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John Rutter


mrbouffant

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It's easy to mock, isn't it? Yes, Rutter's carols are unashamedly light music, but they are ever so well done. I would give my eye teeth to have his compositional fluency and deftness. As has been pointed out, you really need to hear them in their original form, with orchestra.

I agree that the Wild Wood Carol especially is very lovely. I find the Wexford Carol very effective too - folky, but tasteful.

 

 

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I like to think of John Rutter as the Sir Elton John of church-music. Neither of them seem capable of writing anything other than a smash-hit, with memorable tunes and rhythms.

 

Wonder who gets paid most?

 

:P

 

MM

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Guest Barry Williams

I love John Rutter's music, but I prefer almost any recording to the Cambridge Singers, for those seem edited to musical extinction. The remarkable facility available with digital technology can, and in this case seems to, remove the life from the performance. The Cambridge Singers never give live concerts. I wonder why.

 

Barry Williams

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The Cambridge Singers never give live concerts. I wonder why.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

Not true Barry. They have given a number of concerts over the years; admittedly not many, but certainly very much "live" and the performances are as good in concert as on the CDs.

Best wishes

Richard

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Guest Barry Williams
The Cambridge Singers never give live concerts. I wonder why.

 

Barry Williams

Not true Barry. They have given a number of concerts over the years; admittedly not many, but certainly very much "live" and the performances are as good in concert as on the CDs.

Best wishes

Richard

 

Thank you. I am so pleased to learn of this. I have never managed to track a concert down. The earlier recordings seem to have much more 'life' than the later ones on which the editing is rather obvious. Perhaps if you know of a concert you would kindly post details, for it would be good to hear them.

 

Rutter's music seems not to attract the trenchant criticism of Mr Kendrick and others. I am sure this is because Dr Rutter's music is so skilfully crafted. He understands how to set words in the best part of the vocal register and how to use the colour of vowel tone. Quite a few of the works have words written by him and fine words they are too.

 

John Rutter has done so much for church music; even those who do not like his compositions can at least appreciate his splendid editing and choral work.

 

Barry Williams

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"I can’t believe it's not Rutter". - Certain Lay Clerks from Wells apparently started this one when referring to Malcom Archer's choral compositions!

 

 

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

 

 

You could say "Utterly Rutterly"

 

:P

 

MM

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I did once start writing an alternative set of words to the Angel Carol that started "Have you heard this sound / Fifty times beforehand / Does it sound the same...", but thought it a little cruel.

 

I rather like his organ prelude on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and then there's the (once almost ubiquitous) Communion Service. And the carols have their uses: there's a tacit understanding that if I indulge our choir with one of their favourite Rutters at Christmas, they'll let me foist something slightly more adventurous on them. (Hmmm - wonder if I can get away with Antony Baldwin's fabulous "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" again this year?)

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Thank you. I am so pleased to learn of this. I have never managed to track a concert down. The earlier recordings seem to have much more 'life' than the later ones on which the editing is rather obvious. Perhaps if you know of a concert you would kindly post details, for it would be good to hear them.

 

Rutter's music seems not to attract the trenchant criticism of Mr Kendrick and others. I am sure this is because Dr Rutter's music is so skilfully crafted. He understands how to set words in the best part of the vocal register and how to use the colour of vowel tone. Quite a few of the works have words written by him and fine words they are too.

 

John Rutter has done so much for church music; even those who do not like his compositions can at least appreciate his splendid editing and choral work.

 

Barry Williams

 

If and when I hear of a CS concert Barry I will be sure to let you know. one further comment, comparing Rutter to Kendrick seems to me slightly odd?? They come from completely different musical positions (for want of a better word) within the Church. JR pretty much abhors happy clappy stuff, and GK is completely inspired by it. Is Kendrick criticised on this board, or are you referring to criticism of him in general?

As you point out, even if one doesn't like Rutter, it is easy to see what good he has done over the years for music in the church - seems odd to me that he isn't (yet) a Knight!

Richard

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Guest Barry Williams
If and when I hear of a CS concert Barry I will be sure to let you know. one further comment, comparing Rutter to Kendrick seems to me slightly odd?? They come from completely different musical positions (for want of a better word) within the Church. JR pretty much abhors happy clappy stuff, and GK is completely inspired by it. Is Kendrick criticised on this board, or are you referring to criticism of him in general?

