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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.

 

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

 

We've almost done this to death, but to reiterate, there are only three possible answer; yes, no and maybe.

 

Only you can decide if the idea is worthwhile, because where I live, I could once count, (in just a 10 mile radius), maybe 16 Anglican choirs of ability and substance. Now I can count only one, (and that may have changed), including four or five places which once enjoyed an extremely fine choral music "tradition", (for lack of a better word).

 

Most, if not all, of the non-conformist choirs have vanished and the buildings where they once sang demolished. The RC church has been a musical disgrace all my life, but there are efforts going on to improve that.

 

The situation may be better in the south, but the north is more or less a cultural desert outside the principal cities such as Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

 

The only ray of hope is the continuing existence of old choral societes; some of which have a century old history and more.

 

If the idea of some sort of specilised association were to ever have credibility where I live, it would have to include ALL choral groups, (both secular and religious); perhaps even including the few remaining school choirs.

 

There is a certain strength in numbers of course, but getting the numbers in the first instance would be very difficult.

 

As I've stated previously, I don't see much mileage in the idea, but I may be wrong as I often am.

 

MM

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Well, I'm rather sorry that this one got sidetracked and burnt out so quickly. It was, as I said, just a theoretical discussion, but I would be happy to hear from anyone who'd like to discuss this further - PM me for my email address.

 

From my own perspective, I know of so many people, young and old, musical and non-musical, who find the 'tradition' of 'classical' choral and organ music so life-enriching and inspiring in worship that it would be a terrible shame to lose it. Nonetheless, as it a tradition that demands so much of those who bring it alive, it is so easily damaged and lost in a short space of time. Purely for those who choose to be part of it, and without any intended slight on those who don't, I think it deserves better support and organisation than is currently available, and I can understand why those who have been fighting something of a losing battle can feel jaded and fatalistic - perhaps this is exactly why something more is needed.

 

Duncan Courts.

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From my own perspective, I know of so many people, young and old, musical and non-musical, who find the 'tradition' of 'classical' choral and organ music so life-enriching and inspiring in worship that it would be a terrible shame to lose it.

It would indeed, but the trouble is that the majority of people out there couldn't give a toss about classical music, church or otherwise. As I have said many times before, I cannot see how our traditional church music can possibly flourish until there is a popular demand for it to do so and that needs a change of culture in the populace at large. It's nothing to do with the church. Those who do already value the tradition will search it out and perhaps that is one reason why cathedral attendences are increasing, but it doesn't alter the fact that most people get their musical kicks elsewhere, e.g. down the clubs on Friday and Saturday nights.

 

Nonetheless, as it a tradition that demands so much of those who bring it alive, it is so easily damaged and lost in a short space of time. Purely for those who choose to be part of it, and without any intended slight on those who don't, I think it deserves better support and organisation than is currently available, and I can understand why those who have been fighting something of a losing battle can feel jaded and fatalistic - perhaps this is exactly why something more is needed.

 

Duncan Courts.

The more the flag is flown the better, but you would forever be battling against the above problem.

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I wonder whether the problem is really more to do with liturgy than it is to do with repertoire.

 

Some people are driven away from the Church by "accessible" music and by Common Worship services that lack the dignity, poetry or familiarity of BCP; newer generations are put off by BCP services with their arcane language and music that doesn't allow for them to participate much, if at all.

 

When 5th Sundays roll around, we have a single BCP Choral Communion service as opposed to one CW and one BCP service for different congregations. At the last of those, on 29th August, the BCP folks were in their element but it was very sad that the CW crowd - at present a majority - could not engage with the words or music despite their best efforts. One regular attender told us afterwards that she just couldn't get her head round the words, didn't understand why the Choir alone sang the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and was sorry she couldn't even join in with the Creed and Gloria because she doesn't know the Merbecke setting and finds it hard to sing. (I should stress, this is a very intelligent woman whose entire family - husband and three daughters - have gone from being unbelievers to being committed Christians in less than two years, all because of our Family Services.)

 

To my mind, we're all dancing around a fundamental issue which we'll have to grapple with sooner or later: Choirs and Robes and "traditional" services are glorious reminders of an age when language, spirituality and culture were very different ... an age now long gone, supplanted by a new one in which values, beliefs and attitudes have been drastically altered, some for better and some for worse.

