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martin_greenwood

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But, of course, you would, surely? Personally, I think that in the current state of affairs a church is lucky to get a competent musician, and to be picky about whether that person believes in the same things or not is de trop. I also think that to make enquiries about an individual's beliefs or non-beliefs is an assulat on privacy. The relevant trait of a musician is their musicianship.

 

If you want a performance, yes. But we are not talking about performance - we're talking about worship. I, as a committed Christian as well as a not very expert Organist, would far prefer to have a competent but not expert Christian leading worship than an expert non-believer performing.

 

With regard to the original question, the important matters to me with regard to church music are:

 

1) It doesn't matter what instrument is playing, but whoever plays it should be able to do so musically, rhythmically, and without too many mistakes. One of the problems, musically speaking, with some music groups is that their members are there for pastoral rather than musical reasons, not always to the benefit of the sound produced.

 

2) It doesn't matter, either, what style of music is played - 'trad' SATB & Organ, guitar and choruses - whatever. What does matter is that the music in question is good. That doesn't automatically exclude any particular style, but does exclude anything that sets one's teeth on edge. That includes not just the trash that passes for music in the chorus style, but also far too much of the tuneless rubbish played on R3 Choral Evensong - and so presumably in our great churches also.

 

3) It matters, above all else, that the performer(s) mean what they are doing. It isn't enough to be competent - I like them to be involved in worship, not just performing. I realise that in a Cathedral or Collegiate setting that may be difficult, and I do not intend to criticise those members of this board who find faith difficult, but nonetheless love the music that the faith has inspired. That is not an area in which I have much experience - I am speaking of the ordinary parish church, with maybe fifty or so members, no access to skilled musicians, not enough money to do much about it, with other priorities (like the pastoral care of parishioners, or keeping the roof on) for what funds they do have, struggling to keep the ship afloat and minister to those in their care. That is the true situation of many, perhaps even most, of the churches up and down this country.

 

Finally, a plea. I realise that inevitably this board attracts musicians - that's why I read it most days - and those who love this monstrous instrument we love so much (and I do). But the church is not there to perform music, of any style or age. It is there to minister the Gospel, and music is just a part - to me and most of us, a very important part - of that aim.

 

Regards to all

 

John

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Are they playing the right notes?

 

One assumes that they are playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order... :rolleyes:

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Guest drd
... I realise that inevitably this board attracts musicians - that's why I read it most days - and those who love this monstrous instrument we love so much (and I do). But the church is not there to perform music, of any style or age. It is there to minister the Gospel, and music is just a part - to me and most of us, a very important part - of that aim.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

Pending clarification from the owners of the forum, it appears to me to be about the instrument wherever examples may be found and NOT about the church, or churches.

 

There is also the question whether the church in a broad sense, having commissioned or otherwise stimulated (and for me as an individual that is the only good point about it) centuries of fine music for whatever reason, should accept its responsibility adequately to curate, to preserve, to make available that music which is such an important part of western art music. To seek to avoid diluting it with 'music' which cannot compare. To be a guardian of the intellectual capital which this music history and body of work represents.

 

[One's personal view would suggest that they would get more attenders by doing this rather than by rushing towards the lowest common denominator, or, as I have seen and heard some clergy do, attempt to teach or instruct a congregation whose collective literacy, cultural reach, and intellect is far outweighs that of the individual clergyman.]

 

Who knows, by doing this, they may reach those who wish to take up the beliefs necessary to be eligible for permanent membership of the churches?

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I fundementally disagree with this statement - and I think the atitude reflected in it is at the root of many problems in churches - in particular where, for the organist (or other instrumentalists and singers) the music is more important than worshipping Almighty God.

 

Tony

 

Actually, I think that this is part of the problem. See J Maslen's quote below:

 

1) It doesn't matter what instrument is playing, but whoever plays it should be able to do so musically, rhythmically, and without too many mistakes. One of the problems, musically speaking, with some music groups is that their members are there for pastoral rather than musical reasons, not always to the benefit of the sound produced.

