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Another Choir Bites The Dust...

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Guest Lee Blick
and I very much suspect it is - the attitude among the majority is that church music and organs are irrelevant

 

You are right. Church worship along with church music and organs are largely irrelevant to the general populace in today's society.

 

As I have said before churches, organs and traditional music is disappearing in many communities. The ones that will survive will be the places where there is money, personnel and the support.

 

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

 

So what is the church and organists going do to ensure that the treasures we have at present are protected and preserved and not continue to disappear?

 

And How is the present generation of priests and church musicians going to educate the society of today that the church, organs and traditional music and the values they hold are relevant and worth holding to?

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Guest drd
... And How is the present generation of priests and church musicians going to educate the society of today that the church, organs and traditional music and the values they hold are relevant and worth holding to?

 

I suspect the answer is that they are not.

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I risk opening a can of worms by entering the discussion at this point, but would add that some of us are most content with an eclectic mixture of old and contemporary worship music. I am reasonably familiar with the "other" church in Bristol, Christ Church Clifton, having played there on a number of occasions myself when standing in for their former organist (himself now directing music in Sydney Cathedral). The church has various music groups, a choir and orchestra and could be credited musically with appealing to a wide range of musical tastes from baroque to Soul Survivor, often within the same service. And yes, so too could the organ - I have accompanied Mozart and Matt Redmund in the same service, and so long as the band is tuned to the organ, a wooden subbass can do wonders for the band's own bass player. I am sure not all will be comfortable with this arrangement but I don't think the church could particularly be accused of either being fuddy-duddy, irrelevant, irreverent or unmusical!

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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

 

Thanks for this Peter - but no offence taken here I can assure you!!

 

AJJ

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Guest Lee Blick
I risk opening a can of worms by entering the discussion at this point, but would add that some of us are most content with an eclectic mixture of old and contemporary worship music. I am reasonably familiar with the "other" church in Bristol, Christ Church Clifton, having played there on a number of occasions myself when standing in for their former organist (himself now directing music in Sydney Cathedral). The church has various music groups, a choir and orchestra and could be credited musically with appealing to a wide range of musical tastes from baroque to Soul Survivor, often within the same service. And yes, so too could the organ - I have accompanied Mozart and Matt Redmund in the same service, and so long as the band is tuned to the organ, a wooden subbass can do wonders for the band's own bass player. I am sure not all will be comfortable with this arrangement but I don't think the church could particularly be accused of either being fuddy-duddy, irrelevant, irreverent or unmusical!

 

I know the church you are referring to. They do fantastic stuff across the age range and incorporating both traditional and contemporary music. I know it can be done. It takes inspired musical leadership with experience not only in tradtional classical but other musical genres too. We need more of these people who are open and inspired to reflect the growing variety of musical styles out there today.

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I risk opening a can of worms by entering the discussion at this point, but would add that some of us are most content with an eclectic mixture of old and contemporary worship music. I am reasonably familiar with the "other" church in Bristol, Christ Church Clifton, having played there on a number of occasions myself when standing in for their former organist (himself now directing music in Sydney Cathedral). The church has various music groups, a choir and orchestra and could be credited musically with appealing to a wide range of musical tastes from baroque to Soul Survivor, often within the same service. And yes, so too could the organ - I have accompanied Mozart and Matt Redmund in the same service, and so long as the band is tuned to the organ, a wooden subbass can do wonders for the band's own bass player. I am sure not all will be comfortable with this arrangement but I don't think the church could particularly be accused of either being fuddy-duddy, irrelevant, irreverent or unmusical!

 

They do have a good reputation for the full musical spectrum - All Souls, Langham Place is the same. Interesting though is what went on at the above not so long ago - especially when one considers the topic of this thread. (Not, I hasten to add involving the former organist of Christ Church - he had not arrived down under then.)

 

AJJ

 

PS The organ at CCC is quite fun too!

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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!

