Sacred music in a secular world

Posted on Dec 4, 2018 by

In 2012, leaders of newVoices choir made the decision to present a completely sacred Christmas program–response since then has been overwhelming. Last Christmas, almost 2,000 people experienced the message of Christian salvation presented through music in a series of three live choral concerts. This year will be no different.

Our decision to embrace a sacred program was made to give our audiences a choice. We love Santa and Rudolph as much as anyone else, but we knew our audiences wanted to hear more traditional Christmas music rooted in the sacred celebration of the season.

Much of western choral music originated in the Roman Catholic church, then the Lutheran church, and on into other denominations. Many of the songs we love from our childhood were originally composed by church musicians and sung within a liturgical setting. For newVoices, this becomes more significant as many of our singers are church musicians and even ordained ministers.

Dan Dinkler is the accompanist for newVoices and the worship arts pastor for Appleton Alliance Church. He says the large response to sacred music is because in our secular society, people gravitate to something real that’s not fabricated.

“The commercialism of Christmas begins as early as October,” Dinkler said. “We dedicate two months out of the whole year to recognize Christmas and its largely secular. I think people see past that and are looking for what’s true–and that is found in the sacred.”

Dinkler says the season inspires a return to family traditions—and newVoices Christmas programming brings back those feelings.  “It can harken back to Christmases from when audience members were young, people like the music because it’s what they’re familiar with, or the concerts are popular because audience members like singing and singing what’s true,” he said.

“Secular music says it’s the most wonderful time of the year (and that’s a great thing), but the real joy is the salvation of our souls,” Dinkler says. “Music touches the soul, it reaches deep within, and if you couple good music with the truth of the Gospel, that packs a powerful message.”

Jim Coakley is a tenor in newVoices and also an affiliated minister at the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. He says the sacred nature of the program calls us back to the real meaning of Christmas.

“With all the turmoil in the the world, people are searching for deeper meaning and something more solid to ground their traditions. Sacred music at this time of year reassures us there is something greater than us,” Coakley said.

For others, the holidays may trigger feelings of sadness due to personal loss, but a return to the celebration of Christ’s birth can refocus the celebration. Blake Doss is a tenor in newVoices and also the organist at First Presbyterian Church of Neenah.

“We have no idea what individuals attending our concerts are experiencing in their personal lives,” Doss said. “I believe we share our music in order to comfort, uplift, and spread joy to others, and to remind people that we are not alone when facing personal challenges.”

Timeless music when performed beautifully has a profound impact on people—especially at Christmas. It burrows into the big, moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and communicates a message bigger than any one person. For us that message at Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth and the hope it brings all people.

Christmas at the Chapel, Lawrence Memorial Chapel, Appleton
Sat., Dec.15, 2018, 2:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 adults, $10 students

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