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AJJ

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I have just listened to the 8.00 mornincg service slot on Radio 4 - 'sometimes a bit of a mixed bag but on occasions there is good music of all styles and persuasions. However I really do fail to understand , for example, the way that the singers and guitarists 'reconstructed' the perfectly singable hymn Lead Kindly Light into a sort of pseudo '60s pop ballad also wasn't actually that well performed. Someone in charge must have decided that for some inexplicable reason this would be a better means of delivering this piece and have decided that the mode of performance was fitting and moreover of a musical and religious substance to be broadcast on the radio. I hope that I am not a musical snob and am as likely to be listening to pop and rock (contemporary or otherwise) as decent non popular music (including church music of all styles) but what I heard this morning left me totally depressed. What worries me more however is that the young people I work with every day at school would probably feel the same - so who is it aimed at and who actually thinks that this sort of music can add to any sort of religious service in any way? This was not music of the 'ordinary people' (or none that I have ever met as yet) or whoever it was aimed at - as far as I was concerned it was just plain bad. Can anyone shed a light on this please?

 

A

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I have just listened to the 8.00 mornincg service slot on Radio 4 - 'sometimes a bit of a mixed bag but on occasions there is good music of all styles and persuasions. However I really do fail to understand , for example, the way that the singers and guitarists 'reconstructed' the perfectly singable hymn Lead Kindly Light into a sort of pseudo '60s pop ballad also wasn't actually that well performed. Someone in charge must have decided that for some inexplicable reason this would be a better means of delivering this piece and have decided that the mode of performance was fitting and moreover of a musical and religious substance to be broadcast on the radio. I hope that I am not a musical snob and am as likely to be listening to pop and rock (contemporary or otherwise) as decent non popular music (including church music of all styles) but what I heard this morning left me totally depressed. What worries me more however is that the young people I work with every day at school would probably feel the same - so who is it aimed at and who actually thinks that this sort of music can add to any sort of religious service in any way? This was not music of the 'ordinary people' (or none that I have ever met as yet) or whoever it was aimed at - as far as I was concerned it was just plain bad. Can anyone shed a light on this please?

 

A

 

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Well of course, what do you expect?

 

These people are always a generation late with everything they do.

 

Back when I was a teenager, the ‘switched on’ Rectum decided that we need to put a bit of spice into the hymns, and promptly got a local theatre organist in to show us how to do it. The fact that he’s just been sacked and replaced by a record-player didn’t enter into the musical equation; he had rhythm of sorts.

 

At the time, I had a cousin who played with the ‘Merseybeats,’ and I’d met all ‘The Beatles’ at ‘The Cavern Club,’ so I wasn’t over-impressed with waltzes and fox-trots. Still, the mums and dads thought it was the next best thing to a week in Blackpool.

 

Then when my generation grew up, they discovered all things hippie. It was all ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,’ hugging trees and carrying spikey green leaves around in tins. In response, the nice churchy people switched on to “folk” and 1950’s “rock.”

 

Nowadays, the kids are into MC and rap-music, so I can’t imagine that they’re going to be over-thrilled when the churches re-discover “Disco Duck,” the “Agadoo song” and “Reggae.”

 

So here is my new rap version of “Lead kindly light,” which I would commend to the seriously switched on church "musicians" of to-day:-

 

I lost ma way an’ I need some light,

da bus is gone and it’s middle of da night,

I jus' need a match to find ma feet,

Not a big floodlight to see da whole street

One step at a time; wevver left or right,

Just lead me home an' strike dat light

 

MM :P

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

 

I lost ma way an’ I need some light,

da bus is gone and it’s middle of da night,

I jus' need a match to find ma feet,

Not a big floodlight to see da whole street

One step at a time; wevver left or right,

Just lead me home an' strike dat light

 

MM :P

 

 

Superb!!

 

A

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what I heard this morning left me totally depressed. What worries me more however is that the young people I work with every day at school would probably feel the same - so who is it aimed at and who actually thinks that this sort of music can add to any sort of religious service in any way? This was not music of the 'ordinary people' (or none that I have ever met as yet) or whoever it was aimed at - as far as I was concerned it was just plain bad.