 

Hear, hear Gary, and you've seen it where I used to work too!! In fact, the children in the choir outnumbered all the kids in the Sunday School and youthwork put togather. And as you say, lots of responsibility and they are not afraid of hard graft.

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and have you noticed how so many people manage to ignore that fact? As though the children in the choir don't count for the purposes of 'how many young people have we got involved and how can we get more?'

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Guest Cynic
and have you noticed how so many people manage to ignore that fact? As though the children in the choir don't count for the purposes of 'how many young people have we got involved and how can we get more?'

 

 

I have noticed that. It's part of the blind spot which some of God's Local Representatives have.

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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.

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.

 

Hi

 

I think that changes in printing technology have also had an influence - it's far cheaper in these days of computerisation. Add to that the Charismatic movement which, in some quarters, was encouraging composition (but not providing training).

 

I agree that there should be room for "Art music" - but I get the impression that many of my colleagues are afraid to try anyting too radical lest they have a barrage of complaints. I'm not surprised at the antipathy to traditional forms of worship - in many areas of the country the churches that are thriving are the mega churches that use virtually 100% CCM in one form or another (c.f. Abundant Life here in Bradford with around 3,000 at each service).

 

There is no easy solution in these days of (mainly) shrinking congregations and increasing costs (which often means that expenditure on organ & choir if there is one is low on the list of priorities).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Patrick Coleman
There is no easy solution in these days of (mainly) shrinking congregations and increasing costs (which often means that expenditure on organ & choir if there is one is low on the list of priorities).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Bluntly the solution is to unshrink the congregations - and part of the recipe (for the vast majority who will never belong to the megachurch sector) has been outlined here.

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Guest Barry Williams
Hi

 

I think that changes in printing technology have also had an influence - it's far cheaper in these days of computerisation. Add to that the Charismatic movement which, in some quarters, was encouraging composition (but not providing training).

 

I agree that there should be room for "Art music" - but I get the impression that many of my colleagues are afraid to try anyting too radical lest they have a barrage of complaints. I'm not surprised at the antipathy to traditional forms of worship - in many areas of the country the churches that are thriving are the mega churches that use virtually 100% CCM in one form or another (c.f. Abundant Life here in Bradford with around 3,000 at each service).

 

There is no easy solution in these days of (mainly) shrinking congregations and increasing costs (which often means that expenditure on organ & choir if there is one is low on the list of priorities).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

The concept of 'Art Music' in worship goes against the very philosophy of music as a priestly function - the scriptural basis in Exodus 28. The Reverend Alfred C. Lamb once said: "The purpose of worship is not an act offered to God, but to awake the worshipper's mind, to quicken his emotional response and finally to capture and hold his will." This encapsulates, precisely, the approach of those who seek to make music in worship part of the prophetic ministry to the exclusion of its priestly nature. If the music fails in priestly function it will merely entertain or even worse act as a comforter to those who seek an ecclesiatical puppy basket in which to reaffirm a sense of self-comfort. So much of what is termed 'Contemporary Christian Music' lacks the challenge that will draw the act of appreciation that is itself part of worship. Howells' settings are Contemporary Christian Music as is John Taverner, yet these are exactly the types of music that are unpopular with those who use music as an emotional tool rather than for its own integrity. There seems to be a suggestion in some quarters that large numbers in a congregation are necessarily an indication of success. The drop out rate of these large 'plant' churches is extremely high and they avoid dealing with creation theology - a major fault of the much lauded 'Alpha Course'. When worship ceases to speak to God and speaks only to mankind it becomes trite and shallow, which St Paul warned about.

