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Source: (consider it) Thread: Eccles: Keeping church music contemporary
Below the Lansker
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
As usually practised I'd agree. The problem is usually that churches with a traditional hymn sandwich format do not have the resources to use modern worship songs the way they are intended. You need a music group to play the songs, because they won't work on the organ. At the very least a piano or electric keyboard with an organist able to play it as well as they play organ.

On the other hand, I have had the experience of members of my own rural Baptist church going to a service at a more zingy town church nearby coming back and saying "I quite liked the songs - they were modern and new, but I wish they'd played them on the piano - I couldn't hear myself singing over the noise of the drums and guitars." The problem may not be the song (though I think there are musical and lyrical problems with some modern worship music), but how it is presented. And whether it's a generational thing or not, for some people certain musical styles or instruments are considered worldly and not to be used in worship. That applies not only to the usual suspects (electric guitars and drums), but also to the organ. The chapel I attend was re-built in 1895, and packed with pews from the back of the gallery right up to the communion rail, leaving no space for musical instruments.
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Gamaliel
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Singability is the key if we're going to go for congregational singing.

Mind you, the prospect of singing at all is off-putting to a lot of people.

So, what do we do? Not have any in case it puts people off?

In Anglican settings I've known of non-churchgoers say that it's the 'peace' that puts them off ie. they'd come along if they weren't expected to shake hands with total strangers and greet them in some way ...

I'm not so sure whether these things are as much of a turn-off as people say. I think they'd find something else off-putting. If it wasn't 'the peace' it'd be something else.

It's got more to do with people being wary of something being 'put over' on them - and that applies right across the board.

Who are these people? Do they want my money? Do they expect me to get involved and help them maintain their building, recruit other people, keep their show on the road ... ?

Are they going to brainwash me?

There are 101 barriers and rising as to why people think they shouldn't engage with church in any formal kind of way. If it isn't 'boring' then it's 'scary' with people raising their hands and smiling like they're on drugs ...

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Mama Thomas
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In TEC, it has been my experience that many congregations use yellowed, dog eared ancient paper backs from the 70s and for some reason consider them to be "contemporary." And these congos seem viscerally to hate anything remotely Gregorian. One person noticed a hymn tune had a Latin name, when I showed her the date proving it wasn't Gregorian, she said "OK then." They are often the people who were actually taught NOT to give anything up for Lent and the utter foolishness of fasting or being uncomfortable in any way, but I digress.

I have often found that though it is great to have hymns match the Lessons or the season, like what would Easter 2 be without O sons and daughters?" That sometimes the hymns themselves can be teaching.

Try getting the congo to learn some powerful J.M. Neale translations, or spend a month of Sundays on German or Dutch hymns. Many will be new and refreshing to the whole congregation.

Majesty, De Colores, and Shine, Jesus Shine need to be euthanized.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Mama Thomas:
In TEC, it has been my experience that many congregations use yellowed, dog eared ancient paper backs from the 70s

You do mean the 1870s, don't you?
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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Basically, it takes someone in the church familiar with modern worships who understands how to use them in worship. Rather than treating them as "new hymns"

Yes, this is a really good point. Some newer songs - I've got Stuart Townend's in mind - are written as 'new hymns', but a lot, especially the 'Vineyard-y' or 'New Wine-y' ones, are intended to be used in groups, creating what one might call a 'liturgical event' when put together with prayer, thought and skill.

So, yeah, moving wholesale from the 'hymn sandwich' model to the 'worship set' model will always take a lot of work, and will most likely upset plenty of people in the church! I wasn't really thinking about such a major upheaval in my thread starter; I more had in mind the situation where a church is trying to introduce a few new hymns / songs while keeping the overall format broadly the same.

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
I more had in mind the situation where a church is trying to introduce a few new hymns / songs while keeping the overall format broadly the same.

This is fairly straightforward, if it's just a question of introducing an unknown hymn - or a hymn-like 'new' song. The organist/pianist will simply play the tune through once, and then the congregation will be expected to join in.

The Iona women I mentioned above said it was much better for a new song to be introduced by a singer than by a musical instrument. However, IME Methodist preachers and ministers are often reluctant to teach a new song unaccompanied. Vicars are perhaps better at this since they're in the habit of leading their liturgies by chanting.

Black Pentecostal pastors seem to be at ease with leading congregations in song. Their musicians tend to play by ear, and they pick out the right key and tune while the singing is going on. Sometimes it's a member of the congregation who introduces a song spontaneously, and everyone else will just join in as and when they pick up the beat, the melody and the words. These days I suppose longer songs are introduced on a screen, but it doesn't seem to cause any anxiety AFAIK.

