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Another Choir Bites The Dust...

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;) As if... In fact, the RSCM seems quite happy aboard the worship song/gospel/Iona bandwagon at the moment. Perhaps the new Director will set them back on course.

 

My wife is a singer/singing teacher. The recently-ordained curate of a local parish church of simple Anglo-Catholic tradition is paying for weekly hour-long singing lessons so that she can tackle the bread-and-butter sung parts of the Mass. She said that she had no musical training at all during her theological studies, and she felt that the vast majority of new ordinands wouldn't know a neume from a bagpipe (or words to that effect). No wonder they stick to the secular styles they already know - I certainly can't blame them.

 

** Rant alert **

 

What astonishes me, as a thoughtful traditionalist Christian in his twenties, is that some clergy and PCCs think that they can 'attract the young people' by importing weak copies of horribly old-fashioned folk/pop (the Spinners and Seekers stuff mentioned by Barry) and turning the spoken liturgy into something resembling council committee minutes. I sometimes feel guilty because, on some Sundays, I just can't find the strength of will to walk into a church, run the gauntlet of suspicious stares simply because I'm under 50, try to stay awake during the sermon, try to sing the terrible songs anyway (and receive further malevolent glances for letting the side down by actually singing, rather than simply emitting low groans) and try not to feel bewildered and disappointed by the whole affair. Most Anglican parish churches are run by the over-60's for the over-60's*, and no amount of window-dressing, dumbing-down, politically correcting, rubbish pop music etc. is going to make up for that. These young people want some honesty, true belief, inspiration, and decent coffee at the end of it!

 

The Roman Catholic church seems to be experiencing something of an upsurge of younger people wanting something more than barren 60's-80's modernism. The Latin mass, plainsong, choral music and a whole host of other traditional ideas seem to be making a comeback in certain places. How long before they pass the Anglican church going the other way?

 

(*Note: I would like to make it clear that I have no argument with the over-60's!)

 

Hi

 

I for one and pleased to see the RSCM working on more contemporary worship styles - the "performance standards" in many churches need to be improved. Whilst not traditional, there is some good stuff out there, alongside a lot of dross - but that's always been the case. Look back at old hymnbooks and look at some of the hymns that are no longer sung - there's dross there as well!

 

The Christian church - like it or not - has always changed, and will continue to do so.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I’m a clergyman with an FRCO officiating partly in a group of villages. In one village, there is enthusiasm for music, and we have traditional hymns for some services, worship songs for one service a month, an occasional anthem, sung BCP offices, and there’s talk of resurrecting Merbecke for special occasions (it will happen, I’m sure). The musicians decide: I facilitate. In some places, the organist is competent but plays slowly. In some places the speed is fine but the accuracy is not. And so it goes on. The truth is that we have to make do with what we can get. ....

 

Hi

 

Well said! I sympathise with your situation. I'm no FRCO, but I am a competent organist. In my last church, the "organist" could only read the treble clef (and obviously had no ear - the resulting harmonies had to be heard to be believed!). He did his best - and I've no problem with that - what I did have a problem with is that he had absolutely no interest in improving and learning to play properly (nor would he play anything he didn't like - I called his bluff on that one and often had to play for some songs/hymns).

 

Here I have a once-a-month organist who is over 80 and not in the best of health - he's been organist here for almost 60 years. He's actually pretty good (and I encourage him to keep playing) - but tends to tire towards the end of a service. We also have a music group (piano, guitar & a couple of singers). The technical standards are pretty low - he pianist - a retired infants school teacher - had learned enough to play nursery rhymes, and hadn't played at all for several years before being press-ganged as there was no-one else to play. She still struggles - but she will work at the music for Sunday (as the church is the ground floor of the Manse, I can hear her practicing). I have no issue at all with this - she is bringing the best she is capable of to worship, and she is working to improve. Some weeks, I'll join in with the music group, playoing either the organ (recently restored) or a digital keyboard as is appropriate to the music.

 

We use a mix of traditional hymns, contemporary worship music, and occaisonally Taize-type music and World Church songs - and my elderly congregation like it.

