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Sermon Occupations For Organists

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Long experience has brought me to the view that, the day a clergyman sits down and gives my voluntaries his full attention, I will do the same for his sermons.

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

Well, isn't that typical?

 

A poor organist spends sermon-time doing the Lord's work  picking hymns, and a clergyman suggests that he should be better-prepared.

 

At least he wasn't picking out winners at Haydock Park like one old catholic organist I knew!

 

:(

 

MM

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Apologies for the blank post - I must have clicked in the wrong place! What I was going to say is that I would (and do) complain about clergy who come to worship unprepared.

 

Regarding the last post about listening to voluntaries - I would love to - but in practice the congregation are moving about and leaving far too quickly for that to be really practical (we all know the problem) - and the closing prayer is in the form of a dismassal. Maybe you should suggest playing a voluntary as "an offering to the Lord" during the service. The Minister does have responsibilities to his or her flock beyond the end of the service - and that's often when issues are raised by people, so we need to be available.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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In Germany Catholic masses (I don't know about Protestant ones) still end with a dismissal, yet the congregations still regard the voluntary as part of the service. I simply do not accept that "Ite missa est", or "Go in peace", or whatever form of dismissal is used, necessarily means, "Right, you lot, get out! Now!" The only reason British congregations gabble over the voluntaries is because the clergy have never taught them otherwise - and they're the bosses, so organists stand no chance of changing the attitude on their own. But I know you can't really blame the clergy: it's all part of the low esteem in which "kultcher" in general is held in Britain.

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In Germany Catholic masses (I don't know about Protestant ones) still end with a dismissal, yet the congregations still regard the voluntary as part of the service. I simply do not accept that "Ite missa est", or "Go in peace", or whatever form of dismissal is used, necessarily means, "Right, you lot, get out! Now!" The only reason British congregations gabble over the voluntaries is because the clergy have never taught them otherwise - and they're the bosses, so organists stand no chance of changing the attitude on their own. But I know you can't really blame the clergy: it's all part of the low esteem in which "kultcher" in general is held in Britain.

 

Just because people sit down again doesn't mean that they actually listen. Mostly, they talk, and make their disapproval of anything over 2 minutes very vocal.

 

I'd rather they were honest and just scarpered, to be honest.

 

Don't think it's really fair to compare the sermon with the voluntary. They do seem to have different purposes to me - after all, they come to church to have their souls saved, not to listen to the music. On the other hand I don't allow anyone to make speeches when we have concerts, whether choral concerts, organ recitals or whatever, either. Then it's my show.

 

Cheers

B

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Is it just me that uses sermon time to pick the hymns to play during communion, 'cos I'm too disorganised to do it beforehand?

If we're in Common Worship mode, the Peace is just the right opportunity to hand round slips of paper with the numbers on.

 

It's all very well for clergy to say we should be better prepared. I have a full-time job. On top of that the boss and her new assistant (who insists on talking while I'm still finishing) often have themes for services but don't feel it necessary to let me in on the secret. Also the size of our congregation is very variable so the amount of music required during the communion is necessarily decided at the time.

 

I have dim memories of playing various Beaumont hymns on an ancient organ in a small Norfolk village each day for a week at the daily assembly of a church-run holiday club. Even at the age of 15 I hated all of them. Although I refused to play Hatherthorp Castle for my previous boss, I was still unable to escape 'Camberwell'! - vying for the crown of 'worst hymn tune ever' with Living Lord. (IMHO, of course)

 

How about 'If I was a wriggly worm' for the most ludicrous and inappropriate (Our boss's assistant wanted it as an Offertory hymn recently)

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I have dim memories of playing various Beaumont hymns on an ancient organ in a small Norfolk village each day for a week at the daily assembly of a church-run holiday club. Even at the age of 15 I hated all of them. Although I refused to play Hatherthorp Castle for my previous boss, I was still unable to escape 'Camberwell'! - vying for the crown of 'worst hymn tune ever' with Living Lord. (IMHO, of course)

 

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

 

 

I have a strange and wide-ranging musical interest, which covers things as diverse as show-music, film-music, brass-band music, pop-music, musical arrangements, choral music, classical music and so on.

 

Although an organist, I would count among my listening pleasures performers such as Barbara Streisand, Lionel Ritchie, Barry Manilow, Elton John, George Michael, Dolly Parton, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and a host of others, to which I have recently added "The Scissors Sisters."

 

I'm not quite sure why I should like so much which may be considered "pop" music, and frankly, I don't really care what anyone thinks.

