divided into quartets and octets with selections of every style from Irish ballads to Beach Boys hits.

And they pointed us to God. Their rendition of “How Great Thou Art” was doubly wondrous coming from these young, secular college students. They invited us to sing along with them then and again with “Amazing Grace.” We wondered if this church building had ever heard more moving praise.

Some would say (although no one I heard at the church music conference) that the day of choral music is past. The way to reach this generation, they claim, is with something much more “contemporary.” But a crowd had gathered from all over central Indiana to hear this choir, whose purpose is to build up the reputation of Purdue University. Could we attract such an audience to a choir dedicated to building the reputation of Christ?

Choral music has touched all of the young men who sang for us that evening. In fact, some of them enrolled at Purdue just to sing in this choir. (And not one of them is a music major; the school doesn’t offer a music degree!) Wouldn’t this kind of singing attract them to a local church in the town where they settle after graduation?

But, of course, “this kind of singing” as engaging as it is excellent is hard to find among local congregations today. I left the National Church Music Conference intrigued that Purdue University had provided the experience many will remember most about the week.

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