Christian Music Through the Ages

by Anthony Freddura

I participate in the Life Community Through Worship program run by Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts. In addition to traditional Bible study, we engage in music making, performing timeless songs by well-known Christian musicians. Since the dawn of their religion, Christians have employed music in their worship, and many of the world’s most longstanding musical styles evolved in a Christian context.

Historians don’t know much about the music of the first Christians, but there are references to music in three of the four Gospels. Most likely, early Christian music resembled the music of the ancient Greeks, of which we have a few surviving examples; and the music of the Jews, Romans, and other groups from the area. The fact that many Church hymns have roots in the Old Testament Psalms lends credence to this theory. By the sixth century A.D., Christianity had developed its own distinct styles of singing, forming in Western Europe the roots of what we know today as soothing Gregorian chant. Complementary types of chant also appeared in Eastern Christian traditions. Sung as part of Church services, Gregorian chant continued to evolve for centuries.

In the middle of the 1100s, a French composer named Leonin, working for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, invented what would later evolve into harmony. Before that time, music always consisted of a melody only, perhaps accompanied by drums. After Leonin, musicians quickly began stacking melodies on top of each other, but harmony (or more correctly, polyphony) is a Christian invention, created for worship. Not everyone loved harmony right away. As with rock music in the 1950s and 1960s, many Christians of the time felt the new style was too flashy and didn’t respect the Christian message behind the words. This controversy continued until the Renaissance, when an Italian composer named Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina developed an intricate harmonic style of composition that won over the Church, which deemed the music beautiful and Christian. Church choirs still sing his music today.

Other European composers continued to advance Christian music over the subsequent ages, including J.S. Bach, considered by many the greatest composer to have ever lived. However, other musical traditions began to have an effect on Christian music as well. Spirituals, invented by African-American slaves, played a major role in the development of what would become Gospel, Soul, and Rhythm & Blues in the United States. At first confined to African-American churches, these new styles gained increasingly mainstream acceptance from the 1960s onward. Today, Christian music encompasses everything from the diverse traditions of the European masters to the lively styles developed in America and around the world.

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anthonyfreddura

Anthony Freddura has developed his skills as a Project Manager and Business Systems Analyst with 15 years immersed in various software projects. From 1990 until 1994, Anthony Freddura studied at Stonehill College, located in North Easton, Massachusetts, and earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Marketing with a minor in History. Through the late 1990s, Anthony Freddura worked a series of Systems Quality Analyst jobs in Boston, Massachusetts. Anthony Freddura’s first position found him at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., where he served as the primary Analyst for a client/server transaction processing system. In 1998, Anthony Freddura joined Pioneer Group, Inc. to work as a Business Systems Analyst. For this job, Anthony Freddura documented business requirements, analyzed business functions, and coordinated file transfers to AS/400. In 2000, Anthony Freddura brought his computer skills to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley to participate in the tech boom. At Robertson Stephens Inc., Anthony Freddura took on a leadership roll as a Project Manager. Anthony Freddura then enjoyed a series of contract positions at companies such as Cisco and Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. From 2004 through 2007, Anthony Freddura worked as a Business Systems Analyst at Genentech, Inc. Anthony Freddura moved back to Massachusetts in 2007 to take on several Systems Analyst positions at companies such as Fidelity Investments; Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, Inc.; and Iron Mountain Incorporated. Currently, Anthony Freddura holds the position of Senior Business Systems Analyst at MultiPlan Inc. in Waltham. Outside of work, Anthony Freddura serves his community by providing guitar accompaniment for The Worship Arts Ministry at Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts. Anthony Freddura has participated in the nutrition program SoulFood in Boston, which targets undernourishment in the homeless population. In his spare time, Anthony Freddura also enjoys creative writing and reading.