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Music That We'd Rather Not Play


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#1 handsoff

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 06:55 AM

To set some background, I am currently deputising at a small parish church in a village near my usual church because the the organist is incapacitated for several weeks. The service times are fortunately fine to allow for travel between the two.

 

The hymns have been picked for the next 3 months and I was given a list at the beginning of last week for the coming period. I have never played "Shine, Jesus Shine" and vowed many years ago that I wouldn't unless under great duress, say if required for a funeral, so was less than chuffed to find that it was scheduled for the end of yesterday morning's service. The hymn book used is that huge orange tome, "Complete Anglican Hymns Old & New" which I was "amused" to see has hymns about elephants and smelly feet. Hmmm.

 

Anyway, I decided to try to avoid S, J S and so picked a more traditional alternative, turned up a few minutes early and spoke to the churchwarden. His relief to my suggestion was palpable and he almost ran to the numbers box to change the boards. The choir were also delighted as, as one of them said, "It's just embarrassing to sing". They said that as I'm currently their organist I should feel free to change anything I wish except the mass setting as everyone likes and knows it.

 

My wife said that I was wrong to change the hymn as it showed arrogance and elitism on my part but I feel that it was justified as the choir and congregation were pleased to not sing it. Had they asked to play it rather than make a change I would, of course, had acceded.

 

 


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#2 innate

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 07:28 AM

Stainer’s Crucifixion.

 

I think if we’re getting paid to perform a service for a church we should do our best to provide what has been asked of us. If you’re a volunteer helping out then you have more “leverage” to call the tune. Getting the choir on-side is obviously an astute political move but who knows how many of the congregation might have been looking forward to the original choice.



#3 Tony Newnham

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 08:15 AM

Hi

 

There's far more to choosung church music than personal preference.  Maybe it had been chosen for a very good reason.  IMHO you should have checked with the person responsible for choosing the music before changing it.  I repeat - personal dislike is rerally not a good enough reason for rejecting something, and nor is musical elitism.  If the music helps the congregation (or a part of the congregation) to connect with God, then it's fine.  

 

Personally, I don;t have any great problem with "Shine Jesus Shine" where it fits the them of the service - and I can think of far worse songs!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony



#4 handsoff

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 08:16 AM

That's a good point, thank you innate. I judged the response from the churchwarden and choir to reflect most views but may have been wrong.

 

There are 2 distinct congregations at St. P's. The 09.30 service, for which I play, is the traditional communion service with by and large the older villagers who have been attending that service for years. The 11.00 service is a more evangelical event with a music group consisting of piano, flute and guitar and sometimes drums. They have their own quite separate attendees not just from the village but from the surrounding area too and although sometimes using the same hymn book, along with Mission Praise and various other odds and ends, sing those which are, to my mind, more worship songs than what I regard as hymns. I should have thought that S, J S fitted more easily into their services. I will though happily admit to being a bit of a fossil in my musical tastes...

 

Tony, I did speak to the incumbent organist, who picks the hymns and who is also a friend, earlier in the week to ask her opinion. She told me that I should feel free to alter anything I wanted and that S, J S probably wasn't the best choice for the 09.30 - on a previous occasion the congregation didn't sing it all leaving the choir to perform  almost as an anthem.

 

I choose the hymns for my own church and always use a lectionary as well as the "Hymns suggested for Sundays" index to ensure their relevance to the service.

 

 Stainer's Crucifixion? A real Marmite of the musical world. I'm a fan!


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#5 Colin Pykett

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Posted 05 June 2017 - 02:34 PM

 Stainer's Crucifixion? A real Marmite of the musical world. I'm a fan!

 

Marmite is a good analogy.  It scarcely needs to be said that the various numbers comprising The Crucifixion vary widely in quality and that its libretto is largely awful.  However it does not necessarily need a conductor if the choir is reasonably competent (maybe except in 'God so loved the world') and indeed it was written for average choirs.  Unfortunately this latter factor can serve to emphasise the more insipid examples of the writing when the choir is less than average.  Personally I find the inclusion of the congregational hymns one of its most attractive features, and 'Cross of Jesus' is quite beautiful in my humble opinion.  It has brought a lump to my throat on more than one occasion.

