It's that time of year again, Restoration. (Restoration is the annual revival series we put on for the students and community, we being mostly LLU students, since I guess it's a LLU student organization, but people like me, a non-student from Advent Hope, get to help out, too.) Usually the series is two and a half weeks long, but this year it will be only five days, starting tomorrow. And as usual, I have my usual duty of arranging musicians for special music. And as usual, I have enforced my "no-karaoke" policy (i.e., no sountracks for vocalists).
Why am I such a stick-in-the-mud about this point? As a "classical" (read: snobby) musician who plays a 218-year-old instrument, do I just need to keep up with the times? There are several reasons why I can't bring myself to allow it. Partly because canned music is against union regulations. Partly because some (not all) soundtracks have drumbeats that nobody likes (and it's harder to censor what you get on a track), partly because I've heard too many badly handled soundtrack cues from the PA system ("Put on the track! What do you mean it doesn't work? No, track 12, not track 11! Not that CD, the other one! The one with the sheep on the front!" etc.). But all of that can be avoided in most cases, and certainly both the musicians and the PA operators I work with are people I know and trust, so that's not the main issue.
When someone asked me about it, all of a sudden it finally came to mind exactly why I have this strict policy. Worship is done by people, living, breathing people, who walk into a church after a week of problems, disappointments, fears, frustrations, and joys, and take all those emotions they've accumulated during the week and give them over to God. When you walk into a house of worship, whether it's a church, a meeting room or a PT lab, you can almost feel the questions, the frustrations, the prayers--not unlike the experience of smelling the fragrant incense which represented the prayers in the ancient tabernacle. And worship is those people, sometimes the ones with the biggest questions, getting up front and praising God. When you put on the disembodied band music, who are they? Would they want to be in this place?
Not that I have anything against recordings, at home or in the car, when you can't hear a live performance. But the reason why people pay money to go to the concert hall to hear a symphony they've heard a million times before on a CD is because of the living quality of the music that's made by living people. And that quality, combined with the spirit of praising God, is what worship is all about.