Statement from Archbishop Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, Metropolitan of New South Wales
I am disturbed by an attack on the musical tradition of St Andrew's Cathedral featured in the Spectator and aired on ABC Radio recently.
No opportunity was given to respond to these remarks before they aired.
There are inaccuracies in the reports about which I will say nothing, but I am compelled to speak to correct the record and to protect the real victims of such an attack, the musicians who do a splendid job, week in and week out, in congregations across Sydney, and not least at our Cathedral, St. Andrew's.
Under a very fine musical director, Mr. Ross Cobb, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and Kings College, London, the range of music at the Cathedral has broadened considerably in the last two years, while retaining the traditional elements many know and love.
Our choir continues as it has done for more than 100 years, backed by our excellent choir school, St. Andrew's Cathedral School.
New musical groups and ministries have been founded including a brass quintet and a girls choir.
Jazz and contemporary music is flourishing and contemporary settings for Anglican hymns have emerged from the Cathedral ministry.
I rejoice in all these developments as they spring from hearts moved by the Gospel, showing forth in hymns and songs to our Saviour
3. austin wrote:
Clergy and music are a deadly combination. In my 30 years of experience with church music, I have encountered only a couple of clergy with any knowledge, taste, or talent in music and dozens with none. Each of them, however, was an expert in his own eyes and sure that his musical choices were also God’s. Eventually, I gave up the whole business as a bad job. With rare exceptions, church musicians end up miserable—experts bullied by ignorant amateurs who are impervious to advice.
January 31, 1:07 pm | [comment link]
4. Choir Stall wrote:
...and, as Jesus said, “Don’t cast your pearls before the swine.”
January 31, 3:06 pm | [comment link]
5. evan miller wrote:
Having read the story #2 provided the link to, I have to say I’m in 100% agreement with Jensen’s critics on this one. Anglicanism’s rich musical tradition is one of its treasures. The modernists among us for whom “new” seems synonymous with “better” and who seem to despise anything that rises above the ruck of the commonplace and elevates the participant and hearer to a higher consciousness of the holy, appear bent on making corporate worship nothing more than lowest common denominator entertainment. Nothing beautiful, nothing majestic, nothing transcendent. Just trendy and “contemporary”. How sad.
January 31, 3:07 pm | [comment link]
6. Anglicanum wrote:
Heavens, if it wasn’t for the music, I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did. That’s not to my credit, of course—but for someone who is a semi-professional chorister, an organ-and-choral CD collector, and a lover of Gibbons and Byrd, the idea of the music in our local RC church was enough to keep me from being received for a good two years. I got over it and made the leap, of course, but lovers of traditional Anglican church music will probably sympathize.
January 31, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
7. justice1 wrote:
As a priest, who agrees with some of what has been said on this page, although very little (I suppose I am one of those experts in my own eyes) I must say I am also very concerned. Why? I will tell you. When a church like ours loses one or two generations of people (40 and under, where the heck are they?), we are going to be hard pressed to elevate the common city dwelling 20 something, who did not grow up in our tradition, to the heavens with a Bach cantata. I am not saying we should become entertainers (although, sadly, many Anglicans want just that - as do some on this very page), but we do need to become more relevant to the surrounding culture, or risk extinction. Indeed, many evangelical churches today are taking vast swaths of Anglican tradition, and incorporating them into contemporary, dressed down, multi-generational churches.
It seems to me, this is what Jenson + is doing at the cathedral - changing - changing in such a way as to allow the music ministry of the church to relevantly engage all generations in the worship of the church.
I find it odd that a church so “cutting edge” in its so-called relevant Christian ethics could be so far behind the rest of the church on what God is actually doing in the current generations with all facets of worship. For goodness sake - do we expect a pipe organ to be playing in heaven, and nothing else? Are the great multitudes around the throne only singing from the traditional hymnary? As a 40 year old who left the church at 6 months old, not to return for almost 30 years, I have grown to appreciate these things - but lets not mistake our past enfleshment of the church in its music, vestments, and cathedrals, for the only way for Anglicans. We have a world to reach after all. And when we finally decide to go into it, lets make sure they have a clue what we are saying.
January 31, 5:22 pm | [comment link]
8. libraryjim wrote:
Pipe organs were at one time highly controversial and quite revolutionary to worship.
