A Secular Flavor
Ruth Ann Wade
Associate Professor of music
While the Montemorelos University music faculty thought there was a lot of good music and that it was well organized, carefully planned, and on schedule, they also felt that there also was much that was not "sacred." It appears that the Guidelines towards a Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy in Music, released by the Autumn Council in 1972, has been forgotten.
There was the feeling that some of the schools in the United States and nearby countries should have been invited to present outstanding groups, such as orchestras or choirs. One of our faculty members felt that the orchestra that was used seemed to be just "put together" and the level of performance was low.
As a whole, members of our choir and brass ensemble, who were there from Thursday through the first weekend, felt that there didn’t seem to be a philosophy of music guiding the music of the participating groups. They were greatly surprised at some of the things they heard and saw.
Everyone commented on the African choir which was nearly dancing as it sang and felt it was entirely out of place. Another observation was that some of the music representing different countries performed at the session would not have been acceptable in the churches back home.
The director of our university and conservatory music programs, Norka Castillo, felt there were some groups who made superb presentations of sacred music, but that others, such as one group of young children from Africa, seemed to be presenting music drawn from their secular folklore. She felt we should adhere more closely to the clear guidelines found in E. G. White’s writings and that a GC committee should provide guidance in this area.
Francisco Stout, choir director and theory teacher, believes that the General Conference session should be an opportunity for the church to demonstrate its philosophical position about what music is appropriate in the world church. Some of the concerts were inspiring and led to a new vision of what we yet need to do hasten the coming of Jesus.
Even so, there were times when it seemed that the music was primarily a cultural event and that there was not a well-defined position on music defined by world church leaders. He was pleased to see activity in forming an organization, Adventist Music Society, to do what the church seems unwilling to do, provide guidance in this area.
Ivan Flores, a brass teacher, felt that while some of the music was good, there was more that was not. He attended the youth meetings and felt that what he heard there was totally different from what was used in the main auditorium. He had difficulty with what he perceived as no distinction between worship and secular music. Ivan observed that he saw two groups dancing, one of which was singing rap music. He questioned particularly the music presented by the divisions during their evening reports, which tended to be a cultural show rather than an uplifting experience.
I personally thought that the women’s choir from Korea and the men’s choir from Oregon were outstanding. It was a joy to hear Del Delker sing; in fact, it brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful. And the little violinist was marvelous.
In a recent conversation with the director of Children’s Ministries from the North Mexican Union, her response to my query about how she liked the music at Toronto was met with a shaking of the head and an immediate, "yo me salí," which translates "I got up and went outside." Obviously she couldn´t have done that on everything, but some of the music bothered her and that is what she thought of immediately when asked.
The last General Conference Session I had the privilege of attending was in 1985 at New Orleans. The music there was much different than this time, the tenor being significantly more sacred. Considering the power of music to affect the spirituality of the church, it seems we need to take steps as a church to teach with love that there needs to be a difference between the sacred and the profane (Ezekial 22:26).