 

When a minister is prepared to lead his or her flock with music of integrity, albeit of many differing styles, musicians will always be pleased to serve. However, only choosing 'comfortable' music and avoiding genuinely modern music that the young appreciate, (Riff, Rave, Bop, Pop, etc, etc,) leads back to the spiritual puppy basket. Churches that use 'Contemporary Christian Music' of the type inferred in this thread would run a mile when faced with the real music that the youngers actually listen to, yet they often state that their 'CCM' choice of music is to draw the young to church. It is interesting that The Reverend Geoffrey Beaumont, for all his musical triviality, refused to have any words sung to his compositions that were not from the orthodox hymnbooks or the Book of Common Prayer. At least the words of his works were mainly good. Nowadays many of the 'ditties' lack competent words AND music.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Patrick Coleman
The concept of 'Art Music' in worship goes against the very philosophy of music as a priestly function - the scriptural basis in Exodus 28. The Reverend Alfred C. Lamb once said: "The purpose of worship is not an act offered to God, but to awake the worshipper's mind, to quicken his emotional response and finally to capture and hold his will." This encapsulates, precisely, the approach of those who seek to make music in worship part of the prophetic ministry to the exclusion of its priestly nature. If the music fails in priestly function it will merely entertain or even worse act as a comforter to those who seek an ecclesiatical puppy basket in which to reaffirm a sense of self-comfort. So much of what is termed 'Contemporary Christian Music' lacks the challenge that will draw the act of appreciation that is itself part of worship. Howells' settings are Contemporary Christian Music as is John Taverner, yet these are exactly the types of music that are unpopular with those who use music as an emotional tool rather than for its own integrity. There seems to be a suggestion in some quarters that large numbers in a congregation are necessarily an indication of success. The drop out rate of these large 'plant' churches is extremely high and they avoid dealing with creation theology - a major fault of the much lauded 'Alpha Course'. When worship ceases to speak to God and speaks only to mankind it becomes trite and shallow, which St Paul warned about.

 

When a minister is prepared to lead his or her flock with music of integrity, albeit of many differing styles, musicians will always be pleased to serve. However, only choosing 'comfortable' music and avoiding genuinely modern music that the young appreciate, (Riff, Rave, Bop, Pop, etc, etc,) leads back to the spiritual puppy basket. Churches that use 'Contemporary Christian Music' of the type inferred in this thread would run a mile when faced with the real music that the youngers actually listen to, yet they often state that their 'CCM' choice of music is to draw the young to church. It is interesting that The Reverend Geoffrey Beaumont, for all his musical triviality, refused to have any words sung to his compositions that were not from the orthodox hymnbooks or the Book of Common Prayer. At least the words of his works were mainly good. Nowadays many of the 'ditties' lack competent words AND music.

 

Barry Williams

 

Hear, hear!

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The concept of 'Art Music' in worship goes against the very philosophy of music as a priestly function - the scriptural basis in Exodus 28. The Reverend Alfred C. Lamb once said: "The purpose of worship is not an act offered to God, but to awake the worshipper's mind, to quicken his emotional response and finally to capture and hold his will." This encapsulates, precisely, the approach of those who seek to make music in worship part of the prophetic ministry to the exclusion of its priestly nature. If the music fails in priestly function it will merely entertain or even worse act as a comforter to those who seek an ecclesiatical puppy basket in which to reaffirm a sense of self-comfort. So much of what is termed 'Contemporary Christian Music' lacks the challenge that will draw the act of appreciation that is itself part of worship. Howells' settings are Contemporary Christian Music as is John Taverner, yet these are exactly the types of music that are unpopular with those who use music as an emotional tool rather than for its own integrity. There seems to be a suggestion in some quarters that large numbers in a congregation are necessarily an indication of success. The drop out rate of these large 'plant' churches is extremely high and they avoid dealing with creation theology - a major fault of the much lauded 'Alpha Course'. When worship ceases to speak to God and speaks only to mankind it becomes trite and shallow, which St Paul warned about.

 

When a minister is prepared to lead his or her flock with music of integrity, albeit of many differing styles, musicians will always be pleased to serve. However, only choosing 'comfortable' music and avoiding genuinely modern music that the young appreciate, (Riff, Rave, Bop, Pop, etc, etc,) leads back to the spiritual puppy basket. Churches that use 'Contemporary Christian Music' of the type inferred in this thread would run a mile when faced with the real music that the youngers actually listen to, yet they often state that their 'CCM' choice of music is to draw the young to church. It is interesting that The Reverend Geoffrey Beaumont, for all his musical triviality, refused to have any words sung to his compositions that were not from the orthodox hymnbooks or the Book of Common Prayer. At least the words of his works were mainly good. Nowadays many of the 'ditties' lack competent words AND music.