 

"Pop" music is often written by extremely gifted and professional composers, who make their bread & butter from it, but do more serious things besides. "Pop" music often has an immediacy of effect and incoporates great wit and imagination.

 

On that basis, you'd think that I would be perfectly happy to play "alternative" worship-music, but nothing could be further from the truth. I absolutely HATE the sort of pseudo-pop they bash out in church these days: even more than I hate the words they choose.

 

When I listen to "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles, I listen to a song about lonely people.

 

When I listen to a song such as "Sandra" by Barry Manilow, I listen to a song about clinical depression and the mundane urban life.

 

For anyone who studies psychology, "Supertramp" should be compulsory listening. As an insight into people living with schizophrenia, I know of nothing else which comes any deeper.

 

I would hate to be seen as unfair, and maybe there are things which I could usefully learn, but the overwhelming impressions I get from so much "worship-music" often include the sheer shallowness of it, the vain repetitiveness of it and the utterly arid theological content of it.

 

In a world of sham religion, it's nice to read "The prayers of life" by Michael Quoist, and I can't help but think that the churches would be full if only we had more clergy like "The Vicar of Dibley."

 

MM

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It's all very well for clergy to say we should be better prepared. I have a full-time job. On top of that the boss and her new assistant (who insists on talking while I'm still finishing) often have themes for services but don't feel it necessary to let me in on the secret. Also the size of our congregation is very variable so the amount of music required during the communion is necessarily decided at the time.

 

I have dim memories of playing various Beaumont hymns on an ancient organ in a small Norfolk village each day for a week at the daily assembly of a church-run holiday club. Even at the age of 15 I hated all of them. Although I refused to play Hatherthorp Castle for my previous boss, I was still unable to escape 'Camberwell'! - vying for the crown of 'worst hymn tune ever' with Living Lord. (IMHO, of course)

 

How about 'If I was a wriggly worm' for the most ludicrous and inappropriate (Our boss's assistant wanted it as an Offertory hymn recently)

 

Hi

 

I'm glad that very few of the tunes form Beaumont and the ilk have survived the test of time (I still have the original books somewhere on my shelves). I agree about Camberwell - it cuts the words up in stupid places, let alone anything else. I quite like "living Lord" - played in a light jazzy style on piano it works (for me at least).

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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"Pop" music is often written by extremely gifted and professional composers
Back in the '60s someone in showbiz told that David Willcocks had written a pop song under the pseudonym David Valentine. Anyone know anything about this?

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Good grief! Are you sure?

 

I have no idea whether or not there is any substance to this rumour, but I would be interested to hear the result.

 

I wonder if it had a descant....

 

:)

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

 

 

Look here chaps, I'm the one who knows about pop music!

 

Sir David' second name is Valentine, and when the first two names are printed in full, the Valentine looks like a surname.

 

However, just to add a degree of confusion, there is a ROCK composer/performer with the name David Velentine in America.

 

The two gentlemen, so far as I know, have no professional connection, but I feel sure that Sir David would listen with interest to the music of the rock-musician, and then utter a very cultured, "Splendid."

 

<_<

 

MM

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On that basis, you'd think that I would be perfectly happy to play "alternative" worship-music, but nothing could be further from the truth. I absolutely HATE the sort of pseudo-pop they bash out in church these days: even more than I hate the words they choose.

The big problem I have with most "worship music" is that it's in a style that means nothing to me.

 

I listen to a lot of pop, rock and electronic music - in the space of half an hour, my iTunes library might typically pick out some Welsh rap by MC Saizmundo, a movement from a Vaughan Williams symphony, some electronica by Ulrich Schnauss, and a choice bit of Vierne. My tastes are fairly catholic (even though I'm CofE <_< ).

 

But the vast majority of worship music seems to be derived from the weedy end of 1960s "folk", back in the days when the word meant "any fool with a guitar" rather than "traditional"... and that's one style of music I really can't abide. (Frankly I'd rather listen to Stockhausen...)

 

Personal preference aside, whenever I ask why we sing so much of the dratted stuff, the reason quoted is always that "it speaks to the younger people". Does it really? The pop charts aren't exactly full of that musical style, and when I walk down the road and hear music blaring out of modded 206s or Saxos, it's certainly not jangly happy-happy acoustic guitar.

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The big problem I have with most "worship music" is that it's in a style that means nothing to me.

 

Personal preference aside, whenever I ask why we sing so much of the dratted stuff, the reason quoted is always that "it speaks to the younger people". Does it really? The pop charts aren't exactly full of that musical style, and when I walk down the road and hear music blaring out of modded 206s or Saxos, it's certainly not jangly happy-happy acoustic guitar.

