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So What Is Happening In The Schools?


Peter Clark

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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.

 

 

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

 

 

For some strange reason, I've always wanted to re-write the BCP.

 

I don't expect they will invite me to do so.

 

I shall die unfulfilled. :huh:

 

MM

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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

Would that it were so easy. What is happening is much more insidious: a determined effort by evangelical secularists to deny the central role of Christianity to this country's history. 'Multiculturalism' is merely a Trojan Horse. In fact, 'other faiths' tend to make it very plain, very frequently, that they have no problem whatsoever with Nativity Plays, Carols, Easter etc etc. Every 'Winterval' news story you read concludes with quote from the representative of the local mosque/temple/synagogue stating that quite categorically. (These Grauniad opinion pieces and some of the comments that follow them - illustrate this rather effectively).

 

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/dave_h...d_the_left.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/st...2205924,00.html

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/ac_gra...n_teachers.html

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Would that it were so easy. What is happening is much more insidious: a determined effort by evangelical secularists to deny the central role of Christianity to this country's history. 'Multiculturalism' is merely a Trojan Horse. In fact, 'other faiths' tend to make it very plain, very frequently, that they have no problem whatsoever with Nativity Plays, Carols, Easter etc etc. Every 'Winterval' news story you read concludes with quote from the representative of the local mosque/temple/synagogue stating that quite categorically. (These Grauniad opinion pieces and some of the comments that follow them - illustrate this rather effectively).

 

Hi

 

Very true! Here in Bradford, a local Muslim group are laying on a Christmas meal for an invited group of representatives from local churches (and maybe other faith groups - I don't have all the details).

 

Jesus is regarded by Muslims as one of their prophets (Isa) and so they have no problem with Christmas.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Has any topic elicited such an extensive response from so many in so short a time?

 

As a former employee of independent schools I am unable to comment upon what goes on or not in the state sector; I was lucky enough to find an excellent Church of England grammar school for my daughters very close to where I lived in Berkshire which had an excellent music department, but it does seem that this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

 

I can, however, say with certainty that there are many prep schools that take both their religious observance and their choral singing seriously. At my own school, Papplewick, in Ascot, we sang an anthem every Sunday and the two choirs each sang choral evensong twice a term. In addition we would visit a cathedral each term to sing evensong as well as giving concerts in our locality. It is always difficult to know how much has ‘stuck’ with one’s pupils, but when one hears those choristers, usually the rugger buggers in the choral midst, who voted Naylor’s Vox Dicentis and the Hallelujah Chorus as their top hits, one feels that perhaps a seed has taken root. How much sticks later on in life is virtually impossible to know, but at least one has tried. Other prep schools known to me manage equally gratifying results; just a drop in the ocean perhaps, but better than nothing! Of course, you may well ask how this state of nirvana came about and I would be the first to pay tribute to everyone else in the school – headmaster, teaching staff and music staff – not forgetting those who had taught and established music in the school before I arrived (I have covered this elsewhere in these hallowed portals) . The ethos of the school seemed to be that it didn’t matter whether you coached games, drama, music or any other activity – if you did it properly space, time and encouragement was found for you.

 

Which doesn’t really help others in this topic to solve the problem nationwide. I’ve no answer to that, except what many would consider a cop-out – keep an eye on the Time Ed Sup Independent Section. Banging one’s head against a brick wall is lovely when you stop but it doesn’t really provide lasting job satisfaction!

 

Incidentally, we didn’t neglect the instrumental activities; I have a very pleasing recording of Nimrod which I made myself, played by the school orchestra. Works well in D major – it’s worth a try.

 

I hasten to add that the current Director of Music at Papplewick, who was formerly organist of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Inverness, is doing a marvellous job and, I am sure, has no plans to jack it in the foreseeable future!

 

David Harrison

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Has any topic elicited such an extensive response from so many in so short a time?

