The national scandal that almost Split the Cabinet and caused the national press to speculate whether or not a general election would be held does not appear to me to be a political party problem but rather a national problem. In our present so-called affluent society, ordinary working men are extremely lucky if they can earn £1,000 per year but a twenty-one year old female can receive offers of £24,000 to tell the story of her miserable and sordid life to a Sunday newspaper. This same female (she is not worthy of the name woman) was also offered £60,000 to act as a commere for a West End night restaurant.
A few years ago, news items on television included film shots showing hundreds of people forming queues at various shops hoping to buy copies of "Lady Chatterley's Lover". Surely these events are not isolated occasions but rather do they illustrate the general decline in the nation's moral standards and behaviour and reinforce the old saying that a nation gets the type of Government it deserves.
Legislation, created by all parties, helps to generate the atmosphere that tends to corrupt society. lf a man wishes to make certain that he extracts the full amount of tax relief from the authorities then he has to engage an accountant and pay a fee, sometimes a substantial fee at that; the fee paid to the consultant automatically becomes an item of expenditure which the Income Tax Inspector will accept as genuine expenses. Surely any law which necessitates the engagement of an expert in order to provide a person to obtain what justice permits is a bad law and bad laws creates bad society. A man and wife arc penalised when it comes to both paying tax and therefore the Income Tax laws encourage people either to live together rather than marry or keep their married status secret; again
a bad law. People can apply for a Legal Aid Certificate in order to obtain a divorce. Tax-payers' money is used to break up homes but when it comes to supporting orphanages the state will not give financial assistance. There is a private member's bill before the House of Commons at the moment whereby it will be permissible to get a divorce by consent.
No one political party can he blamed for these bad laws. Everybody is to blame and whilst legislation cannot prevent crime the environment which is created by legislation can encourage a lower standard of moral behaviour until such times as it will be not only difficult for young people to form good habits but it will be extremely difficult to decide when public opinion is offended. As a nation we cannot exercise, by licence, a lower standard of morals and at the same time expect a much higher standard from those people we elect to govern us whether at national or local level. Television plays, motion pictures, literature on sale in almost all book shops all tend to glorify crimes of violence and adultery. But how many of us offer strong objections, there are more of us surely who sit and enjoy these presentations rather than complain. Public opinion is often mentioned. It is a rather vague phrase but if we wanted to we could create a real public opinion by acting as ordinary people, not as a pressure group, simply by letting our views be known to our own Members of Parliament, by writing to the B.B.C., the I.T.V. or the newspaper editors, this is the way to let the authorities know what public opinion really is. Until action of this kind is done by the majority of the people of this country, we shall continue to experience public scandals from time to time.
L. Poupard Hull, Yorks.
THE PROBLEMS OF CHURCH CHOIRS
The problem of most choirs is the same: people nowadays who have good, or at least passable, voices do not seem to consider the praise that they can offer up to theAlmighty by singing in the choir: they are concerned only with getting out of the church as quickly as possible, and prefer a Low Mass to a Missa Cantata because it is quicker. If only these people would realise that they can praise God in a far better way by providing a choir in order to carry out the liturgy with true devotion than by sitting apathetically in a pew reciting their rosary. People are not willing to sacrifice an hour or two each week for a practice without wanting to 'get something' out of it, and would be shocked if asked to give three hours which are the absolute minimum that is essential for carrying out the functions of a choir in the proper manner.
Yet another cause of bad choirs is the person who has been in the choir for 'years': the old lady who now sings completely flat, especially when she ascends into the heights to take the strain of the high notes of the Sanctus, although admittedly, she did have a good voice forty years ago. Then there is the old gentleman who used to sing even the cantor's parts, but who has now sung so much that his voice will take no
more and has thus sunk to a deep octave below the others' voices.
An answer to most of these problems is a good choirmaster, a strong-willed person capable of defending himself against the tirades of the parish priest whose suggestions are so often unliturgical and, even worse, unmusical. He should have a thorough knowledge of plainchant, and should be skilled to a certain extent in other forms of Church music such as polyphony and hymn-singing.
After obtaining a choirmaster, the thing to do is to remove, very tactfully, the person or persons in the choir who have bad voices, and, more usually, flat voices. This can be done quite simply by sayjog that, as the congregation will be singing too, there is need of their voices in the church where they can help the congregation to sing their part.
The choir should realise that they as a body have a supreme opportunity for serving their Maker. A choir cannot be a true choir unless it has this ideal in the background. A choir does not sing to show off its tone and volume, it sings to serve the remainder of the congregation and to help them follow the liturgy.
Most important of all, the question of congregational singing has arisen. If a congregation 'sings' in the Catholic Church it means that at least 60% are mute, 20% are emitting throaty murmurs, 10% are doing their best: giving forth throaty growls, 5% are mothers making their children behave, and, wonder of wonders, the other 5% are actually singing !
Why do congregations not sing? Because unfortunately 80% of them are shy and easily embarrassed, 10% are just apathetic, and the remaining 10% cannot sing. The answer to this is to tell them that if everyone sang there would be no embarrassment.
What kind of music should the congregation sing? NOT PLAINSONG! Plainsong sung as it should be is most difficult. A congregation might be able to sing the melody running through it, but is not able to capture the most important subtleties, nuances, and shades which are plainsong. In fact, they ruin it. Therefore they should sing Masses composed specially for them, such as the People's Mass. Also, many more hymns should be sung in church.
My last point about choirs is that they are a whole, made up of blending voices, not of individual voices. If an individual wishes to demonstrate the qualities of his voice he should not belong to a choir because a choir is a team.
Peter A. Bird Osterley, Middx.