 

There seems to be this attitude amongst some of the clergy (of any denomination) that anyone can turn up with an instrument and play in a 'music group' - and thus 'lead' the worship, particularly if they need emotional support, or some other form of propping-up. (The use of inverted commas is quite deliberate.)

 

Practically, this simply does not work - and it is no wonder that many professional musicians get upset about it. Think about the consequences if this attitude were to be extended to the sermons, although God knows, I am fairly certain that I could do better than some of the visiting speakers with whom we are afflicted at the Minster, on occasion. We once had a woman from Poole Social Serivces to 'preach' at Choral Evensong. She started shortly after 19h05 - and was still droning on in a monotone, at 19h40. The choristers were utterly bored and restless - as were most of the rest of us. In addition, she read almost every word from a sheaf of A4 file paper. By 19h30, I could, with a clear conscience, cheerfully have taken her out with a crossbow.

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There is also the question whether the church in a broad sense, having commissioned or otherwise stimulated (and for me as an individual that is the only good point about it) centuries of fine music for whatever reason, should accept its responsibility adequately to curate, to preserve, to make available that music which is such an important part of western art music. To seek to avoid diluting it with 'music' which cannot compare. To be a guardian of the intellectual capital which this music history and body of work represents.

Whilst I would like to see this as much as anyone, I can't agree that the church has any "responsibility" to be a custodian of culture. This seems to me akin to arguments about whether the state has a duty to look after its citizens. As we all know, people hold radically different views about this - but I don't want to start a political ding-dong.

 

But the church is not there to perform music, of any style or age. It is there to minister the Gospel, and music is just a part - to me and most of us, a very important part - of that aim.

This I agree with. It is not enough for a church organist to be a skilled musical performer. He also has a duty to understand the religion of the church and its liturgy because his job is to enhance the religious experience of the people. It needs empathy and understanding. It is perfectly possible to acquire this without being Christian oneself. I know of no cathedral organist who is inept in this respect, but I would not feel confident making assumptions about whether they are or are not believers based on their competence. And I see no reason why the same should not also be true of less exalted edifices where there is a decent organ.

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Guest drd
... It is perfectly possible to acquire this without being Christian oneself. ...

 

Exactly.

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Guest Lee Blick
There seems to be this attitude amongst some of the clergy (of any denomination) that anyone can turn up with an instrument and play in a 'music group' - and thus 'lead' the worship, particularly if they need emotional support, or some other form of propping-up. (The use of inverted commas is quite deliberate.)

 

Practically, this simply does not work - and it is no wonder that many professional musicians get upset about it. Think about the consequences if this attitude were to be extended to the sermons, although God knows, I am fairly certain that I could do better than some of the visiting speakers with whom we are afflicted at the Minster, on occasion. We once had a woman from Poole Social Serivces to 'preach' at Choral Evensong. She started shortly after 19h05 - and was still droning on in a monotone, at 19h40. The choristers were utterly bored and restless - as were most of the rest of us. In addition, she read almost every word from a sheaf of A4 file paper. By 19h30, I could, with a clear conscience, cheerfully have taken her out with a crossbow.

 

Although I have sympathy with this, I have been in a position where a young couple with considerable learning issues asked if they could join the choir in one parish. I found it difficult to say 'yes' but was glad I did. But with nurturing, lots of individual tuitiion in reading music and singing. They did fit in nicely in the end and helped to take the gloss off that "We are the special musicians" attitude that can plague choirs and music groups imho.

 

Playing a musical instrument can be a useful self-help tool for therapy and have found that a church music group can be a conducive environment for both the player and the church to grow spiritually and pastorally, so I can identify with the clergy in this respect. . In my experience, just because someone may have emotional/learning issues, it doesn't mean that they do not have the potential to become able team-players and leaders. What is requried is strong leadership and nurturing by the music director/leader to bring out the best of the players over a period of time.

 

In my twenty years of organ playing, leading choirs and music groups, maintaining high standards and producing wide repertoires hasn't proved much of a difficulty or a challenge, but I gained a huge amount of satisfaction from working with people who perhaps at face value would not fit into a traditional choir or music group but somehow we found a way that they did.