 

As a former employee of independent schools I am unable to comment upon what goes on or not in the state sector; I was lucky enough to find an excellent Church of England grammar school for my daughters very close to where I lived in Berkshire which had an excellent music department, but it does seem that this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

 

I can, however, say with certainty that there are many prep schools that take both their religious observance and their choral singing seriously. At my own school, Papplewick, in Ascot, we sang an anthem every Sunday and the two choirs each sang choral evensong twice a term. In addition we would visit a cathedral each term to sing evensong as well as giving concerts in our locality. It is always difficult to know how much has 'stuck' with one's pupils, but when one hears those choristers, usually the rugger buggers in the choral midst, who voted Naylor's Vox Dicentis and the Hallelujah Chorus as their top hits, one feels that perhaps a seed has taken root. How much sticks later on in life is virtually impossible to know, but at least one has tried. Other prep schools known to me manage equally gratifying results; just a drop in the ocean perhaps, but better than nothing! Of course, you may well ask how this state of nirvana came about and I would be the first to pay tribute to everyone else in the school – headmaster, teaching staff and music staff – not forgetting those who had taught and established music in the school before I arrived (I have covered this elsewhere in these hallowed portals) . The ethos of the school seemed to be that it didn't matter whether you coached games, drama, music or any other activity – if you did it properly space, time and encouragement was found for you.

 

Which doesn't really help others in this topic to solve the problem nationwide. I've no answer to that, except what many would consider a cop-out – keep an eye on the Time Ed Sup Independent Section. Banging one's head against a brick wall is lovely when you stop but it doesn't really provide lasting job satisfaction!

 

Incidentally, we didn't neglect the instrumental activities; I have a very pleasing recording of Nimrod which I made myself, played by the school orchestra. Works well in D major – it's worth a try.

 

I hasten to add that the current Director of Music at Papplewick, who was formerly organist of St Andrew's Cathedral in Inverness, is doing a marvellous job and, I am sure, has no plans to jack it in the foreseeable future!

 

David Harrison

 

Very heartening.

 

As I intimated earlier, my own first prep school was keen on Common Entrance and little else in a structured way - I found more formal music-making as well as a pervasive musical ethos to be a vital part of the next one I went to. Nevertheless, that first school also formed a musical environment, amongst other things a culture of singing hymns (from SOP, if I remember correctly) properly, with due regard for the musical phrase and the meaning of the words. An invaluable grounding for later scholastic musical endeavour, as well as for life.

 

I have absolutely no knowledge or experience of the state sector, but I do believe that most good schools in whatever part of education provision they find themselves have boosted their musical provision. However, it does seem that a large number of state schools (and, obviously, I'm going on hearsay) have a rather odd musical 'menu' for their charges. This, if true, can only be regarded as short-changing their pupils - insulating them, as it does, from much of the basis for the civilization in which they are supposedly being equipped to take part.

 

As an aside, similar things happen with what I understand is a loss of Latin in schools. In my 'mortgage-paying' job I find, daily, examples of written and spoken infelicities which a couple of years Latin in school would have assisted the perpetrator to avoid!

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Would that it were so easy. What is happening is much more insidious: a determined effort by evangelical secularists to deny the central role of Christianity to this country's history. 'Multiculturalism' is merely a Trojan Horse.

 

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

 

 

I like to be in touch with the world, and I try to keep my finger on the pulse of current events, but whenever I come across the traditional v. contemporary argument, or the eternal wrangling between secularists and believers, I am usually left with the impression that I am in the company of Scribes, Pharisees and the Roman Senate. I find my sympathies with Pontius Pilate!

 

In a previous post, why do you think I mentioned Russia, Latvian singing, Muslims, Polish Catholics and the bland conformity of political correctness, which seeks to re-inforce the essential humanity of people at the expense of identity?

I also mentioned youth and hinted at youth's ability to accept people for what they are, and somehow find a way of sharing and communicating in the most unlikely of circumstances.

