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Michelin Stars For Vicars?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I don't know how many of you are familiar with 'Ship of Fools'

http://shipoffools.com/

- a Christian website with, amongst other things, the most interesting Mystery Worshipper element. In this, someone from an approved team reports under prescribed headings what they actually find when they attend a particular service simply on the level of 'pew fodder'. These include

'What were the actual first words of the service?'

according to reports, sometimes these are as banal as 'well, I suppose we'd better make a start now....!'

Also on the report form are such possible openers as:

'What part of the service reminded you of heaven?'

'What part was like being in the other place?'

 

On the Ship of Fools site there is a long list of reports (UK and further afield) going back some years which include fascinating detail and one or two hilarious accounts. Several point to real strengths and, at worst, they identify without apparent bias where a church might do well to reconsider how they come across to strangers. There is also a 'right to reply' element and comments are often attached from other worshippers, or the church's own people.

 

Chatting today with another long-suffering organist, retelling the tale of recent developments at St.James, Grimbsy (for instance) we wondered whether there oughtn't to be somewhere on the web for church musicians to record their experiences, stopping short (of course) of saying anything actually actionable. Nobody who moderates or provides such a site is going to want to be sued.

 

Your vicar who is awarded the equivalent of four stars (for instance) might be someone who is good with people, sympathetic to music, who knows how to preach and knows when to stop! Not too many of these around, unfortunately. Your clergy without any stars, might be most politely understood as One of God's Chosen whose gifts have yet to be recognised.

 

If nothing else - apart from guilty amusement at seeing what some of our colleagues have to put up with - this might teach some of us just how well-off we actually are, in relative terms, of course.

 

I realise that very soon after this possible site got going, there would have to be a rival site run by clerics where 'weird church musician' stories could be aired.

Most of you will have come across this favourite in-joke with clergy:

'What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?'

Answer: ' You can negotiate with a terrorist!'

 

A quote I often reflect on is one of Roy Massey's

'I love the Lord, but I can't stand his friends!'

 

Ah yes...........

 

 

 

P.

http://pic6.piczo.com/PAULDERRETT/?g=18845917&cr=6

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I don't know how many of you are familiar with 'Ship of Fools'

http://shipoffools.com/

- a Christian website with, amongst other things, the most interesting Mystery Worshipper element. 

 

Coram's paraphrase:  Star system for vicars, blah blah, etc.

 

But what good does it do? What's the point? What are we hoping to achieve by it?

 

Mystery shoppers in pubs and supermarkets are old hat. They usually go around in pairs, measuring establishments against a set of tangible benchmarks and whether or not the waged, trained and contracted staff are fulfilling the expectations of the company employing them. As someone who has in previous incarnations worked in pubs and shops, I can tell you exactly how much staff training time is usually given to spotting these people; lots and lots. Remember the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors"?

 

Ship of Fools is a quite different matter altogether. A lone individual going into a public establishment mostly run and staffed by dedicated volunteers and then dishing out public criticism (under a pseudonym) because that establishment failed to live up to a set of highly personal and mostly invisible benchmarks is, in my view, just tittle-tattle and not worth the web space it occupies.

 

And yes, Romsey did come in for some criticism (I sense Paul has read our review) - which I personally felt was very largely unjustified. There didn't seem to be much to criticise about the actual service. My personal opinion is that anyone not capable of identifying the church rooms (the large hall-like structure 15 feet from the door into which 300 or so people flocked immediately after the service) as being the place where coffee is served ought probably to invest in a new brain. Likewise, anyone who has ever been to a branch of Dixons will probably heave a sigh of relief that the lone visitor who absorbs themselves in reading wall tablets and looking at stone vaulting will actually be left alone to enjoy the peace and quiet of the building, on the reasonable assumption that if they have a question they will probably be able to reliably identify the two smiling people by the door holding guidebooks and wearing red cassocks as not being tourists from Nebraska.

 

Luckily my job consists of turning up, making a noise and going home again, and not making comments on this site, but I do know this; without the volunteers who staff the place for nothing, 9 to 5 seven days a week, clean everything, put out chairs and staging, organise coffee, childrens' groups, men's societies, women's societies, social events, bake cakes, bring offspring to choir practices, and all the rest of it, the place would probably fall apart - or, at least, stop being a vibrant Christian institution and turn into a museum or pit of self-indulgence. The process of motivating the hundreds of volunteers all sizeable churches depend on is not helped in any way by demotivating and publicly humiliating both the people in charge and those who give their time for nothing. And if it's not helping - why do it?

