25 April 2024

Church music program a rich and rare education

Scholarship gives young musicians the opportunity to broaden their repertoire with Christian music. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

14 April 2022

A music scholarship designed to familiarise more young people with traditional Anglican hymns and services has been described as unique and rewarding by its first winner.

The program developed by St Margaret’s Eltham aimed to show the relevance of a wide range of Christian music, including Gregorian chant and Paul Manz songs, to contemporary culture. 

Piano student Lachlan Chau said music scholarships were increasingly uncommon and that the liturgical focus had given him the opportunity to learn a genre of music that was rarely covered in other music education schemes.

Awarded the scholarship while he completed his final year at secondary school, Mr Chau said that he had learned music that he had never had to play before.

“The church I usually go to is more modern and we have a youth group that’s casual and contemporary, so in contrast the music at St Margaret’s was very diverse,” Mr Chau said.

He said the initiative had developed his confidence to perform for a live audience because it had required him to play at regular services in front of the congregation.

Now at university, Mr Chau was also completing a certificate of performance for piano and aimed for a diploma but said he wasn’t sure of what his musical path really was. However, “I do think the scholarship experience and the increased contacts will open up more doors for me in the future,” he said.

St Margaret’s Anglican vicar Reverend Keren Terpstra said exposing young musicians to Christian music was important because it was fundamental to human development. 

“If you’re going to play Sia or U2 songs, or Powderfinger, it’s good to have an idea of where those ways of doing things have come from,” Ms Terpstra said.

Another impetus for the program was community outreach, but there was also a very “practical reality” to it, she said. “The musicians that we have are aged and ageing and have been faithful in offering their gifts, but this is about wanting to make sure that there is another generation of people who are capable of playing for church services.”

Ms Terpstra said the program would be expanding with two more places, and that St Margaret’s had  fundraising plans to consolidate for it.

Mr Chau said learning about the music had been spiritually engaging and that it was insightful for young people like him. 

His favourite pieces were hymns 609, ‘May the mind of Christ my Saviour’, and 234, ‘How good Lord to be here’. 

“I found 609 really calming and a good reminder that we should not be tempted by the world and instil Christ’s values every day. Hymn 234 is more celebratory, and full of praise, so it’s good to play every now and then,” he said.

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