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Patience is a Virtue


Vox Humana
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A colleague of mine had to play for the funeral of a local musician the other day. The deceased had asked for Fauré's Pavane to be played after the service. My colleague was rather bemused to receive an email from the church asking whether this was "the same piece as Toccata from Symphony No.5 on Windsor".

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I am aware of the fact that one would not necessarily expect everyone working in the Church of England (for example) to have a working knowledge of organ repertoire - but this seems to be a particularly 'thoughtless' response....

 

Incidentally, which instrument's console is featured in your avatar, Vox?

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I thought so. Had the deceased asked for a CD of Sinatra singing "My way", would the church have enquired whether this is the same piece as the Beatles' "Yellow submarine"?

 

It may (or may not) be relevant that this church, having 10 years ago spent a very large sum of money on a substantial rebuild of their decently sized three-manual Speechly, now hardly use the instrument, preferring alternative means of sound production involving loudspeakers and things you can bang. The church deliberately projects this type of culture and presumably attracts people to whom it appeals. Not that this is any excuse, even if it is a reason.

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I thought so. Had the deceased asked for a CD of Sinatra singing "My way", would the church have enquired whether this is the same piece as the Beatles' "Yellow submarine"?

 

It may (or may not) be relevant that this church, having 10 years ago spent a very large sum of money on a substantial rebuild of their decently sized three-manual Speechly, now hardly use the instrument, preferring alternative means of sound production involving loudspeakers and things you can bang. The church deliberately projects this type of culture and presumably attracts people to whom it appeals. Not that this is any excuse, even if it is a reason.

 

There is a church just down the road from me, which does something similar. I have it on good authority that when, a few years ago, they wished to extend their premises, each member of the congregation was informed that they were 'expected' to contribute a thousand pounds. I am not sure what happened to those who declined, but the extension was built in a comparatively short period (for a cost of around £750,000) - so the money certainly flowed in from somewhere.

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The church deliberately projects this type of culture and presumably attracts people to whom it appeals. Not that this is any excuse, even if it is a reason.

 

This (to me at any rate) is an 'easy way out to achieve an easy way in' - in other words a sort of short term cop out to get people on seats and make them feel good. We do a great disservice (musically and intellectually whether it be in schools, church or generally) if we assume that the only way to engage is necessarily via that which is most easy on the brain. It is surely the responsibility of those in charge (musically or otherwise) to deal with the music (as with anything else) in such a way as to engage the enthusiasm and intellect of those at whom it is aimed. The trouble is that at times some in the driving seat do not see this and conseqently are decidedly condescending in both attitude and practice. The results are musically and intellectually low key and the effect such that in the first instance (rather in the manner of some 'power' drinks on sale) an initial 'rush' kicks in - and everything in the world is fantastic! The trouble is that this sort of approach is great fun and possibly hugely confidence building for some at least but it does nothing (as far as I can see at any rate) more than it says 'on the can' and ultimately the effects wear off leaving nothing much at all! The proof - in the right context - obscure 16th Century Italian polyphonic Christmas repertoire can move and interest a group of non church going 13 year olds as much as if not more than the sort of music that they are used to playing for the simple reason that it is not what they are used to so they can therefore come to it with no preconceptions and simply take it for what it is muscially, intellectually and if needs be from a religious angle. This needs hard work from both sides but in the end the results speak for themselves.

 

 

Rant over - Happy Christmas all!

 

A

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Rant away, Alastair - I am in complete agreement with you.

 

I think that it was Michaelangelo who said something to the effect of: 'The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.'

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Yes, an excellent rant, AJJ, and I agree with you entirely!

 

That said, I suspect the church in question may legitimately fall outside your strictures. It has a "reputation" for this style of worship, but my only first hand experience of it occured when I walked in after the end of an evening service. The "sortie" was still blaring out of the loudspeakers - some piece of uncompromising heavy metal (or whatever - I don't do "pop"). While it represented everything I loathe, it does seem that, if this is their normal style, at least they are doing it properly and not pulling their punches. I don't have a problem with that at all. Surely there is as much room for different styles of worship as there is for different religions? The important thing is, surely, that the adopted style is pursued with integrity, whether it be gospel, heavy metal, cathedral music or anything else. At least you then know what to expect and can avoid it if it is not to your taste. What I detest is (a) the lack of choice for those who like art music and (b ) the prevailing Anglican predilection for trying to be all things to all people at once and, for the most part, failing to satisfy anybody fully. Integrity is precisely what these services lack.

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