 

People are afraid of change, and the Church especially so, because it means that good things pass away - sometimes never to return. And of course, the Church is supposed to be a bastion of timelessness in the midst of changing times! Yet change is a truth of our existence, just like mortality, and the best way to stave off extinction is to evolve with the times. As Hugh Keyte once said in a CD note, "traditions will ossify if new life is not breathed into them." Indeed - and it's not my intention to create controversy by saying this - it could be argued that the Book of Common Prayer is an example of "tradition ossified," since it no longer does its job of providing a "common" language that all can understand.

 

Traditional music can play a part in more contemporary liturgies: witness for example the Funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, with its unique liturgy enabling all to take part and its eclectic combination of music encompassing J.S. Bach, William Croft, John Tavener, Guiseppe Verdi, Elton John, folk song and hymns both traditional and contemporary. Or for a more recent example, take Sheffield Cathedral's experiments with CW Evening Prayer (as opposed to BCP Choral Evensong) on Sundays in Lent 2009. The liturgy was very different from what is familiar to most of us, yet there was ample use of established church music in both modern and 1662 language. To some, it reeks of "old wine in new bottles," but is that such a terrible thing if the old wine is very good, and "new people" discover it in a way that will bring them back for more?

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I wonder whether the problem is really more to do with liturgy than it is to do with repertoire.

 

When 5th Sundays roll around, we have a single BCP Choral Communion service as opposed to one CW and one BCP service for different congregations. At the last of those, on 29th August, the BCP folks were in their element but it was very sad that the CW crowd - at present a majority - could not engage with the words or music despite their best efforts. One regular attender told us afterwards that she just couldn't get her head round the words, didn't understand why the Choir alone sang the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and was sorry she couldn't even join in with the Creed and Gloria because she doesn't know the Merbecke setting and finds it hard to sing. (I should stress, this is a very intelligent woman whose entire family - husband and three daughters - have gone from being unbelievers to being committed Christians in less than two years, all because of our Family Services.)

 

Congratulations on your efforts to accommodate both traditions. That is surely the role of establishments such as cathedrals and major parish churches which are likely to have the resources to do so.

 

It's a pity when people adopt blinkered attitudes to worship, whether through ignorance, laziness or sheer prejudice. Perhaps clergy and musicians should do more to educate their congregations, by explaining the differences in liturgical practice, maybe even handing out the Merbecke notation and rehearsing it. Too often they seem to take such things for granted. Intelligent worshippers are more likely to be sympathetic, more likely to make an effort at meaningful participation, if they understand why and how. That way they are more likely to appreciate the richness in diversity of Anglican liturgies.

 

JS

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Congratulations on your efforts to accommodate both traditions. JS

 

Hear hear. :mellow:

 

The problem, as I see it, is that too many church people have very fixed ideas about the format of their services, and refuse to compromise to accomodate others. For example, we lost several members, including a Church Warden, when a lady Curate was apointed, whilst others are now threatening to leave if they smell so much as a whiff of incense, or even if there are too many candles behind the altar! I am sure these people are very holy, but their attitudes towards other church members seem distinctly un-Christian to me.

 

If only people would try to understand and enjoy other people's forms of worship we would all benefit. As things stand it seems to me that many church members would rather see their churches close than accepting a different style of worship once in a while.

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It's late, I'm tired, and it's probably not the best time to be posting on here - so forgive me if I sound blunt, but I think we're still missing the point. We're a group of intelligent, sensitive people (on the whole :mellow: ) who are far too used to apologising for our non-mainstream musical predilections at every turn. I know - I've been doing it since I was eleven. In this case, it's made this discussion far too considered. The question is largely separate from those considering the use of BCP versus CW, the separation versus the combination of musical styles, and the pastoral implications of active versus passive participation, which are important questions in their own right.

 

Put simply, if the music is worth doing, it's worth supporting properly. If it isn't worth doing, why are we still doing it at all? If we are now in the business of supplying people with their 'musical kicks' instead (sorry Vox!) then we're guilty of delaying the 'progress' of the Church. Time to hang up the slightly tatty looking diploma hood, lock the console for the last time and hand the church keys back, as we're surely meant to be replaced by a CD of hardcore house anthems. Which is it?

