From the Rectory – April

The seventeenth century dutch artist Johnannes Vermeer was a slow but careful painter, often using expensive materials to produce his pictures which mostly depicted domestic scenes of middle class life.

Although he remained largely ignored for more than 200 years after his death, by the nineteenth century, his reputation began to grow and he is now considered a significant figure among the painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Among his most popular paintings is ‘The Guitar Player’. It depicts a young girl – probably one of Vermeer’s daughters – wearing a full green dress, yellow fur trimmed shawl, and clasping a finely made guitar.

Musical instruments are a common subject in art – either as the main focus, or more incidental. Whether an image of guitar wielding rock superstar Bruce Springsteen by contemporary American painter Amy Belonio, or a marble statue of an early bronze age harp player from more than 4000 years ago, the place that music plays in culture is reflected in the artwork that culture produces.

David, the shepherd boy turned King that we find in the book of Samuel in the bible, is by all accounts an accomplished musician.

When still a young man, the bible tells us how he was such a talented player of the lyre, that he was called on to play for the Royal Household, and specifically for King Saul. Saul suffered from what the bible describes as ‘the tormenting of an evil spirit’, which is calmed when David took up his lyre and played.

Some time later, David turns his talent to the writing of songs. The book of Psalms contains a great number that are ascribed to him, as many as half of the 150 in the bible carry his name.

David draws on song when times are good, when he has much to praise God for, when he wants to celebrate and give thanks. For the more difficult times, when he is persecuted and hated, when he fails short of the standards God has set, it is in music that he finds a place to lay bare the way he feels.

For these same reasons, and more, this is why we sing when we gather together as God’s church. Music, like art, touches our souls.


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