Thursday, September 17, 2015

“Anglicans can dress anything up”

All it takes is a boy choir dressed in cotta with ruff (the ruffled white collars), a great choir in the large, reverberant building, a wonderful organ and instrumental accompaniment, and enthusiastic singers and you can make the most droll, banal, and trite throwaway hymn sound like Palestrina or Mozart (or, more accurately, Tallis or Howells).  The Anglicans can dress up a pig and make it look and sound absolutely regal.  They have the secret and seem able to preserve dignified liturgy, perfect choral tonality, and regal setting while at the same time either ignoring or forgetting what the words of the hymn or anthem are actually saying.  But you gotta love them for it!!

Schutte's Here I Am, Lord is certainly popular but it is also popular in a different sense -- it is pop style song that suffers from the weakness of trying to sing words into God's mouth without them sounding like your own to music that is catchy but not exactly the best of the musical art.  I do not mean to demean the author or to offend those who love this song.  But in comparison to better texts and tunes, it is eminently a pop style hymn or song whose long term verdict is not yet in.  I tend to think that few of this genre will really survive a generation or more -- quite distinct from the category of hymns that transcends time and is fresh for every generation, the fruit of a creative artistry that transcends the moment, and part of the body of hymnody that will be passed on from generation to generation.

Anyway, I am not the first nor the most astute observer of the Anglican gift to make ordinary things sound Angelican.  Take a hint at the following example:

or this one:

Honestly.  The Anglicans have a gift that I envy.  But please, tell them such a gift should be used only for virtue and not for the trite. 

Okay, have at me all you who think I am a snob!


Dr.D said...

We Anglicans have held on a bit better to our choral traditions than have the Lutherans who once had a similar, well established choral tradition. The other thing is, we have held to our ceremonial much more than any Lutherans I know about.

That said, there is simply no help for a hymn with trite words, a trivial hymn. It can be performed magnificently and it is still a trivial hymn. Sadly, that is the spirit of the age speaking.


Paul said...


Papa Joe said...

This is one of three hymns I remember from my youth as a RC. My favorite was "We are the light of the World" by Jean Greif, which can be beautifully mournful if sung by enough deep voices, and "Salve Regina," the version that starts "Hail, Holy Queen enthroned above, O Maria!
Hail, Mother of mercy and of love, O Maria!" Oh, the memories!

B. Todd Granger said...

Pity the poor organist.

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Yep, you're a snob.