I grew up in a church where there was always instruments accompanying the singing (at least a piano and organ), and songs were almost always done with just the melody line being sung. Even today, Joel and I attend a church that has a full worship team, and when the occasional acapella piece is done, it's not often in 4-part harmony.
However, I sang in a concert choir at college, and, as nervous as I felt about my own alto singing, I loved the sound of the whole choir singing together. There's just something special about voice-only 4-part harmony---it's beautiful!
I remember the first time I visited Joel's grandparents church. It's a Mennonite church, but a bit more conservative than the one we now attend. All of their singing is done in 4- part harmony, and they are GOOD at it! My husband's relatives grew up singing 4-part like this, and it seems to just come naturally to them. I remember the first time I heard that church full of people swell in the sounds of Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass, and I imagined that this is probably just a small taste of what heaven would be like some day.
Joel and I went to a pastor's and elder's retreat this weekend. (Joel was recently asked to serve as an 'Elder' at our church, even though his age doesn't match his title :) At this retreat, they did one song without any instrumental accompaniment, and being the group of Mennonites that it was, they quickly added their 4-part harmony.
Now, I am not good at picking out the harmony line all by myself--never have been. But, with a hymnal in front of me to follow the notes, and the other people around me to listen to, I had fun joining in with the alto line.
Our worship team did a song in church the other day that really spoke to me. It was new to me, and part of the chorus said something like:
"You shattered my darkness, spoke through my deafness" (I'm really bad at remembering lyrics properly, but they were something like that.)
So, I love the 4-part harmony, the strong, clear voices singing together. I also love the sound of our worship team enthusiastically joining together to glorify our Father, to offer encouragement in words such as "You spoke through my deafness". I also know that there were those in my growing up years who loved the sound of the organ strongly offering it's sounds up, although that was never 'my thing' :)
And everything put together just made me think of what an awesome gift music is. How it speaks to our souls, up-lifts us and comforts us, encourages and strengthens us, expresses our joy and our sorrows, and most importantly, lifts up our Creator.
4-part harmony or single-line unison? Instruments or Acapella? The mature, trained voice of a professional singer, or the simple, pure voice of my son? It doesn't matter. It's ALL music to God's Ears :)