 

I'm not quite sure what happens to people as they get older, but thank heavens, it doesn't seem to have happened to me yet!

 

There is the old saying (the origin of which I do not know), which says that "faith divides and doubt unites", which is probably close to what I have in mind whenever I witness the collision between faith and its secular counterpart. Sometimes the collision is embodied in the same person, like the young Muslim who proudly told me that because of his faith he would never drink alcohol, but who was smoking a joint at the time!!!!

 

Among the faithful are some of the worst bigots I know, like the savagely Presbyterian members of the CU at University, who refused to share a table with me because of my quite open sexuality. This impasse was brilliantly handled by the chaplain, who asked them, "But as Christians, do you love him?"

Suitably chastised and brought to book, they were able to share bread at the same table.

 

I didn't understand religion until I watched a programme about Mere Cats, and that opened my mind to the nature of society. I then realised that much of what people regard as divine, was really just basic animal instinct, uttered in the sophistication

of religious language. At the same time, I felt slightly ashamed of the fact that I had wasted so much time attempting to give credence to conventional religious belief.

 

If I say that I have absolutely no faith in the Virgin Birth, never utter the creeds and tend to scoff at the idea of a physical ressurection; does that make me a secularist, a scientist, an infidel, a humanist, a sceptic, an atheist, an agnostic or a cynic?

If I rubbish Genesis, but believe in the Big Bang, am I questioning the authority of the Bible?

If I go along with Darwinism rather than with the Creationists, am I Satan's representative on earth?

There is no shortage of labels which can be attached to people.

 

I would think that I am probably 95% secular, but when I perceive the beauty of love, any doubts that I have amount to very little. It is the remaining 5% that I would die for, because that is the bit which separates me from the Mere Cats and the members of the University CU.

 

The problem which the social engineers of the USSR faced, was not very different from the current climate of political correctness and secularism in a multi-cultural society, and it is really the same dilemma which Pontius Pilate had to face. It is not as insidious as people might suspect, but bland and grey it certainly can appear. Perhaps the better and alternative way is to rejoice in the differences, whilst pursuing a liberal-minded, democratic pluralism. Inclusiveness is the key-word, and without it, there can only be fragmentation.

 

It all depends on whether one wishes to be a Scribe, a Pharisee or just a normal human inspired and guided by love and mutual respect. It isn't very difficult to love and like people for what they are, and it isn't very difficult to make a difference or ease the suffering of others.

 

Isn't that what Christmas is REALLY about?

 

MM

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You can believe God exists. You can believe God does not exist. Whether he actually does exist or not is not knowable since there is no proof either way. But, that is beside the point. The way I read it, this thread is not really about that, nor even about what the Christmas message really is. Rather, it's about our musical tradition and culture.

 

Christian culture is at the root of our culture and heritage and, as far as I am concerned, important to preserve, study and understand simply for that reason alone. If you happen to believe it too, then that's an added bonus, but not believing it is no reason to cast it aside.

 

As someone once said, how can you possibly appreciate P. G. Woodhouse properly if you don't know the Book of Common Prayer?

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You can believe God exists. You can believe God does not exist. Whether he actually does exist or not is not knowable since there is no proof either way. But, that is beside the point. The way I read it, this thread is not really about that, nor even about what the Christmas message really is. Rather, it's about our musical tradition and culture.

 

Christian culture is at the root of our culture and heritage and, as far as I am concerned, important to preserve, study and understand simply for that reason alone. If you happen to believe it too, then that's a added bonus, but not believing it is no reason to cast it aside.

 

As someone once said, how can you possibly appreciate P. G. Woodhouse properly if you don't know the Book of Common Prayer?

 

 

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

 

 

Well I might go along with this, except that schools could only justify the study of Christmas Music on the basis of supply and demand, and if no-one goes to church, no-one would care one way or the other.