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Although I have sympathy with this, I have been in a position where a young couple with considerable learning issues asked if they could join the choir in one parish. I found it difficult to say 'yes' but was glad I did. But with nurturing, lots of individual tuitiion in reading music and singing. They did fit in nicely in the end and helped to take the gloss off that "We are the special musicians" attitude that can plague choirs and music groups imho.

 

Playing a musical instrument can be a useful self-help tool for therapy and have found that a church music group can be a conducive environment for both the player and the church to grow spiritually and pastorally, so I can identify with the clergy in this respect. . In my experience, just because someone may have emotional/learning issues, it doesn't mean that they do not have the potential to become able team-players and leaders. What is requried is strong leadership and nurturing by the music director/leader to bring out the best of the players over a period of time.

 

In my twenty years of organ playing, leading choirs and music groups, maintaining high standards and producing wide repertoires hasn't proved much of a difficulty or a challenge, but I gained a huge amount of satisfaction from working with people who perhaps at face value would not fit into a traditional choir or music group but somehow we found a way that they did.

 

This is all very well if one has the extra time to devote to it - in some situations, it simply is not possible. Whilst I accept that you were able to do so (and it is heartening to hear of your achievements), realistically we could not do this at the Minster. There are support and counselling groups available - but these are separate bodies.

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Guest Lee Blick
This is all very well if one has the extra time to devote to it - in some situations, it simply is not possible. Whilst I accept that you were able to do so (and it is heartening to hear of your achievements), realistically we could not do this at the Minster

 

Why not? If you are unable to do this personally, appoint someone with the requisite skills to provide the extra musical support. You don't necessarily need support or counselling groups, just an able musician with empathy and sensitivity towards people with learning/emotional issues. It won't work if it is made into a 'clinic' which makes these people all too aware of their needs.

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Interestingly, for all its faults, "Songs of Fellowship" has, in the main, retained traditional versions of hymns.

 

...includung a couple of verses whose sentiments reflect a theological position rather removed from that generally held to in evangelical/charismatic churches:

 

'Though the lowliest form doth veil thee..'

from 'Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour'

 

and

 

'And that higher gift than grace should flesh and blood refine;

God's presence and His very self, and essence all Divine.'

 

from 'Praise to the holiest' come to mind.

 

:rolleyes:

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Guest Patrick Coleman

Worship is not in itself a form of mission, nor is it entertainment, not is it teaching. It should lead worshippers to engage in those activities, which are essential to Christian life, but when it is hijacked to those agendas it ceases to be worship.

 

Worship is not about entertaining or appeasing God, either. It is about the very centre of any love relationship - spending time rejoicing in the other.

 

Once that is clear, the following comments make sense:

 

Worship has to be regular and routine, yet always special, fathoming the depths of our being;

 

Nothing but the best we can bring or do is good enough for the one we love;

 

If people have the gifts that enable others to engage with God - through music, art, or otherwise - then their intellectual reservations need not be an obstacle to their taking part or leading others in worship;

 

This is a very relevant issue for discussion here, simply because the instrument we love so passionately is still an important factor in so much worship, and whenever any of us make music using that instrument, we are giving glory to God whether we like it or not, and wherever that instrument is.

 

I've avoided posting on this up to now, because I feel so very strongly about it, and I hope I don't sound too sententious in my efforts to be rational! :rolleyes:

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Guest Barry Williams

"If people have the gifts..."

 

The use of the word 'gift' can be, and often is, seriously misleading.

 

Some assume from that term that those who perform the church's music acquire the ability to play from on high. The reality is that it is acquired by hard work following long and difficult training.

 

Even those with natural musical ability, (which is actually rather rare,) still have to work very hard. Learning to play an instrument or to sing is expensive, as I have pointed out elsewhere on this Board. Frequently, the cost of musical training for the service of the church, such as organ, singing or conducting lessons, has to be paid out of taxed income earned otherwise than from music.

 

'Skill' is a far better term and avoids any suggestion that the extremely hard work necessary has been obviated by divine intervention.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Lee Blick
"If people have the gifts..."