I think the offending performance demonstrates nicely the rule of thumb that, if you have music that is weak, it will benefit from being performed on the slow side because the faster you perform it, the more obvious its weaknesses will be. The tune is, frankly, not the strongest, but when it is sung with decorum and solemnity it can sound very beautiful. The radio performance just came over as vacuous and trite - but then, to my ears this style of performance always does. And being wailed in the usual and apparently obbligatory mid-Atlantic accent didn't help any either. The best that can be said is that it was in keeping with the rest of the service - cringingly mawkish and sentimental. But so much public worship is these days.

 

As for the target audience, it's mainly aimed at reinforcing the comfort zones of the increasingly aging and diminishing faithful. As has been remarked before, it has little or nothing to do with engaging the young. To call this style "modern" is the equivalent of telling me, back in the 60s when I was a teenage Beatles fan, that First World War songs were modern - the time differential is not dissimilar. I'm afraid that, however much we might like to pretend otherwise, the truth is that an awful lot of churchgoers really do like this stuff. Bear in mind that the teddy boy generation is now around 70 years old, so the vast majority churchgoers will have grown up being conditioned by the mass marketing of pop music, quite likely to the exclusion of classical. In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Church of England has absolutely no commitment to classical music and traditional hymnody. Is there anywhere outside our cathedrals and the central London churches where it is jealously valued by the congregations without significant dissent? The odd city centre church, maybe. Classical church music is moribund. It just hasn't succumbed yet.

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.........cringingly mawkish and sentimental. But so much public worship is these days.

 

As for the target audience, it's mainly aimed at reinforcing the comfort zones of the increasingly ageing and diminishing faithful. As has been remarked before, it has little or nothing to do with engaging the young. To call this style "modern" is the equivalent of telling me, back in the 60s when I was a teenage Beatles fan, that First World War songs were modern - the time differential is not dissimilar. I'm afraid that, however much we might like to pretend otherwise, the truth is that an awful lot of churchgoers really do like this stuff. Bear in mind that the teddy boy generation is now around 70 years old, so the vast majority churchgoers will have grown up being conditioned by the mass marketing of pop music, quite likely to the exclusion of classical. In the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Church of England has absolutely no commitment to classical music and traditional hymnody. Is there anywhere outside our cathedrals and the central London churches where it is jealously valued by the congregations without significant dissent? The odd city centre church, maybe. Classical church music is moribund. It just hasn't succumbed yet.

 

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'Vox' and myself write very differently, but looking at this, I think we are probably very close in our assessment of the current situation.

 

If you patronise the young with pseudo-pop, they would be offended and alienated. (Hence my little skit on church 'rap' music). So too would the older church folk, who account for the majority. So what we end up with is neither protest music nor comfort music, but "easy listening" music which offends no-one and inspires no-one.

 

The problem was never one of 'pop' music inflitrating the lives of people, because that has always been around, from the Jongleurs to the present-day; often saucy, political or simply enjoyable.

 

If we take a slightly longer view, the generation which so enjoyed "classical church music" (to give it a general title), back in the 1930's/40's say, was also the generation which enjoyed brass bands, military bands, music-hall, popular songs of the day and the "pop-star" theatre organists such as Maclean and Sid Torch.

 

I don't think that the problem is with a perceived generation-gap at all. I think it is something much simpler and more fundamental.

 

For whatever reason, we have become a nation of spectators rather than doers, where everything flows down a wire or travels through the air-waves. If there is one thing which utterly separates the young of to-day with the young of my generation, it is the fact that we DID things, and to-day they don't do ANYTHING.

 

What it really comes down to is education and any type of youth activity: ACTIVITY being the important word.

 

The generation before mine were impressive in that respect; possibly re-inforced by the fact that almost all young men had served in the forces or at least completed National Service of some sort. In certain European countries, milutray service or active social service is still required, and it does tend to make the young more responsible and more active.

