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A new association


nachthorn

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This board has hosted some fascinating recent discussions touching on the nature of music in worship, and in particular the juxtaposition of 'excellence' versus 'relevance', not exactly a new topic but one that is painfully real for church musicians. While reading these, I've been reconsidering some thoughts which have been rattling around in my head for some years now. (All opinions are my own - I don't pretend to represent anyone else!)

 

I believe that:

 

1. The English choral tradition is one of the cultural wonders of the world, and a powerful tool for evangelism. In saying this, I'm considering the tradition to be a living breathing artistic pursuit stemming from the earliest English church music to the present day and into the future, as heard in cathedrals, parish churches, chapels and beyond, and including organ music played in church services. The King's College Cambridge Nine Lessons broadcast has an annual audience of 'millions', and the weekly Choral Evensong broadcast is the longest running BBC outside broadcast. One of the few areas of growth in the Church of England is in cathedral attendance, attributed to 'the building and the music'.

 

2. There is no longer a single organisation that represents and supports all of those involved in the English choral tradition. There are numerous organisations that provide some support -

  • the RCO and IAO support organists, but take no particular stance on church music
  • the FCM provides support to cathedral choral foundations, but not parish churches etc.
  • the ISM provides support to professional musicians in terms of employment, tax, law, contracts, etc.

- and there are many local associations (RSCM and IAO affiliated) who do good work in particular areas, and there are numerous companies ranging from publishers and record labels to organ builders who are involved in the tradition, almost always in a positive way.

 

This leaves, of course, the RSCM and the Guild of Church Musicians. Both of these organisations were founded to support and represent the English choral tradition, but while I don't wish to criticise either in broader terms, I would argue that they no longer provide the universal and lively support that our tradition needs and deserves.

 

The RSCM widened its remit to include all churches and all styles of music many years ago, and while it still provides some good services for those involved in the English choral tradition, such as the Voice for Life scheme, traditional music is now represented as just one of many styles to be chosen from or rejected at will. I have lost count of the number of church musicians who have said that the RSCM offers them little or nothing any more, and it would appear that their membership, and probably their finances, are in decline. By trying to be all things to all people (see iPod masses, folk music, Christian rock bands etc.), they have (in my opinion) rejected the promotion of the choral tradition and is content to manage its rather graceless decline.

 

The GCM provide an important service in running the Archbishops' certificates and FGCM exams. The list of names associated with the Guild encompasses most of the great and the good. Unfortunately, it is hard to see what they provide beyond the qualifications - their website lists just two events for the next year, one associated with the ACertPW certificate and the other is their AGM. I let my membership lapse some years ago through lack of interest, and if I know anyone who is a member, they never mention it.

 

So my question is, do we need a new organisation to represent our tradition?

 

My own answer is 'Yes' - I think we need an association that promotes and discusses traditional music exclusively. Other musical styles are quite capable of looking after themselves. Communication is now ridiculously easy - we can share and send text, documents, photos and videos in seconds, and this forum shows how useful discussion boards can be and points to the way forward. As real world church music involves a great deal of sharing and collaboration, an association that represents the needs of its members should help those members to do just that - a head office is no longer necessary. If a particular member, or group of people, want to carry out a particular project, such an association can provide both the support and the means to share their findings with other members and invite others to contribute.

 

I think the benefits of such an association would be manifest, especially as it evolves over time, and the message it would give out - that traditional church music is a living and evolving tradition, not a museum piece perpetuated by dinosaurs - would be very valuable.

 

Discuss!

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This board has hosted some fascinating recent discussions touching on the nature of music in worship, and in particular the juxtaposition of 'excellence' versus 'relevance', not exactly a new topic but one that is painfully real for church musicians. While reading these, I've been reconsidering some thoughts which have been rattling around in my head for some years now. (All opinions are my own - I don't pretend to represent anyone else!)

 

I believe that:

 

1. The English choral tradition is one of the cultural wonders of the world, and a powerful tool for evangelism. In saying this, I'm considering the tradition to be a living breathing artistic pursuit stemming from the earliest English church music to the present day and into the future, as heard in cathedrals, parish churches, chapels and beyond, and including organ music played in church services. The King's College Cambridge Nine Lessons broadcast has an annual audience of 'millions', and the weekly Choral Evensong broadcast is the longest running BBC outside broadcast. One of the few areas of growth in the Church of England is in cathedral attendance, attributed to 'the building and the music'.

 

2. There is no longer a single organisation that represents and supports all of those involved in the English choral tradition. There are numerous organisations that provide some support -

  • the RCO and IAO support organists, but take no particular stance on church music
  • the FCM provides support to cathedral choral foundations, but not parish churches etc.
  • the ISM provides support to professional musicians in terms of employment, tax, law, contracts, etc.

