*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 14th of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
A mailbag Monday, a second mailbag show in 2 days! Send your questions as an email or audio file to CHA@1517.org.
The question comes from Levi Dugan,
One thing that I think it would be interesting for you to do (and something I constantly debate with friends) is to rank the various denominations of the church based on the composers who belonged to that denomination. For the purposes of this exercise, the composer does have to be a devout practitioner of their faith. As long as they considered themselves to belong to that denomination, that counts.
Thanks, Levi. And I think this is a very high brow and sophisticated question. But, if I may, I would like to give you an answer to the spirit of your questions and with the category from classical composers (which I assume you meant) and instead take a look at popular composers and performers within various denominations. And while I am wary to name anyone “the best” I’ll give you a few thoughts and then you can make of that what you will….
Let’s start with the dishonorable mention (for the sake of pop music):
Maybe you are a Presbyterian and know a few pop music stars, but here’s: what I know:
Sheryl Crow was a deacon at a Presbyterian church.
Are there more? Sure, I suppose… and maybe a few notable figures but nobody comes right to mind. And that makes them the bottom of the major denominational battle.
Now, the Lutherans. Well, obviously there is Bach, but we are keeping it at the popular level. Lyle Lovett is a Lutheran as was Peggy Lee. Also, Ace Frehley has Lutheran roots (his vocation was to put on makeup and play guitar for KISS). You know who else? David Hasselhoff whose musical career, like Presskopf, is enjoyed in Germany and nowhere else.
The Catholics are pretty exotic. Or at least they sound exotic. From Brits Adele and Ed Sheeran, you have Madonna who sounds British, and Lady Gaga who just sounds exotic. It is a big pool and so you get folks from Lil Wayne to Dean Martin. But for every Frank Sinatra, the Catholics get they also have to answer for the likes of Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit fame).
We’ve mentioned the Methodists on this show before, from Beyonce to Ella Fitzgerald, the Carpenters, and Tony Braxton. There are some mighty fine pipes in the tradition started by those Wesley brothers.
The Anglican and Episcopalian crowd is, as you might expect, a little bit… bourgeois. You’ve got Nat King Cole and Cab Calloway and then the stars of popular musical theatre such as Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, and Angela Lansbury. Not to mention Oscar Hammerstein, one of the fathers of American musical theatre. You get Jerry Garcia and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, too for what it is worth.
And then the Baptists. You’d expect them to excel in the most Baptist of contexts: the United States of America. Here’s a shortlist:
Yeah, so… I said there wasn’t a winner. But the Baptists are the winners. This is the very scientific response to your question, which I actually altered…
The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John- this is John the Baptist speaking in the first chapter:
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by the Dee Snider to my Jerry Garcia Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.