 

The use of the word 'gift' can be, and often is, seriously misleading.

 

Some assume from that term that those who perform the church's music acquire the ability to play from on high. The reality is that it is acquired by hard work following long and difficult training.

 

'Skill' is a far better term and avoids any suggestion that the extremely hard work necessary has been obviated by divine intervention.

 

Barry Williams

 

Barry, does it really make that much of a difference using the word 'gift' or 'skill'? I think anyone learning to play a musical instrument or sing wlll appreciate that it takes hard work rather than through a process of osmosis or 'divine intervention'. Your assumption seems to be based on stereotyping other Christian people.

 

Learning to... sing is expensive

 

Not necessarily so. Choristers in parishes up and down the country have received music reading and vocal training given free by their choirmaster/mistress, as well as team-building, leadership skills and social skills....

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Guest drd
This is a very relevant issue for discussion here, simply because the instrument we love so passionately is still an important factor in so much worship, and whenever any of us make music using that instrument, we are giving glory to God whether we like it or not, and wherever that instrument is.

[[Deletion owing to trolls]]

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Guest Lee Blick
I'm sorry, but I really cannot see how you can make this sweeping statement.

 

Yes, if someone is a believer, and is using the instrument to worship what they believe in, then the statement is true. In fact, I realize that the statement is probably true if by the use of the word "us" you mean all Christian-believer-organists. However it cannot be true if you use the word to mean all organists, since not all organists are believers.

 

To put it in a perhaps ridiculously simple form, you cannot say that I am giving glory to any particular god when I play the organ in my own home. :lol:

 

I was messing around with some musicals this afternoon. I was playing an arrangement of the 'Stripper' theme on my organ at home.

 

I guess God is going to strike me down, even though I am not a Christian adherent for daring to play such profane music on his instrument. :rolleyes:

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I'm sorry, but I really cannot see how you can make this sweeping statement.

 

Yes, if someone is a believer, and is using the instrument to worship what they believe in, then the statement is true. In fact, I realize that the statement is probably true if by the use of the word "us" you mean all Christian-believer-organists. However it cannot be true if you use the word to mean all organists, since not all organists are believers.

 

To put it in a perhaps ridiculously simple form, you cannot say that I am giving glory to any particular god when I play the organ in my own home. :rolleyes:

 

Because - to be equally ridiculously simple - you are using your God-given talents, whether you like it or not. :lol:

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I was messing around with some musicals this afternoon. I was playing an arrangement of the 'Stripper' theme on my organ at home.

 

I guess God is going to strike me down, even though I am not a Christian adherent for daring to play such profane music on his instrument. :rolleyes:

 

And where did the stripper get his/her body from? And why is it attractive? :lol:

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Why not? If you are unable to do this personally, appoint someone with the requisite skills to provide the extra musical support. You don't necessarily need support or counselling groups, just an able musician with empathy and sensitivity towards people with learning/emotional issues. It won't work if it is made into a 'clinic' which makes these people all too aware of their needs.

 

Lee, as I mentioned previously, we do not in any case have a worship group in our church, so this would not work. I think that my boss would take a rather dim view of someone coming in over his head to attempt to teach someone to sing the alto part (for example) of Bairstow's Blessed City, or Bring us, O Lord, by Harris.

 

There is not always a simple answer to everything.

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... Not necessarily so. Choristers in parishes up and down the country have received music reading and vocal training given free by their choirmaster/mistress, as well as team-building, leadership skills and social skills....

 

In which case, you would be surprised to see the size of the annual bill from our singing coach for his time in the tuition of our Minster Choristers - it is well into four figures. In my view, it is worth every penny.

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Guest Lee Blick
In which case, you would be surprised to see the size of the annual bill from our singing coach for his time in the tuition of our Minster Choristers - it is well into four figures. In my view, it is worth every penny

 

I am sure it is. I guess it only highlights the difference in terms of musical funding between the cathedrals and the parish church.

 

"We are not worthy

so much as to gather up the

crumbs from under your table...."

