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Thread: The Effect of Church Music

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    Default The Effect of Church Music

    Bit of serendipity here. We get a magazine from our local Baroque group and it mentioned Simon Munday who plays both baroque and modern trumpet with a variety of bands. He came from a Salvationist family and played cornet as a child. He was then taught trumpet by John Durrant who was head of music at the Catholic cathedral in Norwich.

    I then picked up Saturday's Telgraph, and read an article by Bethany Hughes. Her father had come from a deprived background and had been a chorister with William Lloyd Webber (father of Julian and Andrew) as organist and choir master. To quote the article: "Over the weeks Dad noticed William listening intently as he sang; dirt-poor, solitary, my father clearly had some talent. And so Lloyd Webber offered to teach, once a week, young Peter Hughes to read music, to play the piano and to sing. No money, no strings attached. It was an act of pure kindness."

    This, eventually, led to Peter Hughes moving into a completely different sort of life. My wife and I found the article touching and inspiring. Part of the article described Andrew Lloyd Webber's work with the Music in Secondary Schools Trust putting instruments back in the hands of children from deprived schools.

    Then I thought of all the church music of the 18th century and the way that it provided an education and a career path for many. The same thing in the 19th and early 20th centuries with people like Arthur Sullivan and Elgar. The question I have is this, as churches move from "classical" church music to praise songs in an attempt to be relevant, are we going to lose an opportunity to reach out to deprived youngsters, to offer them a chance to get a musical education, to offer them an opportunity for a better life?
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Senior Member Winterreisender's Avatar
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    I admit that most of the churches I have encountered have been "high church" which means the emphasis is still very much on classical music. In addition, these churches often have the funds available to support choral scholars and organ scholars, but these openings are of course scarce.

    I imagine a greater problem for the church is that it has less money now than it used to and, in our increasingly secular society, is generally not as relevant as it once was, which means the church can no longer be a great patron of the arts. This is perhaps a shame as the church has been responsible for some great art over the years. But generally, I think other institutions (e.g. schools, universities, music colleges) are more suitable for providing us with an education.

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    The modern church movement is increasingly rejecting the arts and it is highly troublesome. Our church has just recently gone 100% contemporary in an attempt to be culturally relevant, and it is a huge loss. The other Sunday I as asked to play quietly in the background during communion, and I asked if I could have a hymn book on which to improvise. The director of music said "No. We don't want anything like that being played on this stage anymore—just fiddle around on some I, IV, and V chords."
    Now children are growing up in the church who will be well into their adult years and not know one note of what a hymn is like, let alone an oratorio or a cantata. It is a disturbing new trend that follows all of the other sad trends characteristic of the modern church these days.
    "In my entire career, I sang the way I wanted to six times. The rest of the time I just did the best I could."
    – Beverly Sills

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    Quote Originally Posted by CarterJohnsonPiano View Post
    The modern church movement is increasingly rejecting the arts and it is highly troublesome.
    Never mind the modern church. This one has history. Augustine saw the use of instruments as akin to pagan chants and the degeneracy of the the theatre. He was also worried that it would match Jewish worship. Calvin saw church music as a papist introduction and to be ripped out in a return to a purity of worship.

    It's a pendulum thing. If you get too hung up on the arts, you get the glories of the Sistine chapel. That costs money and people were sent out selling indulgences to pay for it. That's more than a bit dubious. So we had a reformation and a counter-reformation. Within that confusion of differing approaches to Christianity, we had a whole range of approaches to music and the arts. Some were very extreme, totally opposed to pomp and ceremony and others more moderate. Gradually, we came back to a more moderate position, accepting music and colour in the liturgy, if not incense and such like. As Christianity seems to be less "relevant" some people are going back to older positions in an attempt to restore some "golden age" and make things more "relevant" and "meaningful" in the hope that they can better proclaim the Gospel message.

    Trouble is that although other institutions (schools and universities) can take over the work of the church in the arts, they lack the Christian message that invigorates the non-evangelical work of the church in the arts.
    Last edited by Taggart; Oct-20-2013 at 19:58.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    Ah, don't get me started. Mr Tambourine Mass. The banjo mass. The clap-happy mass. Back-slapping, jive-talkin' dancing in the aisles mass. I was on Achill Island about 6 years ago and people were clapping during the mass, then the priest told us to talk to the person next to us, for a while.

    During the mass.

    In the meantime, the bloody sacrifice is being ignored. Insult added to the most unjust injury. The sacred is abused while everyone enjoys a good tune. Don't get me bloody started! I must say, this trivialisation has its roots in a loss of confidence and the church thinking it needs to dumb down to appeal. Fact is, films like The Passion show an insatiable hunger for profound images and depth in spirituality. I actually saw a priest invite dancers to dance around a candle during an Easter service. It's was like a scene from The Wicker Man, but with (barely) more clothes...
    The Brain - is wider than the Sky

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    Well, I personally am really pleased that you did get started, Kieran!

    But seriously, we share your concern. There are signs that the tide may be turning. Today at Mass the Priest, before he began the Eucharistic Prayer, said he'd had complaints from parishioners that people were talking during the most solemn part of the Mass and that it must stop.

    I do think that people are attracted to the difficult, mysterious, challenging things, rather than to the fun things they could make up themselves while balancing on one hand. That sort of dumbing down always makes me think of Groucho Marx's dictum that he wouldn't want to join a club that would accept him as a member.
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-20-2013 at 22:42.
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    Exactly. They're making a big mistake. When you remove the mystery and respect for what's actually happening, there's no need for people to respect it either. But there are hopeful signs that the "customer facing church" is coming to its senses, and rediscovering which direction it should really be facing...
    The Brain - is wider than the Sky

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    If the churches around me would sing classical religious music, as opposed to covers of bad Christian rock songs, I would enjoy myself a whole lot more. The last Baptist church I went to had it's own rock band (called "the Rock of the Lord" I believe)...they were terrible! But it was funny to watch how intense the electric guitar player would get, he'd really go to town.