 

Olivet to Calvary is, I suppose, much the same.  However I was surprised to find that both works are apparently valued elsewhere, with Olivet having been performed in places such as Leiden and New Zealand in recent years.

 

CEP



#6 Tony Newnham

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 08:15 AM

Hi

 

Pleased to see that I'm not the only fan of "The Crucifixion" on here.  That, & Olivet to Valvary serve a purpose.  They may not be the greatest music, but there are many people out there who don't connect with "great music" (however you define that!)  Such presentations help present the gospel message to many - and that's what the church is all about.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony



#7 bam

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 08:21 AM

I played S, JS for the first time earlier this year - not one of my favourites but even the oldies (I.e., older than me!) in the congregation seem to like it,  What did surprise me was the way it's laid out in the alleged 'Organ Edition' of the new A&M with a page turn between the verse and refrain.  I reset it with Musescore and it fits very nicely on one side of A4.



#8 OmegaConsort

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 07:37 PM

Regarding The Crucifixon (Stainer), for me, like any piece of music, it much depends on the performance. I completely understand why a lot of people wince at the mention, but when you listen to a performance such as Guildford Cathedral Choir with Barry Rose (late 1960's I think), it seems to elevate itself from the mundane to something rather special.


Richard Harrison

#9 davidh

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 08:22 PM

There is the legendary story of the gents toilet in a certain music school where someone wrote "What do you think of Stainer's Crucifixion" and someone else replied underneath, "It would be a good idea".



#10 John Robinson

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Posted 06 June 2017 - 09:12 PM

I quite like 'Shine, Jesus Shine', although such trendy modern children's songs as the one about "elephants and smelly feet" mentioned by the OP (yes, I know which you mean!) just make me cringe.

 

I believe modern authors and musicians are desperately trying to make Christian music appeal to modern children, but I think that things like that must come across as rather patronising, with the possible exception of the youngest infants.

 

When I was a young child in the olden days, I remember many hymns designed for children which were pleasant and uplifting without the need for 'dumbing down'.

 

Just call me a miserable old git.



#11 SL

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 04:59 AM

 

 

When I was a young child in the olden days, I remember many hymns designed for children which were pleasant and uplifting without the need for 'dumbing down'.

 

Just call me a miserable old git.

 

................... and some of them were incredibly beautiful, written by absolute masters of their hymn writing craft. The words might not, particularly, be suitable for 21st century life but some of the music is, just, totally excellent.

 

I remember quite a few hymns I sang as a child:

 

"I love God's tiny creatures" - set to music by Gordon Slater - (Bilsdale - one of the most beautiful tunes I know!)

"Little drops of water" - music by Martin Shaw (Camber)

"Gentle Jesus, meek and mild" - again, music by Martin Shaw (Gentle Jesus)

"Daisies are our silver" - music by K.G. Finlay (Glenfinlas)

"Jesus, friend of little children" - more Martin Shaw (Westridge)

"Glad that I live am I" - Geoffrey Shaw (Water End)

"God, who made the earth" - Evelyn Sharpe (Platt's Lane)

 

add to that all those tunes by those two famous composers - 'trad' and 'anon'

 

"Jesus, gentle shepherd - (Shipston)

"God, whose name is love" - (Haslemere)

"Sing to the Lord" (St. Hugh)

and, later, beautifully written tunes like St. Botolph (Gordon Slater) , Kingsfold ('trad'), Dundee (Scottish Psalter) - the list is endless!

 

Singing these hymns/tunes in assemblies as a small child, I remember thinking, even then, how beautiful they were. I remember looking at the hymn board before assembly and looking forward to singing one of the above. I'm sure that they had something to do with me becoming a musician and I'm not sure that some of the music that is put before children today would have had the same effect.

 

................................. but, perhaps, I'm just a miserable old git!!


SL (late of Kings College, Cambridge)


#12 Colin Pykett

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Posted 07 June 2017 - 07:05 AM

SL's views and experiences (#11) coincide so closely with mine that I could have written his post myself, including the miserable old git bit.  Yet I could not have been a 'normal' child because the majority of my peer group were certainly not drawn towards church and 'classical' music as I was.  Even my parents did not attend church, so my experiences of that were with my grandmother, a staunch churchgoer.  And it was she who arranged for me to have a go on the organ, after which I was hooked for life.  I didn't think much of church services themselves (and never have), what with all that sitting down and standing up and incomprehensible sermons from people dressed in funny clothes, but there was a magical draw towards things like the array of organ pipes and the sounds which emanated from them.