 

It's quite different in faith-based schools of course, and I can't imagine that many RC schools will be putting on "Mother Goose" instead.

 

As for "culture and heritage," the greatest of that is more or less forgotten in schools, and in any event, the best of it came from Germany!

 

Religion and faith is, I believe, the critical factor, and unless people understand the meaning, there is no purpose in presenting the empty shell, which would then be little more than tinsel with tambourines. In fact, coming to think about it, it would be exactly the same as the shopping mall and the motorway service area spewing out, "I'm the happiest Christmas Tree."

 

Anyway, I've drawn another Christmas Cartoon, showing Mr Scrooge with a paint-brush, and a line of sheep on which are painted horizontal brown lines, with the caption, "Baa Humbug!"

 

:huh:

 

MM

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It isn't very difficult to love and like people for what they are, and it isn't very difficult to make a difference or ease the suffering of others.

 

Isn't that what Christmas is REALLY about?

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Christmas fundementally is the celebration of "Immanuel" - "God with us". That's what the season is REALLY all about! (And that's why the secularists want to ban it). The other aspects of love for neighbour, respect, charity etc. are a response to that fact.

 

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the back of the "traditional" nativity play - it's unlikley that the Magi visited the stable - and were possibly about a year after Jesus' birth (read Matthew's account carefully!) - nor does it say anywhere that the shepherds brought an offering of a lamb - or that the angels were visibly hovering around the cradle (or even that the animals weren't evicted - which would seem more natural) let alone snow on the ground - read Luke's account. Given the various so-called "traditional" additions to the Biblical account, is it any wonder that all the other secular trimmings have been added on?

 

As to the money-grubbing commercialism - I'd better not get started on that issue.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing the back of the "traditional" nativity play - it's unlikley that the Magi visited the stable - and were possibly about a year after Jesus' birth (read Matthew's account carefully!) - nor does it say anywhere that the shepherds brought an offering of a lamb - or that the angels were visibly hovering around the cradle (or even that the animals weren't evicted - which would seem more natural) let alone snow on the ground - read Luke's account. Given the various so-called "traditional" additions to the Biblical account, is it any wonder that all the other secular trimmings have been added on?

 

With you all the way, Tony, but I'd go further. I once read an article in The Expository Times many years ago called "Why Christmas is a disaster for Christianity". basically it argued that Christmas - or the kind of Christmas you refer to with sweet little animals, a baby and "kings" - is all that most people today know about Christianity which makes it look like a fairy story, really only applicable to children. Anyway many have argued that the infancy narratives are later additions to the gospels since the earliest texts (Mark and Paul) don't mention it at all.

 

But this really is getting off topic!

 

Peter

 

PS if anyone is doing a pub quiz or similar, ask them "According to the Bible how many kings visited Jesus at Bethlehem?" - get's 'em every time!

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PS if anyone is doing a pub quiz or similar, ask them "According to the Bible how many kings visited Jesus at Bethlehem?" - get's 'em every time!

Even more off topic: have you noticed how in TV quizzes people never know the answers to biblical questions (well, almost never).

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Guest Patrick Coleman
With you all the way, Tony, but I'd go further. I once read an article in The Expository Times many years ago called "Why Christmas is a disaster for Christianity". basically it argued that Christmas - or the kind of Christmas you refer to with sweet little animals, a baby and "kings" - is all that most people today know about Christianity which makes it look like a fairy story, really only applicable to children. Anyway many have argued that the infancy narratives are later additions to the gospels since the earliest texts (Mark and Paul) don't mention it at all.

 

But this really is getting off topic!

 

Peter

 

PS if anyone is doing a pub quiz or similar, ask them "According to the Bible how many kings visited Jesus at Bethlehem?" - get's 'em every time!

 

But this isn't off topic at all, Peter - wasn't it the lack of 'traditional' Nativity stuff in schools that got you going in the first place?