My main concern has always been NOT what style of music are they playing, but what are the LYRICS saying to us and are they theologically correct?
January 31, 6:47 pm | [comment link]
9. ReinertJ wrote:
#7, I believe you have hit the nail on the head. St. Andrews is again at the centre of diocesan life, just as the cathedral should be. Buried in the article you will find mention of a female choir, the dean wanted to expand the use of this new choir. I believe he initially hoped the two choirs could work together. The old all male choir got a little, shall we say ‘precious’ about this.
Many of the previous comments I have to say, seem to be simply elitist. With people longing for a golden age which exists only in imagination. Our own cathedral has a very high standard of musicianship, and is no doubt capable of great things, but it stands half empty on Sunday mornings.
Let us remember we go to worship God, not the musical director or the choir.
January 31, 6:55 pm | [comment link]
10. azusa wrote:
The church doesn’t exist to provide employment for classical musicians, much as I love classical music. St Andrew’s Cathedral now has numerous congregations and is reaching out to a wide variety of Sydney folk, including Asians and youth. This success should be recognized.
January 31, 7:28 pm | [comment link]
11. Albany* wrote:
It always needs to be said that most “modern” music which afflicts our Church comes from the late sixties and early seventies. It usually involves some aging hippie, with or without a collar, banging on a guitar that he got back when he thought Bob Dylan was the coolest guy on the planet. The notion that this kind of music “reaches” kids in their twenties is mostly the egos of those who are banging the guitars. The argument that the “unchurched” can’t respond to good taste is one of these silly a priori convictions of those who advance the so-called “new” school. Many of us get refugees from these “with-it” churches on a regular basis looking for the depth of the tradition. Even more so, that tradition holds others in place those who do not deserve to be driven out the door on some hypothesis about the value of “new music.” The guitars are fine for church camp, which is their true home and use to the Church.
January 31, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
12. justice1 wrote:
#11, I agree with much of what you are saying here, although I think the aging hippie banging on a guitar is a bit over-stated (maybe). I also take issue with the notion that modern (I presume you mean contemporary, as “modern” for me begins around The Enlightenment, and then ages into a bad wine) music is afflicting the church, although it may be in one place or another.
My point above is not so much reaching anyone with music. I assume the reaching happened at some other point through the words and deeds of the Gospel, and the 20-30-40 something is now AT a worship service, hopefully participating in worship that communicates the gospel and tradition in what Cramner called “common” language; and I think think our prayers and music ought to be so common.
Also, I suppose I am one of those “refugees” you speak of, for I only came to the Anglican Church after 7 years in the contemporary evangelical juice and cookie world. But the problem is not merely that of with-it churches being devoid of depth and tradition. The problem is larger. We live in a culture impoverished from the traditional standpoint. I suspect families don’t even tell there own family stories any more. My belief is that once Anglicans in the West get past their infighting, we have a great future - but I also think that future needs to be one where the tradition is taught and enacted in ways that are beautiful and meaningful, and at the same time blends the best of “modern” offerings, especially those from within a given community itself.
January 31, 7:55 pm | [comment link]
13. mugsie wrote:
#11 Albany, I’m finding myself in agreement with you. Music is a very important part of the depth of worship for many of us. Combine traditional music with traditional liturgy and I find myself transported to a different place. I feel I’m truly in connection with God. We are not to conform to the culture of the world, and I feel many churches are trying to do that just to bring people in the doors. You can probably safely bet that many of those will not stay if another shift to adjust to the culture occurs. I was raised in a traditional high Anglican parish in Canada. Even as a small child the liturgy and the depth of the music of the organ and the choir really drew me in and kept me there. I know all the liturgy by heart due to having said it so many times growing up. It’s right out of the Bible. We sung the whole service. The depth of worship I always had from that is something I just can’t put into words and is very hard for me to find in our current times. I’m in my 50’s - no spring chicken - and even though I was a teen during the 70’s, I don’t care for that generation’s music in the church. I do play the guitar. I did play it a lot at camp during the summers growing up, and also at casual meetings outside of our regular worship services. I do love some of the Christian folk songs we used to sing and still do them today. However (and this is the biggie for me) I don’t want to see that music in the church’s worship services. For me my worship services are very sacred. They take me into a different place in communion with God which I can’t put into words. That is what sustains me and helps me keep my faith. The connectedness I experience with God during those services and the singing of the liturgy is reaffirming my beliefs every time I do it.