 

It's not always the clergy who are to blame!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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But, Tony, I believe you too may be falling into the trap of describing "worship music" as contemporary. The outer reaches of Spring Harvest etc. may be, but most of what is sung in the CofE is excruciatingly dated. As has been observed in this thread, it has more in common with the Seekers than with anything that "young people today" (among whom I still count myself, just) are listening to.

 

(Apologies if I've misunderstood you.)

 

For what it's worth, the first time I ever heard Durufle's Requiem I was astonished how much the opening bars sound like contemporary electronic dance music.

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But, Tony, I believe you too may be falling into the trap of describing "worship music" as contemporary. The outer reaches of Spring Harvest etc. may be, but most of what is sung in the CofE is excruciatingly dated. As has been observed in this thread, it has more in common with the Seekers than with anything that "young people today" (among whom I still count myself, just) are listening to.

I've never been particularly "hooked" on pop music; my childhood exposure was very limited, by my parents as much as anything else. I remember being excited by Life On Mars c.1974. My point is that what makes modern pop music sound the way it does is the way it is made with computers. It would be almost impossible to reproduce the sound of the current top 20 in a live situation with no pre-recorded backing tracks and with no state-of-the-art sound system (including reverb, delay lines, gates, compressors etc.). I'm sure this is attempted in the mega-churches and possibly the leading "Alpha-course" centres, and possibly successfully (on its own terms) too. But I can't imagine this kind of contemporary music being used in many parish churches. At least the Seekers style is fundamentally acoustic, and can be imitated or interpreted quite successfully with a small group of instrumentalists. What I don't understand about many of the songs in, for example, The Source is how the melodies can be learned and sung by a congregation; they seem to be designed for performance by a solo singer with swing- and pop-infections in the pitch and rhythm. Any guidance in this regard would be gratefully received.

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Guest Lee Blick
My point is that what makes modern pop music sound the way it does is the way it is made with computers. It would be almost impossible to reproduce the sound of the current top 20 in a live situation with no pre-recorded backing tracks and with no state-of-the-art sound system (including reverb, delay lines, gates, compressors etc.).

 

That is not quite true. There are some bands who don't use too much computer gadgetry simply because their fans like to hear them sound the same live as on the recorded media. Some bands/groups/artistes do acoustic arrangements which can work really well.

 

"Seekers, Spinners, hippie 70's" type music still has it's place in the church and is probably an extension of 'folk' style where people can easily come together with a few instruments as a community'. It might grate on the choral purists and academics amongst us, but as someone else said, I would prefer to hear something like that, honest and simple rather than a poor organist, or an organist on a performance ego, anyday, imho.

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Many of the central London Churches have very traditional music with superb professional choirs yet manage to attract good congregations. The key feature is the enthusiasm of the incumbent for the style of worship. Much so-called 'modern' worship has the cleric as the central figure. Common Worship (as frequently enacted) tends to be a priest centrered liturgy, usually conducted with the celebrant or 'president' standing at the focus of the action, rather than traditional worship which has the focus elsewhere, hopefully Godward.

 

For some reason, a number of the clergy find a traditional choir/choral set-up a threat to progress. Quite a few priests seem only able to conduct worship if the music is based on out-dated styles of the nineteen sixties, (watered down Spinners and Seekers, etc) and all traditional hymns and liturgy are banned or discouraged.

 

It was with much regret that I learned in the past few days of one church where it is written into the job description that only 'one sheet' of music is to be played after the morning service - just enough to get people to the back of the church for coffee. Also, there is an uncomfirmed report that a Dean has instructed organists at his cathedral not to play voluntaries of more than five minutes for the same reason, having altered the liturgy from traditional to 'You' and 'Yours', which is not, of course, anything approaching 'modern', but merely ecclesiastical newspeak.

 

It is small wonder that organs feature little in the requirements of many churches these days.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

===========================

 

 

 

After decades of trial and error, we still seem to be in the situation where the act of "being relevant" is trotted out as if it were a branch of theology.

 

Worse still is the deceit that anything traditional is old, and anything up-to-date and popular is somehow new. This is the very essence of the story about "old wine in new bottles."