 

Music is a wonderful way of teaching young people that they can be creative rather than passive or destructive, and pound for pound, possibly represents the best value for money available.

 

Of curse, creative people also tend to question things and think for themselves. Perhaps THAT is the reason why good music is placed at the bottom of the agenda; both in the majority of state schools and in a majority of churches.

 

MM

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So what we end up with is neither protest music nor comfort music, but "easy listening" music which offends no-one and inspires no-one.

I think I will pass on the issue of whether it inspires them, but they have certainly come to like the lighter styles. I would venture to suggest that if you walked into any Anglican parish church job and cut out all the worship songs, you would soon have the congregation clamouring for them. I know; I've tried it.

 

The problem was never one of 'pop' music inflitrating the lives of people, because that has always been around, from the Jongleurs to the present-day; often saucy, political or simply enjoyable.

 

If we take a slightly longer view, the generation which so enjoyed "classical church music" (to give it a general title), back in the 1930's/40's say, was also the generation which enjoyed brass bands, military bands, music-hall, popular songs of the day and the "pop-star" theatre organists such as Maclean and Sid Torch.

Accepted, but the difference between, say, a Bach cantata and a Strauss waltz is not worlds apart from the difference between a Strauss waltz and a brass band. At least, not when compared with the gulf between any of these and the predominantly electronic, strongly percussion-driven environment of pop music from the 50s onwards. Before the war, enjoying any of the popular musics, be it military band, music-hall, jazz or whatever, was no bar to an appreciation of classical music. That has not been so true since. The rapid growth since the 50s in the availability of mass media has resulted in an all-pervading omnipresence of "electronic pop" (for want of a snappier phrase) that has rather edged out classical music. There are people out there who have little experience of, and no interest in, classical music. If it hasn't got a drum beat, a lot of people just don't want to know. It's not just the young either. I'm the opposite. I've come to loathe the "drums with everything" culture. Am I the only person who wants to scream every time he hears a drum beat introducing some TV theme?

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I have recently started deputising for the organist at the small parish church at which I was the "appointed organist" in my teens. I have been told that whilst I am free to choose the hymns for the services for which I am playing (if scheduled far enough in advance, obviously) under no circumstances must I use any worship songs and "that happy-clappy rubbish, that's left for the music group at the family worship in the 10.45 slot". I play for Sung Eucharist at 09.15 which apparently has a larger and more enthusiastic congregation.

 

What a sensible approach; something for everyone.

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Last Sunday morning I had to play for two Eucharists on the trot: a traditional one using mostly "ordinary" hymns tunes, followed by an "alternative" service for which the customary music group happened not to be available and for which we used worship songs. Normally the traditional service has the larger congregation, but on this occasion the two were comparable due to a baptism at the alternative service. It pains me to say it (almost as much as it pained me to play it), but the singing at the latter was far, far better than at the former.

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Going back to AJJ's original point, I also heard this R4 broadcast and was at least thankful that they hadn't attempted to use the William Harris tune (Alberta) for Lead Kindly Light. Wonder what they would have done with Lux Benigna? (Probably best not go there.)

 

What I disliked about the broadcast was that the musicians applied one style of playing to everything, as others have pointed out. I realise that some organists can be equally prone to this...

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I was fortunate in not hearing Sandon last Sunday morning and for certain I would have been more offended than you were at the inevitable inadequacies of a guitar strummer intruding into such music. At least the propducer got that date right but that is all, it seems. Many of us were requested to play 'Lead kindly Light' on the 19th, and rightly so. Sandon is unpretentious but safe, so most will have used it, as I did. How sad that many organists will have considered Dykes Lux Benigna and Harris's Alberta but will have rejected them on the grounds that they were 'not known'; thus dumbing down continues. You touch upon a huge subject. The only phrase that comes to mind was a clip in a treasured letter I once received from Bernard Levin who reminded me : "the more warriors the better". Good wishes David Rogers

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I have recently started deputising for the organist at the small parish church at which I was the "appointed organist" in my teens. I have been told that whilst I am free to choose the hymns for the services for which I am playing (if scheduled far enough in advance, obviously) under no circumstances must I use any worship songs and "that happy-clappy rubbish, that's left for the music group at the family worship in the 10.45 slot". I play for Sung Eucharist at 09.15 which apparently has a larger and more enthusiastic congregation.

