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Does Lack/loss Of Of Faith Colour The Way You Play?


Guest Hector5
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Guest Hector5

An explanation first - I used to have a modest-sized faith, nothing great, just enough to get me through. My playing was pretty much top-notch, improvisations pretty much inspired. At every service I tried to give people a lift, a sense of musical heaven on earth. Following a sequence of events - personal tragedy, advent of a new priest who I really can't see eye to eye with, I really appear to have completely lost it. My playing is generally ok, nothing inspired. Improvisation is workaday, again nothing to write home about. In short do you think that a loss of faith can affect your playing, or can you survive without it? Don't get me wrong, I love playing at church, and playing in general. Occasionally there are flashes of inspiration that show the old me is still there - although these are generally when my incumbent is not around. Please let's not get into an incumbent bashing session at this point. We have agreed to disagree, and basically we get on. I think the 'cutting off' from the faith aspect is certainly a pretty good defence mechanism in my case as I get less steamed up about the things organists get steamed up about. The fact that I think the way I play matters, is probably a good sign, but do any of you suffer from similar problems. I really don't intend for this to be a fun post, as I really would value people's comments on this. If you were a clergy 'person' and were faced with a well qualified musician without a faith, would you employ him/her?

 

Hector - from the couch

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

'If you were a clergy 'person' and were faced with a well qualified musician without a faith, would you employ him/her?'

 

I AM a clergy person and I WOULD most certainly employ him/her. Anyway, it could be argued, and I do, that playing as you do IS an expression of faith in the Divine. There is not enough attention paid IMHO by the church to the theology of delight and the infinite number of ways in which it can be manifested and expressed. If you have intellectual doubts, as you say you do, and yet continue to serve the church, you are acting heroically. If the church were to vet those who can contribute to the liturgy against certain standards of faith, some clergy would, I suspect, be excluded - maybe those for example, who believe with all their heart and doubt with all their intellect. Do not give up. If you and your priest can work together, please don't give up. You are enriching the liturgy for people who may never tell you so. The church needs you. There's a wideness in God's mercy that will not be limited by clergy (or anyone else) who think they alone know the mind of God.

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Hector wrote:

Following a sequence of events - personal tragedy, advent of a new priest who I really can't see eye to eye with, I really appear to have completely lost it. The fact that I think the way I play matters, is probably a good sign, but do any of you suffer from similar problems. I really don't intend for this to be a fun post, as I really would value people's comments on this. If you were a clergy 'person' and were faced with a well qualified musician without a faith, would you employ him/her?

I was in a similar position many years ago, not as an organist, but with other responsibilities, when I went through a very difficult personal situation, and felt that I had lost my faith. For a while I tried to fulfil those responsibilities, and felt that I was hypocritical and just putting on an act. After I had come through it I found that I had been of great help to others, and the faith wasn't in the believing or the feeling, but in the doing.

 

Perhaps a faith which was shaken by personal tragedy and differences with other people really wasn't a faith which was strong enough, and in the realisation that this was so a different and more mature faith may emerge. Spiritual growth is often preceded by a period of spiritual demolition.

 

Your message also hints at depression, and perhaps your playing sounds better to others than it does to you. Technically you are probably a better judge of your playing than anyone else present, but you may not be the best person to judge what you are communicating. Maybe the "inspired improvisations" had less to say to people than your playing at present which doesn't satisfy you, but which may come from a deeper level.

 

Sorry, there's not much organ content in my reply, but you said you would value people's comments, and I have been through a somewhat similar experience and have come out of it having learned from it. I hope to hear, one day, that you too have come through.

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If your playing has deteriorated, is it due to your loss of faith, or is it actually due to a loss of incentive (perhaps caused by that loss of faith)? To be a top notch player one really has to want to be a top notch player. There has to be a point to it. If you can't see one, you're unlikely to bother trying.

 

I've always found the appreciation of others a great help (and the lack of it a brick wall). They appreciate you in Meursault, n'est-ce pas? How about your English congregation? Perhaps, as davidh found, you are appreciated far more than you realise. I'd put money on it, in fact, even if the only ones who ever say anything are the moaners!

 

To be on top form as a player one has to be on top form both mentally and physically. I don't believe anyone can manage that 100% of the time. Everyone has their ups and downs and it will affect playing to a greater or lesser extent. A personal tragedy is bound to knock you back and perhaps prompt a reassessment. If the event is still raw, remember that old cliché: time is a great healer. It's a hackneyed saying, but it's perfectly true. It may take a long time, but you will come out of it eventually and so will your playing - if you hang on in there in the meanwhile.