- and there are many local associations (RSCM and IAO affiliated) who do good work in particular areas, and there are numerous companies ranging from publishers and record labels to organ builders who are involved in the tradition, almost always in a positive way.

 

This leaves, of course, the RSCM and the Guild of Church Musicians. Both of these organisations were founded to support and represent the English choral tradition, but while I don't wish to criticise either in broader terms, I would argue that they no longer provide the universal and lively support that our tradition needs and deserves.

 

The RSCM widened its remit to include all churches and all styles of music many years ago, and while it still provides some good services for those involved in the English choral tradition, such as the Voice for Life scheme, traditional music is now represented as just one of many styles to be chosen from or rejected at will. I have lost count of the number of church musicians who have said that the RSCM offers them little or nothing any more, and it would appear that their membership, and probably their finances, are in decline. By trying to be all things to all people (see iPod masses, folk music, Christian rock bands etc.), they have (in my opinion) rejected the promotion of the choral tradition and is content to manage its rather graceless decline.

 

The GCM provide an important service in running the Archbishops' certificates and FGCM exams. The list of names associated with the Guild encompasses most of the great and the good. Unfortunately, it is hard to see what they provide beyond the qualifications - their website lists just two events for the next year, one associated with the ACertPW certificate and the other is their AGM. I let my membership lapse some years ago through lack of interest, and if I know anyone who is a member, they never mention it.

 

So my question is, do we need a new organisation to represent our tradition?

 

My own answer is 'Yes' - I think we need an association that promotes and discusses traditional music exclusively. Other musical styles are quite capable of looking after themselves. Communication is now ridiculously easy - we can share and send text, documents, photos and videos in seconds, and this forum shows how useful discussion boards can be and points to the way forward. As real world church music involves a great deal of sharing and collaboration, an association that represents the needs of its members should help those members to do just that - a head office is no longer necessary. If a particular member, or group of people, want to carry out a particular project, such an association can provide both the support and the means to share their findings with other members and invite others to contribute.

 

I think the benefits of such an association would be manifest, especially as it evolves over time, and the message it would give out - that traditional church music is a living and evolving tradition, not a museum piece perpetuated by dinosaurs - would be very valuable.

s.

Discuss!

 

Well, I can see considerable sense in this - and share many of the concerns about our existing societies and organisations.

 

I will be very interested to see how this develops - though I do wonder how such a venture could be financed. Would there be, for example, some sort of link with the Cathedral Organists Association sought?

 

Isn't there already an organisation dedicated to the preservation of cathedral choirs? Is this idea really focussed at those non-cathedral churches where traditional music is valued? Aren't they somewhat at the mercy of their (changing) incumbents, and also their (changing) musicians in post?

 

Some questions, and I'm sorry if they sound negative. I would love to see something along these lines succeed - but its USP does need sorting out, I believe. I'd quite likely be willing to offer support in kind if wanted.

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"Tradition is not a noun shaped once and for all in the past: it is a verb, active under God, now and for the sake of the future."

 

David Jenkins - On Miracles

 

 

---------------------------

 

 

Funnily enough, I recently spent half a day sat in a cold church surrounded by four other boys' choirs directors, and the president/chairman (whatever) of the Campaign for the Defence of the Traditional Choir, Mr Bernard Haunch. The objective of the meeting was to create exactly what you have described - or so I thought.

 

Unfortunately, for me, the meeting went off down the usual unwanted tangents about the evils of equality and how appalling it is that "these women with awful warbly voices" (people like Hilary Hill and Jenevora Williams) are "meddling where they have no business" and "making singing into a science" (that is to say, understanding the process that makes something happen).

 

The organisation decided to elect as its chairman a retired clergyman from Norfolk with no internet access, nor interest in getting any; the most likely name at the point I left was - wait for it - The Guild of Singing Boys. You can imagine the crest on the gold-buttoned blazers, can't you.

 

So, I'm very interested indeed in where this goes, because I think (with exclusive reference to choirs including children) the following work particularly needs to be done -

 

1) Providing an umbrella organisation which will unify child protection policies across different diocese and provide a positive PR image. To me, it's an absolute must that chorister safety is on a par with music-making. Nothing - not even a revamped CRB system with cherries on top - can ensure children's safety as much as asking the right questions of candidates and organisations. Parents entrusting their child to a man (or woman) in a church have every right to be sceptical, and we have a duty to justified and confident about our positive and reassuring answers.

