There are four basic kinds of sacred music which make up the Music Ministry of Union Baptist Church. These forms are called genres. They are Hymns, Spirituals, Anthems and Gospel.
- The Hymn. The hymn is a form of music dating back for centuries. It is attributed to the influence of the European (German) religious and secular song. African-Americans have adapted this genre as a major part of worship. When Blacks began to establish their own churches in the late 1800s, they did not dismiss the very sophisticated hymns they had learned from their experience in the White Church. Rather than dismiss them, several of the rhythms and harmonies were changed to meet the needs of the Black Church. This is what we call adding "color" to a hymn, not just singing or playing it as written, but "bending and twisting" the notes to meet our spiritual, social and cultural needs. Thus, the hymn has evolved into one of the most significant forms of worship expression. Hymns are significant because they inform us and help us express the Christian faith in very concrete ways. They also have steadfast melodies and beautiful harmonies. They are usually set in a four-part chorale mode, Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass and are strophic in composition. Strophic means that each verse is like a stanza to a poem and all of the verses have the same melodies and harmonies. It has been said that hymns are the most important scared music of the church because they never grow "old" and are always relevant to the life of the believer no matter what time period she/he lives in.
- The Spiritual. Music in the Black Church has reflected the theology and pilgrimage of African-Americans. Religion and music were at the heart and culture of African American Slaves. Religious ceremonies by slaves were suppressed. However, the song planted in their hearts, and their knowledge of God enabled them to survive the oppressive and inhumane treatment of slave masters. The music that these slaves developed had both social and spiritual purposes. Songs like, "Meetin' Tonight," and "There's a Man Goin' "Round Takin' Names", and spoke of the slaves desire to be free, yet the message was disguised from the slave master. One of the reasons Christianity proved so popular amongst the slaves was that it was the religion of an oppressed people. The struggles of the Hebrews and their long sought "Promised Land" proved a strong analogy for the slaves. Songs like, "Mary, Don't You Weep an' Martha Don't You Moan, Pharaoh's Army Got Drown-ded," "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin'," helped to keep the slaves encouraged. The message and medium of music was so effective that our ancestors were encouraged. The message of these songs has affected the lives of many human beings as we can see today through many cultures. Several other elements of the spirituals and our African heritage are still alive today; among them are: 1. Shouting and Dancing as expressions of celebration 2. The wide-spread use of falsetto when we sing 3. Humming, moaning, and groaning in our music 4. Rocking, clapping, stomping in the worship experience 5. Call and response dynamic in our music. For African-American Christians, celebration comes naturally for it is ".good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely" (Psalms 147:1). The Spiritual represents a heritage of people who sang a song of hope and freedom while in bondage. This "freedom" was initially associated with getting out of the south and fleeing north; however, the longer the slave was kept in the south, his aspirations for freedom related to heaven.
- The Anthem. The Anthem is a song of praise and devotion to God. Like the hymn, this form of sacred music developed in Europe some anthems are written with accompaniment, and others, a cappella (literally, "for the chapel," or unaccompanied). Some anthems are called Full Anthems, meaning that they are arranged for chorus only, while others are called Verse Anthems, meaning that they are to be sung by a chorus with a solo singing verses dispersed through the music. The anthem differs from the hymn three ways: (Anglican/Episcopal Church) and is often set in four part texture (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass). The lyrics are usually Biblical text/verses of scripture. It is seldom written in strophic form, but is usually through-composed (compositional changes occurring throughout the piece). The texture of the piece often includes elements such as polyphony, melismas and varied range of dynamics.The Anthem is important in the life of the church because it declares the goodness and faithfulness of God.
- The Gospel. This unique music form created by the African-Americans combines the elements of the hymn, anthem, spiritual, blues and jazz. Gospel Music, born in the 1920's, is one of the later forms of sacred music to encourage Christianity and has increased its popularity since World War II. Gospel Music is used as the central form of inspiration music in predominately Black congregations. Gospel music is important, because it speaks directly to the struggles, needs, and liberation of African-Americans. Originally used as the sacred expression of the blues, gospel music has become one of the leading and most widely respected forms of music in America Perhaps the reason why gospel music is so well associated with church idiom is because it takes the form of the hymn, spiritual, anthem, blues, and jazz and combines them into an unmistakable texture which swiftly calls the worshiper in reflection and praise. Gospel music is important to the musically mature church. While all gospel music may not be appropriate for the worship experience, all forms or expressions from gospel music (traditional, contemporary, Christian, rock, rap, etc.) should be understood and the World.
A Music Ministry With A Vision For A Church With A Mission
The Music Ministry of Union Baptist Church, Durham North Carolina, is a dynamic and diverse music ministry for the 21st century. The various choirs and multi-talented music staff lead our worship services with anointed music, beautiful arrangements, and Christ-centered lyric. "Excellence Without Exception" Music Ministry was adopted as the ministry's name which was derived from the church's theme slogan: "Excellence Without Exception; Quality Without Question: Committed to the Cause of Christ." The Union Baptist Church Music Ministry's primary purpose is to minister through vocal and instrumental music.
It has a threefold purpose which is:
- UPWARD to God through praise and worship
- INWARD to the Union Baptist Church family through
- OUTWARD to all nations through evangelism and ministry.