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If you haven't seen it already, you might be interested in an article from last weekend's Sunday Telegraph newspaper. You can get a feel for it just from it's opening sentence...

 

"Here is a question for churchgoers. Would you rather listen to (a) a trendy modern hymn or (
B)
nails being scraped down a blackboard?"

You can read the article here. The sentiments expressed certainly resonated with me.

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Guest Cynic
If you haven't seen it already, you might be interested in an article from last weekend's Sunday Telegraph newspaper. You can get a feel for it just from it's opening sentence...

 

"Here is a question for churchgoers. Would you rather listen to (a) a trendy modern hymn or (
B)
nails being scraped down a blackboard?"

You can read the article here. The sentiments expressed certainly resonated with me.

 

 

Thanks for posting this article. It gets a bit personal in places (thus weakening its case), but at least this important subject is getting some national attention.

 

It is bound to happen in middle age that one increasingly sees formerly precious things trashed, the trouble is that by the time people start a real clamour for high-quality music (i.e. music written by the greatest composers who have ever lived) back in churches there will be few people equipped with the requisite skill to provide it.

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Thanks for posting this article. It gets a bit personal in places (thus weakening its case), but at least this important subject is getting some national attention.

 

It is bound to happen in middle age that one increasingly sees formerly precious things trashed, the trouble is that by the time people start a real clamour for high-quality music (i.e. music written by the greatest composers who have ever lived) back in churches there will be few people equipped with the requisite skill to provide it.

How long ago was Sacred Song & Solos published? Almost unmitigated rubbish from a musical point of view and immensely popular. Great music will endure in the end.

 

"Change and decay in all around I see."

 

"Everything changes, everything stays the same."

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I'll come clean and state at the outset that I am a Catholic (Roman) as I think many of you know. I will come cleaner still and say that I happen to be acqainted with Paul Inwood and, to be fair, some of his earlier music is well written and suits the liturgy - I'm thinking of, for example, his setting of Eucharistic Prayer 2, his psalm "We Praise Your Glorious Name", his hymnification of the Magnificat (Great is Your Name). There are others in that group - Christopher Walker, for example, his Veni Sancte Spiritus is hauntingly beautiful (especially in the arrangement which includes a brass quartet). But the guitar problem which Damien Thompson hightlights started before these two and others came on the scene. Liturgists and musicians were in a state of uncertainty after Vatican II, and so there was a tendancy to get as much "new" music out as possible, resulting in those awful Israeli Masses and Geordi Masses and American Eucharists and so on. We are still suffering the consequences of this mispalced enthusiasm, which was then as now much more evident than was talent.

 

Even the late great Alan Rees was at once stage associated with the Paul Inwood group, but he told me a year or so before his death that he no longer wanted anything to do with that kind of music.

Peter

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I'll come clean and state at the outset that I am a Catholic (Roman) as I think many of you know. I will come cleaner still and say that I happen to be acqainted with Paul Inwood and, to be fair, some of his earlier music is well written and suits the liturgy - I'm thinking of, for example, his setting of Eucharistic Prayer 2, his psalm "We Praise Your Glorious Name", his hymnification of the Magnificat (Great is Your Name). There are others in that group - Christopher Walker, for example, his Veni Sancte Spiritus is hauntingly beautiful (especially in the arrangement which includes a brass quartet). But the guitar problem which Damien Thompson hightlights started before these two and others came on the scene. Liturgists and musicians were in a state of uncertainty after Vatican II, and so there was a tendancy to get as much "new" music out as possible, resulting in those awful Israeli Masses and Geordi Masses and American Eucharists and so on. We are still suffering the consequences of this mispalced enthusiasm, which was then as now much more evident than was talent.

 

Even the late great Alan Rees was at once stage associated with the Paul Inwood group, but he told me a year or so before his death that he no longer wanted anything to do with that kind of music.

Peter

 

Oops! - can this duplicate be delered, please, John or Rachel? Thanks

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How long ago was Sacred Song & Solos published? Almost unmitigated rubbish from a musical point of view and immensely popular. Great music will endure in the end.

 

"Change and decay in all around I see."

 

"Everything changes, everything stays the same."

 

Hi

 

Sacred Songs & Solos was mid to late Victorian era in origins, and is still in use in a handful of churches today. I don't really see its relevance to this discussion.

 

Whilst I do not think that its right to just dump tradition in worship, it's perhaps worth remembering that the Christian church has always changed - and it's only in relatively recent times that people have got very vocal against change.

 

Change is not necessarily for the worse - I wish that stanza of "Abide with Me" had never beet written!

 

We have no right to insist on inflicting our own musical preferences on congregations. For some, traditional worship music is relevant, for others it's less than helpful - people need to be able to worship in a style and culture that's appropriate for them.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Lee Blick
We have no right to insist on inflicting our own musical preferences on congregations. For some, traditional worship music is relevant, for others it's less than helpful - people need to be able to worship in a style and culture that's appropriate for them

 

I think this is very true and nowadays more than at any time throughout history people will and do vote with their feet.