 

What a sensible approach; something for everyone.

 

How sensible, and how refreshing that the Sung Eucharist congregation is not subjected to happy-clappy dross against their will.

 

Whilst on holiday earlier this year I met a fellow organist who was just about to stand down from a post that he had held for nearly forty years. The story was that one of the churches in his parish had been taken over by happy clappies, and as a result lost so many of the regulars (who had been paying the bills) that it had to close. It was then merged with a second church, and guess what happned?

 

When will they learn?

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At least, not when compared with the gulf between any of these and the predominantly electronic, strongly percussion-driven environment of pop music from the 50s onwards. Before the war, enjoying any of the popular musics, be it military band, music-hall, jazz or whatever, was no bar to an appreciation of classical music. That has not been so true since. The rapid growth since the 50s in the availability of mass media has resulted in an all-pervading omnipresence of "electronic pop" (for want of a snappier phrase) that has rather edged out classical music. There are people out there who have little experience of, and no interest in, classical music. If it hasn't got a drum beat, a lot of people just don't want to know. It's not just the young either. I'm the opposite. I've come to loathe the "drums with everything" culture. Am I the only person who wants to scream every time he hears a drum beat introducing some TV theme?

 

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With all respect, ( and I know exactly what you mean), I think you're wrong. I'll tell you why.

 

Not all pop or even "hit music" is necessarily percussive, and as I quite enjoy better quality pop music, I know a bit about it.

 

I can't offer much in the way of constructive comment concerning 'Rap MC' nonsense, because I hate it. I suspect it will die out as quickly as it arrived.....hopefully.

 

But look back to Lionel Richie, George Michael, Barbara Streisand, the Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and a host of others, including Sir Elton John, and there is to be found a treasure-house of superb ballad-music; often beautifully harmonised and/or particularly well-arranged. As for percussive music, it doesn't get much snappier than Dolly Parton singing "Nine to Five," which even now, gets everyone up and jumping from the first few seconds. The pervasive ostinato bass line of "Billy Jean" by Michael Jackson, is second to none in that respect.

 

It works on the other way too...."Fanfare for the common man" Copland, Stravinsky's "Firebird," the Prokofiev "Toccata" and all that percussion in Handel and Bach. Carlo Curley always maintains that Bach was the first to invent "Rock & Roll," and he's not far wrong when you hear THAT Sinfonia from Cantata 29.

 

Do you know? I don't think the problem is about percussion or electronics. Llisten to Barbara Streisand's take on "Somewhere over the rainbow".......an entirely electronic backing track on the "Broadway Album." No, it's really about compositional skill and the subtle ways in which music is best written, and in this important respect, pop-music seems to be plumbing the depths of dumming down, having abandoned all musical skill and, in some cases, any music at all.

 

The reality is, that people still vote for quality, and when young Jope McEldery won "Pop Idol" last year, I was delighted. He brought musical quality to whatever he sang, and sang it superbly. The fact that he was voted as best by a wide margin, suggests to me that people know the difference.

 

However, much as I would thoroughly enjoy a Dolly Parton concert or an evening with Lionel Ritchie, I wouldn't cross the street to hear a Rap gig or even bother to open a church door to hear the sort of total rubbish on offer in many places of worship to-day.

 

Anyway, I take it that 'Vox' doesn't like those "Duff duff" moments on Eastenders?

 

That's the programme where everyone stabs each other in the back for 364 days a year, and then all get together in the pub on Christmas Day and wish each other "Happy Christmas." I would rather eat locusts than watch this awful programme.

