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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

January 28, 2014

A reader’s view: guest post by Gill

evelyn @ 2:26 pm

English reader Gill has sent in the piece below as a comment.  I felt her words were worthy of more than comment status, so here is the Organists’ Blog very first guest post:

This may not be the most appropriate place in which to have a little rant about published music, but

1. .Most organists in ordinary Catholic parish churches in the UK are not trained organists.

2. Most of the published Mass settings are produced in complicated arrangements.

3. These complicated arrangements take much time to learn and often need adapting by these untrained (and unpaid) organists who, eg cannot stretch/contort their fingers into the given left hand chords in the given time, and have to choose which notes to ignore.

4. By the time the organist has adapted the piece to fit his/her capabilities, and played it on an electronic organ without footpedals, without the aid of a trained choir or cantor to lead, the piece is often not quite the same piece of music as the composer orginally intended.

7. It also doesn’t sound the same at 9 am with a congregation of about 50, few, if any of whom, can stretch to top C or D,

Before someone suggests ‘why bother to sing then?’ – why shouldn’t we? we like singing but would like something we can sing.

The Belmont Gloria was good to start with for ordinary Sundays, but it is a less than cheerful one for festival days. Our congregation wanted something more tuneful (I think they mean more hymn-like than plainchant). We tried Christopher Walker’s St Paul’s Gloria but it does not sound like it does in the Cathedral, however the congregation have sung Dan Shutte’s Christ the Saviour with great enjoyment but we now need a change.

What is wrong with some of our major composers producing something simple for us poor organists? And putting it in a very simple yet tuneful arrangement for congregations who have been brought up on Anglican hymns tunes since the 1960s. The vast majority of Catholics these days know nothing else. Laudate is full of even more Anglican hymn tunes – to which I have no objection, indeed I like many of them.

Even though we are in England – we are going to try Evelyn Stell’s St Michael Gloria. [How nice – thank you, Gill.  Did you know that it actually got through the Scottish approval committee, and is therefore ‘legal’ everywhere!]

PS – But why did Laudate have to mess with the words of hymns such as ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ and remove others such as ‘Be Still my Soul’ is beyond me. I know some of the 1970s type hymns were poorly constructed and needed eliminating, but they do seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  [I couldn’t agree more – what right have publishers to do this?]

Thank you very much for this, Gill.

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