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Non-christians - Yet Still Appreciate The Organ And Sacred Music?


hackej
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I thought this may be an interesting topic - how many of the participants on this forum are not Christians or church-goers but who appreciate the organ and/or sacred music?

 

I myself am no longer a Christian but can still sit and listen to such pieces as Stainer's Crucifixion or similar. My love of the organ came from hearing the instrument at my local church (St. Mary's, Kingswinford, anyone familiar with it?) during services I attended as a child and in my early teens.

 

I would love to hear the stories of how people came to know and love the organ also.

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I thought this may be an interesting topic - how many of the participants on this forum are not Christians or church-goers but who appreciate the organ and/or sacred music?

 

I myself am no longer a Christian but can still sit and listen to such pieces as Stainer's Crucifixion or similar. My love of the organ came from hearing the instrument at my local church (St. Mary's, Kingswinford, anyone familiar with it?) during services I attended as a child and in my early teens.

 

I would love to hear the stories of how people came to know and love the organ also.

 

I am a born-again* atheist and yet my interest in the organ is both long standing and profound.

 

(* i.e. I was once a Christian, but have seen the light!)

 

I cannot remember how I first came to be interested in the organ, but it must have been when I was at junior school. Whilst at a carol service at our local church, I recall a teacher telling us to sing more slowly than usual 'because the organ cannot play as quickly as the piano', and my feelings at the time that the organ was 'misunderstood'.

I also recall my music teacher at grammar school (the late Keith Rhodes) playing for us the well-known HMV 'Great Cathedral Organ Series' LP of York Minster, which had just been released, including Cocker's Tuba Tune. That did it for me: I went out and bought a copy, which I still have.

 

John

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I thought this may be an interesting topic - how many of the participants on this forum are not Christians or church-goers but who appreciate the organ and/or sacred music?

 

I myself am no longer a Christian but can still sit and listen to such pieces as Stainer's Crucifixion or similar. My love of the organ came from hearing the instrument at my local church (St. Mary's, Kingswinford, anyone familiar with it?) during services I attended as a child and in my early teens.

 

I would love to hear the stories of how people came to know and love the organ also.

 

I'm a committed atheist, but firmly into religion and sprituality, which probably sounds odd to anyone else. I don't get anything out of it myself, but I do believe in create a spiritual atmosphere for others to worship in - that is what I see as my job. I guess you could also say I have religion but not faith.

 

And yes, I vaguely recall singing in a church in Kingswinford, but not sure if it's that one - I was at school in Wolverhampton ; we got out and around a fair bit...

 

I got into the organ and all things church music when I was at Ripon, started having lessons with Robert Marsh on the cathedral organ aged 11/12.

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Guest Lee Blick
but can still sit and listen to such pieces as Stainer's Crucifixion or similar

 

I couldn't sit through that piece, as an atheist or Christian.

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I couldn't sit through that piece, as an atheist or Christian.

 

I know what you mean - I ought to have qualified my remark with the rider that I only enjoy select portions of it... much of it is rather dirge-like to my ears.

 

As an aside, I can never forget sitting in the choir stalls at Liverpool Cathedral while the choir from my parent's church (the aforementioned St. Mary's Kingswinford) sang that piece at a unity choir event. Towards the end, where there is a solo organ section played entirely on pedals with interspersed dischords on an Oboe stop or similar, the grand organ hit a low note which sounded exactly like someone breaking wind. Both myself and my mate who was sitting next to me were in stitches while everyone else was being reverent. To make matters worse, he turned to me just after we heard it and said "pardon me" in a low whisper. Believe me, it was extremely funny at the time.

 

Ian Tracey must have used the Contre Vindaloo 32' at that point.....

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This holds true for all forms of art, I would have thought. An atheist can presumambly appreciate, and even be moved by, "religious" paintings (eg the Sistine Chapel) or recognise the beauty of the King James B=ble or the Book of Common Prayer. And atheists can produce spiritually stirring works. Berlioz as I under stand it was not a believer but his Te Deum has to rank anong the best. John Ireland and Peter Warlock both had a lrsanings towards the spiritualism and the occult (as I think did Debussy) but they still managed to write some good "church" music...

 

A intetresting topic, as you say John. Thanks for starting it.

 

Peter

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This holds true for all forms of art, I would have thought. An atheist can presumambly appreciate, and even be moved by, "religious" paintings (eg the Sistine Chapel) or recognise the beauty of the King James B=ble or the Book of Common Prayer. And atheists can produce spiritually stirring works. Berlioz as I under stand it was not a believer but his Te Deum has to rank anong the best. John Ireland and Peter Warlock both had a lrsanings towards the spiritualism and the occult (as I think did Debussy) but they still managed to write some good "church" music...

 

A intetresting topic, as you say John. Thanks for starting it.

 

Peter

 

I myself am an atheist but still find religion interesting, even entertaining to behold and study. That goes for religious music. The organ must be one of the most powerful and moving instruments to have been invented and therefore lends itself to such music, where emotional impact and resonance is of great importance.