As you point out, even if one doesn't like Rutter, it is easy to see what good he has done over the years for music in the church - seems odd to me that he isn't (yet) a Knight!

Richard

 

Thank you.

 

I had in mind the general criticism that, perhaps, Mr Kendrick's pieces are slightly less well crafted than Dr Rutter's music.

 

Musical knighthoods are difficult these days. Everyone worked hard by writing letters to get GTB the honour he deserved, yet the same did not acheive the accolade for Dr Jackson. Lionel Dakers deserved a knighthood but did not get it. At least Dr Rutter has been recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury by a (Lambeth) D.Mus. By the way, Lambeth degrees are not honorary. They are real and actual by virtue of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533.

 

Barry Williams

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Thank you.

 

I had in mind the general criticism that, perhaps*, Mr Kendrick's pieces are slightly less well crafted than Dr Rutter's music.

 

Musical knighthoods are difficult these days. Everyone worked hard by writing letters to get GTB the honour he deserved, yet the same did not acheive the accolade for Dr Jackson. Lionel Dakers deserved a knighthood but did not get it. At least Dr Rutter has been recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury by a (Lambeth) D.Mus. By the way, Lambeth degrees are not honorary. They are real and actual by virtue of the Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

*Perhaps?!

 

 

I am not the greatest fan of Dr.Rutter's work, but his compositions are superbly crafted, albeit sometimes to a standard format/style.

In my humble opinion, nothing I have yet seen from the pen of Mr.Kendrick would get more than a B in GCSE music in purely grammatical and originality terms. No doubt his work is sincere and I realise that he has many admirers. Musically speaking, I am not one of them.

 

I agree with you 100% about a knighthood for Francis. However, he is working a long way from London and does not have a high media profile. I'm sure that this makes all the difference. In these times one would do better helping arrange possibly dodgy deals with our friends across the sea if one wanted a knighthood.

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Thank you.

 

I had in mind the general criticism that, perhaps, Mr Kendrick's pieces are slightly less well crafted than Dr Rutter's music.

 

 

 

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

I think that you need to take on board that the musical styles are somewhat different! Also, Graham Kendrick's strengths are more in the words than the music (maybe he should leave the tunes to someone else - but, perhaps sadly, that's not the expectation in the church traditions that he primarily writes for).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I think that you need to take on board that the musical styles are somewhat different!

Hi, Tony.

 

I wouldn't want to single out Kendrick specifically, but as far as the general standard of worship songs goes, your contention is not at all relevant. As far as classical Western harmony and counterpoint goes, music is music, whatever the style, and good craftsmanship and technique are absolute qualities that do not vary depending on the idiom. The "rules" have evolved for very good reasons (basically as a means of ensuring a consistent good quality) and cannot simply be ignored with impunity. There are ways of breaking the rules, but you have to know how to do it (for example, Vaughan Williams's consecutive fifths work because he made the strongly flavoured effect they produce an integral part of his style). Consistency of style is the key. Arguments that worship songs aren't really as incompetent as they sound because they are in a different style really don't wash, I'm afraid.

 

I'm with Paul 100%. Whatever you think of Rutter's style, he gets away with it (magnificently, I would say) because of his craftsmanship. The taste of what he produces becomes a secondary consideration. (I like it on days when I'm stuffing myself with jam doughnuts and deep-fried Mars bars with clotted cream.)

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Whatever you think of Rutter's style, he gets away with it (magnificently, I would say) because of his craftsmanship. The taste of what he produces becomes a secondary consideration. (I like it on days when I'm stuffing myself with jam doughnuts and deep-fried Mars bars with clotted cream.)

I conducted his Requiem for choir and orchestra a few years ago. What was crystal clear to the singers and to me in the weeks of rehearsals was that he knows how to write effectively for an amateur chorus, and - above all, the accompaniment helps the choir at practically every single entry; if the sopranos were unsure of their note, it was being played by an instrument (with a distinctive timbre) a beat or two before the entry. Such a compositional/orchestrational skill put Rutter in the choir's good books at the outset.

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I conducted his Requiem for choir and orchestra a few years ago. What was crystal clear to the singers and to me in the weeks of rehearsals was that he knows how to write effectively for an amateur chorus, and - above all, the accompaniment helps the choir at practically every single entry; if the sopranos were unsure of their note, it was being played by an instrument (with a distinctive timbre) a beat or two before the entry. Such a compositional/orchestrational skill put Rutter in the choir's good books at the outset.