 

2) Providing a network through which "traditional" choirs (and, because of the existence and reputation of the CTCC, I think we ought to be careful about allowing that word to creep into the name) can meet, regionally and nationally, for events

 

3) Providing a forum for self-improvement - I feel particularly weak in areas of 'classroom management', for instance, and would welcome the chance to get some peer support on this, whether one-to-one or through a workshop. Others will have different skills they may feel need brushing up. Are those of us working with boys, for instance, managing voice change well and appropriately, or are we keeping them on the top line for as long as humanly possible and fulfilling all the stereotypes which - with some justification - have enabled organisations like the National Youth Choirs to have their USP and eat it.

 

4) Providing recent and positive examples of successful traditional choirs (agh, there's that word again) which give others encouragement. For instance, my St Peter's 'model' of boys choir (with male ATB), girls choir (with male TB and lady altos), and adult mixed choir could be more easily implemented in a rural setting, with one or two small primary schools, than it can in a town centre context (and a particularly challenging one at that). However, it was quite easily 'ironed out' from a prevailing situation of a mixture of ladies, mums and 1 boy. After a year, we had 16 boys, 12 girls and 100% retention; it was easier to start getting quality gents for the back row because there is such a varied repertoire (basically, three choirs' worth of music). Any clergyperson, especially in a rural area, asked "would you like another 28 families attending your church by this time next year?" is hardly going to say no, even if it means having to put up (sigh) with a sung Sanctus and Benedictus week after week (oh, the hardship).

 

5) Resources in general for recruitment, retention, sharing of publicity ideas, etc etc etc. There is an excellent network - www.boys-keep-singing.org - run by Martin Ashley, known to several members of this forum. It has outstanding video material and is worth registering with if you have anything to do with children singing, or even if you're considering it (the registration questions ask about classrooms etc - you don't have to be from a school to register).

 

 

There will be different but equally effective models out there too. I do think it's vitally important to make some kind of differentiation from the 'typical' RSCM-affiliated "enthusiastic mixed choir, children welcome" - boys need a boys club, and that's a tradition also worth preserving by someone other than the sort of fanatics who do so at present.

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So my question is, do we need a new organisation to represent our tradition?

 

Hmmmm. So who would run this new organisation, and who would it represent? What would be it's aims and objectives, and how would it operate?

 

There are many and various organist's associations running at present, but the majority of these are dying (rather like parish churches) simply because they are run by committees of septuagenarians who genuinely believe that nobody should be allowed within a mile of a pipe organ unless they hold a FRCO, and preferably a BSc Hons from Oxford.

 

(I resigned from one such organist's organisation because their Secretary simply would not accept that there was a place for those who he saw as subordinate to himself.)

 

The RCO and Oundle run some very good courses for organists, but from what I have heard, the numbers and timing are such that individuals often don't get enough time on the bench to get the practical experience they need.

 

So, I think there is scope for a new organisation, but it would need to address the practical needs of those who are at the bottom and middle of the learning curve, whether through age or experience; rather than providing yet another opportunity for those who feel they are at the top of the curve to show off.

 

As an example, take a young person who perhaps plays the piano, and would like to play the organ. Where does he or she go? Good organ tutors are few and far between, and difficult to track down unless you are 'in the know'.

 

Take another example of somebody who is already taking private organ lessons, and would like to apply for a church post at some point, or even an organ scholarship at university, but other than a bit of singing has no experience of a choir? Where do they go?

 

From where I am standing I think we desperately need to encourage new organists into the fold at all levels of experience. There are a few outstanding youngsters who have graduated from public and choir schools, but they will never be enough in number to fill he available posts over the next few years; so perhaps we need to widen the intake to include those with less privileged educational backgrounds?

 

I think it has been said here before, but perhaps the church, through it's diocesan offices, should be providing more support for those who would like to learn the craft. After all, the church runs courses for lay readers and 'Authorised Pastoral Assistants', so why not organists and choir masters?

 

Maybe there is an organisation out there which caters for all of these needs, but I have never found it!

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So, I think there is scope for a new organisation, but it would need to address the practical needs of those who are at the bottom and middle of the learning curve, whether through age or experience; rather than providing yet another opportunity for those who feel they are at the top of the curve to show off.

 

I think this is missing the point. The RSCM caters for that. This isn't about organists, it's about traditional music; it's that which creates the job satisfaction which gets the competent singers and organists out of the woodwork.

 

How many competent+ players here refuse to walk into another church, except in a dire emergency or for a very large cheque? Would a weekly choral eucharist change matters?

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Does Jonathan Dove compose 'traditional music'? Did Messiaen? Define traditional.