 

What always depresses me about a majority of churches, is the fact they no longer question anything, but instead, seek to embrace and justify ancient truthes, ancient philosophies and the now discredited pseudo-science of the Bible. In America, there is a whole religious industry devoted to the ongoing struggle of proving this or that article of faith, but behind which is the hidden agenda of fundamentalist belief, which first decides that scripture represents absolute truth, and that all subsequent knowledge must therefore be wrong; unless it can be re-worked in such a way that it conforms to the tyrany of institutionalised religion.

 

After all, simply bringing people up in the faith and operating some sort of welfare towards them, is as relevant to the members of the Mafia as it is to Christianity. That's how the pack-animal system works.

 

You see it everywhere in the churches, as the elderly cling to the old hymns and ways, and the young try to forge a new identity; earnestly strumming guitars and wailing away; the victims of their own hormonal self-indulgence and herd instinct.

 

There are two things I enjoy more than any other at church. One of them is the Sunday Mass attended by the cynical youth of the parish, just before they set off for Lourdes. (They return home somewhat changed by the experience!) I always choose the organ-music carefully for this Mass, and because the organ is next to the front pews, I am surrounded by a sea of grumpy teenagers who would rather be in bed at that time. It's interesting, because they arrive reluctantly and noisily, start to calm down as they get used to being in a strange place, and then they actually start to listen. It genuinely surprises me that they express their reactions; perhaps not always in the most eloquent or polite of terms, but express their reactions they certainly do. So I take with a pinch of salt such comments as "Wow! What a noise," "Cool" or "That's brill music man!" The fact is, they're listening and reacting to something they've never heard before, even if they have to glance over their shoulders to see if they are alone with their reaction.

 

The other thing I enjoy is young "Bwyan"....the boy who got his front teeth knocked out playing football, but who now has replacement plastic gnashers filling the gaps. He's just an ordinary kid from an ordinary family, but he absolutely adores organ-music. Last Sunday, I played that short Bach G-major prelude (the one that sounds a bit like Buxtehude on a good day), and I played it well with quite a bit of panache and fire. Neither he, his family nor I could possibly explain why he reacts to the music the way he does, but he does, and trots off home walking on a cloud.

 

The point I am trying to make, is that music has the power to move, and greater the music, the greater the power.

At least three generations grew up listening to "Messiah", and if you should find yourself in an old-folks home, you can still hear a few residents singing the arias quietly to themselves from time to time. I forget who said, "The Messiah has probably converted more people than all the sermons ever given," but it is as valid to-day as it always was.

 

I think we have to be very careful in choosing church-music, which can so easily be the kind which reinforces the herd instinct, or which can lift people out of the mire of daily existence; elevating them to new, (and very personal ) spiritual heights. Just in case I may be labelled a fuddy-duddy, the last time this happened to me, I was eating cornflakes, watching TV before Sunday Mass. It was only when the lady gospel-singer had stopped singing (she used to sing in the group "M people"), that I realised I had spilled milk down my shirt. It was just fantastic!

 

I always feel, that when young "Bwyan" is old enough to go to Lourdes, and finds himself among the despairing, those racked with pain or at the end of life, he will find strength and take comfort from the music he has grown to love. He will not know how or why, but he will understand nonetheless.

 

I believe the same will be true for all those touched by the choral music now developing in the Catholic Diocese of Leeds; a music programme which draws on many traditions and none at all. To hear the music of Montserrat sit alongside something new, exciting and even dissonant, lifts one out of the mundane existence of the herd, and takes us on a personal voyage of spiritual discovery.

 

 