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Sacred Songs & Solos was mid to late Victorian era in origins, and is still in use in a handful of churches today. I don't really see its relevance to this discussion.

The point is the essentially ephemeral nature of most "popular" music. That which endures is probably of better worth than that which withers. Sacred Songs And Solos was the late Victorian equivalent of Mission Praise. There'll be another one along in a minute and it will be, in general, equally trite and another passing phase.

Whilst I do not think that its right to just dump tradition in worship, it's perhaps worth remembering that the Christian church has always changed - and it's only in relatively recent times that people have got very vocal against change.

"I think" said the vicar

"A read service quicker

Than viols out of doors

In these frosts and hoars

 

That old-fashioned way

Requires a fine day

And it seems to me

It had better not be"

(from The Choirmaster's Burial, Thomas Hardy - apologies for any errors)

 

Many changes come from the clergy and music staff rather than the laity and are driven by a sense of "what the people need is..." - I'm not making a value judgement here; the principle works in any cultural direction.

Change is not necessarily for the worse - I wish that stanza of "Abide with Me" had never beet written!

I agree, change is vital.

We have no right to insist on inflicting our own musical preferences on congregations. For some, traditional worship music is relevant, for others it's less than helpful - people need to be able to worship in a style and culture that's appropriate for them.

But how effective are the changes in this direction? Do they result in long term spiritual growth? There is research that shows that North American young people, both church-going and not, would prefer church music that sounded like church music rather than something that is trying to sound like pop music of a few decades ago.

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We have no right to insist on inflicting our own musical preferences on congregations. For some, traditional worship music is relevant, for others it's less than helpful - people need to be able to worship in a style and culture that's appropriate for them.

I think this is very true and nowadays more than at any time throughout history people will and do vote with their feet.

The problem is that it is not at all clear that people do get the style and culture that's appropriate for them. What they do get might go a long way to explaining why our churches are largely peopled by wrinkled zimmer-frame ex-hippies (if you'll pardon the hyperbole).

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We have no right to insist on inflicting our own musical preferences on congregations. For some, traditional worship music is relevant, for others it's less than helpful - people need to be able to worship in a style and culture that's appropriate for them.

Tony

 

This works both ways. Those who favour modern music also have no right to impose it on others, particularly when this means attempting to alter the form of services in an established church which are appreciated and work well.

 

Some years ago, at Wimborne Minster, a small faction were allowed (too much) freedom during the Sunday morning Mass. The result was that we had a lot of absurd music pushed down our throats by people who were not remotely qualified to do so. The other result was that quite a few people left the church over an extended period.

 

Our present Rector is very supportive of the choral services (which are valued by many parishioners) - even to the extent of attending Choral Evensong each week and sitting in the back of the Nave (if he is not due to take part). We have regained a few people, and attracted some new congregants - and we have well chosen music (with some occasional modern pieces, as appropriate) at each service. However, the emphasis has returned to being what our church has always done - fully-choral services, since the Restoration of the monarchy.

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Guest Lee Blick
The problem is that it is not at all clear that people do get the style and culture that's appropriate for them

 

I think this is very true.

 

But altering the music or style of worship is only tinkering compared with the over-riding problem with the established church in the United Kingdom in that it has lost it's influential power within society and has lost it's central position within most communities, rural and urban.

 

Until that is addressed, Christian worship, in whatever form will continue to be a small minority interest, which is a shame considering that Christianity was the heart beat of the nation in past history.

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But altering the music or style of worship is only tinkering compared with the over-riding problem with the established church in the United Kingdom in that it has lost it's influential power within society and has lost it's central position within most communities, rural and urban.

I think this too is very true. But, as I have said before, I also think the problem lies not so much with the church as with society itself. Until people are educated to appreciate and value quality in music more than the "quick thrill" we have little hope of the church at large doing likewise - and we probably have no right to expect it to. If the demand from the public were there the Anglican church at least would certainly follow suit, eventually; it always does.

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Guest Lee Blick
I find that I can attend a sung service in a cathedral and usually enjoy the performance. I do not find any loss (and actually considerable gain) in being free of parish factions, fads, and fighting

 

Perhaps this is a vision of the future. If people want traditional worship and music the only places where you can get it is the cathedrals. The CofE is already half way there!

 

(P.S. The best way to deal with imposed guitars is to wait until they have their 'capos' fastened to their gadgets, and then transpose every verse of hymn in which they are strumming along into a different key.)

 

Although this may give personal satisfaction to some organists/musicians it is hardly the mature, musical, professional or Christian way to deal with such a situation, or how to treat fellow musicians... <_<

 

Until people are educated to appreciate and value quality in music more than the "quick thrill"

 

...which will never happen.