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    I have not much to complain about here. The cathedral in my city hosts many classical music events, including annual organ festival. There were some choral performances as well. My one complain is that they get into cooperation with some younster who wrote very cheesy pop-pseudo-cantata for them and it was also performed at the cathedral.

    The audience, though, doesn't seem to be there. Except for a man who was sitting next to me once, looked like high on something and kept repeating "this is it...", "oh, yes, this it the thing..." and stuff like that as the music was played, despite having nobody around him to adress these words to. He might have been drunk or in ecstasy. But the music wasn't that good, so the latter is unlikely.

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    To return to the OP-- one benefit of praise music is being able to use the talents of musicians and singers who are most comfortable with pop. And you can teach someone to play basic chords on guitar about as quickly as breaking in a new choir member.
    Last edited by hreichgott; Oct-21-2013 at 03:18.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    Ah, don't get me started. Mr Tambourine Mass. The banjo mass. The clap-happy mass. Back-slapping, jive-talkin' dancing in the aisles mass. I was on Achill Island about 6 years ago and people were clapping during the mass, then the priest told us to talk to the person next to us, for a while.

    During the mass.

    In the meantime, the bloody sacrifice is being ignored. Insult added to the most unjust injury. The sacred is abused while everyone enjoys a good tune. Don't get me bloody started! I must say, this trivialisation has its roots in a loss of confidence and the church thinking it needs to dumb down to appeal. Fact is, films like The Passion show an insatiable hunger for profound images and depth in spirituality. I actually saw a priest invite dancers to dance around a candle during an Easter service. It's was like a scene from The Wicker Man, but with (barely) more clothes...
    Ah the fruits and the spirit of Vatican II are fully at work still I see. Been to any clown masses?
    I think the new generation that is being exposed to the Tridentine Mass is unwilling to put up with such things and so I guess that it will eventually fall out of favor.
    Last edited by Evoken; Oct-21-2013 at 03:25.

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    As much as I like "traditional" church music and all that, I don't mind inviting other instruments or making it more lively. Psalm 150 anyone? Who says music of worship needs to be subdued and restrained? I guess because I listen to contemporary Christian music like TobyMac and stuff like that, so I don't mind seeing lively dance-able worship music.

    Praise God in His sanctuary;
    Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
    Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
    Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
    Praise Him with trumpet sound;
    Praise Him with harp and lyre.
    Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
    Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
    Praise Him with loud cymbals;
    Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
    Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
    Praise the Lord!


    There's a time for solemnity and there's a time for rejoicing. One need not always cloud out the other. I guess I just don't think that everything needs to be "esoteric" and "mysterious"; the aim of the Christian youth groups that I've been in is to connect to people. It doesn't mean "dumbing down", but it also doesn't mean shutting people out.
    Last edited by Tristan; Oct-21-2013 at 04:36.
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    No, everything does not need to be mysterious; but the Catholic Eucharist expressly is 'a mystery', and as you say, there's a time for solemnity, and a time for rejoicing. The central prayer of the Mass is a time for solemnity. In the parable, the wedding guests are required to wear wedding attire.

    I am glad that you enjoy your Christian Youth Groups, however, Tristan. 'In my Father's house, there are many mansions.'
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-21-2013 at 07:50.
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    To go back to the OP, we are lucky to live near a Cathedral city. Anglican Cathedrals do seem still to be patrons of music, and last Easter, Norwich Baroque played the music for the Norwich Cathedral Choir's production of Bach's St John Passion. Next Easter, it's the Matthew Passion. There are village churches, such as Tideswell in Derbyshire, that are venues for prestigious classical music events. But there are also occasions when the music encouraged by the churches is jolly and fashionable rather than well-performed, reverent & excellent of its type.
    Last edited by Ingélou; Oct-21-2013 at 08:00.
    ~ Mollie ~
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hreichgott View Post
    To return to the OP-- one benefit of praise music is being able to use the talents of musicians and singers who are most comfortable with pop. And you can teach someone to play basic chords on guitar about as quickly as breaking in a new choir member.
    Yup. But once you can strum a few chords where does it get you (musically)? The point is that the "old style" choir stuff provided a rounded musical education plus an introduction to some serious liturgy in addition to a good religious education. The last being what it's all about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tristan View Post
    As much as I like "traditional" church music and all that, I don't mind inviting other instruments or making it more lively. Psalm 150 anyone? Who says music of worship needs to be subdued and restrained?
    <snip>
    There's a time for solemnity and there's a time for rejoicing. One need not always cloud out the other. I guess I just don't think that everything needs to be "esoteric" and "mysterious"; the aim of the Christian youth groups that I've been in is to connect to people. It doesn't mean "dumbing down", but it also doesn't mean shutting people out.
    Try a nice high powered Bach cantata for size! I don't object to rejoicing. I can understand the puritan who sang psalms to hornpipes - sanctifying a joyous tune with sacred words. The metrical psalms allow that sort of transposition. Trouble with the psaltery and harp is that they need lots of amplification to fill a big church, whereas an organ does just fine on its own.

    Christian youth groups or fellowship groups or whatever are a way to evangelise young people, just as Sunday school is a way of evangelising young children. They represent only a stage on the journey. If young people are to develop the skills for taking part in more formal or more developed liturgy, then they will need training and musical skills and knowledge. This seems to be missing. We do not want to exclude, but rather to include by introducing people to a wider range of musical and liturgical expression.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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