 

I think one should take great care when deciding which imagery to jettison in the expression of faith, as the evidence suggests that once started it's very hard to draw the line and stop somewhere.

 

A little more gentleness, a lot less carping, and some warm encouragement of those who are getting it right in schools could solve a lot of problems, and, echoing MM's profoundly true reflections, would be more Christian and Christmassy. :P

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Guest Barry Williams

"PS if anyone is doing a pub quiz or similar, ask them "According to the Bible how many kings visited Jesus at Bethlehem?" - get's 'em every time!"

 

I remember only too well when a friend of mine, whose Sunday School class had nine boys and three girls. provided nine kings and three angels for the church Nativity Play. The Vicar was horrified and everyone else went into total shock. A careful reading of Matthew II verse 1 did absolutely nothing to placate anyone. The play went ahead with nine kings and three angels, but the next year they had a tableau instead, organised by the Vicar instead of the Sunday School. There just three kings in the tableau.

 

Barry Williams

 

PS For your next pub quiz try asking them how many Gospel writers do not mention that Jesus went to heaven.

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But this isn't off topic at all, Peter - wasn't it the lack of 'traditional' Nativity stuff in schools that got you going in the first place?

 

I think one should take great care when deciding which imagery to jettison in the expression of faith, as the evidence suggests that once started it's very hard to draw the line and stop somewhere.

 

A little more gentleness, a lot less carping, and some warm encouragement of those who are getting it right in schools could solve a lot of problems, and, echoing MM's profoundly true reflections, would be more Christian and Christmassy. :P

 

Well Patrick, it was more a general lack of decent traditional music being taught in schools rather than Christmas carols per se. This merely exemplified the general problem. If I knew of anyone who was getting it right in my local school I'd be there with a bunch of flowers.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone.

 

Peter

 

PS Is the invitation to see/hear/play Bertha still on? May have to be after the new year now.

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With you all the way, Tony, but I'd go further. I once read an article in The Expository Times many years ago called "Why Christmas is a disaster for Christianity". basically it argued that Christmas - or the kind of Christmas you refer to with sweet little animals, a baby and "kings" - is all that most people today know about Christianity which makes it look like a fairy story, really only applicable to children. Anyway many have argued that the infancy narratives are later additions to the gospels since the earliest texts (Mark and Paul) don't mention it at all.

 

But this really is getting off topic!

 

Peter

 

PS if anyone is doing a pub quiz or similar, ask them "According to the Bible how many kings visited Jesus at Bethlehem?" - get's 'em every time!

 

Hi

 

For our Christmas "seeker Service" this year, we're starting with coffee -and giving everyone a copy of the words of a song by Mark Catley - it's a parody on Christmas "traditions" - we're going to ask them to mark every line where the song says something that's not Biblically correct - there's only one - it includes things like naming the three kings, shepherds trudging through the snow, and so on. The "sermon slot" is from the Spurgeon's Childcare web site (IIRC - I'm not doing that part) and starts with the "preacher" telling the "traditional" (i.e. full of acretions) story, and a listener questioning & putting him right. Should be fun!

 

I wouldn't want to get rid of Christmas celebrations completely, because of the opportunity for mission that it presents. Our normal carol service is far more traditional, with a mix of old and new musically, interspersed with readings and a short talk.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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My wife now directs the choir of the main prep school in this musically desolate city, as well as being their singing tutor. She found that all of their music was of the Spinners/Seekers variety, largely because it was the only musical style that their head of music knew.

 

For the first time, she took the choir to the schools carol event in the city's parish church and taught them Rutter's Candlelight Carol for the occasion (as a bridge to better things). She was horrified to find that every other school choir shouted their song over the top of a CD backing track, each song being of the Jonah-man Jazz ('self-consciously up-tempo') variety, and virtually none of these songs had the least Christian content, let alone any musical worth. To add insult to injury, none of the teachers knew how to behave in church or how to direct a choir, and the final straw was the breathtaking speed at which the church's resident organist played the two 'traditional' carols, rendering them unsingable. (Don't mention the girl from another school who turned to one of my wife's choristers and asked 'Who's Jesus?')