The move away from Biblical truth which TEC has undertaken, and the onslaught of “modern” music, praise bands, etc. is what’s really hurting the church. I just recently read about a study done by the LCMS (Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod) about music in the church. The were actually very surprised to learn in the study that the majority of the young folks who participated didn’t care for “modern” music in the church. Instead they reported that they preferred the more traditional music. That is very telling for me. Here’s the link to check it out:
LCMS Music Study
January 31, 8:18 pm | [comment link]
14. justice1 wrote:
My last comment, then of to supper.
The study sighted by #13 says this:
What it says is that the kind of music that is heard in a church service seems to become the accepted norm for that context. Contrary to expectations, these representative teenagers do not bring to the church service their own musical preferences (e.g., rock and pop music) as the right music for that occasion. Rather, they tend to accept as appropriate for that context the music that the church has already put in place, whatever that music may be.
Please note the last sentence. The study reflects CHURCHED folks, not the unchurched. So one would expect that those who grew up in church would accept as appropriate the music ALREADY IN PLACE. I use caps not as an insult, but because I don’t know how to do bold and whatnot as of yet.
January 31, 8:38 pm | [comment link]
15. Ross wrote:
Having read this thread and the other one on the same topic, I feel compelled to offer the following observations:
1) Every element of the tradition was once upon a time an innovation. And human nature being what it is, I guarantee you that every one of those innovations was anathema to someone or other. The tradition lives by careful trial and acceptance of some new things and rejection of others.
2) In church music, as in most other things, Sturgeon’s Law (named after science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon) applies: “90% of everything is crap.” I find a lot of praise music pretty dire; but so are a fair number of traditional hymns. The advantage with the older corpus is that there’s been more time to weed out the 90%.
3) The fact that some of us find traditional organ and choral music exalting does not mean that everyone does. Nor does it mean that people who don’t are wrong.
4) I agree with Dale Rye: the theology of our music matters, and very few of us examine it.
5) Making assumptions about what kind of music will appeal to, or be “relevant” to, the coveted “young people” is extremely dangerous. If you want to find out what young people want in a church service, the best way is to ask them. You may be surprised.
6) On a related note, if you find that some group of people really and truly does want a hip-hop service, or something, and if you God help you decide to give it to them, then do everyone a favor and go find someone with an authentic voice in that genre to help you put it together. Nobody is convinced by a poser.
January 31, 9:09 pm | [comment link]
16. BCP28 wrote:
I feel the need to say: persons in high profile music positions are in a very, very hard spot.
They are expected to produce a superior musical product weekly. In the meantime, the clergy can be less than supportive. In some cases, musicians practically take over the parish to secure their own position: I know of one prominent parish in which the Diocese was forced to remove the music director because no clergyman would work with him.
On the other hand, there are plenty of horror stories these days. The parish that gave ECUSA its first elected Presiding Bishop fired its choir and director and replaced it with a gospel choir about five years ago. (The rector also tried to sell the windows and communion vessels, but I digress.) That gentleman found a job in a smaller parish. Then there is the case of Trinity Wall Street, which recently lost its choir director under mysterious circumstances. From today’s NY Times, in a review of the Trinity choir performing the Monteverdi vespers:
...In mid-January, Owen Burdick — for 17 years Trinity’s organist and music director and a busy operative in the city’s early-music life — abruptly left the job. At the time Mr. Burdick had been preparing for this concert.
The move was unaccompanied by any convincing explanation either from him or from church officials. A history of the Trinity Choir printed in the concert program lists its recent achievements but nowhere mentions the man who presided over them. It is a mystery…
I have seen this pattern repeated over and over, with choir masters being dismissed and half-hearted explanations given, if that. I could go on, but there is a lot I know that I cannot repeat online.
Bottom line: these people are in extraordinarily delicate positions with questionable job security and relatively low compensation. And I feel for the guy in Sydney.