 

I'm not, and never have, argued that every church should use traditional music. I just think that those who DO want to use traditional music should be able to if they want. Why not support those that do?

 

My last post on this subject, I think - I have no desire to wind up the entire board!

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It won't be your last post - just like the last one wasn't mine, and nor will this!

 

Musical kicks... Religion has always, in my caveman view, been the opium of the people. Drums and guitarry things influence the heart rate and a thousand people singing Graham Kendrick can create something which passes for euphoria in some people's minds. Plainsong creates its own atmosphere. It's all about 'musical kicks', if that's what is meant by the creation in human minds of a particular atmospheric or spiritual sensation - let's not be precious about dressing it up.

 

No amount of nay-saying or doom 'n' gloom can, for me, remove the fundamental points that

 

i) this stuff has a place in this time

 

ii) it brings benefits which deserve to be publicly assessed and discussed, rather than merely applying the label 'traditional' and spluttering indignantly, as if those are enough of a reason in itself to do it

 

iii) its proponents support flexibility, integration with Common Worship (which, frankly, works perfectly well) and the enhancement of worship

 

iv) this all creates a positive, unique and inspirational liturgical and musical experience for participants and witnesses which can and should form part of a balanced diet.

 

 

That's what I think we need to do; this is where we need refinement and agreement; "it'll never work" doesn't need to go on the end of a sentence - especially not one beginning "yes, but". Not yet, anyway!

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If only people would try to understand and enjoy other people's forms of worship we would all benefit. As things stand it seems to me that many church members would rather see their churches close than accepting a different style of worship once in a while.

A human's relationship with God is always an intensely personal thing. Every believer has a unique relationship with, and experience of, God, however much they may also be part of a wider Christian family. Some find Him here, some there, some in high art, some in popular. Some find Him in values and circumstances that are anathema to others. In whatever way people experience God, they have every right to their experience and, so long as it is not downright heretical, we ought to accept it as valid. If we accept their experience as valid, it follows that they also have every right to a form of worship conducive to those views. I detest worship songs, but that doesn't mean that I would deny people the right to sing them. I would simply like the choice of being able to avoid them. When it comes to incense and other ceremonial it is commonly accepted that people have the right to choose between high church, low church and intermediate observances. Why are we denied the same choice when it comes to music? Yet, increasingly we are. Either it's all happy-clappy or it's a mix; very rarely now is it purely traditional. However, for the priest charged with filling his increasingly empty pews, there are far more issues to consider than music and at the end of the day I defer to his right to make the judgements on how this may best be done; after all, he will have a broader picture than me. That is why I do not think it my place to fight battles - but this is just my view. I still agree with Heckelphone that traditional church music does have a place in our time and that it can create "a positive, unique and inspirational liturgical and musical experience for participants and witnesses", but obviously this depends very much on there being churches where people have the opportunity of experiencing it. I like to think (admittedly with my head in the clouds) that the more such opportunities exist, the more people may come to value traditional church music. But that cultural issue I mentioned before isn't imaginary and, sadly, until society changes I can't see traditional church music ever being more than a minority interest. The primary thrust of the church would seem to lie in a different direction. I would love to be proved wrong.

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It's late, I'm tired, and it's probably not the best time to be posting on here - so forgive me if I sound blunt, but I think we're still missing the point. We're a group of intelligent, sensitive people (on the whole :mellow: ) who are far too used to apologising for our non-mainstream musical predilections at every turn. I know - I've been doing it since I was eleven. In this case, it's made this discussion far too considered. The question is largely separate from those considering the use of BCP versus CW, the separation versus the combination of musical styles, and the pastoral implications of active versus passive participation, which are important questions in their own right.

 

Put simply, if the music is worth doing, it's worth supporting properly. If it isn't worth doing, why are we still doing it at all? If we are now in the business of supplying people with their 'musical kicks' instead (sorry Vox!) then we're guilty of delaying the 'progress' of the Church. Time to hang up the slightly tatty looking diploma hood, lock the console for the last time and hand the church keys back, as we're surely meant to be replaced by a CD of hardcore house anthems. Which is it?