 

My idea of a four-star vicar would be someone who actually achieves something in the community in which they live and work; who does some good, and gets other people to do some good too, on a regular basis, and because they want to, not just out of duty. I couldn't care less how long they preach for or what their personal viewpoint on music is, as long as they actually get bums on seats and, equally quickly, bums off seats again in order to go and do or help with something that is actually going to achieve something productive and worthwhile - from having a cup of tea with an elderly person to organising a regular soup kitchen for the homeless.

 

If you don't like something, do something CONSTRUCTIVE about it! Write a quiet, calm, reasoned and short letter to someone relevant, and offer to help! But to start putting anonymous muck on the internet for people to gloat over, like a really juicy car accident, is just completely un-Christian and quite unjustifiable - in my view, anyway.

 

All that said - the Christchurch Priory review tickled me pink - a men-only evensong, but we learn the director "appeared to be a woman!" SHOCKING! Apparently the organ playing wasn't worthy of particular comment, even though it was none other than Geoffrey Morgan, one of the best liturgical accompanists you'll ever hear.

 

I should probably add in conclusion that these are my own personal opinions and not representative of Romsey Abbey in any way...

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All that said - the Christchurch Priory review tickled me pink - a men-only evensong, but we learn the director "appeared to be a woman!"  SHOCKING!  Apparently the organ playing wasn't worthy of particular comment, even though it was none other than Geoffrey Morgan, one of the best liturgical accompanists you'll ever hear.

Now does this mean that if GM was playing his illustrious assistant was conducting...? :D

 

But as far as the report goes, you have to wonder about anyone who can get a fit of the vapours because an acolyte gets a bit befuddled. Heavens, haven't they more important things to worry about?

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Nobody who moderates or provides such a site is going to want to be sued.

 

Your vicar who is awarded the equivalent of four stars (for instance) might be......

 

 

http://pic6.piczo.com/PAULDERRETT/?g=18845917&cr=6

 

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

 

Michelin stars for the clergy?

 

Hiding the evidence so as not to get sued?

 

What a splendid idea!

 

Now where's that expensive bottle of Chianti when you need it?

 

:D

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick

A star system for clergy could be based on some attributes:

 

% attendance of PCC, sub committee and other administrative meetings

% of people healed

% of congregants who yawn during sermons

no. of rows with the organist (incl. no of times the minister changes the hymns/music at short notice)

Style and presentation marks for altar party choreography

Increase or decrease of church roll/collections (pay performance related)

Minus marks for indiscretions with church members or inanimate objects

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I have to admit to being a tad amused by Ship o Fools, and there are times I think they (whoever "they" be) hit the nail on the head.

 

I do recall however that on occasions there will occasionally be a church review of say an Anglo-Catholic Evensong and Benediction written by a correspondent with avowed Pentecostalist leanings. That does strike me as rather pointless.

 

I suspect was I to go and review Hillsong it would lead to a relatively unsympathetic article, which would do none of us any good.

 

As far as Michelin stars for the clergy, maybe we should instead consider providing phrase books, so that clergy, parish council and music staff can adequately comprehend what each party is on about. I suspect that we of the organ fraternity sound more incomprehensible than most.

 

I should also say I've had fantastic relationships with every member of the clergy with whom I've worked. I suspect I've just been lucky.

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I suspect that we of the organ fraternity sound more incomprehensible than most.

Too true. It reminds me of an episode when I was young and used to run a choir of schoolfriends. After rehearsing in a church we had never been to before, I was discussing the organ with the one singer who was also an organist when I noticed everyone else falling around laughing. Apparently what had caused the mirth was me saying, "When your Tromba's in the swell box there's nothing you can do about it". To this day I don't understand what was so funny....

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Too true. It reminds me of an episode when I was young and used to run a choir of schoolfriends. After rehearsing in a church we had never been to before, I was discussing the organ with the one singer who was also an organist when I noticed everyone else falling around laughing. Apparently what had caused the mirth was me saying, "When your Tromba's in the swell box there's nothing you can do about it". To this day I don't understand what was so funny....

 

I've got to protect names but a conductor I know of was conducting a choir in a rehearsal of the (I think) Mozart Requiem - at one point he turned in exasperation and said "no, no, I really need you to hit me with the "C" of "Cum". Certain singers have never been the same since. Personally I'm all for a dramatic consonant but really.

