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So What Is Happening In The Schools?


Peter Clark

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As I have said before here, most recently in the hymnbook thread, I spend a bit of time trying to teach children some of the more traditional (and quality) types of church music, which our local Catholic schools certainly don't provide. Last night I went along to Brownies to teach them O Come O Come Emmanuel but first I asked them what carols they knew. I mentioned O Come All Ye, O Little Town, Once in Royal .... out of thirty or so girls aged 7 - 11, I would guess that less than a tenth knew any or all of these. So what is happening? This is not an exercise in teacher-bashing; I know there are some teachers here (and would assume that any teachers here woiuld do all they could to promote the instrument and iots music).

 

What was encouraging was the enthusiasm which greeted my anouncement that after Christmas there woiuld be a day for them to come and look at the organ, here some "fun" music and even, under close supervision, play a tune on it (or or two are at about grade 2 piano standard).

 

But I weep for the future of church music if my experience is general - I hope it isn't.

 

Peter

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Sadly Peter, you are totally right. Outside of choir schools, and i assume faith schools, there is no mainstream Christian teaching. Without wishing to come across as racist, we are so scared of offending those of other cultures that we have stopped teaching anything that could possibly be remotely offensive to anyone.

 

Does your town have a high school carol service? Go along to it this year and see how many students go that aren't involved, and furthermore how many sing the carols. YOu'll be very upset

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I made a recruiting visit to our local (CofE church aided) primary school a couple of weeks ago, at what was described to me as their "Hymn Practice" assembly. I'm not knocking the school, which is excellent, in any way, but the hymn practice consisted of two songs, "The bell of creation" and another something about building a wall, neither of which had the slightest Christian content.

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I made a recruiting visit to our local (CofE church aided) primary school a couple of weeks ago, at what was described to me as their "Hymn Practice" assembly. I'm not knocking the school, which is excellent, in any way, but the hymn practice consisted of two songs, "The bell of creation" and another something about building a wall, neither of which had the slightest Christian content.

 

My two daughters go to a superb little village C of E first school and most of their assembly music is like this. Christian festivals are kept and they do have occasional services at the local church where this style of music is again used. Sunday services there are trad. hymns and Mission Praise - no choir and a fairly elderly congregation. Few of the school children are in evidence. Our local parish church has a dynamic DOM and consequently the choir is of a healthy size and sings a good repertoire - both in the choir and congregation there appear to be a reasonable number of young people - it helps with good school connections in the town. Where I play our Rector runs the choir and although this is at present solely adult there are again good junior school connections in the villages so younger people are evident in 'junior church' type activities especially at family services.

Where I work we have a concert of a 'festive nature' at Christmas - usually we manage to suite all tastes with some choir carols as well as more secular solos etc. Mostly it is held relatively early before the end of term and therefore before Christmas so I don't go overboard too much with mass audience carols (which anyway don't tend to work too well in our secular space) as I really feel that we are pushed into starting Christmas too early as it is.

I suppose what I am saying is that on the whole nowadays it would seem to to be more the task of the church based musicians to keep the traditions going whether or not they go into schools to support this task - certainly at a secondary level I can do pretty much what I want with the choirs but full school hymn singing etc. is not likely to be on the agenda.

 

AJJ

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Guest Patrick Coleman

We are often told that we are behind the times up here - but I have to say that in all the local primary schools there is good and open teaching about Christianity and the festivals are all properly kept. Where they are actively made welcome, they are happy (indeed they make a great effort) to celebrate in church as well.

 

I hasten to add that all the schools are community schools.

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No, it's not the teachers' fault. It would need a concerted effort at a far more strategic level to change today's culture - and that isn't going to happen.

 

Yesterday, as I sat in our local barber's shop listening to the local radio station pumping out its endless stream of toe-curling vapidity, I had ample time to reflect that, for the majority of people today, such dross is the limit of their musical horizons. This is the prevailing culture today. Quick fixes, instant gratification, nothing mentally taxing.