 

MM

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MM makes some valid points about the good to be found in pop. I think we have to accept that there is good and bad in every area of the creative arts and church music is no exception. There is, additionally, a large middle ground of stuff that is neither good nor bad but tolerable in small doses which can even be deeply loved by some. What we, as culturally educated musicians, find galling, when it occurs, is the pandering to lowest common denominator or anti-elitist views and the homogenisation of musical styles so that there is no true integrity about anything.

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Not all pop or even "hit music" is necessarily percussive, and as I quite enjoy better quality pop music, I know a bit about it.

Now I think this rather depends on how you define "pop" music. My son makes a living out of producing computer music, particularly breakbeat, and he tells me off very roundly if I dare to call it pop music. Pop to him is what is in the charts and he wouldn't be seen dead listening to it (well, obviously, but you know what I mean!) In any case, I was thinking primarily of the aforesaid diminishing and ageing congregations, most of whom will have been brought up on popular music before it began to diverge into all the widely different styles found today (though maybe it did and I just wasn't aware of it).

 

It works on the other way too...."Fanfare for the common man" Copland, Stravinsky's "Firebird," the Prokofiev "Toccata" and all that percussion in Handel and Bach. Carlo Curley always maintains that Bach was the first to invent "Rock & Roll," and he's not far wrong when you hear THAT Sinfonia from Cantata 29.

Sorry, but the rhythmic drive of such music is not actually percussion-driven, is it? And anyway, Carlo is wrong; there is plenty of earlier minstrel-type music which did use tabors, tambourines etc.

 

Anyway, I take it that 'Vox' doesn't like those "Duff duff" moments on Eastenders?

Oh, absolutely. However, it pales into insignificance against the throat-slittingly cringing theme to "The One Show" (though with that it's a sax rather than drums that saps your will to live). It's the sort of sound I might produce if I had to have a gallbladder operation without anaesthetic.

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Anyway, I take it that 'Vox' doesn't like those "Duff duff" moments on Eastenders?

 

That's the programme where everyone stabs each other in the back for 364 days a year, and then all get together in the pub on Christmas Day and wish each other "Happy Christmas." I would rather eat locusts than watch this awful programme.

 

MM

 

I shall henceforth be eternally in debt to MusingMuso for his erodite summary of EastEnders. Now I know; and I'm so glad not to have wasted a minute of my life watching the show to find that out.

 

Contrabombarde

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Now I think this rather depends on how you define "pop" music. My son makes a living out of producing computer music, particularly breakbeat, and he tells me off very roundly if I dare to call it pop music. Pop to him is what is in the charts and he wouldn't be seen dead listening to it (well, obviously, but you know what I mean!) In any case, I was thinking primarily of the aforesaid diminishing and ageing congregations, most of whom will have been brought up on popular music before it began to diverge into all the widely different styles found today (though maybe it did and I just wasn't aware of it).

 

 

Sorry, but the rhythmic drive of such music is not actually percussion-driven, is it? And anyway, Carlo is wrong; there is plenty of earlier minstrel-type music which did use tabors, tambourines etc.

 

 

Oh, absolutely. However, it pales into insignificance against the throat-slittingly cringing theme to "The One Show" (though with that it's a sax rather than drums that saps your will to live). It's the sort of sound I might produce if I had to have a gallbladder operation without anaesthetic.

 

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We get bogged down at our peril, but "Pop" means nothing other than popular: in other words, "ratings."

 

The point I made about "Pop Idol" is valid, because the winner received the winning ticket from a whole cross-section of the listening public of all ages. So your son is absolutely right, just as classical musicians know of "concrete music" and serial technique. I suspect that even "popular" music has branched in many different directions: blues, R & B, Rock, Rock-a-billy, Blue Grass, Country, Indie, Garage, Acid House, Tecno, High Energy, Disco etc etc.

 

As for Copland and the others, perhaps I shuld have used the term "percussive" rather than "percussion," and that is also common to Handel, Bach and Scarlatti in some of their music. Some of the Scarlatti is especially percussive and rhythmic.

 

I think that Carlo was referring to the unrelenting rhythmic drive of the Sinfonia, which when played the way he plays it, is rather toe-tapping, head-banging stuff.