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

 

Exactly!

 

I have always maintained that the so-called "worship music" is little more than musical pap for those who missed-out as teenagers, but still wear the clothes.

 

"Pop" music is so mercurial, it changes every couple of years, thanks to cynical marketing people who only ever consider a return on investment. The chances of "appealing to young people" are virtually nil, when the young are targetted by a highly professional, multi-million pound industry with some fairly serious kit at their disposal.

 

Point me towards the churches which try to imitate "Organ Bass", and I'll show you a musical disaster area.

 

MM

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Personal preference aside, whenever I ask why we sing so much of the dratted stuff, the reason quoted is always that "it speaks to the younger people". Does it really? The pop charts aren't exactly full of that musical style, and when I walk down the road and hear music blaring out of modded 206s or Saxos, it's certainly not jangly happy-happy acoustic guitar.
You're not the first person to make that observation, Richard. Not by any means. The oft-quoted reason is really nothing more than code for "it's what I enjoy, so that's what I want and that's what you're going to get". Well, maybe we're all guilty of that to a greater or lesser extent.

 

What gets my goat is that most of it is just plainly incompetent. To anyone properly trained in harmony and counterpoint who appreciates that there are good reasons why the rules have evolved in the way they have it's quite obvious that many of the concocters of worship songs don't have a clue about what they are doing. So much of it is obviously produced by a crude intuition that reasons along the lines of "This chord seems to sound nice under this note; it'll do. Now what chord shall I try for the next note?" Dominant sevenths that rise is just one perennial solecism. (They can be made to work, but only in a harmonic style that supports them.)

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Guest Lee Blick
What gets my goat is that most of it is just plainly incompetent

 

Hmm, I don't think that statement can only be levelled at modern worship music, the same could be said for traditional music, you know, the organists who play hymns so drearily, where choral music badly prepared or is presented as a musical performance rather than as worship, the musically naive music of the Thomas Moore, responsorial psalm ilk can be a hinderince to worship rather than to illuminate it.

 

Much like the church institutions themselves not enough is being to done to bring traditional church music to be appreciated by the wider public, save for the Charlotte Church and The Choirboys of this world.

 

It is easy to pontificacte from our ivory organ lofts but when you have a situation of church music reflecting the Christian church going into deep depression as it has done so for many decades now, maybe it is time to rethink and adapt to the changing world and engage with society rather than be so apart from it.

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Hmm, I don't think that statement can only be levelled at modern worship music, the same could be said for traditional music, you know, the organists who play hymns so drearily, where choral music badly prepared or is presented as a musical performance rather than as worship, the musically naive music of the Thomas Moore, responsorial psalm ilk can be a hinderince to worship rather than to illuminate it.

Indeed, indeed. But performance is another thing altogether. What I was criticising was the lack of compositional technique. Where performance is concerned I am more inclined to be charitable and assume that everyone - however limited their ability - does the best they can. The worthiness of such offerings is a difficult and very delicate question - and one I'd rather not get into here (if at all).

 

It is easy to pontificacte from our ivory organ lofts but when you have a situation of church music reflecting the Christian church going into deep depression as it has done so for many decades now, maybe it is time to rethink and adapt to the changing world and engage with society rather than be so apart from it.
I think this is a fair comment. As a musician I deplore the [lack of] quality in what passes for music in the modern parish church. It is precisely why I choose not to hold a church position. I cannot in all conscience offer to God what I know to be absolute rubbish. However, I do not have the right to tell churches that what they are doing is wrong. It is not for me to pass judgement on how best to spread the Gospel and engage new church members. I do have strong views, yes - and every now and then I express them vociferously - but I know my place.

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Hmm, I don't think that statement can only be levelled at modern worship music, the same could be said for traditional music, you know, the organists who play hymns so drearily, where choral music badly prepared or is presented as a musical performance rather than as worship, the musically naive music of the Thomas Moore, responsorial psalm ilk can be a hinderince to worship rather than to illuminate it.

 

Much like the church institutions themselves not enough is being to done to bring traditional church music to be appreciated by the wider public, save for the Charlotte Church and The Choirboys of this world.

 

It is easy to pontificacte from our ivory organ lofts but when you have a situation of church music reflecting the Christian church going into deep depression as it has done so for many decades now, maybe it is time to rethink and adapt to the changing world and engage with society rather than be so apart from it.

 

In some ways I think that you have missed the point, here. As at least two other contributors have mentioned, much modern 'worship music' is arguably as divorced from the reality of day-to-day living - and present-day culture as cathedral-style worship.