 

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

To a large extent, I agree with you - but I would take issue with the statement that music is not an offering to God - what else are the canticles in the gospels (in their original context)? There are churches that are embracing the extremes of modern musical style - and with some success (but mainly among the specific age group). The church is becoming more diverse - and the current "Emerging Church" movement is leading to even greater diversity (I have mixed feelings about this - and this group is not the place for that sort of discussion).

 

I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the lyrics of some of the contemporary writers either. Agreed, some a rubbish - some songs are, thankfully, life-expired (but still emerge from time to time), but others can be very challenging, especially things like Kendrick's "Who can Sound the Depths of Sorrow" or the Iona Community's "Will you Come & Follow Me".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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To a large extent, I agree with you - but I would take issue with the statement that music is not an offering to God - what else are the canticles in the gospels (in their original context)?

 

I don't think Barry said this - the quote from Rev'd Lamb was an example of those who disgree with him, wasn't it?

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Guest Barry Williams
I don't think Barry said this - the quote from Rev'd Lamb was an example of those who disgree with him, wasn't it?

 

Thank you for pointing this out.

 

One of the major problems with Mr Kendrick's music and many others of that genre is that he sets his own words and the words of others very badly. The accents are often incorrect, thus weakening the effect of the message it is intended to convey. There are, of course, a few well-known examples of this in Victorian and Edwardian settings, but at least these do not have the elementary errors that beset so much of 'CCM' music. It seems to me to be self-defeating to write words and then set them to music in such a careless way that the sense is destroyed by the very setting.

 

It is interesting to revisit the three volumes of CSSM Choruses. (Childrens Special Service Movement.) Therein are very few of the errors that abound in the so-called 'CCM'. I use the term 'so-called' because many of the allegedly 'modern' pieces, such as 'Spirit of the Living God' and 'Bind us together Lord' are found in CSSM Choruses, the former mentioned item with a copyright date of 1891 and the latter with a date of 1919.

 

Barry Williams

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One of the major problems with Mr Kendrick's music and many others of that genre is that he sets his own words and the words of others very badly. The accents are often incorrect, thus weakening the effect of the message it is intended to convey.

Barry Williams

 

That reminds me:- one of my choirs is set to sing Messiah again this Christmas! :)

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Guest Barry Williams
That reminds me:- one of my choirs is set to sing Messiah again this Christmas! :)

 

 

Are you suggesting that Mr Kendrick's music is comparable in quality to Mr Handel's Compositions?

 

Barry Williams

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Are you suggesting that Mr Kendrick's music is comparable in quality to Mr Handel's Compositions?

 

Barry Williams

 

NO!!!!!

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Are you suggesting that Mr Kendrick's music is comparable in quality to Mr Handel's Compositions?

 

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

The problem here is that you're not comparing like with like. It's the same question as asking if an Indian Raga Or ghazal or a Jazz composition or perhaps "Good Vibrations" is comparable with Handel or Bach.

 

There is good and bad music in all genres, but trying to judge something by the standards of a totally different musical style is nigh on impossible.

 

And like EVERY other composer - some of Kendrick's output is good, some is mediocre and some never sees that light of day!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Barry Williams
Hi

 

The problem here is that you're not comparing like with like. It's the same question as asking if an Indian Raga Or ghazal or a Jazz composition or perhaps "Good Vibrations" is comparable with Handel or Bach.

 

There is good and bad music in all genres, but trying to judge something by the standards of a totally different musical style is nigh on impossible.