January 31, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
17. mugsie wrote:
I guess what I’m thinking when I say choir, hymns, etc. is not what you would call some high profile musical performance. I’m talking about a regular member of the congregation playing the organ or piano, whichever is available (or both). I’m talking about having a regular member of the congregation lead in guiding the choir, not some maestro. My own experience which I wrote of above was in a very small parish in a small community of about 2000 people. All we had was an old upright organ as our instrument. One of our congregation played the organ. The hymns were led by the most experienced singers. They were not “dire” as #15 states above. They were beautiful Christian hymns, like “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”, “Onward Christian Soldiers”, etc. Of course we sang the beautiful Christmas carols during the Christmas season which were classic in the Anglican church. I’m not talking about an opera performance here. Just the congregation members themselves doing their part to serve the church by providing music and leading the rest of the congregation in the hymns. We would meet one evening each week for practice. That gave us an opportunity to run through the hymns chosen for the coming Sunday. That way we could lead the congregation if it wasn’t a really popular hymn which was chosen.
I have to honestly say that for me that was beautiful. It was simple. Not fancy. It was true Christian service to our parish and it’s congregation. It was true praise of God when we raised our voices in song. God provided the simple voices and the instrument of the old upright organ. We just did our part and served Him. I can’t think of anything more Christian than that. We sang our whole liturgy. We even sang compline at summer camp using an old piano. For me, it’s not about “pleasing” the congregation, but about worshiping God. It’s not about putting on a concert, but praising the Lord with the gifts He gave us. It wasn’t perfect, but it sure was beautiful. Why was it beautiful? Because true Christian hearts were doing it. That is what’s missing in the churches today. If a person has a truly Christian heart, and the hymns they are singing are not negative “dire” hymns like mentioned above. Even an old decrepit organ can make beautiful music joyfully.
January 31, 10:13 pm | [comment link]
18. RoboDoc wrote:
IMO, communal worship should not be about about me and God, it should be about us and God.
My parish uses a vast array of musical styles in worship, building on the foundation of Anglican hymns with hymns from other traditions (thanks largely to a Wesley-loving former rector), African folk, contemporary Christian music from the last 40 years, and music written by members of the congregation involving instruments including organ, piano, guitars (electric and acoustic), basses (electric and acoustic), African drums, flute, trumpet, bagpipes, and goodness knows what else (one of our percussionists has been trying to fit in a dijeridu, but it hasn’t quite made it yet). Given this wide span, there is always going to be music that isn’t my cup o’ tea, but I also know it will most likely be someone else’s cup of tea.
More over, it can be so much more than mere “toleration:” I have many times experienced playing a song up front or singing one in the congregation that I would NEVER enjoy on my own, and yet the act of all of us in communion pointed in the same direction in the flow of the Spirit has taken US to a place I alone could not get to, in what I know to be a foretaste of the eternal communal worship to come.
This idea of communal worship is something I try to pay a lot of attention to when I am running our sound board. The congregation must never have the sense that they are merely observing the talented people up front worship, they must be confident in the way we all are worshiping together. They must be able to hear the music so they know what to sing, but just as important they must be able to hear each other. I only let the music roar if I know the 300 people in that sanctuary are fairly close to out-roaring it.
I know I appreciate the foundation that the Anglican Hymnity gives us, especially in the way that it provides the expectation that our music will contain meaningful, convicting, and possibly theologically weighty and complex words set to beautiful music. We are not chained to simple choruses out of some fear that we need to address the lowest common denominator (although choruses are nice occasionally, as it seems other people enjoy them so). It is the words of songs picked by Godly leaders through prayer and trembling to match and complement the readings and sermons that feeds my soul. To me, it doesn’t matter if the words echoing through my week are the 600 year old “I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity” or the 5 year old “Blessed be your name, when I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be your name.” Even if I thought pipe organs were for dirges (which I have heard from some) or guitars were for hippies (which I have heard from some in this thread), those words sung communally in the Spirit bind us together in worship and soak into us to inoculate us with the Truths we need to live our lives in the world.
February 1, 3:27 am | [comment link]
19. William S wrote:
By whose standards are Byrd or Tallis better than Matt Redman or Graham Kendrick?
The old Latin tag ‘de gustibus non est disputandum’ applies here - ‘there’s no arguing about taste’. Which is what this is all about.
I am one of those musically-challenged clergy. I’m not an expert on music and don’t pretend to be. But I am convinced that the church is not a society for the preservation of ancient music.
