Under the Hands of their Fathers

Monday, July 27, 2009

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In the Bible we find a very interesting phrase in reference to the Old Testament musicians. Scripture states that they were "under the hands of their father" as they sang and played their instruments.

    "Of the sons of Asaph; Zaccur, and Joseph, and Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king. Of Jeduthun: the sons of Jeduthun; Gedaliah, and Zeri, and Jeshaiah, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah, six, under the hands of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD." (1 Chronicles 25:2,3)
    "All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, psalteries, and harps, for the service of the house of God, according to the king's order to Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman." (1 Chronicles 25:6)
I believe there are a couple of meanings that can be derived from this idea of being "under the hands" of a musical director:
  1. It indicates a clear, firm, musical leadership on the part of the director, and a willing, submissive following on the part of the music performers.

  2. It may also indicate an actual, physical movement of the hands used by the directors to lead the musical performance in expression, tempos, volumes, and possibly even pitch.
For an interesting study on the possible uses of hand directions by ancient musical leaders, do a study on the word "chironomy." In modern practice, music conductors use their hands to indicate tempo, volume levels, expression, etc., but expect musicians to derive pitch information from music notation. However, historians tell us that ancient chironomy was used to indicate pitch information as well to the music performers.

In the mid-1900's, a French organist, music teacher and composer named Suzanne Hak-Vantoura developed a method for interpreting the sublinear accent marks found in the Hebrew Bible, which she believed was a system of music notation. These markings, according to Vantoura, represent actual hand motions that were used by Bible music directors to communicate pitch information to the performer. The "music of the Bible" that she developed may or may not represent what ancient Biblical music would have sounded like, but it does make for a fascinating study.

Based on the teaching of Scripture, I believe that music directors should work on developing clear, precise, expressive hand gestures for communicating their intentions to their music performance groups. When striving for unity in a music presentation, the director becomes the primary focal point, and must be able to exhibit well-disciplined leadership qualities, so the performers can express the message of the song with confidence and beauty

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Curtis Hollembeak


Curtis holds a bachelor's degree in Bible with a music minor, as well as a master's degree in Sacred Music, having studied under Dr. Frank Garlock, president of Majesty Music, and Ray and Ann Gibbs, well-known Christian singers. He has served as music director and jr. high/high school supervisor at Grace Baptist Church of Mankato, Minnesota; school music director at the Franklin Road Christian School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; media engineer for the Sword of the Lord in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; and, full-time music director at Second Baptist Church and Twin City Christian Academy in Festus, Missouri. He is currently self-employed and serves in the music ministry of the Berean Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. Curtis is co-founder and President of the Asaph Music Co. He regularly sings bass with the Bible Truth Chorale on recordings produced by Bible Truth Music at Faith Music Missions.

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