Sunday, 27 February 2011

And the greatest of these...

Seems the fundies are already up in arms... I thought we were supposed to WANT hell to be empty?! Oh well, seems I must be a post-modern, semi-evangelical, universalist something or other...


Thursday, 24 February 2011

Jesus is a Rochdale girl...

From Elbow's much heralded new album Build a Rocket Boys! comes this unplugged version of their song about love and care, sentiments described in the video by singer Guy Garvey. I love the lyrical layers, no idea if it's intentional or subliminal, sounds a lot like the passage in Matthew 10 that my buddy James The Artist (and musician!) drew attention to this week...


Monday, 21 February 2011

If music be the food of love...

Here we go again! A MEME request has arrived from Graham Peacock, author of one of my regular blog reads, diggingalot, which means it would be rude not to respond! Although, I have to say, I was going to leave this particular debate alone for a while, despite having lots to say on the matter and much more than I will be able to here!

However, this does give me an opportunity, as I have been so warmly invited, to spell out a handful of things that seriously bug me! Graham's MEME asks for 'Your best contemporary worship song ever' but let's get some things straight first:
  1. There is NO SUCH THING as Christian Music, CCM or whatever...
  2. There is NO SUCH THING as Worship Music...
  3. There is NO SUCH THING as Sacred Music...
  4. There is NO SUCH THING as Secular Music...
  5. Music itself is NOT Worship - although music can be worshipful...
  6. Music IS often Spiritual - more on this in a future post...
  7. There IS such a thing as a priority to care for the sick, the oppressed, the poor, the downtrodden and the immigrant...
Let's emphasise this with is an important quote in Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis:
Something can be labeled 'Christian' and not be true or good. It is possible for music to be labeled Christian and be terrible music. Just because it is a Christian book by a Christian author and it was purchased in a Christian bookstore doesn't mean it is all true or good or beautiful. A Christian political group puts me in an awkward position: What if I disagree with them? Am I less of a Christian? What if I am convinced the 'Christian' thing to do is to vote the exact opposite?
'Christian' (the word) is a great noun but a poor adjective.
Another issue with using 'Christian' and 'Worship' as adjectives coupled with the word music has meant that both new commercial opportunities and new genres have arisen over the years. These have led to sub-standard product being peddled to churches and Christians in preference to most mainstream music on the grounds the former is more sanctified. It is not! It is simply not as good as the mainstream equivalent, often a poor quality sound-alike!

I recall Francis Schaeffer said something along the lines of 'you can have good art with good message, bad art with a good message, good art with a bad message and finally bad art with a bad message'. My opinion (yes, opinion!) is the stuff described as 'Christian Music' and 'Worship Music' falls into the latter category. Why don't we see the image of the Creator in so much of the mainstream music / art that is there ready made to utilise in church?

In a service of divine worship music needs to enhance, encourage and engage the congregation. It should not be an opportunity to proselytise, pander to personal preferences or perform for performance's sake. Music must be an integrated element of the liturgy, whatever style the latter follows. Even worse, this type of music is all too often delivered in such an inappropriate, mind numbing, ear bleeding and indecipherable form that still doesn't hide its naffness! Of course, worship does not necessarily take place within a church anyway, it can and, perhaps, should, happen everywhere... that's a debate.

Although I do not think such a thing as 'contemporary worship music' exists I will just mention contemporary hymns. I do concede that songwriter Stuart Townend has created some moving hymnody, (good art, good message), for example, 'How Deep The Father's Love', which is distinctly different from the usual modern churchy fare.

Having said all that, I have made a suggestion above, simply entitled 'You', which is a song that readily engages me in worship. It is by my buddy Rob Halligan, singer / songwriter extrordinaire and also the lead singist in After The Fire. It spells out grandness, it quotes the good book, it employs poetic imagery, it evokes discipleship and even a personal response but not as a simpering request to cuddle up to Jesus. It is just at home in the set list when we play a full on mainstream concert or in a liturgical church service, thereby breaking any divide between the sacred and secular.

I know this only just scratches the surface, my plea is to leave the veil of the Temple riven.


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Insatiable Moon...

The trailer for the New Zealand film The Insatiable Moon about to hit the UK shores, initial run from March 4th at The Empire Leicester Square in London. A fascinating synopsis for a film which deals with mental illness, religion, communities and relationships all in one package.

Turning out to be a special time for films, I'm still recovering from the excellent multi BAFTA winning The King's Speech and prior to that the wonderful Africa United.


Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sunday soul soother...

An inspirational version of the song 'Railroad Man' from the enigmatic Eels performed with a string section on Later with Jools. Love the arrangement and instrumentation, simply brilliant:

And I know I can walk along the tracks, it may take a little longer but I'll know how to find my way back...

h/t Graham Peacock


Thursday, 10 February 2011

Liturgical music commission...

Listening to newsreader Jon Snow's Desert Island Disc selection the other day I was really struck by this stand out piece shown above which jogged a distant memory of experiencing it before...

Wikipedia reveals that witty composer Gioachino Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle (Solemn Little Mass) received criticism from none other than Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte that it was 'neither little, solemn nor particularly liturgical'. Rossini prefaced his Mass with this play on words:
Good God—behold completed this poor little Mass—is it indeed sacred music [la musique sacrée] that I have just written, or merely some damned music [la sacré musique]? You know well, I was born for comic opera. Little science, a little heart, that is all. So may you be blessed, and grant me Paradise!
Written unusually for two pianos and a harmonium, this version has the pianos along with what sounds like a pipe organ. It is very daring to provide a musical surprise using upbeat tempo and syncopation in a setting for the Mass. So I am making this my suggestion of liturgical music that would inspire and engage even as a 'performance' choral piece in line with Kathryn's suggestion, more to follow...


Wednesday, 9 February 2011

I rest my case...

Just when you thought it was safe with so many excellent posts on the subject of CCM songs we love to hate in comes this serious contribution... h/t

However, in the fullness of time I will be posting at least one response to the various blog responses.


Monday, 7 February 2011

Let us sing No Anglican Covenant...

When you, when you forget your name
When old faces all look the same
Meet me in the morning when you wake up
Meet me in the morning then you'll wake up
If only I don't bend and break
I'll meet you on the other side
I'll meet you in the light
If only I don't suffocate
I'll meet you in the morning when you wake
Bitter and hardened heart
Aching waiting for life to start
Meet me in the morning when you wake up

Bend and Break - track 2 on Keane's 2004 album Hopes and Fears


Saturday, 5 February 2011

The appalling CCM songs meme...

This is via Rev Sam originally from Doug aka Clayboy: 'Please try to name ONE (I know, there are so many to choose from) CCM praise song that you find unbearable and at least 2-3 reasons why, pointing to specific lyrics if you must.'

Like Sam I don't know any CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) stuff because I simply don't listen to it. However, anyone that goes to church often has to put up with 'praise' songs usually grouped under the 'Worship Music' category. So my example, written by 'leading worship leader Matt Redman' (and his missus) is this complete and utter drivel:
Let my words be few

You are God in heaven
And here am I on earth,
So I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.

And I'll stand in awe of You,
Yes I'll stand in awe of You,
And I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.

The simplest of all love songs
I want to bring to You,
So I'll let my words be few-
Jesus I am so in love with You.
The Meme requests that 2 - 3 reasons are given why it is unbearable:
  1. It's total crap
  2. It's unbelievably banal
  3. Whenever I have heard it sung/performed the irony of a relatively short song being 'repeated ad infinitum until blessed' never seems to occur to the band!
One day I will really say what I think on the whole genre, both from a musical perspective and, particularly from the marketing side; the fleecing of Christians, temple trading... I could go on and on (until blessed!).

When these guys not only spout their 'songs' but also intersperse them with indecipherable Christianese there is a sense that actually God's name is being taken in vain. Furthermore the whole scene is so self perpetuating in that worship music propagators now organise training seminars and conferences where they train fledgling church musicians/songwriters to simply carry on producing more of the same 'spot the difference' rubbish. They could do much better by suffering (in the best sense of the word) the mentorship of genuine mainstream musicians, writers and producers but that challenges 'safeness'.

We have such a vast resource of more deeply creative and spiritual songs from the panoply of inspirational mainstream artists. Let's play them both in our pubs and churches rejoicing in the clarity of the image of the Creator in their art.


Also see contributions by:
Jon Evens
Phil Ritchie

I tag Tim, Sally, R J, Mike, Graham, Archdruid Eileen

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Lord's Prayer - Susan Werner style...

Remind the Pope he could have been born a girl...

is just one of the many great lines from this gem of a song by Susan M. Werner. Her publishing royalties will soon be increasing nicely as the voice that is Sir Tom Jones chose her brilliant song 'Did Trouble Me' for his remarkable album 'Praise and Blame'.

Do enjoy this more light-hearted contribution from her repertoire!