Some people love their Herbert Howells and others go mad for orlando Gibbons - great. But don’t tell me that that is ‘real’ church music and Graham Kendrick isn’t. You like one and you don’t like the other. That’s called personal taste . . . and it has no theological significance whatsoever!
You may guess I’ve had this debate with some of the choir. GRRRR!
February 1, 6:27 am | [comment link]
20. ReinertJ wrote:
Further to William S’s comments, let’s not forget Tallis and Byrd were writing for the Roman Catholic Mass, not for Church of England communion services. Also, if I may risk offending all the organists out there, what’s with the discordant racket you guys play after the last hymn. It sounds like it is deliberately intended to spoil any attempt by anyone to stay in the church and pray quietly after the service.
February 1, 9:55 am | [comment link]
21. Golgotha wrote:
William S. asks, “By whose standards are Byrd or Tallis better than Matt Redman or Graham Kendrick?”, and virtually in the same breath says, “I’m not an expert on music and don’t pretend to be.”. Does anyone else have a problem with this? If William S. were to need his appendix removed, would he attempt to do it himself or go to the hospital? If he wanted to build a house, would he attempt to design it himself or listen to the advice of a learned architect?
February 1, 2:10 pm | [comment link]
The idea that this is all about personal taste is incorrect. Let’s face it, there is such a thing as music which is more intrinsically valuable than other music. Some music is just “better”, regardless of personal taste. Who would be the most qualified individual to make that call? How about the choirmaster, whose education, experience and expertise clearly positions him to do so in a similar vein as the surgeon or architect. Unless clergy are willing to listen to their choirmasters lecture on liturgics and homiletics, why should we think clergy are any more qualified to lecture their choirmasters on music?
This is NOT to say, as some have suggested, that all new music is automatically bad, and that all classical music is automatically good. Musical history is littered with lots of trash, and there is a lot of good music being composed today. What is important is that we offer in worship the best we can possibly attain, and only the best music will do.
22. austin wrote:
The arguments of Father William (whatever muscular strength they give to his jaw) undermine thought, culture, and civilization, let alone theology.
First, as an aside, the old tag “de gustibus” may just as easily be interpreted “taste is so obvious that there is no point arguing about it;” just as nobody sane eats excrement, nobody sane will appreciate the meretricious.
Secondly, any musician could give you a week’s worth of lectures on why Byrd is better than Kendrick, but to gain from them one would have to be prepared to listen. It’s rather like explaining to a child why spinach is better than a Devil Dog—if he already “likes” the Dog and “hates” the spinach, how can he be argued with? And, to push the analogy to theology, if I like the idea that Jesus was a man aspiring to be like God (since it makes me feel spiritually warm) why should I accept the “expert” opinion of the hypostatic union from a dogmatic priest?
To hold the opinion that any form of highly developed human intellectual activity (from music to mathematics) cannot be judged on its intrinsic merits is a form of romantic primitivism that ends in antinomianism and, ultimately, barbarism.
Most of the clergy I have suffered under prefer the “GRRR” form of dialogue with their choirs and musicians rather than the effort of actually learning anything. Oddly enough, they didn’t welcome our opinions on their preaching, even if we happened to be educated in theology, literature, or communications.
Which is are among the reasons I frequent a said low mass these days, preferably without homily.
February 1, 2:16 pm | [comment link]
23. Ross wrote:
To offer a partially-opposing point of view—it sometimes happens that the kind of music that appeals to musical experts, by virtue of their intimate knowledge of musical forms and history, is opaque to musical ignorami like myself, who are operating more on the level of, “Well, I don’t know Art, but I know what I like.”
Now, you might well respond that in that case we should be educated out of our pitiable ignorance; and in principle I would agree. But there’s only so much time in a week, and a church service is not really intended to be a lecture in Music Appreciation 101. It’s a problem without a ready solution.
Last summer, I went to a week-long liturgical workshop, which was a great experience. But virtually everyone running the thing was a fairly accomplished musician of one kind or another, and so every service we had—and we had a lot of them—was filled with new and, for me, extremely difficult music. The musically-inclined and practiced people loved it to pieces; for me, trying to cope with all that music became a dreadful chore. It was easily the most negative aspect of the week for me.