 

I would agree entirely that it is often the preferred style of worship of those who either missed-out as teenagers or who are trying to re-live their teenage years in later life. I speak from observation over many years, here - and in several different churches.

 

I also speak from the experience as one who as a student attended a charismatic and very large 'house-church' (at which Graham Kendrick was worship leader). I regularly played either drum-kit or a miked-up grand piano.

 

I have to say that, after a couple of years, I became utterly fed-up with the same type of music which, may I add, in this case was done extremely well - we were almost all music students, or classically-trained musicians. Even this was simply not enough to cover the fact that much of the music which we were called upon to play was simply not very good quality. I was also concerned that, in some cases, it seemed to be that many people were pandering to their 'feel-good' emotions, when it came to either selecting the music, or expressing their musical desires.

 

Yes, there are of course many organists who play badly and in a un-inspired way. There are also choirs who should porbably be drowned en-masse.

 

Lee, it is apparent to me that you have some sympathy with a modern and an eclectic style of worship - which is, of course, your prerogative. However, I would ask you to bear in mind that some of us here do also have experience over a number of years with many types of worship. If I (or others here), with the benefit of hindsight - and that carefully-gathered experience - choose cathedral-style worship in preference, I would naturally expect the same understanding from you.

 

Personally, I would not care if I never heard another note of Graham Kendrick again. Take, for example, his song The Servant King; whilst the words may be acceptable, the tune is not particularly good. The harmonisation - as realised by Kendrick - is execrable; the re-working as presented in HoN is no better, either. I speak here, not only as one who actually played GK's music regularly in his presence, but also as one who teaches harmony, counterpoint and composition to diploma level.

 

Lee - I do not criticise you right to like any style of church music which you should choose. However, I think that it is important also to consider the type of worship which is traditional to a particular church. I have seen at least two or three cases where 'modern worship-music' has been introduced into a particular church - with devastating results. In fact, the consequenses in each case were neither glorifying to God - or edifying to the congregation.

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Guest Lee Blick

Yes there are music worship groups churning out Kendrick clone stuff, but there are also groups who are producing rap, dance, and other modern styles. You only have to witness the 5,000 people in Manchester on Good Friday who were hearing music played by current bands to realise there is a way to communicate to young people.

 

You are way behind the times by going on about Graham Kendrick, there is much more going on today than the stereotypes you portray.

 

However, I would ask you to bear in mind that some of us here do also have experience over a number of years with many types of worship. If I (or others here), with the benefit of hindsight - and that carefully-gathered experience - choose cathedral-style worship in preference, I would naturally expect the same understanding from you.

 

I would ask you not to patronise me. Having years of 'carefully-gathered experience' is of little use if you do not know what is happening TODAY. This only illustrates my point of a lack of engagement between the church and traditional church music and the rest of society.

 

I have a solid grounding of traditional church music, I have been playing the organ and conducting choirs for many years, but I also have knowledge and experience in using current music trends and styles to communicate the Christian message to people who would otherwise not be drawn to Christianity. We are no longer in an age where people will come to church, the church has to engage and go to the people.

 

What I am saying is that instead of traditional church music and traditional church musicians fighting it's corner with it's ever decreasing pot of resources, to reach out and find out what is happening musically especially with young people, and if not embrace it, use those musicianship skills to create pathways to allow musical interaction between the church and society.

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What I am saying is that instead of traditional church music and traditional church musicians fighting it's corner with it's ever decreasing pot of resources,  to reach out and find out what is happening musically especially with young people, and if not embrace it, use those musicianship skills to create pathways to allow musical interaction between the church and society.

 

It seems to me that musicians active in the church are the only ones from whom this is routinely demanded - and it is very much routine.

 

I can't wait for "Simon Rattle raps with the BPO". Or Robbie Williams sings Monteverdi.....

 

No-one can do it all, and probably no-one wants to. And rightly so.

 

Barry

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Yes there are music worship groups churning out Kendrick clone stuff, but there are also groups who are producing rap, dance, and other modern styles.  You only have to witness the 5,000 people in Manchester on Good Friday who were hearing music played by current bands to realise there is a way to communicate to young people.

 

You are way behind the times by going on about Graham Kendrick, there is much more going on today than the stereotypes you portray.

I would ask you not to patronise me. Having years of 'carefully-gathered experience' is of little use if you do not know what is happening TODAY.   This only illustrates my point of a lack of engagement between the church and traditional church music and the rest of society.

 

Lee, for the record, I think it is you who is patronising me!