 

Worse than this was the CD playing in my local Tesco last night, consisting of an American children's singing group bashing their way through Frosty the Snowman (or something similar). After five minutes of queueing at the till, I realised with horror that the recording had been carefully edited to loop the song repeatedly without a break in the accompaniment. By the time I left the place, I was willing to commit murder. That sort of music is dangerous in the wrong hands.

 

I went to the cathedral Advent Procession this year, hoping for inspiring liturgy and music. They have boys' and girls' choirs, and decided to station them East and West respectively, dividing the back row between them. The girls sounded insecure (and I normally have no problem with girls singing, I assure you) and the two halves of the gents also sounded less than confident. The boys were out of sight somewhere and suffered with the distance. Halfway through, they briefly joined in the nave stalls, but then processed off with the clergy to the Quire, so that, for the rest of the service, all we heard was distant muffled singing and disembodied voices through the PA system. Awful. Whose idea was that?

 

This will be the second Christmas since starting school that I will not be involved in church music, due purely to the requirement for me to work shifts and weekends. I know that every Sunday is important, but the major festivals make me miss it more than ever. I have had to deal with some awful people and some very stressful situations when doing the job, but I hope every day for a chance to do it again under better circumstances. I'm even considering a change of career in the future to make this possible, although I must be mad. It really frustrates me that people will queue up to attend a Nine Lessons or similar, and that children, given the opportunity, love good music regardless of provenance, and yet all that SOME clergy, churchwardens, head teachers and other officials will allow is weak imitation pop and folk stylings on the grounds that 'it's what they want'. Important festivals, whether from a Christian or a purely musical point of view, need better music than this.

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My wife now directs the choir of the main prep school in this musically desolate city, as well as being their singing tutor. She found that all of their music was of the Spinners/Seekers variety, largely because it was the only musical style that their head of music knew.

 

For the first time, she took the choir to the schools carol event in the city's parish church and taught them Rutter's Candlelight Carol for the occasion (as a bridge to better things). She was horrified to find that every other school choir shouted their song over the top of a CD backing track, each song being of the Jonah-man Jazz ('self-consciously up-tempo') variety, and virtually none of these songs had the least Christian content, let alone any musical worth. To add insult to injury, none of the teachers knew how to behave in church or how to direct a choir, and the final straw was the breathtaking speed at which the church's resident organist played the two 'traditional' carols, rendering them unsingable. (Don't mention the girl from another school who turned to one of my wife's choristers and asked 'Who's Jesus?')

 

Worse than this was the CD playing in my local Tesco last night, consisting of an American children's singing group bashing their way through Frosty the Snowman (or something similar). After five minutes of queueing at the till, I realised with horror that the recording had been carefully edited to loop the song repeatedly without a break in the accompaniment. By the time I left the place, I was willing to commit murder. That sort of music is dangerous in the wrong hands.

 

I went to the cathedral Advent Procession this year, hoping for inspiring liturgy and music. They have boys' and girls' choirs, and decided to station them East and West respectively, dividing the back row between them. The girls sounded insecure (and I normally have no problem with girls singing, I assure you) and the two halves of the gents also sounded less than confident. The boys were out of sight somewhere and suffered with the distance. Halfway through, they briefly joined in the nave stalls, but then processed off with the clergy to the Quire, so that, for the rest of the service, all we heard was distant muffled singing and disembodied voices through the PA system. Awful. Whose idea was that?