 

We live in a secular society. To Mr/Ms Average religion (any religion) is at best a quaint delusion and at worst an evil responsible for most of the world's suffering. Christmas is just a season for partying, spending and generally being self-indulgent. There is very little reason why, within this type of culture, the average person should be the remotest bit interested in traditional carols. They will recogise many of them because they are pumped out in supermarkets and over open-air PA systems in shopping centres etc, but they have assumed the status of wallpaper music alongside "pop" numbers like "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" and that cringeworthy "Merry Christmas everybody". How anyone can enjoy shopping with all that puke-spewing canned muzak contaminating what passes for their brains beats me. Would you eat syrup-coated cheese? No? Then why listen to it?

 

Bah! Humbug!

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No, it's not the teachers' fault. It would need a concerted effort at a far more strategic level to change today's culture - and that isn't going to happen.

 

Yesterday, as I sat in our local barber's shop listening to the local radio station pumping out its endless stream of toe-curling vapidity, I had ample time to reflect that, for the majority of people today, such dross is the limit of their musical horizons. This is the prevailing culture today. Quick fixes, instant gratification, nothing mentally taxing.

 

We live in a secular society. To Mr/Ms Average religion (any religion) is at best a quaint delusion and at worst an evil responsible for most of the world's suffering. Christmas is just a season for partying, spending and generally being self-indulgent. There is very little reason why, within this type of culture, the average person should be the remotest bit interested in traditional carols. They will recogise many of them because they are pumped out in supermarkets and over open-air PA systems in shopping centres etc, but they have assumed the status of wallpaper music alongside "pop" numbers like "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" and that cringeworthy "Merry Christmas everybody". How anyone can enjoy shopping with all that puke-spewing canned muzak contaminating what passes for their brains beats me. Would you eat syrup-coated cheese? No? Then why listen to it?

 

Bah! Humbug!

 

Yeh, but do they actually listen to it, Vox? Or is it just something they like to have in the background to put them "in the mood" whilst they go around spending hard-earned money on over-priced Christmas presents?

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Yeh, but do they actually listen to it, Vox? Or is it just something they like to have in the background to put them "in the mood" whilst they go around spending hard-earned money on over-priced Christmas presents?

Judging by the blank zombified looks on the majority of their faces, these habitual shoppers are paying no attention to it whatsoever.

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As I have said before here, most recently in the hymnbook thread, I spend a bit of time trying to teach children some of the more traditional (and quality) types of church music, which our local Catholic schools certainly don't provide. Last night I went along to Brownies to teach them O Come O Come Emmanuel but first I asked them what carols they knew. I mentioned O Come All Ye, O Little Town, Once in Royal .... out of thirty or so girls aged 7 - 11, I would guess that less than a tenth knew any or all of these. So what is happening? This is not an exercise in teacher-bashing; I know there are some teachers here (and would assume that any teachers here woiuld do all they could to promote the instrument and iots music).

 

What was encouraging was the enthusiasm which greeted my anouncement that after Christmas there woiuld be a day for them to come and look at the organ, here some "fun" music and even, under close supervision, play a tune on it (or or two are at about grade 2 piano standard).

 

But I weep for the future of church music if my experience is general - I hope it isn't.

 

Peter

 

 

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

 

 

You are really touching on one of my hobby-horses here.....here followeth the rant of the day!

 

When I was at school in the 1960's, I suspect that we were at the cultural rubicon. Elvis Presley had impressed everyone but me, and Cliff Richard had unfortunately survived his childhood, but in spite of all this, school-music was still very much in evidence; and further supported by the "old school" of the local church-choirs and choral societies.

 

I've mentioned before the uncle I never properly knew, who milked his cows and delivered milk when he wasn't singing with Isobelle Bailey and Kethleen Ferrier in "Messiah," and in a way, that tells us something not only about the astonishing musical standards in quite ordinary places, but also something about the encouragement of talent and the social mobility which that permitted. It wasn't restricted to music of course, and in all walks of life, that same ambition and personal fulfilment was nurtured in the young .

 

I think I also mentioned an amusing incident in the workplace recently, when I came into contact with a young Latvian; perhaps 18 years of age. I always make a point of trying to communicate with migrant workers, and perhaps sharing a joke or just a kind word, but with the Latvian, I got a bit of a shock. "Prove that you are Latvian.....sing to me."