 

I'm not, and never have, argued that every church should use traditional music. I just think that those who DO want to use traditional music should be able to if they want. Why not support those that do?

 

My last post on this subject, I think - I have no desire to wind up the entire board!

 

 

Absolutely right and very well put. Having been actively involved in providing music in church since 1964 I finally gave up for these very reasons in May last year. During those years I have, on occasions had a wonderful times - I've had a choir with 20 adults, 8 girls and 16 boys plus 2 assistants, I've done Mozart/Schubert/Palestrina Masses (even, very occasionally, I have to admit, F in Darke) and some wonderful big choral Evensongs plus all the traditional Holy Week music. A number of my former cboristers - boys and girls - are still, as adults, in regular contact with me as firends (mainly but not entirely via Facebook) and several have become either teachers or priests. Yes, I admit, I have enjoyed it and feel I have given something to the life and mission of the church. I can see and fully appreciate exactly where the long-named Heckelphone is coming from because I've been there, worked very hard at it and enjoyed it. Not any more. I realised the game was up and that I was no longer wanted or needed and yes, was hindering the work of the church rather than helping it. I did hang up my diploma hoods &c., Not once have I regretted doing this; I have never been happier. I don't have all the admin and political aggro of church life and when I go to church now I can just sit back, concentrate on what really matters and let other people do the worrying.

 

I also passionately believe that church music is - and should be - a young person's world. Heckelphone has (comparitive) youth on his side. My best achievements in church music came when I was around the age he is now. Age and increasing cynicism have wearied me and others (not to mention seeing the world in a less idealistic way perhaps) and I am now more than happy to let people of his generation take over because they still have the energy and enthusiasm that I used to have. I genuinely admire him, wishing him and others in his situation the very best of luck. It's what Alan Bennett calls "passing the parcel".

 

Malcolm

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I also passionately believe that church music is - and should be - a young person's world. Heckelphone has (comparitive) youth on his side. My best achievements in church music came when I was around the age he is now. Age and increasing cynicism have wearied me and others (not to mention seeing the world in a less idealistic way perhaps) and I am now more than happy to let people of his generation take over because they still have the energy and enthusiasm that I used to have. I genuinely admire him, wishing him and others in his situation the very best of luck. It's what Alan Bennett calls "passing the parcel".

I totally agree.

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I've never quite decided whether Thomas Crammer would be proudly dancing in his grave at the thought people were still using his Book of Common Prayer five hundred years later, or turning in his grave that we were still using it and in doing so making worship inaccessible to the common man, the very reason (well, one reason anyway) for having the liturgy translated into the vernacular in the first place.

 

But I am reminded by the wise words of one cathedral Dean who said, "tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living". Whether we form a new association, reform an existing one or just settle on being salt and light in our community and maybe our PCC, I hope we would agree we should be striving to preserve the former and striving to avoid the latter.

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I think Thomas Cranmer would be turning in his grave. He compiled BCP for the people and situations of his time, and in the language of the time. The C-of-E realised over 100 years ago - and even more so in the aftermath of WW1 - that BCP had outlived its usefulness and needed to be revised. What a pity that 1928 failed; lfe for us would have been so much easier if it ha been passed. I know I have said this before, both here and elsewhere, but liturgy is a living thing and all living things either change constantly or they die. Much as I like it myself - on an occasional basis - I get slightly cross with people who try to try to turn traditional Rites into an end in themselves and end up almost making them into graven images to be worshipped.

 

Malcolm

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I wonder whether the problem is really more to do with liturgy than it is to do with repertoire.

 

Some people are driven away from the Church by "accessible" music and by Common Worship services that lack the dignity, poetry or familiarity of BCP; newer generations are put off by BCP services with their arcane language and music that doesn't allow for them to participate much, if at all.