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If your playing has deteriorated, is it due to your loss of faith, or is it actually due to a loss of incentive (perhaps caused by that loss of faith)? To be a top notch player one really has to want to be a top notch player. There has to be a point to it. If you can't see one, you're unlikely to bother trying.

 

I've always found the appreciation of others a great help (and the lack of it a brick wall). They appreciate you in Meursault, n'est-ce pas? How about your English congregation? Perhaps, as davidh found, you are appreciated far more than you realise. I'd put money on it, in fact, even if the only ones who ever say anything are the moaners!

 

To be on top form as a player one has to be on top form both mentally and physically. I don't believe anyone can manage that 100% of the time. Everyone has their ups and downs and it will affect playing to a greater or lesser extent. A personal tragedy is bound to knock you back and perhaps prompt a reassessment. If the event is still raw, remember that old cliché: time is a great healer. It's a hackneyed saying, but it's perfectly true. It may take a long time, but you will come out of it eventually and so will your playing - if you hang on in there in the meanwhile.

 

'Agree!!

 

A

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An explanation first - I used to have a modest-sized faith, nothing great, just enough to get me through. My playing was pretty much top-notch, improvisations pretty much inspired. At every service I tried to give people a lift, a sense of musical heaven on earth. Following a sequence of events - personal tragedy, advent of a new priest who I really can't see eye to eye with, I really appear to have completely lost it. My playing is generally ok, nothing inspired. Improvisation is workaday, again nothing to write home about. In short do you think that a loss of faith can affect your playing, or can you survive without it? Don't get me wrong, I love playing at church, and playing in general. Occasionally there are flashes of inspiration that show the old me is still there - although these are generally when my incumbent is not around. Please let's not get into an incumbent bashing session at this point. We have agreed to disagree, and basically we get on. I think the 'cutting off' from the faith aspect is certainly a pretty good defence mechanism in my case as I get less steamed up about the things organists get steamed up about. The fact that I think the way I play matters, is probably a good sign, but do any of you suffer from similar problems. I really don't intend for this to be a fun post, as I really would value people's comments on this. If you were a clergy 'person' and were faced with a well qualified musician without a faith, would you employ him/her?

 

Hector - from the couch

 

Hi

 

To deal with the easy question first - I would not want to employ a musician who comes to the church with no faith (i.e. a self-professed athiest, Muslim or whatever) - BUT that is emphatically NOT the position that you are in. Apparent loss of faith because of situations such as the one that you hint at is a VERY different matter. Have you thought about talking it through with a church leader (ideally your own priest/minister - but the ideal isn't always possible!)? As someone else said, "time is a great healer" - when it comes to personal tragedy, time doesn't help you "get over it", but it does allow you to come to terms with the loss (or whatever it is).

 

Stick in their, keep praying - even if no-one seems to be listening - and continue to do your best ins the service of God.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

To deal with the easy question first - I would not want to employ a musician who comes to the church with no faith (i.e. a self-professed athiest, Muslim or whatever) - Tony

 

Tony, this somewhat surprises me. Barry Williams and Robert Leach, in their excellent book referred to from time to time here, point out that one of the authors came to faith through getting involved in church music and that he, having climbed that ladder, would not wish to knock it away from another.

 

Peter

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Not trying to be provocative here, but what is the difference between the organist and the clergy? We're there to do a job to lead, encourage and nurture worship, so surely faith has to be a part of that. There's a difference between being a 'leader' which is what the organist is, and the kind of contributor to a church service that finds their faith that way. Although moments to be proud of children in choirs can be far between, nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing individuals come to a decision about their faith and choose to be confirmed. Particularly when I know that they don't have any support from home, and had they not been in the choir, they may not have ever set foot in the church.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
If you were a clergy 'person' and were faced with a well qualified musician without a faith, would you employ him/her?

 

Hector - from the couch

 

Yes I am and yes I would.

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My first confessor, in the 1960s, (trained for six years at Kelham under the famous Father Kelly) used to say of doubt that everybody has it from time to time and that each time faith replaces the doubt the faith is stronger than it was before. Perhaps it's what John of the Cross called the "dark night of the soul" (which I found to be a very difficult book to read and understand - far easier are the books of Martin Israel and Harry Williams). I am sure that a good, pastorally aware, incumbent would employ an unbelieving organist, meet him/her where they are and try to gently lead them towards faith by word, deed and example.

 

Through the night of dout and sorrow............

 

Malcolm

 

PS - I've been to the Baroque exhibition at the V&A today. Marvellous; almost as good as the real thing next door!