 

Yes and yes.

 

How about 'Musical settings of liturgy, poetry and sacred texts, intended to be performed by choir, with or without organ, in the course of the mainstream worship of the Church.'

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A certain branch of the Church of England a couple of days ago came up with a new society for people to join. Already one commentator has remarked that whenever there is a problem people think, erroneously, that the answer is to form a new society. It isn't. Societies have committees and committee members have egos. We have quite enough societies relating to church music already and don't need any more.

 

Malcolm

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Some interesting points already. I think I need to make it clearer that, although I'm not averse to getting stuck into these sorts of things, I'm not trying to sell a manifesto for a new association, rather canvassing opinion only.

 

Links with other organisations - why not?

 

Focus - I was aiming my initial suggestion at everyone, churches and individuals, who have an interest in traditional music in worship. I was absolutely not suggesting a 'preservation of anciente musik' society, nor a cathedral choir fan club. I was specifically thinking of an open, forward-looking, supportive, educational kind of organisation. No blazers with brass buttons, no elitism, no obsessions with academic dress.

 

drd - your point about the fate of choirs in individual churches being at the mercy of changing incumbents and musicians is exactly my point - most churches go it alone and have to fight or lose their own corner, and some sort of association can give support in numbers, provide/coordinate choir director training, improve and broaden repertoire knowledge, assist with musician recruitment etc.

 

Heckel - you're obviously thinking along the same lines, but I wasn't thinking specifically about boys-only choirs. Boys only, girls only, mixed - all good. Liked the David Jenkins quote, except the bit about 'tradition' being a verb. To tradition? :blink:

 

Church providing musical training - the C of E appointed the RSCM to be their music agency twenty years ago. The results speak for themselves.

 

>> Define 'traditional music'. Does Jonathan Dove compose 'traditional music'? Did Messiaen?

Yes and yes.

How about 'Musical settings of liturgy, poetry and sacred texts, intended to be performed by choir, with or without organ, in the course of the mainstream worship of the Church.'

I was using 'traditional' in the context of the English choral tradition. Jonathan Dove - yes, when writing for such forces. Messiaen - yes, as his choral and organ music is used extensively by English choral foundations. If we avoid the word 'traditional', as it's clearly compromised by association, what else can we use?

 

Malcolm - fair point. How could such an association avoid the ego problem, and would you be more in favour if the problem was overcome?

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I'm not sure that forming a new organisation would solve anything, irrespective of the presence of egos but that is just my view. If an organisation was going to solve anything one of them would already have done so.

 

Recently, someone (with my full permission) directed the attention of the new director of the RSCM to comments I had made on another topic on this forum which were critical of the RSCM. The Director rang me and we had a very full, pleasant, open and honest chat about what I, and others, saw as being wrong with the RSCM at present. I got the impression that he genuinely wanted to be told things up front, as people in the real world see them. That, in itself, was a positive move on his part, and greatly to be commended.

 

Malcolm

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... I wasn't thinking specifically about boys-only choirs. Boys only, girls only, mixed - all good.

 

Wasn't going to wade back out to sea again, but can't resist this. Boys only, yes. Girls only, yes. Mixed - absolutely not. The two don't go together - from about year 3 up, the majority of the boys won't stay and it'll be a real struggle to get new ones. The girls then get fed up with the behaviour of the one or two remaining boys, who struggle valiantly to represent their gender, and they go too.

 

This in my view is the single aspect of the RSCM's work which needs unpicking. Seperate the sexes and alternate their duty and you get -

 

1) two clubs which kids want to join, with gender-specific identities and learning methods

2) twice as much repertoire for the back row

3) twice as much rehearsal time with each group (per service)

3) each family gets every other week off, making it more appealing to more people in the first place

 

... and if you want to do the whole thing on about 25 minutes' rehearsal a week each, start a children's choir for years 1-3 and teach 'em how to stand up and face the right way there!

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This board has hosted some fascinating recent discussions touching on the nature of music in worship, and in particular the juxtaposition of 'excellence' versus 'relevance', not exactly a new topic but one that is painfully real for church musicians. While reading these, I've been reconsidering some thoughts which have been rattling around in my head for some years now. (All opinions are my own - I don't pretend to represent anyone else!)

 

I believe that:

 

1. The English choral tradition is one of the cultural wonders of the world, and a powerful tool for evangelism. In saying this, I'm considering the tradition to be a living breathing artistic pursuit stemming from the earliest English church music to the present day and into the future, as heard in cathedrals, parish churches, chapels and beyond, and including organ music played in church services. The King's College Cambridge Nine Lessons broadcast has an annual audience of 'millions', and the weekly Choral Evensong broadcast is the longest running BBC outside broadcast. One of the few areas of growth in the Church of England is in cathedral attendance, attributed to 'the building and the music'.

