But please don’t mess with either. That just ticks me off.

Cockman is gaining renown in the world of piano competitions with his hybrid arrangements that combine hymns with secular pieces.

Last summer, he won grand prize for instrumental performance at the Gospel Music Association’s Music in the Rockies competition. He also won the national award for instrumental solo or ensemble performance.

For the competition, Cockman performed two original pieces he wrote.

The first combined the hymn “Abide With Me” with Frederick Chopin’s “Etude Op. 10 No. 9” and Franz Liszt’s “Concert Etude No. 3.” The second used the works of George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Louis Moreau Gottschalk to embellish the hymn “He Set Me Free.”

“Independently, they’re fine, but they’re more accessible if you combine that hymn with something else,” Cockman says. “I love to do it. It takes a creative process to think, I love this hymn. How can I make it more than it is?”

You can read the entire article here. There is so much I disagree with here I won’t go into it all. But …

The thing is, hymns—the good ones, that is—really can stand on their own. And if they aren’t any good, they can simply disappear. And good classical works? Let ’em be good classical works. (And yes, I realize that some hymns are actually old tunes, be they drinkng or just popular songs. I’m not going into that right now. And that was then, this is now … or something … maybe.)

I have no problem with playing Telemann or Bach or … well … whatever for a church offeratory or special music. I also have no problem playing It Is Well With My Soul … but you aren’t going to catch me playing “Jesu Joy Of What a Friend We Have In Jesus”. Simply isn’t going to happen. Sorry to disappoint.


  1. Very interesting. Part of me wants to agree with you, and part of me wants to argue with you! 🙂 I grew up in a small Baptist church in a small town. While we had some amazingly talented musicians, we had none who were classically trained; never, ever was classical music performed in our church. The only time I heard classical music was when I played it at piano lessons (no wonder I wasn’t crazy about it as a child!) I don’t know if my particular church would have even been open to classical music because it wasn’t Baptist (and, of course, it’s so uppity!). 😉 Seriously, because of my upbringing, it still seems a little odd (but not at all unwelcome) when my current church has a violinist play something by Mendelssohn, or even the organist playing a Bach piece (“secular” “classical” music–ha!). So maybe this kid is at a church that hasn’t traditionally played any classical music, and he’s simply sharing his love for classical in a way that the congregation can appreciate and benefit from it. And so many churches have let their music programs be usurped by bad “pop”-sounding music. If the hymns are to be messed with, I’d much prefer a Chopin sound to that of some of the musical garbage I hear on “Christian radio.”

    Stilll, I agree with you on one thing: if the music is good, why mess with it in the first place? I probably agree with you on one other thing, too–I cringe whenever I hear about needing to make “higher” things–like complex music or even, oh, I don’t know, Christ–“accessible.” It seems to encourage a spirit of passivity, of expectancy, in people. Why can’t we learn more about how to approach the higher things in the spirit of making *ourselves* accessible to *them*?

  2. Oops … I just re-read this and it sounds a little like an ugly rant. I didn’t mean for it to sound that way!!! 🙁

  3. Patricia Mitchell

    Hi Nina,

    I didn’t read your other post as an ugly rant at all … so not to worry!

    I do understand why some might not mind the classically infused hymn. It’s just not me So I won’t do it, that’s for sure. Sometimes I play a medly of hymns. I even improvise on them. But I don’t like to take a classical work and attach it. It isn’t my style. I know some people who think you really have to have the hymn attachment — that a “secular” work isn’t allowed in a church. Me? I think God uses anything he chooses, and if that’s even a Debussy work (Debussy, from what I’ve heard, wasn’t a believer) so be it. God is funny that way.

    But anyway, you didn’t write an ugly rant. I know ugly. 😉