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Tony, this somewhat surprises me. Barry Williams and Robert Leach, in their excellent book referred to from time to time here, point out that one of the authors came to faith through getting involved in church music and that he, having climbed that ladder, would not wish to knock it away from another.

 

I had this experience too - church music came first, faith followed, and I have pointed out to individuals hell-bent on expunging half-decent music from the churches they inhabit that they might as well be expunging me and many others from their church. My wife is the same - none of our parents are church-goers, but we are - initially because of music, then later because of those deep and mysterious things that church music illuminates.

 

That said, I think - regardless of whether a church musician believes or not - that they should have a thorough and reliable understanding of the faith in order to do the job effectively. As to whether a musician serves their congregation better if they believe is probably more down to the individual. I find that I can't properly concentrate on worship if I'm directing or playing, unless the task and church are very familiar. Perhaps a degree of distance results in a more objective and effective musician - I don't know. There is a tenor in an occasional choir I direct who normally sings at a major English traditional RC church. He says he has no belief himself, but he likes to think that he is helping others who do believe. He's a very effective and musical singer, and I don't think he'd be any better as a singer if he did believe.

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Hi

 

To deal with the easy question first - I would not want to employ a musician who comes to the church with no faith (i.e. a self-professed athiest, Muslim or whatever)

 

Tony

 

 

I am also rather surprised at this rather sweeping statement, especially as it seems to say that Muslims have no faith.

 

Pardon me, brother, but I know several Muslims who have more faith in their little fingers than many so-called Christians have in their whole bodies!!

 

I am greatly offended with your comment, Tony and strongly suggest that you clarify it before you are lambasted further........... :rolleyes::lol::(:(

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Guest Patrick Coleman
I am greatly offended with your comment, Tony and strongly suggest that you clarify it before you are lambasted further........... :rolleyes::lol::(:(

 

Hear hear!

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I'm not reading that comment in the same way. I think (pardon if speaking out of turn), Tony possibly meant no Christian faith, rather than no faith at all. With the greatest respect for our Muslim brethren, I don't think they would be too keen to employ me because of my faith either. I'm not offended by that, though all faiths had trouble with the wretched new employment laws that seemed to make this illegal.

 

A similar issue has been raised a number of times in the teaching profession where schools are seen to be wanting to employ people who are sympathetic to their faith. Again, I wouldn't apply for a job in single faith Muslim school, and I don't find that offensive at all.

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With regards to Tony's comments on this thread, I consider them to be sensitive and well-considered. Clearly, some contributors disagree strongly with his views, but I would respectfully suggest that those who have expressed their disagreement in a similarly thoughtful and sensitive manner have contributed more to this discussion than those who have rushed to take offence - not least because offence-taking kills any hope of robust but respectful debate.

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With regards to Tony's comments on this thread, I consider them to be sensitive and well-considered. Clearly, some contributors disagree strongly with his views, but I would respectfully suggest that those who have expressed their disagreement in a similarly thoughtful and sensitive manner have contributed more to this discussion than those who have rushed to take offence - not least because offence-taking kills any hope of robust but respectful debate.

 

Hear, hear!

 

It is pretty clear from the context that Tony was referring specifically to Christian faith. I suppose we must ourselves be charitable and allow that it may honestly not have occurred to some readers to construe his comment in that way. I hope this is the case.

 

Let him who has never written (or uttered) a sentence that might be misconstrued cast the first stone.

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Hello Hector

 

In my day job, I'm a couch-pilot. I wouldn't usually conduct this dialogue in public, but as you've invited it ...

 

I wonder whether you have lost your faith (in God) or your enthusiasm (in playing the organ). You think it might be the former. I think it might be the latter.

 

How are you (or, how do you think you might be) with recitals?

 

Best wishes

 

J

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Hear, hear!

 

It is pretty clear from the context that Tony was referring specifically to Christian faith. I suppose we must ourselves be charitable and allow that it may honestly not have occurred to some readers to construe his comment in that way. I hope this is the case.

 

Let him who has never written (or uttered) a sentence that might be misconstrued cast the first stone.

Yup, that's the way I read it too. :rolleyes:

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Guest Hector5
Hello Hector

 

In my day job, I'm a couch-pilot. I wouldn't usually conduct this dialogue in public, but as you've invited it ...

 

I wonder whether you have lost your faith (in God) or your enthusiasm (in playing the organ). You think it might be the former. I think it might be the latter.

 

How are you (or, how do you think you might be) with recitals?