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Guest Lee Blick
Berlioz as I under stand it was not a believer but his Te Deum has to rank anong the best

 

I have to concur with this. I was in the boys chorus of the recording of it with Abbado, and the EEC Youth Symphony Orchestra a couple of decades ago. It is an exciting, yet sadly underperformed piece.

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I had a bit of a todo with a curate's wife on another forum about this kind of topic.

 

She declared she would rather have someone of faith and little skill playing the organ at their church than someone of no faith and much skill. That kind of set the tone for the whole "debate". Furthermore she declared that it is the DoM's job to provide pastoral care on matters spiritual for the choir and other church musicians, and hence a non-believer is a no-go. I couldn't subscribe to the view that the DoM should provide this, since what is the clergy's job if not to fulfil this role for their flock?

 

A minefield of a discussion, I fear! B)

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Guest Lee Blick
I had a bit of a todo with a curate's wife on another forum about this kind of topic.

 

She declared she would rather have someone of faith and little skill playing the organ at their church than someone of no faith and much skill. That kind of set the tone for the whole "debate". Furthermore she declared that it is the DoM's job to provide pastoral care on matters spiritual for the choir and other church musicians, and hence a non-believer is a no-go. I couldn't subscribe to the view that the DoM should provide this, since what is the clergy's job if not to fulfil this role for their flock?

 

A minefield of a discussion, I fear! B)

 

What a stupid woman. I thought the Christian Church was open to all. This nonsensical stance is the sort of thing that has driven people like me away from the church.

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Guest Cynic
What a stupid woman. I thought the Christian Church was open to all. This nonsensical stance is the sort of thing that has driven people like me away from the church.

 

 

I have to say, I agree with Mr.Blick.

 

I had a vicar once who really worried whether people might be joining our choir as he said 'for the wrong reasons' which I took to mean that he suspected that they liked the music but not the worship. My answer was, 'does it matter exactly why anyone comes to church? For whatever reason they come, once they are there something may reach them ... even (perhaps) your sermons!'

 

He wasn't convinced. For some stupid reason, some people want their Christians 'already saved' before they allow them in.

 

My favourite quote (sorry if I'm repeating it to anyone here) comes from the great Roy Massey, who wrote once on a Christmas card:

'I love the Lord, but I can''t stand his friends!'

 

For me, that says it all.

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My favourite quote (sorry if I'm repeating it to anyone here) comes from the great Roy Massey, who wrote once on a Christmas card:

'I love the Lord, but I can''t stand his friends!'

 

For me, that says it all.

 

Wasn't it Maurizio Kagel, who said:

"I do not believe in God, but I believe in the Matthaeus-Passion by Bach."

 

Personally, I'd say, that discussions like this would be more precise if you differ between believing into a god [or a certain spiritual system or at least somrthing after death] and believing into/with a church.

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Guest Barry Williams
John Rutter is a classic in this field. Well known for his many religious text settings (requieum, christmas carols) yet claims to be a non-believer, or at least unsure.

 

Brahms, Parry, Stanford, Howells, Vaughan Williams and Walford Davies too.

 

If those clergy and some laity currently running churches would read the message of Jesus, rather than the message of the liturgical/worship fashion of their church, things would revert to the Church of England, where all were welcome, whatever the stage of their spiritual journey.

 

Barry Williams

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What about organ builders? Are their instruments any less because the designer/builders/workspersons (!) do not subscribe to the beliefs of their clients?

Regards,

Oliver.

 

Some can't play the instrument - but that doesn't stop them building great instruments either!

 

AJJ

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Some can't play the instrument - but that doesn't stop them building great instruments either!

 

AJJ

True enough! I was think more along the lines of mrbouffants' position, would a church/client etc choose not to place an order with a 'better' firm in favour of a 'lesser' one that is more to the clients beliefs?

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If those clergy and some laity currently running churches would read the message of Jesus, rather than the message of the liturgical/worship fashion of their church, things would revert to the Church of England, where all were welcome, whatever the stage of their spiritual journey.

I think as long as the C of E is the established church with the Monarch its Supreme Governor, the Church of England is exactly that. Any resident of England is entitled to as much membership as they wish whatever their faith or committment. The idea that Church of England schools may select pupils on the basis of their parents' ecclesiastical affiliation is anathema to me.

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I had a vicar once who really worried whether people might be joining our choir as he said 'for the wrong reasons' which I took to mean that he suspected that they liked the music but not the worship. My answer was, 'does it matter exactly why anyone comes to church? For whatever reason they come, once they are there something may reach them ... even (perhaps) your sermons!'

 

My interest in, and continued involvement in, the Church came about as a result of my love of the organ from an early age. It happened that the nearest church to me was a Catholic one, and the priests allowed me to practice there - I remember being in that church (now alas demolished) seeing people coming and going and doing what to my then unchurched, unchristianised, mind were stange things; then in Holy Week I witnessed for the first time the Stations of the Cross and then I thought that there was something in this; I took the plunge as it were a couple of years later, went through a period of instruction and was received. I have found since that my beliefs helps my music and music my beliefs. Was I, as a teenager just discovering the organ, going to church "for the wrong reasons"? I wonder if Paul's vicar would have let me practice in his church!

 

Peter

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