 

I don't expect the churches are about to adopt any of the special categories in the near future, so I think we can safely define the popular idiom to be what it is; "pop" music.

 

Actually, although I mentioned the difference beteen "doers" and "spectators," I forgot the most obvious thing of all; professional music production. I don't know if many board members know this, but there are only a relatively few "pop" composers of real quality, but most would know the name Gibb (The Bee Gees) and of course, Sir Elton John, who have written so much for other people and produced runaway hit after runaway hit. Some others, who always remain in the background, are fully professional composers/arrangers/conductors/music directors with a prodigious talent. Backing them up are orchestras, instrumentalists, recording engineers, producers, and a small army of other experts. The cost of the studio equipment is rather enormous, and I'd hazard the guess, that any church which really took "pop" worship seriously, would require a very large music budget indeed.

 

Although a few churches, and some of the better gospel choirs invest a great deal, the majority of churches just bumble along with whatever music-making is to hand, and generally make a complete fist of it.

 

My point is, that achieving the heights takes as much, if not more effort than the usual choir/organ set-up, and probably a lot more money. Not only that, it involves a new "elite," consisting of a small worship band, with little offered in terms of either involvement or on-going music education.

 

Frankly, I perceive most congregations to-day as being little more than style-victims, led by the delusional aspirations of those who think they can reverse the decline.

 

Now if I set out to do that, I think I would start with the words, and let the musicians do what they can with them.

 

MM

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I recall, many years ago, reading in a forward by Ralph Vaughan Williams written for one of the hymn books he edited a summary of that which he felt to be the overriding policy in the choice of music for the hymns contained in the book. My quote may not be exact, as I have been unable, despite many years of searching, to find again the hymn book in question, but one does not forget easily such as sentiment as this:

 

“The man in the street does not like what is good, nor does he like what is bad; he likes what he is used to.”

 

I do admit that it does, perhaps, tend to beg the question of who decides what is good or bad. However, leaving aside that and the questions of grammar and political correctness, as well as my own verbose opening sentence, it does seem to me to sum up what I, personally, feel about what sort of church music should be used, in my church, at least. Fortunately I am in the same enviable position as Handsoff, but so many churches these days seem to me to be unsure as to whether or not they are conducting a religious ceremony or merely providing Sunday Entertainment.

 

So let me offer another little gobbet for you: “Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand in fear and trembling; and lift itself above all earthly thought.” And we all know from whence that doth come.

 

Incidentally, has anyone on the board come across the ‘Vaughan Williams’ quote? I am certainly not clever enough to have made it up!

 

Salaam from this dyed-in-the-wool. stick-in-the-mud, out-of-date, boring old reactionary:

 

David Harrison

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A couple of years ago I allowed a friendly Pentecostal pastor to have a "Pentecost Praise" service in Church. Praise Band was all set up and I was told that they had re-discovered a wonderful hymn "I stand amazed in the presence", which is a standard from Redemption Hymnal! They then proceeded to play and sing what is essentially an upbeat hymn ... exxxxxxxxxtreeeeeeeeeeeeeemmmely S L O W... causing me to ask whether slow is the new fast in contemporary Christian music. (It really needed me to climb on to the organ bench to show them how it should go, but they were that busy being ever so holy, that I thought it may be a shade erm,,, ungracious of me.) :blink:

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I suspect that even "popular" music has branched in many different directions: blues, R & B, Rock, Rock-a-billy, Blue Grass, Country, Indie, Garage, Acid House, Tecno, High Energy, Disco etc etc.

That was precisely my point. It has. As I understand it (but heaven knows it's not my field), however you or I might define it, those specialising in the more "niche" styles apparently don't see themselves as belonging to the "pop music" market, which they hold rather in contempt. They regard themselves as a cut above that. Pop music to them is the music of the teeny-boppers (or whatever they're called these days) - what we, at that age, used to call "the top 10" (or 20, or 100) - but there are so many different charts these days that this is no longer the simple yardstick it used to be. So I'm told.