 

This will be the second Christmas since starting school that I will not be involved in church music, due purely to the requirement for me to work shifts and weekends. I know that every Sunday is important, but the major festivals make me miss it more than ever. I have had to deal with some awful people and some very stressful situations when doing the job, but I hope every day for a chance to do it again under better circumstances. I'm even considering a change of career in the future to make this possible, although I must be mad. It really frustrates me that people will queue up to attend a Nine Lessons or similar, and that children, given the opportunity, love good music regardless of provenance, and yet all that SOME clergy, churchwardens, head teachers and other officials will allow is weak imitation pop and folk stylings on the grounds that 'it's what they want'. Important festivals, whether from a Christian or a purely musical point of view, need better music than this.

 

 

This all sounds shockingly familiar. You have my sympathy.

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I have come to the conclusion that in order to experience some relevance at this time of the year on has to swim against an increasingly powerful tide. My 'allocation' will be the Advent Carols, a couple of 'regular' Sunday mornings and the Nine Lessons and Carols. The former was simple and effective and the latter will be a traditional village affair, packed full and with the family there for support. A friend is putting on an informal evening of organ solos etc. and I will probably support her at that too. Getting to and from our nearest 'centre of church music excellence' (yesterday at least) was so horrendous - parking wise and for the sheer volume of people shopping that I will probably not attempt it again much as I would like to paricipate in one of their Christmas events which will undoubtedly be well organized and of a high standard - despite the competition from the German Market immediately outside.

Sorry if this sounds miserable - it is not supposed to!

 

AJJ

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... yet all that SOME clergy, churchwardens, head teachers and other officials will allow is weak imitation pop and folk stylings on the grounds that 'it's what they want'.

I sometimes wonder whether it's even that. More and more nowadays I suspect it's all they know.

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I sometimes wonder whether it's even that. More and more nowadays I suspect it's all they know.

Of course, it doesn't help when certain diocesan musical advisors seem to regard 1960's/70's folk-pop as the cutting edge choice for today's relevant parish. :P Do they REALLY think that it's going to get teenagers into church? Really?

 

I think the problem is, put simply, twofold:

 

1) Church, school and community music officials wish to use music which is 'relevant'. This invariably involves the pop music of their youth, decades before. As part of this attempt to be cool, they will often tell children that 'classical music is dull and boring'. I've heard them say it time and again. (I, as a person in his twenties, love to receive lectures on 'the kind of music young people want to hear' by people approaching retirement.)

2) Children don't get to hear 'classical' and choral music - this is, generally speaking, most children - don't know what they're missing.

 

The solution must be to let children hear this wonderful music, weaving through the obstacles that the officials put in the way, but I suspect most of us are trying our hardest to do this already. I've always regarded Christmas as the closest that the choral tradition gets to taking part in popular culture today, but when those in positions of authority try to deny even these chances, what can we do?

 

I might say that I don't care, and observe Advent and Christmas with anticipation and joy, playing the music to myself, listening to broadcasts, and attending the church I used to play at. But I do care, and it sometimes keeps me awake at night. I developed a deep love of church music through school and university, and it disturbs me that others should be denied this life-enriching experience.

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I've always regarded Christmas as the closest that the choral tradition gets to taking part in popular culture today, but when those in positions of authority try to deny even these chances, what can we do?

What indeed? I take it the musically desolate city you are referring to is mine. The description fits, certainly. Yet don't forget our well-regarded amateur brass band. They regularly put themselves about the streets every Christmas playing straight arrangements of the traditional carols. They are a familiar sight at this time of year and are appreciated. The choir I ran until this autumn has a slot booked to sing carols in the shopping centre and will be doing their customary pub stint. Not much, I know, but every little bit helps. Every self-respecting four-part choir in the land ought to be out there singing carols in public. I expect an awful lot already are.

 

Has anyone tried to get their choir on local TV and succeeded? From what I have seen (I am not an avid watcher) our local TV stations seem only interested in broadcasting carols if they feature infants/juniors. Certainly attempts to interest them in classical music always seem to get the "nobody's interested in that" brush-off.