 

Well he did.....beautifully.......part of a Bach Passion in fact, and without the slightest worry that anyone might find it strange or somehow politically incorrect or, to use the more common word, "inappropriate." It was a wonderful moment, made priceless by the fact that a young Asian muslim of similar age was ecstatic when he heard it.

 

I come into contact with many young Poles, and they have not the slightest problem talking about fast-cars one minute, and God the next, because God and the catholic church are still embedded in Polish cultural values. The same people are broadly honest (you could leave your wallet and they would return it to you) , hard-working, ambitious and above all, socially confident in spite of the language barriers. They are also, in many instances, extremely well educated and unfailingly polite.

These are the people who stream to church of a Sunday, whereas their English counterparts are still recovering from alcoholic poisoning from the night before.

 

Of course, I'm using a broad brush to paint a hastily sketched overview, but I'm sure people will know what I mean.

 

In truth, the cultural solidity which I perceive in many central and eastern Europeans may have its roots as much in the communist era as it does in a sense of ethnicity and religion, but of course, music, art, literature and poetry were always the means by which they retained cultural national identity; such as in Poland in the pre-communist 19th century and the music of Chopin, or in the the nationalism of Smetana in the former Czechoslovakia. How very interesting it was, that after the "Velvet Revolution" and the overthrow of the communist state, the Czechoslovak people should choose an important contemporary poet, Harval, as their first Prime Minister.

 

There's an interesting fact about Russia which never seems to get a mention. Brushing aside the horrors of Stalinism, and the

Iron Fist of communist state-sponsored internal terrorism, the Russian authorities realised the value of art and culture; to the extent that they sent artistic envoys across the USSR, who incorporated ethnic music into the educational curriculum. This is how a Ukrainian composer, who studied in Moscow, ended up writing organ-music (and lots of other things) mid-way between Moscow and Bejing, in Uzbekistan. His name was Georgi Mushel of course, who worked much of his professional life in Tashkent, and who became an authority on traditional Uzbek music. The USSR was built on cultural exchange, and respect for minority ethnic culture.

 

I gasp whenever I stop to consider what has been lost to British culture, and get very angry when people tell me that "people today" want this or that aspect of pop-art; as if the rich culture of the past can somehow inhibit progress, damage multi-culturalism or bring about elitism and social-division. It's bullshit, and it is high time we recognised it as such.

 

Hence a young Latvian sings German music, and delights a young Muslim.....that's called multi-culturalism with a vengeance!

 

I begin to wonder what sort of society is being created (or perhaps destroyed) by the political correctness and cultural denial of to-day, but then, I perhaps know the answer already. I can think of very few places in Europe where a boy of 17 can be allowed to sleep for 13 weeks in a cardboard box in the middle of Autumn and Winter, and be forced to beg for food on the streets, because no-one cares and no help is available. It costs little more than commitment to feed someone and keep them warm in winter; if only people weren't too busy drinking and watching politically-correct fairy-tales on TV.

 

I'm just very glad that I was brought up in an age when people asked "Who is my neighbour?" I'm also very glad that "Washing feet" was not considered an abuse of human rights. I am especially grateful that I was taught the music which goes with it, and which my uncle would sing to his horse, when together they delivered the milk joyfully in all types of weather.

 

I am less happy about the fact that my home is now covered with 213 bi-lingual "Post-it" notes!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Jestem "MusingMuso"

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Judging by the blank zombified looks on the majority of their faces, these habitual shoppers are paying no attention to it whatsoever.

 

 

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

 

 

I was holed-up in a motorway service area the other night, awaiting a tyre-fitter at 3am. I sat drinking a dreadful cup of coffee which cost £2.20, and eating a rock-hard eccles cake which cost another £1.80.

 

It couldn't get much worse, so I thought; and the heating wasn't even working properly.

 

Imagine my response, when over the loudspeakers of this deserted nightime oasis, came the song "I'm the happiest Christmas tree!"

 

In fact, you will have to imagine my response, because one of the two words I used would be quite out of place here!!!!!