MM

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- as you say, the staff are part of the problem but I would go further - the are the instigators of the problem.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! - is this teacher bashing again or have I got sensitive in my old age. Speaking as one with interests in each area I can happily say that on occasions it is as difficult getting kids to do things in school as it is anywhere else. Of the students I teach - a good number sing in 'County' organised choirs (and have participated in events at the RAH etc.), some attend churches of a more evangelical nature and as far as I know none are in traditional 'church choirs'. We do however have a flexible Junior Choir, a smaller Senior Choir and a large number of students having singing lessons. We do a wide variety of music from trad. Christmas to more up to date numbers with backing CDs and even a cut down version of The Marriage of Figaro. Many students will also sing in front of their class or in our major/lunchtime concerts. As a teacher I feel that my students are not missing out too much on their diet of repertoire and I feel that most of them enjoy what we do or they would not bother to come. As a church organist I do not feel too much bother as to what the local schools are or are not doing - I suppose I am lucky that my boss is not only a broad minded incumbent but also a very competent musician - he also runs the (teenage to adult) choir. As with school, however - those that want to will join - because of who we are, what we do and how we do it. My (musical) 7 and 8 year old daughters have had church music with them all their lives but as yet have not expressed any interest in joining a church choir and we are not pushing them to. One is, however quite interested in learning the organ.................

 

AJJ

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This has just been on BBC Radio Bristol:

 

Statement regarding recent events concerning St Stephen's Choir:

Author: David Lucas.

 

BEGINS:

 

The remaining choir are relieved that the sensitive issues relating to the change in format of Sunday Services at St Stephen's, Bristol are now being discussed openly.

 

A time of healing and reconciliation will be required. To aid this, the original ebay auction advertisement will be withdrawn at midnight today.

 

Canon Tim Higgins is a consummate theologian and has revitalised the weekday activities of the church impressively. We support his leadership.

 

ENDS.

 

 

Regards, DAVID LUCAS.

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This has just been on BBC Radio Bristol:

 

Statement regarding recent events concerning St Stephen's Choir:

Author: David Lucas.

 

BEGINS:

 

The remaining choir are relieved that the sensitive issues relating to the change in format of Sunday Services at St Stephen's, Bristol are now being discussed openly.

 

A time of healing and reconciliation will be required. To aid this, the original ebay auction advertisement will be withdrawn at midnight today.

 

Canon Tim Higgins is a consummate theologian and has revitalised the weekday activities of the church impressively. We support his leadership.

 

ENDS.

Regards, DAVID LUCAS.

 

It's just been on our local BBC TV 'Points West' along with a somewhat lacking soundbite on 'old versus new' and relevance etc.

 

AJJ

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Some very interesting points raised. I'd like to make it clear that I wasn't vicar-bashing in my last post - I don't think it hints at that anywhere, in fact. Nor am I against pop music. I was pointing out how many parishes of relatively high average age spend a lot of time navel-gazing and exchanging committee-speak about the problem of 'the young people' and manage to produce deeply old-fashioned music as their answer, rather than (dare I say it) seeking to be truly relevant to the lives of people of all ages without managing to horribly patronising. Only a deep seated arrogance presumes to know what people like and dislike without even asking, and this kind of attitude will always come to a bad end - the only question is how much of value will be lost in the process.

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Guest Barry Williams

Much of discussion of this type comes down to an issue of whether music in worship is seen as part of priesthood or prophesy.

 

The early church was deeply rooted in priesthood and worshipped in The Temple. Prophesy has immediate attractions to the emotions and is therefore potentially dangerous.

 

Whilst the comments above are greatly simplified, (I have written elsewhere at great length on these matters,) it demonstrates that the division is not so much 'high' or 'low' but one of approach. After all, many anglo-catholic churches adopt "Shine, Jesus Shine" as a Benediction Hymn.

 

The appreciation of artistic matters in worship is an act of worship itself. Regrettably, this is less enjoined than hitherto but certainly not at the price of congregational participation.

 

Put shortly, many of those traditionally trained will have no place in the current climate of worship and there will continue to be tremendous competition for certain posts in places where skill is music with appropriate standards is valued.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Lee Blick
was pointing out how many parishes of relatively high average age spend a lot of time navel-gazing and exchanging committee-speak about the problem of 'the young people' and manage to produce deeply old-fashioned music as their answer, rather than (dare I say it) seeking to be truly relevant to the lives of people of all ages without managing to horribly patronising. Only a deep seated arrogance presumes to know what people like and dislike without even asking,

 

It might not be down to arrogance but a genuine deep seated fear of the seniors being being 'pushed out' in favour of the 'new young things'. Judging by what has happened with the choir in this thread, it is not surprising that any real change to the music is resisted or aborted away quietly in committee.