 

2. There is no longer a single organisation that represents and supports all of those involved in the English choral tradition. There are numerous organisations that provide some support -

  • the RCO and IAO support organists, but take no particular stance on church music
  • the FCM provides support to cathedral choral foundations, but not parish churches etc.
  • the ISM provides support to professional musicians in terms of employment, tax, law, contracts, etc.

- and there are many local associations (RSCM and IAO affiliated) who do good work in particular areas, and there are numerous companies ranging from publishers and record labels to organ builders who are involved in the tradition, almost always in a positive way.

 

This leaves, of course, the RSCM and the Guild of Church Musicians. Both of these organisations were founded to support and represent the English choral tradition, but while I don't wish to criticise either in broader terms, I would argue that they no longer provide the universal and lively support that our tradition needs and deserves.

 

The RSCM widened its remit to include all churches and all styles of music many years ago, and while it still provides some good services for those involved in the English choral tradition, such as the Voice for Life scheme, traditional music is now represented as just one of many styles to be chosen from or rejected at will. I have lost count of the number of church musicians who have said that the RSCM offers them little or nothing any more, and it would appear that their membership, and probably their finances, are in decline. By trying to be all things to all people (see iPod masses, folk music, Christian rock bands etc.), they have (in my opinion) rejected the promotion of the choral tradition and is content to manage its rather graceless decline.

 

The GCM provide an important service in running the Archbishops' certificates and FGCM exams. The list of names associated with the Guild encompasses most of the great and the good. Unfortunately, it is hard to see what they provide beyond the qualifications - their website lists just two events for the next year, one associated with the ACertPW certificate and the other is their AGM. I let my membership lapse some years ago through lack of interest, and if I know anyone who is a member, they never mention it.

 

So my question is, do we need a new organisation to represent our tradition?

 

My own answer is 'Yes' - I think we need an association that promotes and discusses traditional music exclusively. Other musical styles are quite capable of looking after themselves. Communication is now ridiculously easy - we can share and send text, documents, photos and videos in seconds, and this forum shows how useful discussion boards can be and points to the way forward. As real world church music involves a great deal of sharing and collaboration, an association that represents the needs of its members should help those members to do just that - a head office is no longer necessary. If a particular member, or group of people, want to carry out a particular project, such an association can provide both the support and the means to share their findings with other members and invite others to contribute.

 

I think the benefits of such an association would be manifest, especially as it evolves over time, and the message it would give out - that traditional church music is a living and evolving tradition, not a museum piece perpetuated by dinosaurs - would be very valuable.

 

Discuss!

 

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

 

I fear that I shall make myself terribly unpopular by suggesting that this is so much "pie in the sky."

 

I'll tell you why, in the hope that I will be proved totally wrong as time goes by.

 

Rightly or wrongly, the churches are generally perceived as being part of "the establishment." Now I have absolutely no idea what "the establishment" is, but I know that most people are either suspicious of it. or simply reject it out of hand. Whether we like it or not, and even if it is completely unfair, that is the reality.

 

"Traditional" church music hasn't really got much of a tradition. Prior to about 1850 (using a round figure), church music was confined to the higher echelons; largely the cathedrals and collegiate establishments. The came the great explosion in religious fervour, which found expression in choral music and oratorio. It grew out the non-conformist movement rather than the Anglican Church, and it was a stroke of genius. In fact, music-making was THE most popular pastime in late Victorian England; first encouraged by the non-conformists, but rapidly taken on board by the great Victorian entrepreneurs of the day, with all kind of sponsorship being made available. Thus, there were mill bands, choral societies, male voice choirs, colliery bands, town hall concerts/recitals and a whole host of related activities. Further impetus came from the unions, who encouraged self-help and self-determination, and more than matched the efforts of those who had first set the ball rolling.

 

Now this tells us something, because music was at least as much a secular pursuit as it was a religious pursuit and whole villages would be left empty for a weekend, when local choirs or bands sang or played in competitions and festivals. Even special trains were laid on, and there are stories of legend, which tell of victorious bands or choirs waking whole village communities when they paraded down the main-street at midnight, singing or playing at maximum volume as they filtered home from the local railways station.

 

It's difficult to imagine that to-day, but more than that, there was intense but friendly rivalry: not just band against band, and choir against choir, but mill against mill, church against church and even class against class. It was a rivalry which built a nation anew; accompanied as it was by a vast growth in industrial output, general prosperity and aspirations. So what may have started in churches and chapels, rapidly moved into the secular arena as well. The important thing to bear in mind, is that the churches were innovative and at the cutting-edge, in a way which they never had been previously.