My point is: musicians know music, yes. But y’all don’t always know, or stop to consider, what music is like to a non-musician.
February 1, 3:19 pm | [comment link]
24. Golgotha wrote:
#23, Ross: I couldn’t agree more! Virtuous worship involves sacrifice by all involved. Part of sacrifice is submission. Just as it was clearly unfair for you to be put in a position where the sacrifice demanded was beyond your means, it would also be unfair for me, as a musically-inclined chior member to have my sacrifice refused. Here enters the concept of submission. Yes, I might like to sing Howells and Bairstow 24/7 but I must recognize that the majority of the congregation is not equipped to do the same. I therefore submit to offering my best only when it is appropriate, usually at the offertory and/or during communion. Likewise, the majority of the congregation will be perfectly capable of offering its own sacrifice through the hymns, and sometimes simple mass or canticle settings, but should submit to the recognition that those who are musically inclined should be permitted to offer something more aligned with their abilities. I would feel equally frustrated to attend a liturgical workshop where I was prevented from making my sacrifice due to an equally poor selection of music including only hymns and other less-challenging material. The concept of submission in worship gives us both what we want, and we both enjoy offering it as well!
February 1, 3:46 pm | [comment link]
25. William S wrote:
Sorry, the neanderthal is back. The man who won’t listen to the people who know. But only to make two points.
1. The analogy between church music and sermons doesn’t work. When I preach a sermon I preach to be understood and heard, not to show how cultured, erudite and downright clever I am. If I want to lecture on the technicalities of New Testament exegesis I do it in a lecture room, not from the pulpit. Lectures are lectures and sermons are sermons. Likewise concerts are concerts and worship is worship.
2. Why should anyone attending a service of worship have to jump through a hoop of musical appreciation before they can participate in worship? Anglicanism struggled with this issue at the Reformation in terms of language. Was Latin the ‘best’ language to worship in? It was the language of the western Fathers, of liturgy and theology for a thousand yers, the bearer of all the high culture of their day. And yet, the English reformers insisted that people didn’t need to be educated in another language before they could worship. No more do they need to be educated in a wholly alien (to them) musical idiom before they can participate in church worship. If you tell me that Stainer is ‘better’ than Kendrick I’ll have to believe you because I dodn’t know. But the ‘betterness’ consists entirely of technical features which are (sorry to pain you) irrelevant to the question of suitability in worship - as irrelevant as the footnotes in my article on the book of Acts are to my sermon on Acts 2.
February 1, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
26. libraryjim wrote:
As I keep harping on, whether Byrd or Tallis or Graham Kendrick or Michael Card or Twila Paris, it all comes down to the theology of the lyrics. If the theology is not right, then the work is not acceptable for corporate worship.
February 1, 5:24 pm | [comment link]
Jim E. <><
27. Golgotha wrote:
#26 libraryjim: What you say is absolutely true, but should be expanded. As I posted previously—forgetting the lyrics for a moment—there IS such a thing as intrinsically good music, and there IS such a thing as intrinsically bad music. That is to say, there is certainly music out there which is not fit for worship based on its profoundly poor composition ALONE. One may assume from your post, “it all comes down to the theology of the lyrics”, that the lyrics are all that matters while compositionally, anything goes. I argue that BOTH the music and the lyrics must be of the highest quality to be used in virtuous worship.
February 1, 5:45 pm | [comment link]
28. BCP28 wrote:
My temptation is to ignore you. However, the attitudes you demonstrate in these posts could do considerable emotional, spiritual, and financial damage to a lot of people, so let me try.
First let me remind you that if you are a member of the clergy, you have an obligation to be curious and listen to people who are experts in their field. Otherwise, why should I listen to you?
Second, I dismiss the notion that a sermon and lecture are two entirely different things. My classroom lectures, at times, take on the characteristics of a sermon. Likewise, a good sermon, more often than not, ought to have a good bit of exegesis laid inside of it.
Third, I dispute completely that somehow technical skill does not affect expression. Quite the contrary. I know little of Kendrick beyond his website. What I can tell you is that there is a subtlety in the music Byrd and Bach that one will not find in most popular styles. A child can understand that; somehow we lose that ability as adults.