 

Incidentally, has anyone on the board come across the 'Vaughan Williams' quote? I am certainly not clever enough to have made it up!

 

Salaam from this dyed-in-the-wool. stick-in-the-mud, out-of-date, boring old reactionary:

 

David Harrison

Well, David, Salaam in return from a fellow reactionary. I do not know the RVW quote, but he made a couple of not dissimilar comments in his 1906 preface to the music of the English Hymnal:

The average congregation likes fine melody when it can get it, but is apt to be undiscriminating, and will often take to bad melody when good is not forthcoming.

 

The task of providing congregations with familiar tunes is difficult; for, unfortunately, many of the tunes of the present day which have become familiar and, probably merely from association, popular with congregations are quite unsuitable to their purpose.

Fortunately I am in the same enviable position as Handsoff, but so many churches these days seem to me to be unsure as to whether or not they are conducting a religious ceremony or merely providing Sunday Entertainment.

 

So let me offer another little gobbet for you: "Let all mortal flesh keep silence and stand in fear and trembling; and lift itself above all earthly thought." And we all know from whence that doth come.

Thank you for reminding us of that very apposite quote. Churches may be unsure, but I know what I think! As I have opined, church music is now geared principally to massaging people's comfort zones.

 

Vaughan Williams was rightly sceptical of this approach in the afore-mentioned preface:

No doubt it requires a certain effort to tune oneself to the moral atmosphere implied by a fine melody; and it is far easier to dwell in the miasma of the languishing and sentimental hymn tunes which so often disfigure our services. Such poverty of heart may not be uncommon, but at least it should not be encouraged by those who direct the services of the Church;…

However, were he alive today I very much doubt that he would continue as he did in 1906:

it ought no longer to be true anywhere that the most exalted moments of a church-goer's week are associated with music that would not be tolerated in any place of secular entertainment.

Hmm.

 

Vaughan Williams was striving for quality, which was exactly Bach's approach too, albeit from a devout standpoint rather than the aetheist one of RVW. Bach's liturgical music was offered as an earthly window onto the greater glory of God, on the one hand rendering unto God what was God's and, on the other, illuminating the glory of God for the devout. By no means did it eschew entertainment value (Bach learnt a thing or two from opera, even if he never wrote one), but it was an exalted mode of expression, far removed from the mundane. He, too, ran up against church authorities who had no time for such a high-minded agenda. There's truly nothing new.

 

I'm entirely with Bach. In today's parish church, songs seem specifically chosen directly to whip up emotional responses in the congregations. "Let's have a nice, bouncy tune to make us feel all nice and bouncy so we can show each other we're one happy family, happy in God." Now obviously it is important to have the appropriate mood and delivery of hymns to suit the occasion, but when this becomes focused on the congregation rather than God, the music becomes self-indulgent and the approach flawed. It is the musical equivalent of a media evangelist whipping up a crowd into a frenzy of devotion which, whilst sincere enough (at the time), is not necessarily securely grounded. It's not far short of brain-washing. My complete lack of empathy with this approach may well be because I don't have a brain to be washed, but that's beside the point.

 

I'm aware that many will disagree very strongly with the above, but I was brought up to believe in the Bachian ideal: that worship should be about offering to God the best of which mankind is capable in the best manner that can be devised. Real joy in God will come from communion with Him on a higher, more spiritual plane; it has no business being artificially imposed at ground level. In our modern Anglican services I no longer sense that we are aspiring to raise ourselves to God's level in order to be more worthy of Him, to be more like Him; rather we accept ourselves as we are, keeping penitence firmly low-key, and bring God down to our level – where he usually disappears into the crowd.

 

The religion I was brought up with no longer exists; I am a dinosaur that has been out-evolved. The Anglican church has undergone a reformation since I was a choirboy - one no less seismic than that of the Tudor era. The only difference is that, this time, we haven't gone around killing people.

 

If I sound depressed and cynical it is because I am. Profoundly so, particularly about church music. I feel I should be glorifying God with the most worthy music I can provide. But the church doesn't want me directing my skills to God; it requires me to put entertainment first and God second. Is it any wonder that I now tend towards the agnostic?

