Colin Mawby's criticism of church music
I cannot help wondering what Mr Mawby (June 7) hopes to achieve by his destructive criticisms of music used in churches today. 1 also wonder
why he thinks it necessary or
. . desirable to write his criticisms to the editor of The Times.
I have never had more than a very occasional opportunity to hear the Westminster Cathedral choir during the last twenty years. But I was more easily able to go to the cathedral during the decade when Mr George Malcolm was building up the wonderful standards of singing which Mr Mawby has inherited. I hope Mr Mawby realises what he has inherited and that he is in a very favourable position in contrast with what the average choirmaster, or organist, or parish priest has to work in.
I used to find immense pleasure in listening to the cathedral choir in those days now long gone by. But I often asked myself what I went to the cathedral for: to take part in the Mass or to hear a good concert. 1 have long ago had to admit to myself that 1 went for the concert and that the Mass took second place.
Mr Mawby says that the Catholic Church was "for so lung the discriminating patron of great art". Really? There has certainly been a great deal of "great art" in our Catholic heritage, but also a great deal of the most appalling rubbish, es
fecially in the world of music, or many centuries. He also says that the standards of music in London in general are very high. but that of church music is "shattering". He ought to have made it plain that he thinks so and not to have stated that it is
so. there is much difference herein, Nobody has suggested trying to "replace the Church's unique musical heritage within 10 ,years." An enormous amount of difficulty stems from long years before the last decade.
I am totally unaware of what experience Mr Mawby has had, if any, in trying to establish in an ordinary parish a reasonably good standard of music which gives proper place to the right of the congregation to share fully in the act of worship and not to be mere spectators. or just a captive audience. But I must say I find his remarks appear to me to he mostly influenced by the fact that he has at his disposal all, or most, of the facilities which the ordinary, hard working, unthanked, persevering, parish choirmaster would give some years of life to have.
I am now old and no longer in a position to take any part in trying to do anything about the music in our churches. I am thankful we have mostly moved away from the days when choirs greatly enjoyed themselves on a Sunday morning, but when the Mass had to be "fitted in" with as little as possible interference with the "concert" going on in galleries and choir stalls or lofts; and when any person rash enough to try to join in was looked on as an eccentric and a nuisance. I have all my life been a great lover of the polyphonic music of the Church and of -some, but not all, of the Gregorian chant. But I will find opportunities to hear it all in concert halls and have not the least wish to have any of it forced on me when I want to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
I would like to thank all the people who are trying to meet the demands of the Liturgy now, and are not living in years long gone by. Let us give encouragement to what is being done by the people who have not, and probably don't want to have, paid professionals whose wish will naturally be to monopolise every occasion when they sing in church. For goodness "let the people sing". but let those who can, give every encouragement to establish good. willing, truly expressive singing in our churches. And let us all have endless patience and perseverance; and never be "satisfied-.
Howard Kelleher Flat 12 St Vincent's,
Upper Church Road, Hollington, St Leonard's, Sussex.
Thank you for Colin Mawby's article of June 7 on Church music today. It certainly raises some very interesting points about the poor quality of music to be heard in our Catholic churches throughout the country. Not only is the Church musician quite naturally distressed by this state of affairs but the ordinary Catholic in the pew is positively bewildered. If we arc not having some guitar-strumming folk music foisted on us we arc presented with sonic recently composed Mass which is supposed to be eminently suited to the vernacular liturgy, but which is either so unmelodic or so unsingable that the congregation either does not attempt to sing it or gives up in despair. Choirs most certainly ought to he encouraged, but one would like to know what encouragement is being given to the people of God to take part in all this. There is no doubt that since Gregorian chant was abandoned the standard of Church music in general has deteriorated.
There is much that is musically excellent in thisprayerful music of the Church. Polyphonic music together with all other forms of Church music have their place in the repertory of the well-trained choir, but for the ordinary person in the pew there is nothing that can heat some of the beautiful melodies which abound in plainsong. I suggest that the Adoro Te and the Missa de Angelis, for instance, are not only a lot easier to sing but a lot easier to listen to than some of the modern Masses which have been composed within the past ten years. Monica King 24 Yeading Lane,