 

Therefore I do wonder whether it's something to do with the way we are wired - nature rather than nurture.  If so, then no amount of dumbing down and trying to be cool and trendy will much influence people of all ages who aren't predisposed to it in the first place.  But if they are so predisposed, then they will probably have an inbuilt appreciation of the quality of the material being fed to them.

 

CEP



#13 Zimbelstern

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Posted 19 June 2017 - 10:58 PM

I think an organist, choirmaster/mistress, director of music has every right to make their views known regarding the musical content of a service. In fact, the Canons of the Church of England state that the incumbent should consult him or her, although the minister's word is final. Highly trained musicians are precisely that: experts in their field. Not many ministers of religion are these days, and would be wise to listen carefully to the expert they are paying to deliver the musical content of the service. Otherwise you might just as well put on a CD. It has nothing to do with elitism.

Having said that, a very good musician should be able to take a song and make it better, to partially quote the Beatles. If I were asked to play Shine Jesus Shine I would consider whether the arrangement in front of me was suitable for the liturgical context, congregation, instrument and any other singers/ musicians involved. Perhaps consider showing the congregation how the melody could be used as the basis or theme for a high-quality improvisation, or prelude, or voluntary. It should also be borne in mind that renaissance composers of masses and motets wove popular tunes, such as "L'homme armé" into their works.

And finally, there's nothing that can disarm the narrow, blinkered, musically illiterate brigade more than an allround musician who knows their stuff both in relation to classical music and modern band-led worship songs. There's a lot of dross out there, but there are also some very good worship songs, by writers such as Paul Oakley, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and, yes, Graham Kendrick. I don't think Shine Jesus Shine is one of his best songs, and it's become hackneyed through overuse. But even this song, played well, at the right tempo, using the full resources of the organ, in a good arrangement, can be effective. What is far worse is good music played badly.

#14 Martin Cooke

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Posted 21 June 2017 - 07:35 AM



There's a lot of dross out there, but there are also some very good worship songs, by writers such as Paul Oakley, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin and, yes, Graham Kendrick. 

 

Thanks for this, Z. I could do with some help identifying some good worship songs and wonder if you can possibly make a few suggestions and indicate where to find them. There is one song by Matt Redman in the new Ancient and Modern called Once again, but otherwise I'm not sure where to look. (I'm bound to add that a quick survey of Once again didn't thrill me to my core!) My own experience of Shine, Jesus, shine is of use in school with pupils aged between 8 and 18 in a school where hymn singing and corporate singing generally was greatly encouraged and enjoyed. The 13-18 year olds would be happy to sing Ye holy angels bright and Who would true valour see, for example, with aplomb, but they would love SJS particularly. There were other less formal hymns, for want of a better way of describing them, that they enjoyed too - I, the Lord of sea and sky, Be still, Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us. In the end, if the organ played convincingly, they would go along with most things. Mind you, I have to remember that they sang from a hymn book specially made for the school which had avoided all the dreary hymns in the first place - there were about 160 hymns in it not including Christmas ones - (not included as we always sang from service papers and special sheets at that time of year.) 

 

[I think we've discussed the new Ancient and Modern before in the forum. I am struggling to be a great fan of this as I find it almost overwhelming. It is so large and the paper so thin for a start and then you turn page after page and there are so many 'new hymns' that it becomes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. I wonder if many churches have gone for it? It's in use in a church where I play regularly - (the organ edition is in two volumes, by the way) - but we haven't ever sung anything 'new.'] 



#15 handsoff

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 03:55 PM

By some coincidence the hymn list at St.P's for this Sunday has Lord, Jesus Christ, you have come to us, scheduled. I don't find this at all offensive and actually quite like the harmonies. I must conclude that something within me finds S,JS to be junk. It's all subjective.

 

What has caught me whilst playing the hymns over at home is that the big orange book has many hymns in lower keys than those to which I'm accustomed. After heaven knows how many years of playing "Richmond" in G Major it took an effort of will over muscle memory to play it in F. Fingers crossed, figuratively at least...


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