 

Lee, as I mentioned previously, we do not in any case have a worship group in our church, so this would not work. I think that my boss would take a rather dim view of someone coming in over his head to attempt to teach someone to sing the alto part (for example) of Bairstow's Blessed City, or Bring us, O Lord, by Harris.

 

There is not always a simple answer to everything

 

I never suggested that there is, but it always useful to think 'out of the box' occasionally.

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I never suggested that there is, but it always useful to think 'out of the box' occasionally.

 

I do not think that this is a case of thinking 'out of the box' - I am quite used to doing this in many different situations. It is simply a case of doing what is appropriate for one's own situation. What works for you may not apply to my situation and vice versa.

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Guest Lee Blick
I do not think that this is a case of thinking 'out of the box' - I am quite used to doing this in many different situations

 

I had no idea you were talking about a 'Cathedral' type set-up until you mentioned 'Minster' and the cost of a vocal coach.

 

'Thinking out of the box' was referring to generic parish situations.

 

It is good to see music well resourced in our Cathedrals, Minsters and major parish churches, I think it is time for the denomination to stop the rot nationwide and would like to see something on the lines of a 'Church Urban Fund' developed for parish churches (rural or urban) who have no or little musical resources to enable them to train a music leader/organist and to kick off musical development.

 

Although this will probably fall on deaf ears within the Cathedral fraternity and those churches already with ample musical rescources but I do think it is sad that there is a growing divide between the haves and have not within the CofE in this respect and I fear it will continue until there is nothing left at the local parish level for traditional church music.

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I had no idea you were talking about a 'Cathedral' type set-up until you mentioned 'Minster' and the cost of a vocal coach.

 

If you say so - but it is far from the first or only time I have described the type of music which is performed at my church.

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Guest Barry Williams

The use of professional vocal coaches is not confined to cathedrals and similar places. There is, for example, a church in Brighton where Hilary Llystyn-Jones regularly gives vocal training to the choir and this is far from a unique occurence.

 

Some organists are ill-equipped to give singing lessons or vocal coaching; many have had no formal singing lessons themselves. The preferred method of improving the voice is individual lessons with a proper singing teacher.

 

Lee makes a very good point about the lack of resource. It was ever thus. Sir John Stainer complained about the lack of resources a long time ago. Bach complained about having to take unsuitable boys in the choir. Many choirs today are wrecked by a single badly produced voice or occasionally, by a lower voice that sings the tune under all circumstances - all music sounds like Puccini!

 

However, the resource issue is not helped by clergy who refuse to permit the PCC to pay an organist on the grounds "you are merely giving back to God the talent He gave you". Skill is costly to acquire, whether it is paid for by the PCC, one's parents or an individual.

 

Board members may recall my account of the Venerable Frederck Hazell (before he became an Archdeacon) who declined to accept money for the use of an organ for practice stating that it was the church's contribution to my musical education. That, I suspect, is one type of investment in the future that Lee intends. Churches with that approach are rarely short of competent musicians willing to serve.

 

Barry Williams

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But, of course, you would, surely? Personally, I think that in the current state of affairs a church is lucky to get a competent musician, and to be picky about whether that person believes in the same things or not is de trop. I also think that to make enquiries about an individual's beliefs or non-beliefs is an assulat on privacy. The relevant trait of a musician is their musicianship.

 

Hi

 

I've been involved in church music since I was 9. I've been a Baptist Minister for 14 years now, so I've actually served God as a musician for longer than as a minister. I've been organist at a number of churches of different denominations, and had some involvement in Contemporary Christian Music.

 

During that time, I've seen some of the problems that can arise when anyone who is working for a church, but who doesn't believe, can cause - and organists (and other musicians) have a responsibility to lead worship - and you cannot do that properly if it's just an intellectual exercise and you don't believe and have faith in the object of that worship, no matter how brilliant a musican you may be. The relevant, primary, trait for a church musician is their faith in God. Since that's a prime requirement (or should be) of the job description, there's no issue with asking! Apart from that, the Christian faith is NOT a private matter - we are called to "make disciples" (Matt 28:19) and to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15). this is not negotiable.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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