 

And like EVERY other composer - some of Kendrick's output is good, some is mediocre and some never sees that light of day!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

Quoting just one line of what I have written in this way can give the impression that this is a simple issue with straightforward answers. My main thesis is that 'Contemporary Christian Music' is nothing of the sort and that if some of the composers had better training their work would be more effective in divine worship in the prophetic aspect of its use. The private, priestly (i.e. Godward) aspect is always acceptable to God, hence Le Jongleur, etc. But inflicting incompetence publicly on others is quite another thing, whether in compositions or performance.

 

There are other important matters that are not really relevant to this Board, but I give just one example. The emotional effect when a large number of people gather together is inevitable. To attempt to create a subjective religious experience through music of an easy appeal in such circumstances can border on the dishonest. It is different when it happens just once in a while, as at an old style RSCM Festival in a cathedral. But searching for that kind of effect is inappropriate. Dr Billy Graham was criticised for this in the nineteen fifties and to his great credit took some steps to change his style.

 

We live in a time where there is spiritual hunger. Some churches seek to meet that need with appeals to the emotions supported by triviality in music and, sadly, often in scriptural interpretation. The failure is reflected in the very high turnover in the congregations. I know of one church (Anglican) which has termed itself a 'net' to capture new Christians then pass them on to other churches. The sentiments may be laudable but the reality is that the people drift away because there is no substance in the experience and teaching. The music style falls within the so-called 'CCM'.

 

A subjective approach to Christianity smacks of the sect and has no support in Holy Scripture - whatsoever. The message of the founder deserves better than this.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Lee Blick
Quoting just one line of what I have written in this way can give the impression that this is a simple issue with straightforward answers. My main thesis is that 'Contemporary Christian Music' is nothing of the sort and that if some of the composers had better training their work would be more effective in divine worship in the prophetic aspect of its use. The private, priestly (i.e. Godward) aspect is always acceptable to God, hence Le Jongleur, etc. But inflicting incompetence publicly on others is quite another thing, whether in compositions or performance.

 

There are other important matters that are not really relevant to this Board, but I give just one example. The emotional effect when a large number of people gather together is inevitable. To attempt to create a subjective religious experience through music of an easy appeal in such circumstances can border on the dishonest. It is different when it happens just once in a while, as at an old style RSCM Festival in a cathedral. But searching for that kind of effect is inappropriate. Dr Billy Graham was criticised for this in the nineteen fifties and to his great credit took some steps to change his style.

 

We live in a time where there is spiritual hunger. Some churches seek to meet that need with appeals to the emotions supported by triviality in music and, sadly, often in scriptural interpretation. The failure is reflected in the very high turnover in the congregations. I know of one church (Anglican) which has termed itself a 'net' to capture new Christians then pass them on to other churches. The sentiments may be laudable but the reality is that the people drift away because there is no substance in the experience and teaching. The music style falls within the so-called 'CCM'.

 

A subjective approach to Christianity smacks of the sect and has no support in Holy Scripture - whatsoever. The message of the founder deserves better than this.

 

Barry Williams

 

So people are drifting away from both traditional church worship and the 'newer' types of worship too. That is a pretty dire situation for the Church of England to be in and I guess it doesn't matter whether the quality of the worship/music is good or not, people are turning away.

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Guest Barry Williams
So people are drifting away from both traditional church worship and the 'newer' types of worship too. That is a pretty dire situation for the Church of England to be in and I guess it doesn't matter whether the quality of the worship/music is good or not, people are turning away.

 

Indeed, the 'traditional' often fails for want of enthusiasm. The 'modern' has a high initial rate of success but a high fall off rate.

 

Research has showed that the traditional skills of visiting and conducting decent worship produce stable success. Regrettably, many of the clergy seem intent to 'make progress' in terms of their perception of liturgy, often preferring to sit at their computers devising 'liturgies' rather than focusing their minds on the real purpose of the religion.

 

Barry Williams

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Regrettably, many of the clergy seem intent to 'make progress' in terms of their perception of liturgy, often preferring to sit at their computers devising 'liturgies' rather than focusing their minds on the real purpose of the religion.

 

Barry Williams

 

Absolutely right! Usually based on 'cornflake packet' language which leaves many poeple cold!

 

DW

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