 

I am a firm believer that many different music styles can exist alongside each other in worship. Not slung together in some multi-coloured mish-mash but fitting the right music for the right occasion. Introducing new music, slowly, gently and in small doses will help the congregation to accept new ideas.

 

If you are bringing new musicians into the fold. Don't neglect the ones you already have. Ensure your stalwards are loved and feel valued. Try not to allow an 'us and them' situation where animosity between groups can set in. I used to clamp down firmly on the "We are better then you" attitude by reminding people that the church is a place where all who wish to share their musical gifts for the glory of God, can do so.

 

Get your working together in small ways to begin wiith. Perhaps with some breathing exercises or simple rounds.

 

All it takes is time, patience and active xo-operation between people. If you have the aim of encouraging people to appreciate different musical styles then you have a chance of getting your church to accept new things as well as preserving your music heritage.

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Guest Barry Williams

I agree with all that Greg has written, but let it be NEW music, not second-hand stuff (or imitation thereof such as Songs of Fellowship,) cobbled in weak imitation of an earlier, outdated pop style.

 

It has been my experience (as reported elsewhere on this Board,) that congregations are seriously resistant to the music of our youth and reject Riff, Rave, Bob, Pop, Heavy Metal (in its various forms), etc in worship, preferring something only suitable to confirm the warmth of their ecclesiastical puppy basket. Challenge (i.e. priestly ministry in music) is so often not welcome.

 

The real enemy of progress is the culture of using music to make worshippers feel comfortable - back to the challenge of being priestly rather than prophetic.

 

Barry Williams

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The real enemy of progress is the culture of using music to make worshippers feel comfortable.

 

Barry Williams

 

Exactly! - which is what seemed to be happening when in the BBC 'slot' mentioned above, the reporter talked to some young students who attend a particularly lively and (well attended) 'fellowship' not far from the church where this thread started - they all seemed to feel that the easy-on-the-brain music, lively chat and free food was far more preferable to the traditional church 'set up' within which some had been brought up. Isn't this in some ways just a rather crafty way of getting more people in through the doors? I'm just not sure whether it is for the right reasons - and this goes well beyond just the music.

 

AJJ

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Surely one of the issues here is about choice. If all churches go the same way in a particular town or city, then congregations are denied a choice about the style of worship they prefer.

 

As a student in Edinburgh, when not on playing duty I could go to high anglican (excellent music), middle of the road anglican (never my cup of tea, neither onething nor the other), student happy-clappy anglican (always good cup of tea), solid methodist (brill hymn singing and long sermons, good choice of females!), independent pentecostal (does the happy clappy stuff properly, very long sermons!), etc, I could go on. My point is, how dull would eating out be if every restraunt offered the same menu?

 

And, had I not been introduced to the English choral tradition in my Anglican church, how would I have ever heard the organ or choir, let alone wanted to be in it and learn it?

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For what it's worth, the first time I ever heard Durufle's Requiem I was astonished how much the opening bars sound like contemporary electronic dance music.

 

Huh?

 

Shurely shome mishtake....

 

I cannot think of anything less like 'contemporary electronic dance music' than any part of the profoundly beautiful Requiem, as set by Maurice Duruflé.

 

(In case anyone should wonder, my musical tastes run from medieval plainsong, through to Linkin Park and Nickelback.)

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I cannot think of anything less like 'contemporary electronic dance music' than any part of the profoundly beautiful Requiem, as set by Maurice Duruflé.

Which, I guess, illustrates how different people can take different things from a piece of music - although obviously I'd agree with you on the "profoundly beautiful".

 

It was the texture and circling organ figure in the opening bars that brought the comparison to mind. I'm not referring to the drm-tish-drm-tish that hammers out of car windows on a Saturday night - more to what's occasionally described as "progressive", which in its better manifestations can and does reach back to parts of the 20th century classical tradition. But this is seriously off-topic for this discussion, and indeed board. ;)

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But, Tony, I believe you too may be falling into the trap of describing "worship music" as contemporary. The outer reaches of Spring Harvest etc. may be, but most of what is sung in the CofE is excruciatingly dated. As has been observed in this thread, it has more in common with the Seekers than with anything that "young people today" (among whom I still count myself, just) are listening to.

