Friday 29 October 2010

How embarrassing

'In all their years of facilitating the commission of new music, Boosey and Hawkes had never dealt with such rudeness and shoddy behaviour.' James MacMillan

Take a look at their back catalogue and wonder at that statement.

I have some B&H scores and I know that they did not commisssion all that they publish, but my score collection contains, for example

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra
Shostakovich Symphony No 5
Richard Strauss Four Last Songs

James MacMillan is a very well thought of composer. Do you think Welsh National Opera and the LSO commission work from iffy composers?

I got back from a few days in Florence yesterday. By the Duomo there is a shop staffed by kindly sisters and selling altar vessels, vestments and interesting for me, Christmas decorations. I popped in for a look and was somewhat taken aback. Outside, the Duomo and inside the shop, nice nuns selling really ugly stuff.

In. Florence.

It's rather the same with music only we try to make the congregation sing ugly stuff too. We laity are active in the world, out at work, running homes, bringing up children, being ill. We're busy and we're tired when we get to Mass. Then we get lumbered with another job, singing. Singing rubbish that is not part of the Mass for the most part. And people write books on why Catholics can't sing. We can, we just have taste and want to say our prayers please. But it does not end there, then the bossy people start lecturing us on why should be singing and telling us how we should be feeling. That's the laity perspective.

From the outside of the Church people look on and laugh. Professional musicians who specialise in Renaisance polyphony point and laugh at the mediocrity that throws away musical treasures. I'm a musician and I meet these people and they think the Catholic Church is rubbish with music. And we have all the best composers. There I've said it. I take great consolation in the fact that James MacMillan does the music at his Church in Glasgow. So there.

Despite losing a night's sleep, sitting in the rain for five hours and not having a practice, because we had to sing the aforementioned music on R4, I thought the MacMillan Mass was a great success at Cofton Park.

I don't know what qualifications 'trained liturgists' have but FRCO are good letters for organists.

I could write oh so much more, but it's doing that's important. Empirical research shows that folks can sing the plainsong ordinary and do it well. Where it's a new one I see a flash of sheets in my peripheral vision as people take a look and gradually get the hang of it. The things we sing every week, people do very well indeed. The point is it's the real deal, it's the tradition of the Church, it's what we are supposed to be doing. This stuff has been passed down the generations, sung by all the previous generations of your family and if it was good enough hundreds of years ago what makes us think we need to be doing something else?