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John Holding

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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
And BTW, what's happened to the trend of writing new, relevant words to old, familiar hymn tunes? Has it died out?

Some of the most versatile and congregation-friendly hymns tunes could find a new lease of life if given fresher and perhaps more honest words that take account of what Christians feel and believe today. And as I said above, some of these melodies work quite well in popular contemporary arrangements.

Just my opinion, but most of the new words to old tunes that I've encountered really suck.

Partly its because the tunes people choose to give new words to (again, in my experience) are really good tunes that have really good old words that are basically praise, while the new words often carry heavy loads of preaching to the singers and moaning about social issues.

And partly because we've discarded the 95%-98% of really aweful old words by the Wesleys and others and are left with the cream (once we cut our half to two-thirds of the verses). I don't think it's unkind to say that the vast majority of modern words to old tunes are really, really bad as poetry -- compared with the tiny proportion of traditional poetry that is used to the old tunes.

I don't in fact disapprove of new words to old tunes -- some (not all) of the new words to old tunes in the first Jubilate Hymnnal (for example) are quite refreshing, if not earthshattering. It's just that so many of them are so dire.

John

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SvitlanaV2
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'Moaning about social issues' - yes, there tends to be a lot of that! But it doesn't have to be that way, does it?

Maybe we need to switch things around a bit and get liberal Christian songwriters to write worship music, and evangelical ones to write new words for old tunes?

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John Holding

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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
'Moaning about social issues' - yes, there tends to be a lot of that! But it doesn't have to be that way, does it?


It doesn't have to be, of course. And there are some sets of new words to old tunes that do work, whatever they're about. I'd classify Will You Come And FOllow Me in this group, even though the tune was anything but old or traditional in this part of the world, and even though it could well be viewed as moaning about social issues.

It doesn't have to be -- but far too often it is. And unless you know a couple of good poets who are also good at theology....

It's not about having "liberal" authors, or "conservative" authors or anything else. Because some of the good new words to new music come out of conservative stables. It's about having good authors. And, I'm sorry, Fred Pratt Green and his friends just don't cut it for me.

John

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
The Iona women I mentioned above said it was much better for a new song to be introduced by a singer than by a musical instrument. However, IME Methodist preachers and ministers are often reluctant to teach a new song unaccompanied. Vicars are perhaps better at this since they're in the habit of leading their liturgies by chanting.

This is one area in which I do thoroughly agree with the approach of most contemporary charismatic-style churches. IMO there's absolutely no reason why ministers / vicars should be the ones to lead or teach songs.

I realise that the minister / vicar might well retain decision-making powers regarding how the music and singing is done, but why should they be the person to actually lead it? If they're musically gifted and sensitive to the Spirit, then fine, but otherwise try to identify and then train a few people in the congregation who show signs of having those gifts / skills.

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Jengie jon

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South Coast Kevin

Get hold of The Singing Thing Too which deals with how to teach congregations songs. It is written by John Bell who has been doing precisely that for over thirty years.

The Iona Community has developed techniques to teach people songs for worship in a short time and to lead them.

Jengie

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Gamaliel
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In Orthodox and some RC churches, of course, the singing isn't led by the priest but by a cantor or choir. Mind you, the level of congregational singing does vary and in most Orthodox services I've attended the congregation tend only to join in with the Lord's Prayer, the Creed and the preparation/responses before communion.

RC congregations do sing but they sing rather feebly in my experience and not with the kind of gusto you might find in charismatic, 'free church' and some Anglican settings.

There are exceptions to that general rule, though, and my brother-in-law was blown away by congregational RC singing on a visit to Poland.

Howbeit, Jengie Jon has raised an interesting point here.

There can be a tendency to regard there as being only three broad alternatives:

- A formal or more ritualised liturgical style.
- A non-conformist hymn-sandwich style.
- A 'worship set' medley of choruses led by a worship leader style.

Why only these?

I don't know much about John Bell's approach but from what little I have gathered it seems to offer a model that contains elements of the above but which doesn't completely fall into these categories in a 'rigid' way.

I agree with SCK that with skill and discernment a 'worship set' of choruses can indeed add up to something ... but by and large it tends to descend into the stringing of a few songs together to form a theme or to fulfil the standardised charismatic expectation of a 'lively one followed by a slower and more meditative one, followed by a whoozy-whoozy one, followed by a lively one to finish off on a high with.'

I'm sure there are some clever and spot-on things that could be done with a mix of liturgy, well-organised congregational singing (a la John Bell perhaps) and responses that takes us away from the tyranny of charismatic evangelical convention style.

But it would take a fair bit of nouse and effort to pull off.