 

Best wishes

 

J

 

I love playing the organ, and more so - playing for the liturgy. Obviously faith is an important connection to accompanying the liturgy, no matter how loose the connection is. The reality is that over the past 5 years, I've had what little faith I had systematically beaten out of me. As I said before, I do not want to get into incumbent-bashing, as I have worked a system by which I basically 'get on' with the present P in C. Sad to say, I cannot take Tony's advice and speak to the incumbent, as this is basically the problem. I now only have occasional flashes of inspiration, and this is generally when the incumbent is not present.

 

I like the church where I play the organ - the choir and congregation appreciate me, so why should I move on?

 

In terms of recitals - yes I love giving them, not as much as I would like. Playing the organ is a real passion, and I'm continually questing for new and interesting music to play.

 

Thank you all for you comments, and please keep them coming.

 

Hector

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Guest Cynic
I love playing the organ, and more so - playing for the liturgy. Obviously faith is an important connection to accompanying the liturgy, no matter how loose the connection is. The reality is that over the past 5 years, I've had what little faith I had systematically beaten out of me. As I said before, I do not want to get into incumbent-bashing, as I have worked a system by which I basically 'get on' with the present P in C. Sad to say, I cannot take Tony's advice and speak to the incumbent, as this is basically the problem. I now only have occasional flashes of inspiration, and this is generally when the incumbent is not present.

 

I like the church where I play the organ - the choir and congregation appreciate me, so why should I move on?

 

In terms of recitals - yes I love giving them, not as much as I would like. Playing the organ is a real passion, and I'm continually questing for new and interesting music to play.

 

Thank you all for you comments, and please keep them coming.

 

Hector

 

IMHO you're doing the right thing hanging in there. If you stay the course, muddling through somehow, things may well look up. Priests move on, sometimes without much warning (particularly in the Catholic Church), or sometimes the penny finally drops and realisation dawns on why certain things matter to you.

 

Sadly, in my experience it is the church musicians who really care about their work that get quite so frustrated by what feels like ill-considered treatment by God's Local Representatives. I can't rationalise this much, except to say that the more 'casual' type of organist doesn't seem to get hurt anything like as much, but then they are probably investing far less emotional energy. I have had a number of (ultimately) unhappy church posts, but I still need to belong somewhere. I'm sure you're the same. The occasional uplifting service, or playing for a congregation that really enters into the spirit of their hymns.. such things all help to restore morale.

 

I would urge you particularly not to bail out. Regularly I hear of (and from) organists and choirmasters who have reached their breaking point. They go, leaving something they have truly loved, expecting that their high standard will be missed only once they have left. It often is...but nobody is any better off for finding this out! It takes years to build up a good choir and minutes to destroy one. Even if you were to return a few weeks later, the place will never be the same again. Once again, I know of organists who have worked like Trojans to raise money for a new (or improved) instrument, only to suffer a critical falling out barely months later and never get to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

 

Your remark about recitals...do I take this to mean that you would appreciate more chances to prepare and give these? If so, this is a problem that is easily solved.

 

Your remark about faith, well I've known more than one clergy-person who has admitted to me in private that they frankly don't believe a good half of what they say from the pulpit. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been living in the real world for a while. The two greatest crooks I've known in my whole life have been a policeman and a vicar. That's why I've chosen 'Cynic' as my moniker. Do you need to know more than that you've been given a gift - either by nature working entirely at random or by your Creator? If you recognise this gift, you've got to use it!

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Guest Hector5

I am very grateful for all the comments on this thread. Sadly, a member, or person following this thread has sent a copy of my original posting to my incumbent - I quote:

 

Dear Rev XXXXXXXX,

From the other postings on the Mander Organists Blog, it is clear that 'hector 5' is in fact XXXXXXXXXX.

 

You need to see the latest rather offensive post that mentions you.

 

I am sending this all by email, as an attachment, to the church email address and by post to you - address got from the diocese.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

DaXXX WaXXXX

 

At least I have had the control not to 'out' this person, as he has done to me

 

Can I please ask WHY should someone be so utterly mean, especially when dealing with such a topic.

 

My incumbent has been the model of control and support, and in fact has seen much good in this thread, and has been extremely complimentary about the sensitive comments made.

 

I have reported this to the moderators, and will hopefully be taking further action in due course.

 

Please let's keep free speech going on this site, and not be put off my these cowards. This has been one of the most sensitively responded threads that I have had the pleasure to be part of.

 

Oh - and one in the eye for DaXXX WaXXX!

 

Best wishes,

 

Paul Isom (AKA Hector 5)

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