 

When 5th Sundays roll around, we have a single BCP Choral Communion service as opposed to one CW and one BCP service for different congregations. At the last of those, on 29th August, the BCP folks were in their element but it was very sad that the CW crowd - at present a majority - could not engage with the words or music despite their best efforts. One regular attender told us afterwards that she just couldn't get her head round the words, didn't understand why the Choir alone sang the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and was sorry she couldn't even join in with the Creed and Gloria because she doesn't know the Merbecke setting and finds it hard to sing. (I should stress, this is a very intelligent woman whose entire family - husband and three daughters - have gone from being unbelievers to being committed Christians in less than two years, all because of our Family Services.)

 

To my mind, we're all dancing around a fundamental issue which we'll have to grapple with sooner or later: Choirs and Robes and "traditional" services are glorious reminders of an age when language, spirituality and culture were very different ... an age now long gone, supplanted by a new one in which values, beliefs and attitudes have been drastically altered, some for better and some for worse.

 

People are afraid of change, and the Church especially so, because it means that good things pass away - sometimes never to return. And of course, the Church is supposed to be a bastion of timelessness in the midst of changing times! Yet change is a truth of our existence, just like mortality, and the best way to stave off extinction is to evolve with the times. As Hugh Keyte once said in a CD note, "traditions will ossify if new life is not breathed into them." Indeed - and it's not my intention to create controversy by saying this - it could be argued that the Book of Common Prayer is an example of "tradition ossified," since it no longer does its job of providing a "common" language that all can understand.

 

Traditional music can play a part in more contemporary liturgies: witness for example the Funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, with its unique liturgy enabling all to take part and its eclectic combination of music encompassing J.S. Bach, William Croft, John Tavener, Guiseppe Verdi, Elton John, folk song and hymns both traditional and contemporary. Or for a more recent example, take Sheffield Cathedral's experiments with CW Evening Prayer (as opposed to BCP Choral Evensong) on Sundays in Lent 2009. The liturgy was very different from what is familiar to most of us, yet there was ample use of established church music in both modern and 1662 language. To some, it reeks of "old wine in new bottles," but is that such a terrible thing if the old wine is very good, and "new people" discover it in a way that will bring them back for more?

 

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

 

 

There is so much in this paragraph; not least an immediate conflict.

 

Why, I wonder, is the church supposed to be a bastion of timelessness?

 

This goes to the very heart of what I have periodically challenged in excess of 30 years: the idea that true faith is carved in stone for all time, and that all truth is to be found in scripture. The more compelling truth is the fact that most of the major religions were cobbled together from disparate sources; usually in an attempt to unite and define people from specific tribal and ethnic origins. However, it is obvious that even within specific religions, there are many, many national and regional differences; often leading to the sort of fractious relationship we see between people who apparently share a faith, but then throw bombs at each other. So there can be no doubt whatsoever that there has always been a political and social dimension to religion, which over the millennia has constantly shaped, influenced and altered the nature of belief and religious practice. At certain times and in certain places, religion has been hi-jacked by such influences, and the English civil-war was a good example of that. At other times, religion and politics have enjoyed a certain symbiosis, and I suspect that the period 1850 until the end of the 2nd WW was one such, when nationalism, elaborate worship and imperial might co-existed comfortably. Not only that, it was predominantly a military age, in which ceremonies and religious observances were done formally.

 

Now when it comes to “ossified tradition” and the BCP, I have a real problem. At the age of only thirteen, I stopped saying the words of the Creeds (both of them), simply because I regarded them as very dubious and highly contrived. As time went on, I was discarding and mentally shredding whole swathes of “traditional” beliefs, and yet, there was no conscious ambition to be different or unique. It just didn’t make sense to me at all, even though the Bible, the BCP and church-music were a powerful influence in the use of words and the eloquence of well considered and executed English prose. So I have to confess that my early appreciation of church was more aesthetic than religious, and it is probably still much the same to-day.

 

Naturally, I am quite sure that matters of faith and the universal church amount to much more than the experience of one individual, but I am equally sure that I am not alone in being doubtful and even sceptical when it comes to certain tenets of traditional belief. I regret that I must hold the view that churches across the board have failed spectacularly in the quest for “relevance,” and that the adoption of “popular culture” (for lack of a better word) is theologically sterile. After all, sending an e-mail is no better than sending a letter by carrier pigeon, except that it is slightly more up-beat.