The question then would be, would it be worthwhile? Are the three main 'styles' I've identified 'bust' and need fixing?

Answers on a postcard please ...

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SvitlanaV2
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
IMO there's absolutely no reason why ministers / vicars should be the ones to lead or teach songs.

I realise that the minister / vicar might well retain decision-making powers regarding how the music and singing is done, but why should they be the person to actually lead it? If they're musically gifted and sensitive to the Spirit, then fine, but otherwise try to identify and then train a few people in the congregation who show signs of having those gifts / skills.

In the Methodist case I think it's a question of convenience. Many different preachers pass through the average Methodist pulpit, and it wouldn't be practical for them to liaise with 'good singers' each time. But they do try to make sure that the organist has a copy of the sheet music in advance. I imagine there are well-organised churches where trained church choirs are given copies as well, but this would only happen at a minority of churches.

The lack of continuity in the Methodist pulpit has been blamed by some for discouraging innovation in Methodist churches. I think it does partly explain the relatively rare use of worship songs.

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L'organist
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posted by South Coast Kevin
quote:
...the music played on the most popular radio stations ...
The top four radio stations by listener numbers in the UK are:
  • BBC Radio 2
  • BBC Radio 4
  • BBC Radio 1
  • Classic FM

Well, Radio 2 plays an eclectic mix of music from the past hundred years or more, from light classical to modern Indie.

Radio 4 plays little music unless you count the various requests on Desert Island Discs, the most popular choices of which are
  • Beethoven - Symphony No 9
  • Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No 2
  • Schubert - String Quintet in C
  • Beethoven Symphony No 6 (Pastoral)
  • Elgar - Pomp & Circumstance March no 1 (Land of Hope and Glory)
  • Beethoven - Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor)
  • Elgar - Nimrod (Enigma Variations)
  • Beethoven - Symphony No 7

Radio 1 plays the top selling downloads and record releases and the entire playlist is churned over a 6 week period.

Classic FM 'Does what it says on the tin' - in other words, light classics.

Which of these choices have you in mind that churches should be seeking to reproduce, SCK? Keeping pace with Radio 1 would be impossible; Radio 4 - no problem. Radio 2 - thats the soft-rock genre that needs people capable of playing in a semi-pro band; Classic FM - well, OK but there is more to life than Max Bruch and The Lark Ascending!

In any case, I assume when you speak of 'contemporary worship music' you mean songs? We use quite a lot of stuff written in the past 40 years by people like Arvo Part, Olivier Messiaen, Richard Rodney Bennett, John Tavener, Goreckyi, Matthias, Howells, Leighton, etc, etc, etc. They're all pretty much contemporaneous...

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SvitlanaV2
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L'organist

Earlier in the thread South Coast Kevin clarified that getting every church to perform some variety of pop music wasn't his goal. Each church has its own context. The music you play obviously suits the demographic and the culture of your church, and of the people in the vicinity whom the church expects to reach. That's okay.

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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Jengie Jon:
Get hold of The Singing Thing Too which deals with how to teach congregations songs. It is written by John Bell who has been doing precisely that for over thirty years.

The Iona Community has developed techniques to teach people songs for worship in a short time and to lead them.

Cheers for the recommendation! Could you post a brief summary or a couple of quick highlights from the book?

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Pomona
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While I haven't read that book, certainly Taizé and Iona are good places to look for inspiration.

SCK, does anyone in your church's congregation go to Greenbelt, or is it mostly Spring Harvest/New Wine etc? I would maybe suggest giving Greenbelt a try? Lots of variety when it comes to worship music there.

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Enoch
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It's always being trotted out, but I don't agree with the statement that traditional and modern styles of worship don't mix, that each service must opt for one or another.

I agree that most modern 'worship songs' sound cr*p on an organ. That was so even back in Youth Praise days - does any other shipmate remember those two works? I also think that the sort of stuff produced by many Christian bands is unsuitable for congregational worship. Whatever the groups may say, it's designed to listen to or to watch the band worshipping on stage. You can't sing along to it.

So many groups seem to think that if they look as though they are being really sent by their own singing, that somehow their onlookers will be uplifted too. That's a delusion. They won't be.

It's also another version of the mistaken assumption that a vicar is called a vicar because he or she is vicariously holy on your behalf, and will let you off being.

But. Many traditional hymns weren't written to be played on an organ. The reason why there's usually four parts is because each part was played by a different instrument. You sang along with the one that was playing what was in your range.

On top of that, a lot of the Vaughan Williams English Hymnal input into the repertoire comes from traditional folky tunes collected by Cecil Sharp et al, but with conventional C19 hymn harmonies added.