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now alienated by choice having 'seen the light' from the whole kit and caboodle of it all, I find that I can attend a sung service in a cathedral and usually enjoy the performance.

This was the other thing I meant to mention. A reputation for high-quality performances can certainly attract people into church. In fact I rather suspect it is more effective at doing so than anything else, other than a vicar with a charismatic (in the non-liturgical sense) personality.

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(P.S. The best way to deal with imposed guitars is to wait until they have their 'capos' fastened to their gadgets, and then transpose every verse of hymn in which they are strumming along into a different key.)

The trouble is that most of the vicars who would encourage guitars would have no hesitation in stopping the service and publicly upbraiding the organist. They are surely not so daft that they don't know when an organist is deliberately sabotaging someting!

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Until people are educated to appreciate and value quality in music more than the "quick thrill"
...which will never happen.

The pessimist in me agrees and certainly there are many who will never develop tastes beyond the cheap thrill. But, while it may be inconceivable at present, fashion is a peculiar and unpredictable thing. Who is to say what the future might hold?

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Guest Lee Blick
A reputation for high-quality performances can certainly attract people into church. In fact I rather suspect it is more effective at doing so than anything else, other than a vicar with a charismatic (in the non-liturgical sense) personality.

 

Personally, I think it is a strong organisational and pastoral infrastructure which is the key for a successful parish or church. There are far too many churches without that and perhaps that is where the rot begins to set in.

 

The pessimist in me agrees and certainly there are many who will never develop tastes beyond the cheap thrill. But, while it may be inconceivable at present, fashion is a peculiar and unpredictable thing. Who is to say what the future might hold?

 

But has this not been always been the case in history? 'Cheap thrill music' has always been part of popular culture because of it's commerical potential?

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'Cheap thrill music' has always been part of popular culture because of it's commerical potential?

I agree it has always been around, no doubt since the dawn of music, and I daresay it always will be. I never suggested otherwise.

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Guest Lee Blick
Furthermore, many (most?) musicians would I believe not term themselves Christians. It is not necessary to be a Christian, or a believer of anything in particular, to be a competent musician in any form of church.

 

Actually, I was referring to the Christian attitude, I mean one of compassion and giving people a chance to share their musical gifts...or lack of it.

 

If I was a recipient of the sort of action you suggested, I would not want to return to a church to face that sort of treatement again.

 

There is another way, and that is called nurturing and giving encouragment. If people are willing to give up their time to participate in an activity voluntarily then the least musicians can do is work with each other and make use of the time as constructively as one can.

 

A church situation should be one of the places where such co-operation should be encouraged, rather than the negative obstructive action you are suggesting, drd.

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To use a culinary analogy for a moment:

 

If you insist on feeding the people cheap hamburgers, because it's what you think they really want and like, how will they ever grow to appreciate the vastly superior quality of a fine steak? If they were offered the latter more often, most of them (except the brain-dead philistines) would soon appreciate the difference. (Which is not to say there isn't a place for the best of both; there is.)

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Actually, I was referring to the Christian attitude, I mean one of compassion and giving people a chance to share their musical gifts...or lack of it.

...

A church situation should be one of the places where such co-operation should be encouraged, rather than the negative obstructive action you are suggesting, drd.

Well, hang on a minute there, Lee. Yours may be the currently fashionable view, but it is not the only one. It is quite possible to have a sharing, Christian compassion while still maintaining that standards matter because only the best is good enough for God and that our contributions to worship (whether musical or non-musical) have a duty to strive to that end. Some of us find the all-inclusive, "anything goes; God doesn't mind" approach self indulgent and degrading to worship. It is pefectly possible that God does not mind, but that should be his call; it is arrogant to make it ours.

 

DHM is right. The problem is how you convince people that the better fare actually is better. It took our kids years to get disillusioned with McDonalds!

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Guest Lee Blick
Well, hang on a minute there, Lee. Yours may be the currently fashionable view, but it is not the only one

 

Did I say it was the only one?

 

Some of us find the all-inclusive, "anything goes; God doesn't mind" approach self indulgent and degrading to worship

 

Did I say that was my approach? Was I suggesting 'anything-goes' or 'inclusivity'?

 

I was talking about a situation in which musicians were in a service situation and drd's action would be to play the hymns deliberately in a different key to the other musicians.

 

Iif this was in a village hall, concert hall or accompanying an examination, this sort of action would be uncalled for, so why should it be justified in a church?

 

No wonder the CofE is in such a decline, with attitudes like that. <_<

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Did I say that was my approach? Was I suggesting 'anything-goes' or 'inclusivity'?

 

I was talking about a situation in which musicians were in a service situation and drd's action would be to play the hymns deliberately in a different key to the other musicians.

Fair enough. I did lose track of the context.

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