Ultimately I look to Augustine on this matter: we should not attend church for a concert, but we should recognize when music can elevate the soul. That goes for all styles.
Having said that, what right do you have as a clergyman to assume ignorance on the part of your flock (“music appreciation class”) and their inability to appreciate beautiful music? Those who have ears to hear will listen. And while the church is not a preservation society, why do you make that assumption in the first place? Do I detect a degree of hostility towards classical music?
Please, before you go on a rampage about the use of classical music in the church and inflict your self-proclaimed lack of ability on the rest of us (which I have a feeling is exagerated), consider your parishoners.
February 1, 5:59 pm | [comment link]
29. BCP28 wrote:
I’m sorry, but are you arguing for the elimination of all non-Anglican music from the liturgy? Yes, Byrd and Tallis remained RC. The last time I checked, most praise band artists were not exactly Anglican.
I will not dignify the rest of your comments.
As a musician, we do often challenge our audiences. I have not problem with that-we all need to grow in a variety of ways. In places where we have gone too far, please forgive us.
February 1, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
30. libraryjim wrote:
Three things stand out in recent posts:
a) non-Anglican composers. Sometimes wonderful Christian songs will be written for a specific denomination or setting. For example, the music of John Michael Talbot or Michael Joncas while extremely beautiful, can carry with it a theology explicitly Roman Catholic, and here I’m thinking of transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist, or heavily Marian in scope. The same with say, Keith Green’s music, which is heavily fundamentalist in “me and Jesus” theology (great for church camp, but not so much in a cathedral setting).
b)Proper placement. While all hymns and Christian songs are great inspiration, there is a proper place in a liturgical service for certain songs and themes. A prayer song such as “Open the eyes of my heart” is great for communion, but one parish I attended ALWAYS used it in place of the Gloria. It is not a praise anthem, and did not (does not) fit there.
c) composition and style (this answers Golgotha’s reply to me). Again, much of Keith Green’s music is great for church camp, but only a few of his pieces really fit in with a Eucharistic service. To ‘force fit’ them into a service for which they were not meant does a disservice both to the song and to the congregation.
Also, recently at St. Peter’s, the choir at offertory presented a piece called “the Ashgrove Gloria” (words of the Gloria, music based on “The Ashgrove”). While pretty in its composition and harmony, all I could think of was the original Welsh piece upon which it was based, a sad lament(1) being enamoured as I am of Celtic music. As with many songs, this is a wonderful tune, but separate it from the original words as an instrumental piece or with the addition of other words, and well, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For me, this didn’t.
(However, some very elementary pieces can have a wonderful twist in the hands of a skilled arranger. I remember an episode of Sesame Street where Itzak Perlman took “twinkle little star” and transformed it into an orchestral masterpiece on violin. Absolutely fantastic.)
Another (negative) example of this was a choir workshop I attended where the leader introduced “new” words to the music of “I will raise him up/I am the Bread of Life” (by Sr. Suzanne Toolin).
Why? I asked.
“Because people don’t realize they are singing the words of Jesus from the Gospel, and are uncomfortable with the words”.
Did they get the permission of Sr. Toolin before re-writing it?
“They didn’t need to. All they needed was permission of the copyright company”.
I refused to sing it.
Jim E. <><
(1)The Ash Grove
The ash grove how graceful, how plainly ‘tis speaking
The wind through it playing has language for me.
Whenever the light through its branches is breaking,
A host of kind faces is gazing on me.
The friends from my childhood again are before me
Each step brings a memory as freely I roam.
With soft whispers laden the leaves rustle o’er me
The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.
Down yonder green meadow where streamlets meander
When twilight is fading I pensively roam
Or in the bright noon tide in solitude wander
Amid the dark spaces of that lonely ash grove.
‘Twas there while the black bird was cheerfully singing
I first met my dear one the joy of my heart
Around us for gladness the blue bells were springing
The ash grove, the ash grove that sheltered my home
My lips smile no more, my heart loses its lightness;
February 1, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
No dream of the future my spirit can cheer.
I only can brood on the past and its brightness
The dear ones I long for again gather here.
From ev’ry dark nook they press forward to meet me;
I lift up my eyes to the broad leafy dome,
And others are there, looking downward to greet me
The ash grove, the ash grove, again is my home.