Provided you use a band rather than an organ, and avoid hard rock, you can mix the styles together quite easily.

There are though two other important things to register. The first is that the job of choir/band/musicians is to lead the congregation, to enable them to worship, not to provide them with something to listen to or watch. The second is that the guitar, as usually played, is a tuned percussion instrument. A congregation must be given a strong melodic lead, which they can hear - so nothing drowned out by the beat - and a definite beat they can follow - no wifty-wafty stuff.

Oh, and one other thing - I've said this before - if you go into a church and see they've put their drummer in a perspex box, leave immediately. It's an infallible sign of heap bad medicine.

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busyknitter
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
While I haven't read that book, certainly Taizé and Iona are good places to look for inspiration.

SCK, does anyone in your church's congregation go to Greenbelt, or is it mostly Spring Harvest/New Wine etc? I would maybe suggest giving Greenbelt a try? Lots of variety when it comes to worship music there.

And numerous opportunities to try both Taizé and Iona first hand [Big Grin]
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Jengie jon

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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by Jengie Jon:
Get hold of The Singing Thing Too which deals with how to teach congregations songs. It is written by John Bell who has been doing precisely that for over thirty years.

The Iona Community has developed techniques to teach people songs for worship in a short time and to lead them.

Cheers for the recommendation! Could you post a brief summary or a couple of quick highlights from the book?
No because my awareness of what it contains comes from reading the other half The Singing Thing. However I found this review which gives some.

Jengie

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Baptist Trainfan
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Can I just add that I also think it's a great wee book, very practical and easy to read.

On modern worship songs (by someone who's very much "into" them), try reading this.

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Jengie jon

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:


That was so even back in Youth Praise days - does any other shipmate remember those two works?

Yes. The Sunday School (proper afternoon affair it was too*) I attended used them with the senior class.

Jengie

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by South Coast Kevin:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
The modern evangelical fellowships where the worship looks like a rock concert and the crowd sing along to their favourite frontman/worship leader is really, really to replicate or adapt in a church where there is nothing like that kind of musical talent.

To be clear, I'm no fan of this style of church music - both because of the 'performance' mentality and because it sets the bar unhelpfully high in terms of the musical skill required to lead.

What I'm in favour of is the use of music that reflects contemporary cultural styles, as long as such music can be tailored so it is (a) pretty easy for everyone to learn and join in with, and (b) pretty easy for people with a modicum of skill on guitar, piano etc. to lead.

The problem is that if you don't like Coldplay, you're excluded.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Jengie Jon:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:


That was so even back in Youth Praise days - does any other shipmate remember those two works?

Yes. The Sunday School (proper afternoon affair it was too*) I attended used them with the senior class.

Jengie

Yup, I remember YP - even in its first edition with "script" writing on the cover rather than the later "blobby" writing. There was great excitement in our Crusader class as one of our members had a song published in YP2.

I remember being horrified (c.1968) at guitars (non-electric at that!) being used in worship!

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Gamaliel
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Jengie Jon may appreciate this, but I remember an interesting conversation with a URC minister whom I admired very much whose observation of the contemporary music format was that it was 'unbalanced' from a Trinitarian perspective.

His reasoning was that the bulk of these worship sessions started out with a few praise-y songs addressed to God the Father, but then the bulk of them were overly Christocentric in a Jesus-is-my-boyfriend sense. God the Holy Spirit only got a look-in as the One invited to 'do the stuff' during the almost ubiquitous 'ministry time' at the end ...

He wouldn't have contemporary worship songs in his church for this reason, despite his wife's protests. She liked them.

In fairness, I would suggest that this imbalance is more down to the way that the songs are deployed rather than something intrinsically 'off' about the songs themselves.

One of the reasons why I tend to favour a more formal/traditional liturgy these days is because it does preserve and convey the creedal formularies - and also adds balance. Things are there for a reason. They aren't just there on the whim of whoever happens to be leading the worship that week.

Meanwhile, whilst I agree with SvitlanaV2's and SCK's comments on the demographic and cultural elements at work in any church context, I also take the point that L'Organist was making.

In some areas you'd find people who would listen to range of those radio stations and musical styles. In others things would be more monolithic.

It's impossible to be 'neutral' but if one adopts a particular niche style - Goth Music say - then all you'll end up with are Goths. People who aren't Gothically inclined are going to feel alienated.

The same applies to Byrd, Tallis, black Gospel music or whatever else.

Either we accept that and work with it or we make accommodations.

No easy answer.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

His reasoning was that the bulk of these worship sessions started out with a few praise-y songs addressed to God the Father, but then the bulk of them were overly Christocentric in a Jesus-is-my-boyfriend sense. God the Holy Spirit only got a look-in as the One invited to 'do the stuff' during the almost ubiquitous 'ministry time' at the end ...

