June 10, 2003
Vol. III, No. 18
"Yes, Tim, There is a Santa Claus"
After my May 20th Rampage, Tim from Chicago posted the following message on the Feedback page. If this doesn't qualify as a Rampage, I don't know what does.
This is my first time posting on your feedback page. I have been receiving via e-mail your weekly rampages for over a year now, but have never responded. This one, however, I needed to respond to, not only about your rampage, but about something that occurred with me not too long ago.
First, I have to pose the question: Do you think that we are dumbing down church music? It just seems that not many people want to put the time or effort into learning and performing good church music for services and concerts anymore. Everyone just wants to do a half-decent job and be done with it. I know that not everyone is like this, but a lot of organists I've heard lately seem to be like this.
The reason I bring this up is because we had a substitute organist play at my church this past Sunday. Usually I would play if the regular organist is unavailable, but for some reason this other lady was playing today. Hearing her play was almost an embarrassment. Her playing was very inconsistent and mushy - meaning that notes ran together, chords ran together (which made for some very interesting harmonizations) and hymn stanzas ran together. She did not give us any breathing time between hymn stanzas. I shouldn't be the one to judge, maybe this is how she plays, maybe this is her style. But, she was just hard to follow and it was hard to sing.
Also, it's unfortunate that, in my church at least, we are dumbing down the liturgy too. The hymnal we use in our church is Lutheran Worship, and there are some settings of the Divine Services and the Daily Offices that are very musically rich. However, churches don't want to sing them anymore. My church for example hardly ever uses the full liturgy anymore and just uses "cut-and-paste liturgy." I have visions of organ, brass, choir, and congregation singing Richard Hillert's "Festival Canticle - Worthy is Christ." I would get tears in my eyes because it is so glorious! But now, people just don't want to sing the liturgy anymore. It irks me as an organist to be sitting at the console and not being able to use the instrument or my abilities to the fullest extent. Even the hymns we sing are usually cut because they cut hymn stanzas.
Does anyone feel the same way I do? I don't know, maybe I'm expecting too much, or times are changing, or people aren't very enthusiastic about music in worship anymore. But I feel like our worship is getting dumbed down by bad music - or the lack of music entirely.
Then, as you said in your rampage, you have Bach's music, which is absolutely glorious! I actually played Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor ("Cathedral") a few weeks ago for a postlude and only a handful of people stayed and listened. I am very grateful for those handful of people who stayed.
Maybe it's just me. Does anyone feel the same way I do? Anyway, thanks for letting me vent!
I can assure you of two things. The first is that you are in good company. Many if not most of the good persons reading this email along with you have experienced what you experienced at some point in their careers. I wish I could say that the church where music is under-appreciated or taken for granted to some degree is the exception. Unfortunately, it's all too common.
The other thing of which I can assure you is that there are plenty of talented and hardworking church musicians everywhere who are enthusiastically implementing incredible worship music programs, many right near you in Chicago.
If you're really crazy about this church, then I guess I would recommend becoming more involved in order to share your ideas. Volunteer to be on the music committee. If there isn't one, start one. Maybe you could even try for a seat on the board.
This approach, while not impossible, is a good bit to take on for one person. The people you are trying to influence are comfortable in their ways. In the event that your ideas aren't met with enthusiasm, you may need to seek out a church where the music program is fully supported by the members and leadership. I'm sure the BACHorgan.com community members in the Chicago area would be happy to take the opportunity to tell you all about their programs if you're interested. I don't see any reason to settle and suffer, especially in a major metropolis.
Good luck on your musical-spiritual journey, Tim, wherever it may lead you.
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Composition Free Exchange:
Victor Frost has graciously provided for download a version of his Twenty-four Preludes for organ arranged without alto clef. Thank you , Victor!
Have a great week!
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