 

There are moments in time in the history of nations when so many things seem to be leading the charge towards economic and social progress; Italy's Renaissance, the French Revolution, Lutheran Germany, Holland's 'Golden Age,' the growth of Communism in the Soviet Union and so on. Accompanying this is often to be found great art, great literature and great music, which of course we know to be the case.

 

In periods of decline, the exact opposite is frequently the case, as things once held as sacrosanct are discarded; often without good reason. I would hazard a guess that “traditional church music” began to decline in the immediate post-war period, but was kept alive by an age-group which supported it and still wanted it. By the mid-1960’s, all that was under challenge and eventual threat, as church attendance began to nose-dive. Thus, I would see the clamour for more “relevant” music as a knee-jerk reaction, which amounted to little more than new wine in a very old bottle. What I now see is the almost total disintegration of church music; save for the cathedrals, where there is a certain theme-park agenda of traditional, formal worship. In some cathedrals, even that is either being eroded or altered, with certain appointments now suggesting a move towards a more inclusive, eclectic and even American style of worship; though I don’t have firm evidence to support this, it has to be said.

 

So much has changed in the church, and with the best will in the world, it can no longer be seen as being at the cutting-edge of almost anything. The church stance on a whole raft of issues and deliberations is usually depressingly predictable, and even if it had among its ranks some of the greatest contemporary minds, the churches are now marginalised politically and socially.

 

So I’m afraid that I see little prospect of a sudden re-emergence of interest in “traditional church music,” anymore than I see any prospect of the churches holding centre stage in almost any aspect of human endeavour. Even if it did, the plurality and multi-culturalism of to-day would mean that the churches would have to embrace an inclusive agenda rather than a niche agenda, and I’m afraid that “traditional church music” is as niche as it comes these days.

 

MM

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I’m afraid that “traditional church music” is as niche as it comes these days.

Ah! That's the point. It isn't. People just haven't realised it yet. Go and find me the parish priest who would not let me do Darke in A and Sumsion in F at their Sunday eucharist if it put 15 families in the pews week after week.

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So I’m afraid that I see little prospect of a sudden re-emergence of interest in “traditional church music,”... I’m afraid that “traditional church music” is as niche as it comes these days.

Well put, MM, but not at all what I was driving at. I was opening up a discussion on the idea of an association to represent and support those of us already involved in 'traditional church music'. I don't doubt that some consider it to be 'niche' in comparison to wide, bland, populist categories, but plenty of niches have their associations, journals and plenty of happy enthusiasts. I was pointing out the juxtaposition between the rich history of such music (albeit not a simple and pretty history, as you point out) and the reluctance to treat it on its own merits, rather than lumping it in with John 'L' Bell, Graham Kendrick and Gospel choirs. Anyway, tell the boys choir I was rehearsing on Friday night that they are 'niche' and they would just look at you blankly - they wouldn't care, and neither should we.

 

Heckelphone - that's not my experience, but every situation is different and we may have to agree to disagree on the details. I think that any representative association would be able to support both approaches, though.

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Ah! That's the point. It isn't. People just haven't realised it yet. Go and find me the parish priest who would not let me do Darke in A and Sumsion in F at their Sunday eucharist if it put 15 families in the pews week after week.

 

 

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

 

 

Some decades back, I trained a choir with 20 boys in it, and I don't recall 40 parents turning up week by week. In fact, I don't recall ANY parents turning up at all, unless we happened to do a concert where some of the boys sang solo.

 

In any event, in the current climate, even if you got 15 families coming to church, you'd probably lose 60 who prefer a different style of worship, just as many traditionalists left when the pop brigade moved in..

 

Not far away from me, there is a "happy clap" church, where they have hundreds at every service, while the more traditional churches are largely empty.

 

I'm not suggesting that what you claim is impossible, but I don't think I would want to take the risk nowadays.

 

MM

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Well put, MM, but not at all what I was driving at. I was opening up a discussion on the idea of an association to represent and support those of us already involved in 'traditional church music'. I don't doubt that some consider it to be 'niche' in comparison to wide, bland, populist categories, but plenty of niches have their associations, journals and plenty of happy enthusiasts. I was pointing out the juxtaposition between the rich history of such music (albeit not a simple and pretty history, as you point out) and the reluctance to treat it on its own merits, rather than lumping it in with John 'L' Bell, Graham Kendrick and Gospel choirs. Anyway, tell the boys choir I was rehearsing on Friday night that they are 'niche' and they would just look at you blankly - they wouldn't care, and neither should we.