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Sheep are OK then?

 

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

 

Don't forget Alpaca and Llamas, as discussed previously.

 

Actually, I think there's another species which could be included, for I seem to recall the previous but one Archbishop of Canterbury (Runcie) being extremely amused, when he asked boy what book he won at the school speech-day. The boy gave him the book, and Dr Runcie heaved with laughter as he read the title, "The sex life of primates"

 

MM

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Most of you will have come across this favourite in-joke with clergy:

'What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?'

Answer: ' You can negotiate with a terrorist!'

 

A quote I often reflect on is one of Roy Massey's

'I love the Lord, but I can't stand his friends!'

 

Ah yes...........

P.

http://pic6.piczo.com/PAULDERRETT/?g=18845917&cr=6

Of course that in-joke has been developed now...

'What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?'

Answer: ' With a terrorist it's nothing personal!' :ph34r:

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Guest Barry Williams
Of course that in-joke has been developed now...

'What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?'

Answer: ' With a terrorist it's nothing personal!' :P

 

 

The 'black listing' of clergy already happens. There any many Organists' Associations that pass information around informally when a cleric has behaved badly to an organist. Whilst anyone can make a mistake, there are a few vicars that have got through organists at a great rate of knots. The first question anyone should aks when applying for a post as organist is "What happened to the previous organist?" It is good to speak to the person who has left, if that is possible.

 

Equally, an organist can be very happy in the job, only to find a new vicar comes in and wrecks the show. It seems to happen a lot these days, when clergy are determined to make liturgical/musical changes as soon as they arrive.

 

Ther eis no shortage of organists, only a shortage of organists willing to play for services - and that is not surprising.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Barry Williams
Of course that in-joke has been developed now...

'What is the difference between an organist and a terrorist?'

Answer: ' With a terrorist it's nothing personal!' :P

 

 

The 'black listing' of clergy already happens. There any many Organists' Associations that pass information around informally when a cleric has behaved badly to an organist. Whilst anyone can make a mistake, there are a few vicars that have got through organists at a great rate of knots. The first question anyone should aks when applying for a post as organist is "What happened to the previous organist?" It is good to speak to the person who has left, if that is possible.

 

Equally, an organist can be very happy in the job, only to find a new vicar comes in and wrecks the show. It seems to happen a lot these days, when clergy are determined to make liturgical/musical changes as soon as they arrive.

 

There is no shortage of organists, only a shortage of organists willing to play for services - and that is not surprising.

 

Barry Williams

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Equally, an organist can be very happy in the job, only to find a new vicar comes in and wrecks the show.  It seems to happen a lot these days, when clergy are determined to make liturgical/musical changes as soon as they arrive.

Sad, but true. I suspect my experience is not altogether untypical of what will have happened in many churches over the last half century.

 

The first church I had in Bristol - getting on for 30 years ago now - was an ordinary high Anglican parish church with very supportive vicar and a fine choir of boys and men who sang a fully choral service on all feast days (and they observed as many of those as they could). On about my second Sunday there I buttonholed the vicar before Evensong and asked if he'd mind whether we sang an introit. He looked at me with almost haughty disbelief (and a faint twinkle in his eye) and said, "I appointed you to look after the music. You do what you want and just tell me what you're doing".

 

Unfortunately within about a month he had retired. His eventual replacement was a younger man with altogether different ideas. Almost the first thing he did was to ban choral services. Fortunately there were objections from the congregation and he reluctantly allowed us to retain one choral Evensong a month. And of course he inflicted on us some of the more debased offerings from 100 Hymns for Today. He was fairly dictatorial in other ways too. And unfortunately the strong links with the local schools were lost (I should have taken more initiative myself, of course, but I was young and pretty clueless in that regard).

 

An excessive diet of debased hymn tunes eventually prompted me to hand in my notice. We advertised the job, a chap applied for it and I agreed to interview him and give the vicar my opinion. He was a likeable chap and his choral experience was OK-ish, but his playing was nowhere near the standard the choir (and church) deserved. So I advised the vicar to keep advertising. A week or so later the vicar told me that he and his wife had met the chap, his wife had liked him and thought him suitable, so he had apointed him.

 

About six months later I met the vicar and he confided to me, "I wish I'd listened to what you said about XXX. He's a complete disaster."

 

Did I feel smug? Partly, yes, but the greater part of me was angry about the decay in the church's music. Happily the said organist eventually left (or was eased out?) and the vicar appointed a then up-and-coming young lad who could play exceptionally well and worked wonders with the choir, getting them well back up to standard.

