Review: The Music Architect

Constance M. Cherry. The Music Architect: Blueprints for Engaging Worshipers in Song. Grand Rapids: Baker Acaedmic, 2016.

PrintConstance Cherry’s volume would be a great primer for a young worship leader just beginning to lead congregational song. The vision of worship leadership she presents is a refreshing departure from the increasingly omnipresent performance-artist paradigm, and throughout she develops the concept of a “pastoral musician,” which seems more appropriate to churches of all sizes and theological distinctions than the spiritual rock star. Her tone is exceedingly generous throughout, accommodating a very wide spectrum of stylistic preferences without borderless ecumenicalism. There were a few times her tolerance for certain practices within Christendom went too far for my comfort (icons, for example), but on the catholic essentials I appreciated her firm line.

This book might make an effective primer for, say, an undergraduate-level introduction to the subject, but seems a bit tedious for those who are already familiar with the relevant literature. Cherry often summarizes—rather than thoughtfully interacts with or contributes to—the worship writings of Nicholas Wolterstorff, James K. A. Smith, Bryan Chappell, Harold Best, Paul Westermeyer, Robert Webber, etc. While it was nice to see so many voices collected together in a unified project, there weren’t many fresh insights, rather a good synthesis of the better voices. The writing style seems a bit bloated with cutesy suggestions to think about things over chai, or filling word counts with dictionary definitions. With a better editor, these 288 pages could have been a lean and efficient 150-200.

I would still recommend having it on your shelf if you are involved in church music. There are a few chapters in the middle with descriptions of different styles and forms of Christian songs that might make a handy reference for the inevitable controversies among churchmen over hymns and choruses, traditional and contemporary, repetitive and dense.

My rating: 3/5

Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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