 

(Apologies if I've misunderstood you.)

 

Hi

 

For what it's worth (probably not a lot) "Contemporary Christian Music" (CCM) is regarded by the record industry as a genre that covers virtually everything from the 30's style tunes trotted out by Beaumont et al right through to the stuff written last week.

 

I agree that some of it - possibly most of it - is pretty poor - but that's the same with any style of music. Time eventually weeds out most of the dross.

 

I don't know what's current in Anglican circles these days - our local Anglican church has reverted to A&MR (which hasn't gone down too well with some of the congregation!) - 2 other local Anglican churches both use recorded accompaniments (no compatent musicians) - one is pretty traditional, with the odd worship song thrown in - the other is more contemporary - but still not really up top date, and the standards at the service I attended were very poor.

 

The real problem is that the CCM genre actually covers a wide range of styles, and very few musicians seem to get to grips with that, so perhaps it's not surprising that everything ends up sounding like the pop songs of the player's youth.

 

There's room for all - the churfch is there to facilitate worship, and if a congregation find a particular style of music helps them worship, then fine (which doesn't mean that they shouldn't be stretched).

 

I think we're drifting well off topic here - and I've got Sunday's service to prepare.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Lee Blick

Going back to the choir who was put on EBay...

 

Should there be a 'Good Music Here' certificate i.e. like a preservation order on churches with a long history of high quality choral and organ music? It might stop new incumbants attempting to sweep away perfectly good music departments and if there were additional incentives a way to maintain high standards.

 

I know that Cathedrals will always have the resources and personnel to maintain fine music, but for the parish church, particularly in the present uncertain climate something needs to be done to secure the future of the good work that happens in these places.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! - is this teacher bashing again or have I got sensitive in my old age. Speaking as one with interests in each area I can happily say that on occasions it is as difficult getting kids to do things in school as it is anywhere else. Of the students I teach - a good number sing in 'County' organised choirs (and have participated in events at the RAH etc.), some attend churches of a more evangelical nature and as far as I know none are in traditional 'church choirs'. We do however have a flexible Junior Choir, a smaller Senior Choir and a large number of students having singing lessons. We do a wide variety of music from trad. Christmas to more up to date numbers with backing CDs and even a cut down version of The Marriage of Figaro. Many students will also sing in front of their class or in our major/lunchtime concerts. As a teacher I feel that my students are not missing out too much on their diet of repertoire and I feel that most of them enjoy what we do or they would not bother to come. As a church organist I do not feel too much bother as to what the local schools are or are not doing - I suppose I am lucky that my boss is not only a broad minded incumbent but also a very competent musician - he also runs the (teenage to adult) choir. As with school, however - those that want to will join - because of who we are, what we do and how we do it. My (musical) 7 and 8 year old daughters have had church music with them all their lives but as yet have not expressed any interest in joining a church choir and we are not pushing them to. One is, however quite interested in learning the organ.................

 

AJJ

 

 

Apologies, Alastair. I was not "teacher bashing" in general, and certainly not sniping at you in particular, but I suppose directing my remarks at the Catholic education system of which I have some experience. The set up is probably different where you are but here the school is seen as an integral part oif the parish (sharing the same saint's name), hence my frustration at what goes in in the schoolroom as against what could (and sometoimes does) go on in the church itself. As I remarked before, when the school does come to the church for a service, rather than attempt to broaden the childrens' musical experience by asking for the organ to be used (at least once), it merely imports its own instruments and uses the kind of music Tony so expertly catalogued. And I know for fact that there is not one organist among the staff of either the junior or the senior schools that serve this parish, which could be another reason why the liturgical musical life of these establishments is so limited.

 

Peter

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I know that Cathedrals will always have the resources and personnel to maintain fine music

One lives in hope that this may prove to be true, but these are anxious times for many of us involved in the business.

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What many incumbents don't seem to realise is that a 'traditional' choir - especially with children on the top line (and here I'm not discriminating against boys, girls or mixed) can be the best way of getting young people in to the church.

