Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Okay here's the thing, about the Music...

LET ME haven't heard our choir, or the mighty Casavant in action...we take our music very seriously, and have begun to make a reputation for very high-end, not necessarily high-church, liturgical music and hymn-singing.
Dear rach, not the "Gaithers" -- that at least would have some ENERGY to it -- but the "Gather" book...contemporary Roman Catholic hymnody...the sad, ironic and frustrating thing is that this music, although apparently less "demanding," is much less suited to vigorous congregational singing than the 18th and 19th century foursquare stuff.
It isn't just a matter of "we can sing only music the Rector likes" can't be, and mustn't be, because the Sunday service is NOT the same as "me programming my Ipod for my own delectation" even if I had one which I don't.
Our BAND leader IS a really fine guitarist, and when he plays a guitar solo it is exquisitely moving, musically sensitive, all the good stuff. And he has quite skilful backup musicians. But they don't accompany congregational singing worth a darn, even when the tunes are undemanding and the words simple to the point of inanity... I love the people in our BAND. Truly I do. Their music doesn't do it for me, but it does for them, and I try to be very aware and tender of that, and of them.
What makes me sad (Reason to Be Sad #187) is not that they don't levitate to--say-- Anglican chant on the Psalms, or "Wachet Auf" or the Widor "Toccata," or the Bedard "Variations on Sine Nomine," but that they don't down deep believe anyone else really does either.
We've had excellent organists in all my time of these young men was playing a wonderful, intricate, exhilarating postlude one Sunday, as I stood listening in the doorway, with a parishioner. As the postlude finished, I said to my parishioner, "Isn't it glorious, and I get to listen to him PRACTISE too" -- my office is adjacent to the Chancel. And the parishioner's response? "Yeah, and I'll bet when he practises he plays stuff he REALLY likes..."

HOWEVER, be that as it may...all is now peace, and I think all our musicians will have appropriate and ample opportunity to glorify God according to the light that is in them, on the Feast of Pentecost.


Patrick C said...

Perhaps what you need is some way to get the choir, organ, grand piano, band, and congregation all playing/singing at the same time! That would make the Primate sit up and take notice, I would think! :)

Crimson Rambler said...

Well, undoubtedly it would. Heck, it would make ME sit up and take notice. Maybe in heaven. But the vectors of Mutual Musical Disdain are so many and so complex...I don't see it happening in this millennium.

Iris said...


Diane M. Roth said...

yeah. I do like some of the "new" stuff (I hate the word contemporary though, what does that mean?), but i love hymns too, and I hate that people who like the more emotional stuff think the hymn-lovers are spiritually "dead", and the hymn-lovers think the emotional ones are brain-dead.

I have been so inspired by people singing all kinds of music, from low to high music

spookyrach said...

Well, dang. The mental picture of your church being subjected to the Wrath of the Gaithers kept me entertained for the better part of yesterday. ha ha!

Glad you got it all worked out. Hope you survive!

mibi52/ The Rev. Dr. Mary Brennan Thorpe said...

Oy vey. You and I are sisters separated at birth. I am doing Field Ed in a parish in which "Gather" is one of the primary sources of service music. No guitar, just a poorly tuned piano and a couple of so-so flautists. We meet in a junior high school, so no organ. It is a trial to my soul. Thet even make stuff that comes from :Hymns Ancient and Modern" sound like they come from "Gather."

The lesson of all this, as I look forward to another year of Field Ed in this place whose people and vicar I love, is that the music does matter to me, and I'm not going to work after ordination in a church that doesn't have a music program that reflects the hundreds of years of incredible musical tradition that we have to draw on.

I'm sure God is snickering and I'll end up someplace that does U2charist and HipHope Mass...

Kate Morningstar said...

I was raised with classical music, and I love it, and play it at home. That being said, I hate the organ. When I wind up in a service with a lot of organ music, I leave with a migraine well over half the time.

I love many of the classical hymns, and I don't like what happened when the words were changed in Common Praise. If you want new hymns to reflect a new understanding of God -- write them. Don't expect that anyone's going to stop singing, "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel," at this point.

In the back of the BCP, there's a note from Thomas Cramner, saying liturgy should be conducted "in a language understanded of the people". He meant, not Latin. But the reality is, our language idiom has changed in the last 400 years. Our musical idiom has changed in the last 400 years. And most of all, our understanding of God has changed in the last 400 years. We often sing traditional hymns that do not in any way reflect the theology of our services.

Music is the source of so much discord in our parishes, precisely because it carries its meaning on an emotional level. There will never be a discussion of it that doesn't contain fire and passion. What we need is to be able to say on such matters, "This is what works for me to reach God," without implying or straight-up saying, "And you're wrong."

CR -- I'm so sorry about the laptop. I don't know anyone who backs up their files the way we're all supposed to.

Crimson Rambler said...

Hi Kate...somewhere last week, when I could nimbly surf the Intertubes from my dear little laptop (snif!) I ran on a note from the Wesleys, expressly forbidding anyone to alter the words of the hymns they wrote!
And I do appreciate Cranmer's strictures on a language understanded of the people. But...(the Anglican but)...if people never heard language that they didn't understand, they would have no language at all, and -- recovering English teacher rears her hoary head, here, sorry -- that is what I see happening all around us. It's worse than illiteracy, it's "sub-linguality" (I made that up).
In another 5 seconds I'll be in full "woe to Troy" mode, so I'll stop here.
Hope your Dad is comfortable...and you also!