 

MM

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

 

 

You are really touching on one of my hobby-horses here.....here followeth the rant of the day!

 

When I was at school in the 1960's, I suspect that we were at the cultural rubicon. Elvis Presley had impressed everyone but me, and Cliff Richard had unfortunately survived his childhood, but in spite of all this, school-music was still very much in evidence; and further supported by the "old school" of the local church-choirs and choral societies ... {truncated for convenience, but I read every word!}

 

I'm very glad, impressed, and grateful to read this. As a small comment - I too was at school in the 50s/60s/and just into the 70s. At my first prep school, which was musically undistinguished, music of good quality done as well as we and the staff could manage was a constant. At the time I didn't realise the effect it was having - but now I am immensely grateful, it gave me the grounding I needed in the music which was standard fare in later schools and enabled me to continue in studies later. It enabled the direction I took in life, and still provides a way of living. What a pity so few now experience this.

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At the time I didn't realise the effect it was having - but now I am immensely grateful, it gave me the grounding I needed in the music which was standard fare in later schools and enabled me to continue in studies later. It enabled the direction I took in life, and still provides a way of living.

 

I agree with this but would also add that my musical education from singing in the same church choir from the age of nine till I left for university had even more influence on the way I still do things 'musically' now.

 

AJJ

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Yes, I was taking choral sinigng (at the next school) as read. I meant to point out that in schools at that time it seemed to me, singing and hearing decent music was all-encompassing. One picked up a feeling for it by a kind of osmotic process.

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

These are the people who stream to church of a Sunday, whereas their English counterparts are still recovering from alcoholic poisoning from the night before.

 

I know a few church musicians like that! :huh:

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Judging by the blank zombified looks on the majority of their faces, these habitual shoppers are paying no attention to it whatsoever.

A funny coincidence happened this afternoon after reading this topic.

 

I went into town to do some shopping, and there were loads of these sorts of people getting under my feet, standing talking in doorways, walking into me whilst looking in the opposite direction, blocking pavements whilst having conversations, pushing in front of me at queues, standing aimlessly in the way doing absolutely nothing and with no sign of any intellectual processes taking place, suddenly coming to a stop for no apparent reason so I almost walk into the back of them....etc! My mood was not improved by the fact that I am suffering with "man flu" and that the garage who should have repaired my car nearly two weeks ago still have it and continue to make excuses, so I'm doing most things on foot, and getting drenched with the rain. I'm not usually this grumpy - honest!

 

Then, in a queue in one of the shops, I noticed two schoolgirls behind me who weren't behaving terribly well. And then, all of a sudden, one of the girls sang the phrase "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory" and then stopped! Well, I know that "hymn" is a load of old %^&* (and I can't even remember the first line - please don't anybody remind me!), but evidently there is a school around these parts which has some sort of Christian input in assembly. I was about to ask them which school they went to (they didn't seem to be wearing uniform) when the assistant became free and it was my turn to be served.

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

I was holed-up in a motorway service area the other night, awaiting a tyre-fitter at 3am. I sat drinking a dreadful cup of coffee which cost £2.20, and eating a rock-hard eccles cake which cost another £1.80.

 

It couldn't get much worse, so I thought; and the heating wasn't even working properly.

 

Imagine my response, when over the loudspeakers of this deserted nightime oasis, came the song "I'm the happiest Christmas tree!"

 

In fact, you will have to imagine my response, because one of the two words I used would be quite out of place here!!!!!

 

MM

 

To paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, did the "phrase rhyme with "Clucking bell"" per chance? :huh:

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No, it's not the teachers' fault. It would need a concerted effort at a far more strategic level to change today's culture - and that isn't going to happen.

 

Hear, hear.

 

Despite being an atheist, I am a teacher at a CofE school which holds a Christian assembly, including Christian 'music', every day. Unfortunately, I have to say that by far the majority of our music is of the happy-clappy variety; the only one which I recognise from my childhood is 'Jesus Bids Us Shine' which has somehow found its way into our otherwise inane musical c**p.