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My wife now directs the choir of the main prep school in this musically desolate city, as well as being their singing tutor. She found that all of their music was of the Spinners/Seekers variety, largely because it was the only musical style that their head of music knew......

 

.........It really frustrates me that people will queue up to attend a Nine Lessons or similar, and that children, given the opportunity, love good music regardless of provenance, and yet all that SOME clergy, churchwardens, head teachers and other officials will allow is weak imitation pop and folk stylings on the grounds that 'it's what they want'. Important festivals, whether from a Christian or a purely musical point of view, need better music than this.

 

 

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I'm sorry to keep mentioning the young Latvian who sang Bach beautifully in the middle of a parcel-sorting depot, but what struck me about it, was the complete disregard he had for conventional English lack of taste, his utter enthusiasm for the music and the fact that he was completely unselfconscious about it. He was perhaps "just" 18 or so!

 

It took me back to my school-days, when I was very often the treble soloist in what was quite ambitious music for a school choir. (We are talking of things like Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" and things like the classic oratorios).

 

I remember the sheer terror the challenge, but it was the one thing that meant more to me than anything else; especially at Christmas. Part of the reason for that was the whole depressing experience of having severe learning-difficulties at school, which had nothing to do with being stupid or handicapped in some way.....I just learned things very differently to the rest, and still do.

 

For kids who perhaps struggle with conventional education, music can sometimes be the one big achievement, and of course, after the event, there was that glow of pride and the feeling of self-worth which comes with it. I could literally sing like an angel, I was technically flawless, but I couldn't do much else other than gaze bored out of the windows and indulge in daydreams!

 

I do wish that educational people would recognise the value of music in such circumstances, and the fact that music is not simply a social sing-along, but a vital component in stretching the minds of children.

 

When I watch a choir like "Boni Pueri" (Cz), those kids are on a knife-edge and so alert, and the same is true of a choir like the "Vienna Boy's" ......there are no greater intellectual demands which have such a delightful outcome, and it must set those kids up for life in so many ways.

 

It's when you hear pop-singers such as Whitney Houston and George Michael, that you realise that they are extremely gifted singers with considerable singing technique. A class act is not restricted to classical music by any means, but it seems to me, that many schools promote utter trash, simply because people either do not know, or cannot be bothered with anything better or more challenging.

 

However, only last night I was talking to two young Polish lads (maybe 18 or 19 years of age). They were intelligent and very skilled in the English language.They were trying to thumb a lift at 4.30am in the pouring rain, with still 6 miles to walk, and with their little ruck-sacks on their backs, I knew immediately where they were from!

 

They were great lads and very, very polite, and when I stopped to drop them off, they chatted for quite a while about Poland, England and the things they liked about Europe etc. Interestingly, they both disliked religion, and thought that it was the preserve of the old. One of them said that there was nothing about religion which he felt was "relevant," which of course, is the same position that many other young-people feel.

 

This conversation came about because I mentioned music, but interestingly, both of them enjoyed quite a lot of religious music and other classical works, when they weren't listening to rock and punk bands.

 

It seems to me, that the only available bridge between the traditions of faith and the modern world they inhabit, seemed to be music rather than words, and I found myself wondering why the churches ever threw it away in favour of something which, unfortunately, is about as relevant to them as Japanese caligraphy.

 

The churches, by focusing on a folk-music style, have shot themselves in the foot, because the young of to-day have not the slightest interest in that kind of music.

 

Consider how many boys (sometimes girls also), and young altos and tenors, sang in the better church choirs, and compare it with to-day, and what you probably see is a 90% reduction in younger people at church.

 

What EXACTLY was the point of the exercise?

 

MM

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Guest Barry Williams

"The churches, by focusing on a folk-music style, have shot themselves in the foot, because the young of to-day have not the slightest interest in that kind of music." (MM)

 

Absolutely and totally! And it is actually a very bad imitation of 'folk music'.

 

Barry Williams

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