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Organ Singing and Hymn Playing. Performing Congregational Song.

by Per Högberg

The Lutheran church service tradition assigns important functions to the organ: in liturgical use, most of all as a leader, a source of inspiration, and a conversational partner in the congregation’s song. In our time, however, the congregational song repertoire is marked by pluralism; it spans styles and genres.

This being the case, does the music historian Abraham Hülphers’ famous statement of 1773,”thus organs’ use in Swedish Zion also ought to be praised/ So long as their pipes’ sound may guide the Church’s song” still possess validity for the performance of hymns today? The present Swedish Hymnal contains much material that has been included ever since our first official hymnal, the Carolingian hymnal of 1695.

Thus, in spite of revisions made to language, melodies and harmonizations, there is still an uninterrupted and living tradition of congregational song in the liturgy of the Church of Sweden.

Congregational song exhibits elements of conscious art, and at the same time engenders shared participation. This participation arises as that which is conscious of art (the text, the organ, and the trained organist) meets that which is unconscious of art (the singing congregation, the “folk”), and can itself be described as artistic beauty.

The organ, its music, and its concert practice provide endless examples of conscious art. But how might shared participation in congregational song, which belongs to the perspective of the organ’s liturgical utility, be described in relation to the concept of conscious art? Using as a point of departure a description of the verticality and horizontality of congregational song, this dissertation seeks to formulate a pedagogical approach.

Bringing the liturgical use perspective into focus in relation to congregational song is essential to formulating a notion of this song in terms of artistic beauty, which offers us a deepened understanding of that utility as tradition in motion, or motion in tradition.

Per Högberg publicly defended his thesis in musical performance and interpretation on 13 April 2013 at the Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg.

Page Manager: Tobias Egle|Last update: 8/5/2014
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