 

I think we worry far too much about “traditional worship,” the BCP and even a great deal of scripture. After all, the organ will survive simply because it is a fine musical instrument when played well, and there will always be organs somewhere. “Traditional” church music will survive, but it may be relegated to radio, educational establishments and secular concerts, just as medieval music and madrigals are now. The great choral masterpieces like the ‘St Matthew Passion’ and ‘Messiah’ will probably remain at the forefront of western culture, as they deserve to be.

 

Perhaps the more pressing question is whether the churches can move forward by discarding a great deal of scripture, or at least placing it in an historical, religious perspective. Unfortunately, all I see to-day are churches marking time or even marching backwards.

 

 

MM

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Guest Patrick Coleman
The great choral masterpieces like the ‘St Matthew Passion’ and ‘Messiah’ will probably remain at the forefront of western culture, as they deserve to be.

I am not sure whether they will remain (or deserve to remain) at the forefront of anything if they are completely deracinated. The only time I have been present at a complete live performance of the Saint Matthew Passion (it was the last Proms appearance of Trevor Pinnock with the English Concert) I had to exercise iron self control not to dismember the neighbour who was foot tapping at the most emotional passages. I notice the Bath Bach Festival is beginning with a performance of the same with a MEAL during the interval. I'm not a killjoy - just wondering what the meaning of the music and the experience can possibly be if it is removed from the context of the composer's profound faith, which I imperfectly share.

Perhaps the more pressing question is whether the churches can move forward by discarding a great deal of scripture, or at least placing it in an historical, religious perspective. Unfortunately, all I see to-day are churches marking time or even marching backwards.

If the churches discard their roots, they will not grow any more than they are currently doing (in our culture) by hiding in their roots. What is needed is a new patristic age so that the whole thing can be re-expressed and discovered anew. The first patristic age took over 500 years, so I am not holding my breath...

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

 

 

After all, the organ will survive simply because it is a fine musical instrument when played well, and there will always be organs somewhere.

MM

 

Surely; the organ became popular in churches because it was the best instrument for accompanying large numbers of congregants in hymn singing? In my view this is still true.

 

When our Happy-Clappies take over on the 4th Sunday they insist on using the piano throughout the service; which is OK for the normal congregation of 35 or 40 souls; but if there is a baptism party the whole thing descends into chaos, as nobody can hear the music. On more than one occasion now we have reverted to the organ just to bring some order to the proceedings.

 

This is a purely practical observation, which has nothing to do with the style of music.

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Surely; the organ became popular in churches because it was the best instrument for accompanying large numbers of congregants in hymn singing? In my view this is still true.

 

When our Happy-Clappies take over on the 4th Sunday they insist on using the piano throughout the service; which is OK for the normal congregation of 35 or 40 souls; but if there is a baptism party the whole thing descends into chaos, as nobody can hear the music. On more than one occasion now we have reverted to the organ just to bring some order to the proceedings.

 

This is a purely practical observation, which has nothing to do with the style of music.

 

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

 

Well.....yes!

 

I recall Peter Goodman telling me of a political riot at Hull City Hall, when they called in the City Organist to silence it very effectively.

 

There's also that wonderful story Carlo Curley tells, when he went to practise at the Albert Hall, and arriving early, found a famous pop-band making a hell of a din on stage. He gently floated towards the organ, switched on in readiness, and when the band stopped and apologised for the noise, Carlo pressed General no.20 (or whatever), and opened up with a blast of full organ with Tubas.

 

"Don't apologise honey. THAT'S ORGAN POWER!!!" He cried, after lifiting his hands: the stunned band members gaping in disbelief.

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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If the churches discard their roots, they will not grow any more than they are currently doing (in our culture) by hiding in their roots. What is needed is a new patristic age so that the whole thing can be re-expressed and discovered anew. The first patristic age took over 500 years, so I am not holding my breath...

 

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

 

 

O ye of little faith.

 

The Christian way was established in only a few years, but the Christian religion took a little longer.

 

MM

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Guest Patrick Coleman
====================

 

 

O ye of little faith.

 

The Christian way was established in only a few years, but the Christian religion took a little longer.

 

MM

If only matters were that simple...

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