At a Solemn Musick (Special Guest: Christopher Betts)

 Neri, da Rimini, 13th/14th cent. Leaf from an Antiphonary, from   Art in the Christian Tradition  , a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Original source: www.mfa.org

Neri, da Rimini, 13th/14th cent. Leaf from an Antiphonary, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Original source: www.mfa.org

Director of Music Christopher Betts admits he initially found it difficult to choose a favorite poem. After all, he doesn't consider himself having much exposure to poetry over the years. But then it dawned on him: he is constantly surrounded by poetry! 

"I realized how much poetry I do know and love because it's been introduced to me through music," he says.

In this conversation between Christopher Betts and Rev. Tommy Williams, you'll hear about the interplay of sacred music and poetry. Inspired by John Milton's 17th century poem, "At a Solemn Musick," we reflect on how the metaphor of music can shape our understanding of our relationship with God.

Feel free to leave a comment below. You might ponder...

  1. How do these art forms of music and poetry create "thin spaces" (as it's described in the Celtic tradition) between humans and the divine?
  2. We certainly absorb theology through poetic lines paired with memorable melodies, as in the hymns of Charles Wesley. Which of Wesley's hymns is your favorite and what impact has it had on your understanding of what it means to be Methodist?

At a Solemn Musick
by John Milton

Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav'ns joy, 
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers, 
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath'd sense able to pierce, 
And to our high-rais'd phantasie present,
That undisturbèd Song of pure content, 
Ay sung before the saphire-colour'd throne
To him that sits theron
With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily, 
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow, 
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires, 
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms, 

Hymns devout and holy Psalms
Singing everlastingly; 
That we on Earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise; 
As once we did, till disproportion'd sin
Jarr'd against natures chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair musick that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway’d
In perfect Diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good. 
O may we soon again renew that Song
And keep in tune with Heav'n, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite, 
To live with him, and sing in endles morn of light.