 

It would be extremely difficult for me to be unaware of the musical and cultural changes in the world to-day, since I work all day and every day with children and young people.

 

However, you give me the impression that the only musical way to reach young people to-day is by rap, garage, grunge, etc. Incidentally, the music of Graham Kendrick I used by way of illustration. Ironically, I can think of several local churches in which his music is sung regularly - most of them reasonably well-supported with young people. Are they all 'behind the times' too? Or is this a type of cultural divide?

 

I do not doubt that there are people (not necessarily just teenagers) who prefer a particular style of music. In such cases, I believe that St. Paul would exhort us to '...be all things to all men, that by all means some might be saved'.

 

Notwithstanding, you write as if cathedral music (or if you prefer 'traditional styles of worship') are on the edge of extinction. My experience is somewhat different - particularly in this part of the country. There are a good number of choirs singing cathedral-style music to the delight and edification of many of those who attend worship in these places. You write as if only the young need to be reached by the Gospel. There are many out there who need the good news of Salvation who are not remotely touched by rap - or any other style of popular music.

 

There is also a place for the type of music we have in my own church, too. Certainly, I have seen on many occasions our own choristers (perfectly ordinary children) moved by the music which they were singing. Personally, I think that God is big enough to cope with both of us, Lee.

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You only have to witness the 5,000 people in Manchester on Good Friday who were hearing music played by current bands to realise there is a way to communicate to young people.

 

What I am saying is that instead of traditional church music and traditional church musicians fighting it's corner with it's ever decreasing pot of resources,  to reach out and find out what is happening musically especially with young people, and if not embrace it, use those musicianship skills to create pathways to allow musical interaction between the church and society.

 

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

 

 

Mmmmm!

 

I go to Manchester quite a lot, and all you have to do to get a crowd of 5,000 is to set up a stage and some big loudspeakers. (Add a beer tent, and you get 10,000!)

 

Considering the population of Manchester, and the existence of a large black community who relish their "gospel" music, I think 5,000 is a miserably small number considering that the weather was half-reasonable.

 

I'd like to bet that a "Take That" comeback concert, with Robbie Williams, could fill the whole of Heaton Park and the buses would spill onto the M62!

 

God knows, the Gay Fest can draw 30,000!

 

Let's not kid ourselves to reality. The churches generally, have been trotting out the same flawed theology for nigh on 500 years, and unless they embrace true modernity and scientific knowledge, no amount of drum-bashing and basic rock-school guitar-strumming will revive the fortunes of religion.

 

How big is the musical divide?

 

I'm not sure I know the answer, but I do recall two young kids sat on the steps of St.George's Hall, Liverpool when I emerged after playing the organ. The two boys had crept in to find out what all the noise was about, and had then gone back out again.

 

As I walked past them, the eldest of the two said, " 'ere mister, was you playin' that big organ?"

 

"I was," I replied, "did you like it?"

 

"It didn't half make a racket," he grinned.

 

"Well, it's got a lot of pipes," I replied.

 

The youngest squinted at me, and asked, "How many pipes 'as it got mister?"

 

"About 9,000 I think," I answered as best I could.

 

The eldest nudged the younger one and said, " 'ere our kid, just imagine fillin' all them wi' wacky-backy." B)

 

It's just yuf culta, innit? B)

 

MM

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An enjoyable post, MM.

 

You have managed to lighten the moment and introduce a sense of perspective!

 

However, it is now 02h09 and I am due in at school at 07h45, so I suppose that I had best get some sleep.

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This has been an interesting debate on musical worship styles. Personally, I am not particularly fond of Graham Kendrick-style stuff, and don't think we should be tinkering with the words of Charles Wesley etc., but there's me - a stuffy traditionalist. That probably reflects the congregation in which I have grown up. Our congregation do not have a wealth of musicians, and so our worship is based around the organ and (mainly traditional) hymns, although the new hymnary has introduced more modern material, which we have been exploring over the past few weeks (whether it sounds best on the organ I'm not sure). Other congregations, however, do have musicians in their midst who would like to be part of the musical worship of their church. If that involves a different style, even if I don't particularly like it, I would not wish to criticise someone else's sincerely made musical offering (I suppose that would include those composing as well). Instead I would embrace it. I'm sure God doesn't care too much about the (perceived) musical integrity of such compositions and performances. In short, the musical worship of a congregation should reflect and make best use of the resources available therein, embracing those who wish to contribute. I see no point in trying to target a specific group, eg the "youth", which simply does not work - it is seen as patronising by them, and risks alienating others.

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