Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church
© 2016 Anthony Esolen
In his book Out of the Ashes: Restoring American Culture, Anthony Esolen devoted an entire chapter solely to music. Here he does one better! To sing is to pray twice, wrote St. Augustine, and Real Music demonstrates that emphatically. There is nothing quite like the musical tradition in Christian liturgy; a newcomer to an Anglican or Catholic church may first appreciate the mere sound of the organ or harp, but when time is invested in these services — when one attends throughout the year, for several years — the real beauty and power of its hymns, offertories, anthems, etc. reveal themselves. These hymns are not merely pretty lyrics put to pretty music, but are themselves poetic articulations of the Church’s theology and scripture. The Christian music tradition can do much more than make a listener feel “nice”; hymns can fill the soul with beauty and the mind with poetry. Esolen attempts to convey this experience not over a course of years, but into one book, devoting different chapters to distinct areas of the tradition. He here covers Eucharistic hymns, hymns of glory and penitence, hymns celebrating life and challenging death. Esolen does not merely present hymns to the reader and comment on their theology; he guides the reader through how the hymns’ very meter and grammar strengthen the meaning. This book is a treasure for Christians who love traditional hymnody, or who have heard it on the wind before and yearn to know more about it.