 

Heckelphone - that's not my experience, but every situation is different and we may have to agree to disagree on the details. I think that any representative association would be able to support both approaches, though.

 

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

 

 

I've belonged to a few niche organisations in my time; an interest in those funny old theatre organs being one. I also like traction-engines, ancient trucks and BRISCA stock-car racing, so I know what it's like when people look at you as if you're half mad.

 

Surely, in this age of digital communications, pdf files and sound-files, an organisation could be set up for almost nothing other than time?

 

MM

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Associations are all very well, but your accurate description of the state of most of those which survive suggests that they may no longer be the way forward, especially if they operate on an amateur footing, requiring committed voluntary officers etc. (you can tell that I have several PCCs!).

 

The Diocese of Lincoln was by no means the first diocese to appoint, some 3 years ago, a Diocesan Music Adviser (in some dioceses also known as a Diocesan Director of Music). Beavering away in a variety of contexts across a huge geographical area, she is bringing new life into a wide variety of areas of music in worship.

 

Apart from the fact that she is both experienced in this sort of work and highly able, one of the principal advantages of her appointment is that it gives authority to the validity of church music as a serious element in what we do. It's no longer an optional extra; it's at the core of the church's mission, and by appointing our MDO the diocese (or to be more accurate the Bishop) has said so.

 

There were those who said at the outset "What a waste of money; we should be appointing a Diocesan Missioner".

 

She is the Diocesan Missioner, and, slowly but surely in quiet rural Lincolnshire, what she is doing is working.

 

She has twigged, and we have twigged, that music speaks to the heart. THAT's what we really need to get right, anywhere.

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She is the Diocesan Missioner, and, slowly but surely in quiet rural Lincolnshire, what she is doing is working.

 

She has twigged, and we have twigged, that music speaks to the heart. THAT's what we really need to get right, anywhere.

 

I have said all along for decades. What warmth it brings to read this, this soggy September morn.

N

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The RSCM widened its remit to include all churches and all styles of music many years ago, and while it still provides some good services for those involved in the English choral tradition, such as the Voice for Life scheme, traditional music is now represented as just one of many styles to be chosen from or rejected at will. I have lost count of the number of church musicians who have said that the RSCM offers them little or nothing any more, and it would appear that their membership, and probably their finances, are in decline. By trying to be all things to all people (see iPod masses, folk music, Christian rock bands etc.), they have (in my opinion) rejected the promotion of the choral tradition and is content to manage its rather graceless decline.

 

Hi

 

There is a great need for someone or organisation to promote quality standards in the non-traditional forms of worship. I don't have any experience of the RSCM, so I can't comment on how well they do this part of their job - but the examples on "modern" Christian music that I saw in one of their recent publications are more than a little dated and not typical of many churches that I know of that use CCM repertoire. Maybe they should only deal with traditional - but then, their title says "Church" music - not "Traditional church" music - so it's certainly a valid addition to their work - given the number of churches that cannot/will not support a traditional choir.

 

Like it or not, the church is changing - just as it always has!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I think this is missing the point. The RSCM caters for that.

 

But that's just the point; it doesn't!

 

The daughter of a friend is a very promising organist, and has recently taken up an organ scholarship. She applied to attend a RSCM course two years ago (aged 16), but was told "our courses are designed for adults; and in any case, we don't have a child protection policy, so we cannot teach children".

 

The organ world needs young people, and it needs them now! If we wait until the old guard fall off of their perches it will be too late!

 

The Raise Your Game day courses run by the RCO and others are very good, but they only scratch the surface.

 

I know you will say 'this isn't about organists', but if we don't put the horse before the cart we will never get anywhere!

 

 

 

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

 

Not far away from me, there is a "happy clap" church, where they have hundreds at every service, while the more traditional churches are largely empty.

 

I'm not suggesting that what you claim is impossible, but I don't think I would want to take the risk nowadays.

 

MM

 

Equally, I know of a very traditional church not far away from me where they have a strong choral tradition, an excellent choir, and smells and bells with everything. The situation was so bad when the present priest took office that the Bishop told him 'not to worry if things went pear shape' as the church was closing anyway.

 

They now have a regular attendance of 150 + every Sunday, with some people travelling up to 50 miles to be there!

 

I don't think it should be a case of 'traditional or contemporary' music; as surely there is room for both? The problems come about because many clergy like to be seen as 'hip' and 'modern', and those who pedal the happy clappy stuff will stoop to any level to get their own way.