 

Absolutely. I am a huge fan of the Requiem having had to play it a number of times recently on funny Italian organs with extraordinary limitations and serious ailments. In each case it was possible to produce a convincing noise. The bit about understanding choirs is quite true - I am thinking of the difficult-sounding but actually straightforward entries in the very first movement - the only exceptions being on the second or so page where the tenors have to come in with "dona eis domine", usually a tone flat, and the "I am the resurrection and the life" unaccompanied passages which have some awkward shifts in tonality from 'dark' keys into 'light' ones). He also seems to understand what can be done on organs too and there was scarcely a moment when I wasn't able to get the sort of characterisation of inner parts. Even the Psalm 23 setting can be quite convincingly "thumbed down" to provide the harp passages over the oboe's still notes. Bits of it are really rewarding to bring off well and experimenting with thickened textures, note clusters in the bass of the Swell for timpani, arpeggios on claribel flutes for harp effects and so on can help too. I hope that next time I play it won't be on a 1.5 manual (the other half broken) Ruffatti extension job where you have to switch off and on again every 20 minutes when the pedals stop working and the swell box has been disconnected...

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I can't begin to understand why church musicians, and perhaps especially British church musicians, feel some sense of duty to sharpen their pens and take deadly aim at John Rutter's music. It is what it is. If it isn't your cup of tea, just simply don't make use of it. Why the necessity to disparage Rutter's work? Is the success he has enjoyed somehow offensive to people?

 

(My comments are of a general nature and not in response to any specific message.)

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Guest Lee Blick
I can't begin to understand why church musicians, and perhaps especially British church musicians, feel some sense of duty to sharpen their pens and take deadly aim at John Rutter's music. It is what it is. If it isn't your cup of tea, just simply don't make use of it. Why the necessity to disparage Rutter's work? Is the success he has enjoyed somehow offensive to people?

 

(My comments are of a general nature and not in response to any specific message.)

 

Well, isn't this supposed to be a debate forum?

 

I just find his music even some of his more serious compositions just too light-weight. I think much of it panders to the commercial market. I do quite like his carol arrangements, however.

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Most of the posters in this thread seem perfectly happy to accept Rutter's music on its own terms.

 

On the subject of his technique, it's worth remembering that he wrote both the Nativity Carol and the Shepherd's Pipe Carol while he was still at school. Ye Gods, it's just not fair! :o

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On the subject of his technique, it's worth remembering that he wrote both the Nativity Carol and the Shepherd's Pipe Carol while he was still at school. Ye Gods, it's just not fair! :o

That being the case, would you say he has progressed technically and creatively since then?

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Guest Barry Williams
Most of the posters in this thread seem perfectly happy to accept Rutter's music on its own terms.

 

On the subject of his technique, it's worth remembering that he wrote both the Nativity Carol and the Shepherd's Pipe Carol while he was still at school. Ye Gods, it's just not fair! :o

 

 

Harold Darke wrote 'In the bleak Mid Winter' whilst he was at school.

 

Barry Williams

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Harold Darke wrote 'In the bleak Mid Winter' whilst he was at school.

 

Barry Williams

 

 

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Yes! :o

 

I still get the shivers when I hear it sung well, or when the Clarinet creeps in during the accompaniment.

 

Perhaps being young is a good time to write beautiful or powerful things, before the world gets to one, and cynicism creeps in.

 

Benjamin Britten was also very young when he wrote "The hymn to the virgin" ....another tiny masterpiece.

 

Add Vierne's "Berceuse" and you've got a whole emotional jelly to enjoy at Christmas.

 

MM

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I don't think it is wrong but I think Rutter's reputation as a composer suffers because of it.

 

In addition, I think it cheapens British choral music with this type of lightweight 'muzak' composition.

 

 

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In that case, I'd better stick to Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" as a voluntary. I wouldn't want to upset the choral purists.

 

MM

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On the subject of his technique, it's worth remembering that he wrote both the Nativity Carol and the Shepherd's Pipe Carol while he was still at school. Ye Gods, it's just not fair! :)

I think Walton was only 17 or so when he wrote his Litany, even more of a miniature masterpiece than either the early Rutter hits or Darke's In The Bleak Midwinter in my humble opinion.

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