Interesting when one remembers Tom Smail saying, in the 70s, that the Holy Spirit had rather usurped the place of "The Forgotten Father".

Perhaps most Christians can only relate to a Duality at any one time ...

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Meanwhile, whilst I agree with SvitlanaV2's and SCK's comments on the demographic and cultural elements at work in any church context, I also take the point that L'Organist was making.

In some areas you'd find people who would listen to range of those radio stations and musical styles. In others things would be more monolithic.

It's impossible to be 'neutral' but if one adopts a particular niche style - Goth Music say - then all you'll end up with are Goths. People who aren't Gothically inclined are going to feel alienated.

The same applies to Byrd, Tallis, black Gospel music or whatever else.

Either we accept that and work with it or we make accommodations.

Does that then mean that CofE churches (theoretically serving everyone in the parish) should be more eclectic than "gathered community" nonconformists who can specifically aim at one cultural group? And, if so, how?
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South Coast Kevin
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
SCK, does anyone in your church's congregation go to Greenbelt, or is it mostly Spring Harvest/New Wine etc? I would maybe suggest giving Greenbelt a try? Lots of variety when it comes to worship music there.

I think there are people who go to all three of these, although I've only been to New Wine myself. I'm pretty sure I'd love Green Belt but I just haven't got round to going. Next year! (Not this year as I'll have an MA dissertation to finish.)
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Does that then mean that CofE churches (theoretically serving everyone in the parish) should be more eclectic than "gathered community" nonconformists who can specifically aim at one cultural group? And, if so, how?

Well, isn't the typical way to have two or more services each week, with each one having a distinctive 'style' and - usually, AIUI - a mostly separate congregation?

In parishes without the resources to do that, or where the people in charge don't want to have separate services / congregations, maybe you could vary the style so e.g. it's traditional hymn sandwich one week and charismatic-style worship set the next. But then, would people just come along on alternate weeks according to their musical preference...?

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Garasu
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As a simple sociological question: is the CofE notably more socially diverse than nonconformist churches?

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Carys

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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:

Radio 4 plays little music unless you count the various requests on Desert Island Discs, the most popular choices of which are
  • Beethoven - Symphony No 9
  • Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No 2
  • Schubert - String Quintet in C
  • Beethoven Symphony No 6 (Pastoral)
  • Elgar - Pomp & Circumstance March no 1 (Land of Hope and Glory)
  • Beethoven - Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor)
  • Elgar - Nimrod (Enigma Variations)
  • Beethoven - Symphony No 7

Most frequently played piece of music on BBC radio 4 has to be Barwick Green (aka Archers Theme) followed by Sailing By (or does Sailing By win? Is it played before silly o'clock shipping forecast as well as 0045?) and the National Anthem. Christian music comes next, with the Daily Serivce (Longwave only) and Sunday Worship (which has a variety of styles) and Something Understood (which has a range of traditions Christian and beyond).

Carys (who has Radio 4 as her soundtrack, but rarely hears the early shipping forecast)

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jrw
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
A previous (evangelical Anglican) church of mine got the balance right, I think - a good mixture of contemporary worship band type songs, and classic hymns (although Wesleyan and Revivalist hymns were usually as old as they got!). Current evangelical church that I sometimes attend unfortunately uses music that sits awkwardly between venerably old and contemporary - it just feels dated.


There's no such thing as dated.

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The Silent Acolyte

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Reading this discussion of contemporary music, I'm just up from my post-church nap and here to give this synopsis of the music at my parish this morning, divided by organist/choir & congregational singing.

Voluntary: 21st century
Five movement mass setting: 1869.
Psalm tone: 20th century.
Anthem: mid-20th century.
Voluntary: 19th century

Entrance hymn: text-1739; music-1866.
Gospel hymn: text-8th century; music 1544.
Offertory hymn: text-15century; music-15th century (1918 adapted).
Communion hymn: text-1695; music-1588.

[ 27. April 2014, 21:08: Message edited by: The Silent Acolyte ]

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Gamaliel
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Good question on whether CofE or non-conformist churches should operate differently in this respect, Baptist Trainfan.

I'm not sure whether there can be a clear cut answer or issue with this one.

It all depends on a whole range of demographic factors.

When I was growing up in South Wales, religion was still fairly stratified. If you were involved in church at all then the CofE was more middle-class and more 'anglo' in feel. The Baptists and other non-conformists tended to attract lower-middle/upper working class and tended to be more 'Welsh' in tone (if not in language, ours wasn't a Welsh speaking area) and the Pentecostals were the most working class - with some upward mobility going on.