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I'm aware that many will disagree very strongly with the above, but I was brought up to believe in the Bachian ideal: that worship should be about offering to God the best of which mankind is capable in the best manner that can be devised. Real joy in God will come from communion with Him on a higher, more spiritual plane; it has no business being artificially imposed at ground level. In our modern Anglican services I no longer sense that we are aspiring to raise ourselves to God's level in order to be more worthy of Him, to be more like Him; rather we accept ourselves as we are, keeping penitence firmly low-key, and bring God down to our level – where he usually disappears into the crowd.

Vox, amongst some good competition, I think that this is the best paragraph from one of the most insightful and meaningful posts ever written on this board. Thank you.

 

What worries me is that I am also a dinosaur, aged 29. I have a number of friends of a similar age who are dinosaurs. Last night I was rehearsing the boys at my current church, and while some are just enjoying the singing, some of them really do 'get it' - they too are dinosaurs, aged ten or eleven. When will the Church put us right?

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The religion I was brought up with no longer exists; I am a dinosaur that has been out-evolved. The Anglican church has undergone a reformation since I was a choirboy - one no less seismic than that of the Tudor era. The only difference is that, this time, we haven't gone around killing people.

 

If I sound depressed and cynical it is because I am. Profoundly so, particularly about church music. I feel I should be glorifying God with the most worthy music I can provide. But the church doesn't want me directing my skills to God; it requires me to put entertainment first and God second. Is it any wonder that I now tend towards the agnostic?

 

Vox, depressed, yes, cynical, maybe. But with a post that shines with a desire to offer God the very best we can, and detesting the second rate, surely 'agnostic' is a bit strong?

 

Keep up the good work. We all appreciate your intentions, and I'm quite sure the Good Lord does also. One day the pendulum will swing back - the sooner the better as far as I for one am concerned.

 

My best wishes to you

 

John.

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Vox, depressed, yes, cynical, maybe. But with a post that shines with a desire to offer God the very best we can, and detesting the second rate,

 

John.

 

Hi

 

We do need to be careful to separate "doing the best we can for God" from personal likes and dislikes in terms of style of music and worship. God doesn't only like traditional hymns and chant! The church as a whole needs to provide space for people to worship in ways that are culturally relevant. For some that may mean BCP, Anglican chant, etc. for others the Latin Mass, whilst for others, the various manifestations of "Contemporary" worship - and even rap (and yes, it has been done!)

 

All can be done well (but all too often aren't - but that's a different issue).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Hi

 

We do need to be careful to separate "doing the best we can for God" from personal likes and dislikes in terms of style of music and worship. God doesn't only like traditional hymns and chant! The church as a whole needs to provide space for people to worship in ways that are culturally relevant. For some that may mean BCP, Anglican chant, etc. for others the Latin Mass, whilst for others, the various manifestations of "Contemporary" worship - and even rap (and yes, it has been done!)

 

All can be done well (but all too often aren't - but that's a different issue).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

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

 

I’m inclined to think that the most important word here is ‘relevant,’ because the more I see and hear of ‘worship,’ the less and less ‘relevant’ I find it to be.

 

The synonyms include the words connected, significant, appropriate, related, germane, useful, of interest, to the point, applicable, important, significant and pertinent.

 

I quite like the agnostic stance, which I find to be very creative and inclusive, on the basis that faith divides and doubt unites. Agnosticism further enables a personal experience, which can usefully exclude all the shackles of faith and the things that God probably isn’t, but include the things that God might usefully be. It’s like carrying a perpetual draft reformation around in your pocket; open to, yet critical of anything and everything.

 

With that to hand, it is possible to see religious “culture” for what it is: sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes evil; often exclusive, nationalistic, political, stylised and sometimes completely detached from the spiritual cares and concerns of people.

 

Agnosticism is only a label attached to those who question the answers rather than answer the questions, and I have absolute faith in it.

 

 

MM

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