 

When in due course he went elsewhere the vicar begged me to come back temporarily while they found a replacement. I agreed on the rather naughty condition (which I now think it wasn't really my place to make) that I didn't have to play any of that sentimental rubbish from 100 Hymns - to which the vicar relectantly agreed. I think he was mellowing a bit with age! I was head-hunted by a more attractive church before they found a replacement, but from what I can remember I don't think they ever found anyone suitable.

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A week or so later the vicar told me that he and his wife had met the chap, his wife had liked him and thought him suitable, so he had apointed him.

 

Hum, sounds familiar. What is it with vicar’s wives picking organists/music/hymns? They (the wives) are members of the congregation like everyone else. I sometimes wonder who wears the trousers. Surely the vicar does what his parish (through the PCC) wants? :blink::(:unsure:

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It wasn't the first church I'd come across where the most important person in the parish was the vicar's wife! But it was certainly the vicar who picked the hymns - and even the tunes on occasion (memorably once stopping a procession in mid aisle to order me - with a very bad grace - to play a different tune because he didn't like the one we were singing!)

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It wasn't the first church I'd come across where the most important person in the parish was the vicar's wife! But it was certainly the vicar who picked the hymns - and even the tunes on occasion (memorably once stopping a procession in mid aisle to order me - with a very bad grace - to play a different tune because he didn't like the one we were singing!)

 

At the church where I sing, the vicar’s wife has taken to choosing the last hymn for the morning service. They’re either those horrible speech rhythm hymns that never seem to work in the formal setting of a church with organ or an old tune with poor words that repeat time and time again.

 

:unsure:

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At the church where I sing, the vicar’s wife has taken to choosing the last hymn for the morning service.  They’re either those horrible speech rhythm hymns that never seem to work in the formal setting of a church with organ or an old tune with poor words that repeat time and time again.

 

:blink:

Talking of which --- horrendous Songs of Praise last night!!! :unsure:

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God, yes - I was doing the ironing and needed something to occupy me. Personally, I don't have a problem with worship songs, the quality of which is generally improving and there have been some good ones written over the past 10 years - although that final song was dreadful, it had nothing to do with God or religion and was musically banal, lacking either melody or harmony.

 

The thing that I really didn't agree with was the interview of the writer of the final song, who was trying to say that inspiration was far more important than skill writing songs so don't waste too much time spending time developing your skills. I find that inspiration frequently develops from spending time developing my somewhat limited skills and when I do have inspiration, then the time I've spend developing my skills helps develop inspiration. Similarly, you do sometimes have to turn up on Sunday morning and just do a job without any inspiration - and that's when you need skills to get you through. Sitting around complacently waiting for inspiration to strike is no way to live a musical life!

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Talking of which --- horrendous Songs of Praise last night!!!  :unsure:

 

I didn’t watch it. As soon as I saw the program synopsis I decided to watch something else instead. Hurray for the Simpson’s. :blink:

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The thing that I really didn't agree with was the interview of the writer of the final song, who was trying to say that inspiration was far more important than skill writing songs so don't waste too much time spending time developing your skills.
But isn't that just typical of so much modern Protestantism? It doesn't matter what crap you offer to God as long as it's sincere. What God deserves doesn't enter into it; the warm, fluffy feel-good factor is all that matters.

 

I find that inspiration frequently develops from spending time developing my somewhat limited skills and when I do have inspiration, then the time I've spend developing my skills helps develop inspiration. Similarly, you do sometimes have to turn up on Sunday morning and just do a job without any inspiration - and that's when you need skills to get you through. Sitting around complacently waiting for inspiration to strike is no way to live a musical life!

Spot on. Bach and Hadyn, to name but two, wouldn't have managed to write half of what they did if they'd sat around waiting for inspiration. Good, solid technique is what got them through.

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But isn't that just typical of so much modern Protestantism? It doesn't matter what crap you offer to God as long as it's sincere. What God deserves doesn't enter into it; the warm, fluffy feel-good factor is all that matters.

 

Spot on.  Bach and Hadyn, to name but two, wouldn't have managed to write half of what they did if they'd sat around waiting for inspiration. Good, solid technique is what got them through.

 

 

Indeed - I heartily endorse these comments, Vox (and Colin).

 

I am pleased to say that I cannot remember the last time I watched Songs of Praise; and, no - my memory is not that bad.

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