These days things have moved on ... in some parts of Wales the Anglicans - Church in Wales - are more 'Welsh' in feel and in language because much of Welsh nonconformity has collapsed in on itself.

As far as the Baptist go, I know of an instance (in the North of England) where various plants from a large Baptist church all took on a different flavour within a densely populated but geographically condensed area. Interestingly, they tended to define these by reference to new-church streams - one was 'more NFI', another 'more Vineyard' ...

I'm not sure what the answer is. We've become so diverse and 'marketised' that people can self-select from a wide range of options.

Whether this is good or bad or indifferent is an interesting thing to discuss, but the reality is, that is where things are - for the most part.

It's different in inner city areas, of course, as SvitlanaV2 reminds us. There most churches don't have the resources to lay on multi-faceted styles for different demographics or different preferences.

As for the CofE laying on different services for different groups ... in my experience this only happens where there are sufficient resources to do so.

Ok, so you will find some parishes offering an 8am BCP service followed by a 10am Family Service or whatever ... and they do get a different crowd to each. But many, many parishes can only offer one option - and that applies both in rural areas and in the cities.

The multi-service, different-styles thing is largely a suburban one I suspect - and as SvitlanaV2 says, you have to be pretty well-resourced to be able to offer such variety.

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by jrw:
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
A previous (evangelical Anglican) church of mine got the balance right, I think - a good mixture of contemporary worship band type songs, and classic hymns (although Wesleyan and Revivalist hymns were usually as old as they got!). Current evangelical church that I sometimes attend unfortunately uses music that sits awkwardly between venerably old and contemporary - it just feels dated.


There's no such thing as dated.
I don't see how? It's the musical equivalent of using out of date slang. Music changes just like language.

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Belle Ringer
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The concept that contemp music is done in multiple songs together (instead of one song at a time) to create movement through more than the one thought in any one song, intrigues me because it raises a question whether the music can fit well in a traditional liturgical service, which is where I'm seeing it tried with less than enthusiasm from the congregation.

The one-thought songs in the traditional services I have attended are repeated every week - Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world have mercy on me. Praise God from whim all blessing flow. A few others. A single thought that belongs in a specific spot, sung or said. Hymns offer a much broader range of instruction, reminder, experience per song. Change those to one thought repeated several times, and the service has lost content?

Maybe we are discussing multiple things at once - style of music, but also appropriate use of the style? Nothing wrong with any style of music, but you don't try to put a marching band to a waltz. Are some music styles appropriate for one style of service but not another? Could mis-fit create problems in getting people to learn them? In which case "modern" songs with verses (70s kind of music?) might work better in a traditional style of worship than current "worship" songs?

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Gamaliel
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Yes, it is an intriguing idea. I'd suggest though, that the 'medley' approach works best in less obviously liturgical settings because, in effect, it replaces the job that liturgy does elsewhere.

It 'works' partly in a self-fulfilling prophecy way (and I don't mean that to sound insulting) insofar that there is an expectation that it will work and people are signed up to the format and concept.

The reason these songs work less well in other contexts is precisely because they have been taken out of context.

It's not as if repeated refrains aren't used in traditional liturgical settings - they are.

For instance, in the Orthodox parish I'm most familiar with the choir (and some of the congregation) sing this over and over as people receive communion - ending with 'alleluia, alleluia, alleluia ...'

They actually singing it a slightly faster tempo and, it seems to me, more joyfully than this example but it's the same chant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuWok6lOfe8

Then there are the Taize chants and so on which are popular in some circles.

I would suggest that this example could be transposed quite easily into other settings - even less liturgical ones - but it works best in its own context. I find it a very moving chant.

Of course, liturgical/sacramental settings could adopt a more 'contemporary' style of music for pieces like this - but I don't see how the tune itself could offend or be off-putting to anyone - unless they were sticklers for jangly-jangly happy-clappy ...

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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jrw
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quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
quote:
Originally posted by jrw:
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
A previous (evangelical Anglican) church of mine got the balance right, I think - a good mixture of contemporary worship band type songs, and classic hymns (although Wesleyan and Revivalist hymns were usually as old as they got!). Current evangelical church that I sometimes attend unfortunately uses music that sits awkwardly between venerably old and contemporary - it just feels dated.


There's no such thing as dated.
I don't see how? It's the musical equivalent of using out of date slang. Music changes just like language.
Surely the best music is timeless.

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georgiaboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
quote:
Originally posted by Mama Thomas:
In TEC, it has been my experience that many congregations use yellowed, dog eared ancient paper backs from the 70s

You do mean the 1870s, don't you?
No, the 1970s, when the present priest was in seminary. Many of them are 'kumbaya-istas' -- they 'grooved' on these songs in their formative days and likely haven't had a new (musical) idea since.
Just my opinion, though it's supported by evidence.