 

For example the local parish church here in Wolverhampton (St Peter's Collegiate Church - city centre location - no residential parish) is a bastion of traditional choral music (with some good bits of 'contemporary' ) in a welcoming middle-of the-road stye of worship and maintains separate boys and girls choirs with a large number of ex-trebles on the back rows. Altogether nearly 80 young people under 20 actually physically contribute to worship through a choral service each week - no alternative, 'trendy' form of worship could hope to get near that.

 

Why is it a success? Well the top lines are only 'children': they know the responsibility lies with them - no bailling out from experiences adults - so their contribution is essential. Secondly, the services are 'fully choral' (Mass settings, with Gloria), fully-choral evensong - so the kids are always stretched - no 2 hour rehearsal on a Friday evening just to sing a few hymns and 'Lead me Lord' on Sunday morning. This is not to denegrate in any way the few remaining places where valiant individuals struggle to keep the last vestages of a choral tradition going on that small basis, but why would kids (any kid?) give up so much time to be in a church choir that doesn't really stretch them, doesn't give their contribution much significance in a service or even begin to make the most of what they are capable of musically?

 

This, I know, is opening a vast can of worms!

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For what it's worth (probably not a lot) "Contemporary Christian Music" (CCM) is regarded by the record industry as a genre that covers virtually everything from the 30's style tunes trotted out by Beaumont et al right through to the stuff written last week.

 

I agree that some of it - possibly most of it - is pretty poor - but that's the same with any style of music. Time eventually weeds out most of the dross.

I think the essential difference between "then" and "now" is that, in the old days the real rubbish never got into print. OK, not everything published was Mozart or Bach by any means, but publishers did exercise some standards. That is not longer the case where worship songs are concerned. Much (most?) of this stuff would not have seen print in an era that knew what standards were and cared about them.

 

There's room for all - the churfch is there to facilitate worship, and if a congregation find a particular style of music helps them worship, then fine (which doesn't mean that they shouldn't be stretched).

I agree that there should be room for all; everyone has a right to the type of worship that suits them. The problem is that there is increasingly NO room for art music.

 

I still think that the problem lies essentially with today's culture which always seeks the "quick fix", instant enjoyment, the maximum return for the least effort. Music that grabs the attention immediately without any effort on the listener's part has always been popular since time immemorial, but, as we all know, it requires education and effort to appreciate the more rewarding depths of more complex music. That is where the schools should come in. Of course there are teachers like Alastair who are doing their bit, but if our experience locally is anything to go by - and I very much suspect it is - the attitude among the majority is that church music and organs are irrelevant. Nachthorn has a tale to tell about this if he feels so inclined.

 

Of course it would be wrong to think that we should rely solely on schools. They are obviously in a position of great influence, but the church also ought to be taking the initiative. Fatcat's post provides food for thought indeed.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
What many incumbents don't seem to realise is that a 'traditional' choir - especially with children on the top line (and here I'm not discriminating against boys, girls or mixed) can be the best way of getting young people in to the church.

 

For example the local parish church here in Wolverhampton (St Peter's Collegiate Church - city centre location - no residential parish) is a bastion of traditional choral music (with some good bits of 'contemporary' ) in a welcoming middle-of the-road stye of worship and maintains separate boys and girls choirs with a large number of ex-trebles on the back rows. Altogether nearly 80 young people under 20 actually physically contribute to worship through a choral service each week - no alternative, 'trendy' form of worship could hope to get near that.

 

Why is it a success? Well the top lines are only 'children': they know the responsibility lies with them - no bailling out from experiences adults - so their contribution is essential. Secondly, the services are 'fully choral' (Mass settings, with Gloria), fully-choral evensong - so the kids are always stretched - no 2 hour rehearsal on a Friday evening just to sing a few hymns and 'Lead me Lord' on Sunday morning. This is not to denegrate in any way the few remaining places where valiant individuals struggle to keep the last vestages of a choral tradition going on that small basis, but why would kids (any kid?) give up so much time to be in a church choir that doesn't really stretch them, doesn't give their contribution much significance in a service or even begin to make the most of what they are capable of musically?

 

This, I know, is opening a vast can of worms!

 

You are right in every particular.

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