February 29, 2008


There are different types of singing. There is the type that's on American Idol. Occasionally I watch American Idol, and enjoy the talent that is featured. There's also the type that I sang when I was a member of the Chapman University Concert Choir. Four- and eight-part harmonies and perfectly blended voices. Music like that is awe-inspiring, and can send chills down one's spine.

Then there is my favorite type of singing. It's when a group of people, with little or no practice, get together and sing their hearts out. It's the type of singing that takes place at the church camps I've counseled. It's the type of singing that often takes place in church, though not always. It's singing that's filled with joy and sometimes sorrow. It's about hope. And sometimes, it's just plain fun or even silly.

When I was in seminary, I taught myself some guitar chords so that I could help facilitate this type of singing. And I have, with youth groups in Indiana and California, at camps and retreats and even in a small desert community on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. At my most recent church, I led the congregation in song at the beginning of each worship service, me and my guitar, even though I've had little formal musical training. Sometimes, technical perfection just doesn't matter. Sometimes, it shouldn't.

Since we've moved to southern California, I've only taken my guitar out to play once. The problem is, I'm not sure where my songbook--the one that's filled with all the lyrics and chords--is. I do know some songs by heart. A few I even wrote myself. Others--like Humuhumunukunukuapua'a--I learned for the kids. But those get old after awhile.

I have a feeling, though, that next weekend, I'll get the guitar out. We're going camping with a bunch of friends and relatives, and I have a hunch that the nieces will really enjoy singing along to Humuhumunukunukuapua'a.

Me leading a group of northern California clergy in song at a retreat last fall.

1 comment:

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Hey Danny,

I too am self-taught on guitar. When asked whether I play lead or rhythm, I said -- I play bad. But I too help lead the songs on my guitar! Not a bad habit for a pastor!