 

You are right. Personally, I can do little. I do teach my class 'Stille Nacht' (in German) every Christmas but, beyond that, the musical content of our offerings is beyond my control. Moreover, as has been said elsewhere in this thread, I am pretty sure that our modern society would find most of the traditional music I used to know and love 'old fashioned'.

 

They say that 'what goes around comes around but, somehow, I doubt that it will!

 

John

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Judging by the blank zombified looks on the majority of their faces, these habitual shoppers are paying no attention to it whatsoever.

Hmm... Respectfully, I would suggest that the zombified looks are more likely to indicate that they are listening to it! :huh:

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I went to the local state primary school in the 60s.

 

Every day we had Assembly in the hall that doubled as a gym. Assembly started with a record on the Dansette. By the time I left aged 11 I knew a whole load of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Grieg by heart.

 

We sang hymns. We didn't have hymn books so the younger kids learned from the older kids. For years I heartily sang "To be a penguin."

 

And at Christmas we sang (and learned) carols the same way. I got to know them all by heart. Still do.

 

There was nothing 'political' about it. It was just an opportunity for mass singing.

 

I have no objection to Polish and Punjabi songs being included in the process today but if the Polish and Punjabi numbers are too difficult for the local primary school teachers to master that's no excuse for abandoning Away in a Manger.

 

Incidentally, if you haven't read Mark Thomas's reflections on Away in a Manger in the Culture supplement of the Sunday Times, Dec 01, 2007, I gladly recommend it. He may have lost his faith but his prose will, I suspect, enable many others to recover theirs.

 

Best wishes

 

J

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I went to the local state primary school in the 60s.

 

Every day we had Assembly in the hall that doubled as a gym. Assembly started with a record on the Dansette. By the time I left aged 11 I knew a whole load of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Grieg by heart.

Did we go to the same school? :huh:

 

Incidentally, if you haven't read Mark Thomas's reflections on Away in a Manger in the Culture supplement of the Sunday Times, Dec 01, 2007, I gladly recommend it. He may have lost his faith but his prose will, I suspect, enable many others to recover theirs.

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol...icle2961762.ece "Emotional incontinent": I must remember that one!

 

You really can't beat the Willcocks arrangement of Away in a manger. Sung by a choir that knows how to sing really ppp and how to convey "the baby awakes" (with due restraint, of course), it is totally magical. One of my most treasured moments was moving Leslie Crowther to admit what a beautiful a carol it really is behind its childish image.

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Guest Barry Williams

"We sang hymns. We didn't have hymn books so the younger kids learned from the older kids. And at Christmas we sang (and learned) carols the same way. I got to know them all by heart. Still do."

 

This quote shows precisely why so many of us find it very difficult to follow the badly altered words of 'Hymns Old and New' and similar compilations/liturgies. Those words that have remained with us provide stability. When I was very ill in 1988 I could recall many prayers from the BCP 1662 Holy Communion Service (which I had not heard for a very long time) and none at all from the ASB (which I had heard every week for years.)

 

Barry Williams

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"We sang hymns. We didn't have hymn books so the younger kids learned from the older kids. And at Christmas we sang (and learned) carols the same way. I got to know them all by heart. Still do."

 

This quote shows precisely why so many of us find it very difficult to follow the badly altered words of 'Hymns Old and New' and similar compilations/liturgies. Those words that have remained with us provide stability. When I was very ill in 1988 I could recall many prayers from the BCP 1662 Holy Communion Service (which I had not heard for a very long time) and none at all from the ASB (which I had heard every week for years.)

 

Barry Williams

Indeed. I guess it is only natural for the older ones amongst us to find security and comfort in tradition and familiarity. Such "anchors" are, I think, very necessary to one's mental well-being. It is surely precisely this that leads the Spinners/Seekers brigade to insist on inflicting their pap on the church in the name of progress. Yet I think there is a big difference. As you so rightly point out, the BCP language is memorable. Hearing it Sunday after Sunday, one absorbed its import via some mysterious form of osmosis. The modern translations have no such distinctiveness. Their language has no colour. And without colour, there is no impact. God has been brought among us - and lost in the crowd.

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