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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

December 14, 2013

More on MacMillan

evelyn @ 4:37 pm

I’m busy tying up the loose ends of my departure from active service (though I’ll continue to maintain website and blog) but just want to say a bit more about James MacMillan’s Telegraph article, mentioned in my last post. The article has been commented on by Bernadette Farrell in The Tablet, and a variety of comments have been made on the Pray Tell blog.

Bernadette Farrell deplores MacMillan’s denigration of styles of music which are spiritually meaningful to many people. The fact that most types of music had some meaning for somebody was of course why Forth in Praise embraced all styles (within reason!) in our Music Days; this was our remit from the Liturgy Commission. Over the years we featured, among others, the three composers whose music James MacMillan ridicules in his article. Not all of our team personally liked this type of music, but each of these composers has a following. We also spent a lot of time on James MacMillan’s music as well. And on chant. Not everyone liked those, either.

The downside of this catholicity is of course that our Music Days received criticism from all quarters, some of which I agreed with. (But for me, now, there will be no more of these days … no, nay, never no more … )

The other main point made by James MacMillan was about incompetence in composing and arranging music, and here I agree with him totally. Since Vatican II itself, Catholic organists in this country have been plagued with music writing of extremely poor technical quality and with no understanding of the organ. This stuff has been published in certain inexplicably-popular hymn books, ‘full music’ copies of which have been finding their way into organ galleries and causing no end of grief to organists who discover that once they have mastered this music, it still sounds wrong.

I went into some detail about one of these editions in a previous post. Re-reading it today, I was amused at my criticism of tango rhythm accompaniments. I was not to know then that we were to have an Argentine pope. Recently a video has been circulating of a Mass in Argentina, celebrated by Pope Francis when he was an archbishop. I won’t give a specific link, but you’ll find it all over Youtube. As part of the liturgy, a couple danced a tango in front of the altar.

Almost unbelievable, isn’t it.

But it gives ‘Do not be afraid’ a whole new dimension …



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