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by jrw:
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
quote:
Originally posted by jrw:
quote:
Originally posted by Jade Constable:
A previous (evangelical Anglican) church of mine got the balance right, I think - a good mixture of contemporary worship band type songs, and classic hymns (although Wesleyan and Revivalist hymns were usually as old as they got!). Current evangelical church that I sometimes attend unfortunately uses music that sits awkwardly between venerably old and contemporary - it just feels dated.


There's no such thing as dated.
I don't see how? It's the musical equivalent of using out of date slang. Music changes just like language.
Surely the best music is timeless.
Yes, and my point is that the music in question is not the best and so is not timeless!

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Consider the work of God: Who is able to straighten what he has bent? [Ecclesiastes 7:13]

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Alan Cresswell

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Surely music, like any form of art, is a cultural product. It is produced within a cultural context, it is appreciated in a cultural context, it's quality is judged within a cultural context. Yes, a lot of art (including music) can and does cross cultural boundaries and speaks to other cultures - though whether the message translates as the same is another question.

For "good music to be timeless" then it has to be able to cross all cultural boundaries, and be recognised as good music by everyone who hears it. Or, there has to be an objective way of judging musical quality independent of culture, which by definition would also need to be able to judge cultures as "good" and "bad" (presumably a culture that does not recognise objectively good art is worse than one that does).

I have seen no evidence that art can either cross all cultural boundaries, nor that art can be assessed on objective grounds independent of all cultures.

Therefore, I conclude, it is very possible for very great art to be produced in one culture and fail to resonate in another. And, if the culture that produced such a piece of art is one that existed in the past then "dated" is an apt word to use.

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jrw
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Surely music, like any form of art, is a cultural product. It is produced within a cultural context, it is appreciated in a cultural context, it's quality is judged within a cultural context. Yes, a lot of art (including music) can and does cross cultural boundaries and speaks to other cultures - though whether the message translates as the same is another question.

For "good music to be timeless" then it has to be able to cross all cultural boundaries, and be recognised as good music by everyone who hears it. Or, there has to be an objective way of judging musical quality independent of culture, which by definition would also need to be able to judge cultures as "good" and "bad" (presumably a culture that does not recognise objectively good art is worse than one that does).

I have seen no evidence that art can either cross all cultural boundaries, nor that art can be assessed on objective grounds independent of all cultures.

Therefore, I conclude, it is very possible for very great art to be produced in one culture and fail to resonate in another. And, if the culture that produced such a piece of art is one that existed in the past then "dated" is an apt word to use.

I think I can understand that regarding other art forms but I've always regarded music as emotional before anything else. Maybe it's just me.

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Olaf
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle Ringer:
The concept that contemp music is done in multiple songs together (instead of one song at a time) to create movement through more than the one thought in any one song, intrigues me because it raises a question whether the music can fit well in a traditional liturgical service, which is where I'm seeing it tried with less than enthusiasm from the congregation.

The "multiple songs together" approach seems to be for a "Your Turn-My Turn" sort of service, when the beginning half of the service is for the congregation to stand and emote, while the end half is for the congregation to sit and listen. "Book Liturgy" (pardon my term) has more of a give-and-take throughout.

That said, really traditional Western liturgy does have a succession of music in a row: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria. In the ancient pontifical rites, most of this covered the grand processions and dressing of the bishop/pope. Contemporary music could easily replicate this pattern:

Vigorous Gathering Song (maybe establishing the day's theme)
Slow and Reflective Song (maybe a bit penitential)
Happy Praise Song

My own denom's recent hymnal takes into account this possibility, and describes this period of time in the liturgy as "Gathering Song," into which the Entrance Hymn, Kyrie, and Gloria are all lumped. Needless to say, as with pretty much all modern liturgical texts, everything is optional. Sigh.

Anyway, later on during the ancient liturgy, the Offertory Chant, Sursum Corda, Preface, Sanctus, and Benedictus formed another succession of music.

[ 28. April 2014, 23:23: Message edited by: Olaf ]

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Olaf
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Meant to add:

Eastern liturgy is very similar, with a succession of music appearing at the beginning of the liturgy. In this case, the music is prescribed in the propers and the ordinary.

Jewish liturgy also tends to begin with a succession of Psalmody and/or hymnody, followed by the Barchu (essentially an invocation), and shortly thereafter the Shema and its successive verses.

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by jrw:
I think I can understand that regarding other art forms but I've always regarded music as emotional before anything else. Maybe it's just me.

