Page 4, 10th November 1978

10th November 1978
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Page 4, 10th November 1978 — How do they misread me?
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How do they misread me?

How do they misread me? Let me count the ways ... At least four or five to date, by me reckoning. And now even my own parish priest has joined the fray, under the mistaken impression that my remarks were somehow directed at him.

To set the record straight, let me briefly restate the central issue of my letter of October 13 and comment, in passing, on some of the points raised by your correspondents.

As I saw it, the issue was primarily an aesthetic rather than a spiritual one. (Members of the "Soul of my Saviour" Appreciation Society please note.) The doctrinal content of a hymn iS one thing (a matter on which I had nothing whatever to say) the way that content is expressed quite another.

In other words, style — admittedly not the Church's strongest department at present — is of the essence. Incidentally, while I was interested to read the comments of your anonymous clerical correspondent of October 27 on the translation of "Soul of my Saviour" (although, unlike him, I am inclined to lay the responsibility for "death's drear moments" at the door of the compositors rather than that of Fr Goold or the hymn's translator), I was surprised that he did not comment on how the lines Sanguis Christi, inebria me/A-' qua lateris Christi lava me" are rendered as "Blood of my Saviour, bathe me in my tide/wash me in waters flowing from thy side".

Not only are the original's two distinct metaphors here fused into one, losing something splendidly expressive in strength and directness in the process, but the English conjures up the rather odd image of first being bathed in blood and then washed in water (to remove the blood?) which is as repellent as it is grotesque.

I can assure Mr Tanner (October 20) that whatever images pass through my mind at the moment of consecration, they are nothing like these. (What, by the way, does he mean by "the butcher-shop reality of the Eucharist"? I do not know what they're doing to the liturgy down Bromley way, but whatever is going on, with italics or without, I shall be very circumspect about worshipping there from now on.)

No, on the whole, 1 think "butcher-shop" a comparatively mild epithet to apply to the imagery of this particular hymn. On reflection, I might well have chosen a stronger one.

By way of reassurance to Fr Glanfield (October 27) for whose breadth of sympathy and devotion to duty I have every admiration, I must further point out that I was speaking of aesthetic values in general, without reference to any particular priest or parish.

I do occasionally visit churches, outside Luton, few of them admittedly with the intellectual social and cultural advantages that a town like Luton enjoys. I also receive in the course of my job, stacks of promotional litereature from various music publishers, so I consider that I am pretty well informed on general developments on the musical side of the liturgy.

Nor would I have thought that the attitudes I expressed are as singular as your correspondents would make it appear. I believe the same dispute is being pursued with vigour within many parishes of the Anglican Communion at present, if stories in the popular Press are anything to go by.

As 1 pointed out in my original letter, I am not a musician or even particularly knowledgeable about music (pace Fr Goold, I thought that far from "stinking of spiritual pride", my letter displayed commendable humility on this point at least) but I think I know enough to be able to assert with confidence that there is good and bad in music, as in everything else.

It is not simply a matter of taste, or whether people like this or that, even less of music's being the food of love — a generally misunderstood and overworked phrase, by the way. However hard they are to accept, standard do exist and some forms of music are undubitably better than others.

That may sound elitist. It's meant to. For 'myself, all I demand of music is that it should be recognisably human in character — from expressing adolescent yearnings at one extreme, say, to immortal longings at the other. My criticism of much (not all!) of the new music

we are presented with is that it lacks any trace of human feeling whatsoever.

It certainly represents no human emotion I am familiar with. It is, in short, non-art, nonmusic, non-human. Even bad art, as exemplified by "Soul of my Saviour" which at least expresses something, is preferable to this empty sound of tinkling cymbals.

But don't we all, shouldn't we all, want the best in music, particularly when using it as a means of directing our thoughts to the highest good we know?

Clarence Johnson Luton, Bedfordshire.

I have followed with great interst the discussion on church music in your corresondence page, and strongly agree with those who support that well-worn but still well-loved "Soul of my Saviour" which has always been such a good stand-by when trying to get a congregation to sing. And I speak from an experience of more than 55 years as choir leader, organist or both.

Mr S. A. Rees (October 27) misquotes when he says: "Music is the food of love." The real quotation is: "If music be the food of love, etc." The love and worship of God transcends even that wonderful gift of human love and it is essential that all religious music should contain that spirit of Sursum Corda.

This can be found in that triumphal aria "I know that my Redeemer Liveth" as in a later folk hymn such as "Give me Joy in my Heart" and in the "Hallejujah Chorus" as in "Morning has Broken" — though the standard of music may be very different.

What has made me sad is that in one of the most recent book of hymns, found in so many of our churches today, though in general it has a good selection and variety, there is no hymn to St Joseph, and that lovely hymn with its stirring tune, "Hark Hark thy Soul" — which makes death such a happy event — is omitted yet that hymn of the American Revolution known more colloquially as "John Brown's Body" is inserted.

There are some good Masses written to fit English translations of the Mass Liturgy. Give me the chant of a Universal Church like the Missa de Angeles sung by all members of the congregations, and not too slow.

(Miss) B. E. Oddie

Staines, Middlesex.

What's all this then, about "K umbaya" being a "greeting to a great chief" and "written for African &urns"?

It's almost certainly nothing of the sort, but from the West Indian and slave tradition; in other words a Negro spiritual and none the worse for that.

"Kumbaya" is no mysterious name of Our Lord but simply "Come by 'ere" — one version says "Kumbaya, Lord, Kumbaya", and it should be pronounced as "cum" and not "coom", and "ere" and not "ya". There are many West Indian congregations where it can be heard regularly in the negro spiritual form. Philip Daniel Redhill Surrey




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