 

However, I think we should remember that music is just one factor in the equation. Many churches are empty because of church politics and cliques, which make 'ordinary' churchgoers feel unwelcome. Others are empty because the clergy are so heavenly minded they are of little earthly use, and simply do not take the time to minister to their people. I would be seriously worried if I saw our parish priest walking up the drive, as he only ever makes home visits to arrange funerals. :mellow:

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Equally, I know of a very traditional church not far away from me where they have a strong choral tradition, an excellent choir, and smells and bells with everything. The situation was so bad when the present priest took office that the Bishop told him 'not to worry if things went pear shape' as the church was closing anyway.

 

They now have a regular attendance of 150 + every Sunday, with some people travelling up to 50 miles to be there!

 

I don't think it should be a case of 'traditional or contemporary' music; as surely there is room for both?

 

The problems come about because many clergy like to be seen as 'hip' and 'modern', and those who pedal the happy clappy stuff will stoop to any level to get their own way.

 

 

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

 

Exactly the point I was making about "niche markets!"

 

People will travel to satisfy a need, and I can recall travelling 100 miles and more to go to some event or other of a niche nature. God knows, organists go to congresses and trudge around on organ-crawls, even when they have a wooden leg and a stick.

 

Yes there is room for both contemporary and traditional music, and anyone who doubts that should tune into a place like Crystal Cathedral or the Mormon Tabernacle; irrespective of beliefs and practices. It's a lesson in how quality of any kind will win the day, and when I was "over there" I absolutely loved it. I recall hearing a solo guitarist almost the equal of Eric Clapton or (Dr) Brian May, and it was good. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is world famous, with a repertoire which ranges right across the musical spectrum. Quality is the key word, and I recall setting upon a cathedral organist who suggested that all "pop" music was banal. I pointed out that "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles had more depth than an awful lot of sentimental hymns.

 

As for "hip" and "modern" clergy, I have yet to meet one. Most of the "switched on" types are like mutton dressed as lamb; often completely unaware of current events, scientific matters and even what's going on in the next parish.

 

It's no different to what commonly happened in the 18th century, when the first son became Lord of the Manor, the second son went into the military and the idiot son wore a dog-collar! :mellow:

 

MM

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This is in danger of disappearing down the same plughole as all other debates which wind up as 'traditional' versus 'contemporary'. The original question posed was whether those churches and individuals who choose to serve God and/or his churches through 'traditional' music would be better served through forming a new association to support these endeavours, as I suggested that the existing organisations don't do enough.

 

Tony - 'RSCM' does include 'Church Music' in the title, which could therefore be any church music, yes, but taking that approach, 'CCM' - meaning Contemporary Christian Music - should include any music written by Christians today, but it doesn't - it's a specific exclusive category of music, regardless of the title.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

This discussion is not going to get anyone anywhere if it relies on insulting generalisations about other musicians or about clergy.

 

Perhaps that's what tends to wrong with associations of this sort... :mellow:

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This discussion is not going to get anyone anywhere if it relies on insulting generalisations about other musicians or about clergy.

 

Perhaps that's what tends to wrong with associations of this sort... :mellow:

 

Exactly, and it's very sad to see!

 

Just to rewind, are we agreed -

 

1) There is, and should continue to be, a place for traditional Anglican music within a wide spectrum of other 'diets'

 

2) The contemporary experience of some members of this board, myself included, is that children are especially good at rising to the challenge

 

3) The contemporary experience of some members of this board, myself included, is that families DO get involved in what is going on and take pride in their offspring's endeavours; it's taken me 2 years of choir holidays to get all the parents exposed to what we do, and why, and lo and behold I looked down at Evensong two weeks ago to see a little huddle of parents I'd never seen in the congro before. They were there again this Sunday just gone.

 

4) The immediate and critical situation is not, as I see it, where a 15 year old goes for organ lessons; it's whether there will be any organists' positions worth having in 20 years time, or will everyone be using Kevin Mayhew karaoke hymn CDs and worship bands. IF it is possible to demonstrate to clergy and congregations, using recent examples, that it IS possible to have quality traditional music AND growth at the same time, even as a small part of a worship 'diet', then you will find people of quality once again becoming available for positions. They are out there. Then, it becomes an entirely straightforward and everyday occurrence that young people have access to a quality introduction to the organ.

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In answer to Heckelphone's question (Why does he have to have such a long nom-de-plume?)

1 ) Yes

2 ) Yes

3 ) Yes

4 ) Yes - agreed but in the area where I live (far too many churches despite a number of closures already) there is only one organist/D-of-M post worth having and I wouldn't want that one.

 

Malcolm

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