' ... educating children in good liturgy?'

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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dmu3tem
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Re: ' ... educating children in good liturgy?'

Post by dmu3tem »

Here are some ad hoc reactions:

I find it remarkable that everyone here is talking about introducing children to church music - as opposed to textual/gestural concerns pertaining to liturgy. Nothing wrong with that in itself of course.

If one sticks to church music I think there are three related problems:

[1] From what I have seen (maybe I have just had bad luck) church music in a school (especially a primary school) tends to be very different from that going on in a parish church. The former is often more populist/'happy-clappy' (unless you look at the 'Josephite' school church setup who sang/played on Radio 4 last Sunday morning: They performed what sounded like a Haydn Mass!).
[2] The progressive secularisation of society means that one cannot assume that children will be acquainted with church music (especially of the older sort) that Christian adults may take for granted.
[3] Whenever I have tried to recruit children (and teenagers) for church music I encounter a reluctance (more from parents than from the children themselves) to really commit themselves. There is a reluctance to accept that church music making requires regular rehearsal which should not be interfered with by such things as dance classes (Yes, this excuse has actually been fed to me several times).

When adults think about church music for children I notice a tendency to 'dumb down' to the 'lowest imagined common denominator'. As a result children with real musical abilities and skills are often not brought forward properly. Many, indeed, desert church music groups (of all types) in favour of bands, orchestras etc. From what I have seen children often prove more resilient and adaptable than many adults when faced with novel situations/ideas. The achievements of choir schools (albeit sometimes rather narrowly focussed) show what children can do.

I think an important key is not to hedge children around with liturgical regulations. They should be encouraged to develop their creative musical skills in a church context. One of the best disciplines (and trainers) would be to get more of them to write music (and get it performed) for church use.

I think children should be encouraged to collaborate with adults in church music making as equal partners. They are often more skilled than many of the adult amateur musicians that I have encountered in parish churches. Taking this further I see no reason why sufficiently competent teenagers should direct groups - it used to be done a lot with 'folk groups' in the 1970s and 1980s, and the same thing can be applied to choirs and other types of church music group. I remember meeting someone at York University who had directed the local Anglican church choir (and written music for them) aged 16-18.
T.E.Muir

JW
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Re: ' ... educating children in good liturgy?'

Post by JW »

I suspect that part of the 'desertion' issue that Thomas mentions derives from a lack of appreciation on the part of parents of the substantial musical and other benefits that accrue from being a member of a church music group.

Also, perhaps the following are wrongly seen as problems, either consciously or subconsciously.

    1. The quality of music performance tends to be lower than in a band or orchestra, partly because there are few barriers to joining and partly because the music changes each week: a church group doesn't spend 3 months rehearsing one concert! A church musician who seeks perfection is doomed to disappointment.
    2. Related to the 1st point, church musicians are seen as 'amateur', being mostly unpaid, and therefore considered (wrongly) to be inferior. If we were to have professional music groups things would change, though the parish would be bankrupt. If musicians were charged to be part of the choir (going back to the 'after-school club' scenario), then there might be greater commitment but there might not be any musicians!
    3. Church musicians can be very exposed, for example one person may be responsible for your particular part. A parent who wants little Sam to sing the psalm on Sunday may not realise the amount of work needed to do this well and will be embarrassed if s/he fouls up.
    4. Few children have the dedication or work ethic to commit properly to music making in church though, as Thomas points out, there are notable exceptions.
JW

Southern Comfort
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Re: ' ... educating children in good liturgy?'

Post by Southern Comfort »

JW wrote:If we were to have professional music groups things would change, though the parish would be bankrupt.


Not necessarily. If people gave as generously as they do in other countries, and indeed in other denominations, things could be very different. But this is probably the subject of a separate thread.

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Nick Baty
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Re: ' ... educating children in good liturgy?'

Post by Nick Baty »

dmu3tem wrote:From what I have seen (maybe I have just had bad luck) church music in a school (especially a primary school) tends to be very different from that going on in a parish church.
This seems to happen most when there isn’t a good relationship between school and parish. And, while I’m always banging on about this, the trick is really quite simple: Go out for a pint together. (Well I’d rather have a scotch but my doc’s getting rather strict these days.) I don’t see how the two institutions can work together until there’s a meeting of minds (and a clink of glasses).
dmu3tem wrote:Whenever I have tried to recruit children (and teenagers) for church music I encounter a reluctance… to really commit themselves. There is a reluctance to accept that church music making requires regular rehearsal..
I think the trick is for the kids to make it “their” choir. There’s nothing like peer pressure for making things work – and they’re used to this from the BTEC group projects they’re doing at school – they know that unless everyone pulls their weight, noone is going to pass.
JW wrote:The quality of music performance tends to be lower than in a band or orchestra, partly because there are few barriers to joining and partly because the music changes each week: a church group doesn't spend 3 months rehearsing one concert!
No, but they do spend many hours rehearsing pieces or arrangements which will be used several times over the coming year. Young people need to know why we’re doing something, what the outcome is, how it will be used, why their contributions matter. And they can sniff a fake a mile off – if we don’t know what we’re doing, if we don’t have an easily explainable plan on paper, the kids will know. They’re used to their lessons beginning with such an explanation.
JW wrote:Few children have the dedication or work ethic to commit properly to music making in church…
Perhaps if they were told, or saw, the plan for the coming months, were made aware of how this is put together they might feel involved.

Having waffled on, I should point out that I don’t work directly with young people in liturgy. The reason? We don’t have any. Once they’ve made what johnquinn33 calls their "Last Holy Communions”, we don’t see them again until Grandma's funeral.

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