I would say that all art forms invoke emotional responses, as well as engaging our intellect and other faculties. I would agree that music tends towards engaging emotions above other faculties, although music coupled to lyrics has a stronger engagement with intellect.

But, my point is that the nature of our response (emotional, intellectual etc) is influenced by our cultural background. At the most basic level, you get a "that's just noise" response - much as my dad responded to the music I wanted to listen to as a young teenager.

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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I caught the organ voluntary at the end of the morning service on Radio 4 last Sunday on the way to the cycle club ride - I couldn't help thinking how anyone who'd been brought up on music prior to about 1850 would probably have considered it "just noise". Very discordant.

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Fr Weber
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:


But. Many traditional hymns weren't written to be played on an organ. The reason why there's usually four parts is because each part was played by a different instrument. You sang along with the one that was playing what was in your range.

On top of that, a lot of the Vaughan Williams English Hymnal input into the repertoire comes from traditional folky tunes collected by Cecil Sharp et al, but with conventional C19 hymn harmonies added.


That's not quite true. It is true that many hymn tunes have their source in different contexts and were not originally composed for organ, but in most hymnals predating the mid-20th century, the arrangements are for an organ or organ-like instrument (harmonium, say). The arrangements are in four parts so that a choir can sing them in harmony while the accompanying instrument is playing, and each part is singable : there are no drastic leaps in range, and the parts don't go above or below a reasonable expectation of what that voice part would sing.

There are exceptions, of course : look at the harmonization of King's Weston by Vaughan Williams and you see an inconsistent number of voices in the organ part (often ignoring usual voice-leading rules)--so it's obvious that those accompaniments are intended to go with unison singing.

And though certainly what you say about RVW's harmonizing of folk tunes is true, he went even further in many cases and regularized rhythm, often fitting the tunes into a four-square structure to make them easier for congregations to sing. If you compare, say, Shirley Collins' recording of "A Blacksmith Courted Me" with the RVW version of Monks Gate, you can see a similarity between the two, but that the RVW has been drastically smoothed out.

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--Sr Theresa Koernke, IHM

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georgiaboy
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quote:
Originally posted by Fr Weber:
quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:



And though certainly what you say about RVW's harmonizing of folk tunes is true, he went even further in many cases and regularized rhythm, often fitting the tunes into a four-square structure to make them easier for congregations to sing. If you compare, say, Shirley Collins' recording of "A Blacksmith Courted Me" with the RVW version of Monks Gate, you can see a similarity between the two, but that the RVW has been drastically smoothed out.
Following, for instance, the pattern set by Bach in his harmonization and rhythm-smoothing of the chorale tunes, some of which were certainly folk-songs in origin.

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Gamaliel
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Organ voluntaries are twiddly bits tagged on at the end - they only make sense if you've heard what's gone on before.

It does raise and interesting thing about excessive 'ornamentation' though ... a lot of Western medieval chant had extended vowels and so on so it was virtually impossible to make out what was being sung, even if you could understand Latin.

Is there a distinction between 'art music', I wonder, and music intended for communal participation?

Does this HAVE to be the case?

[Confused]

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Praise the Lord for He is kind.

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L'organist
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posted by Gamaliel
quote:
Organ voluntaries are twiddly bits tagged on at the end - they only make sense if you've heard what's gone on before.
Actually no, wrong.

Organ voluntaries are pieces of written repertoire that should be chosen to either reflect the liturgical season or mood, or to reflect the theme of the service.

I think what you may be thinking of are extemporisations (sometimes called improvisations): free-form playing on a given theme or on a shorter simpler piece played just before.

Of course, there are variations/improvisations that get written down - for example, Louis Vierne's Carillon de Westminster which is based on the Westminster chimes but in a different order.

As for the piece at the end of Sunday Worship on Radio 4 being 'just noise' KLB - I think you'll find it was one of Vierne's simpler pieces, the Carillon de Longpont.

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Belle Ringer
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Is there a distinction between 'art music', I wonder, and music intended for communal participation?

Does this HAVE to be the case?

Yes. Or at least, some music can only be performance by "pros," not communally (unless the community are "pros"). I can sing 2 and a half octaves. Most people sing an octave and a half. I can sing songs the community can't. Some songs have intervals uncommon in our musical culture and therefore "hard to sing." Some have tricky (for our culture) rhythms or rhythm changes.

Certainly a church can choose songs that are comfortable for all (in it's culture) to sing. One of the problems with CCW music is so many of the songs on the radio are performance songs not appropriate for community singing because of range, intervals, rhythms changes.

Posts: 5830 | From: Texas | Registered: Jan 2008  |  IP: Logged



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