'Or the organ:
Or any of the 'old stuff that no one really likes these days!'
With these words, all of English Traditional Church Music's heritage was flushed down the proverbial toilet!
What I don't understand is the fact that the person who uttered those words was the self same person who had waxed lyrical at BBC Television's offering 'The Choir' and had told others about experience of choirs in other places had been a triumph and a joy. Of course, when they spoke of 'choir' they meant groups of people in robes doing 'Gospel' or communities who had been brought together in the same way as Gareth Malone did in the BBC series; and yet this is exactly what Church (and the choir and the organ) offer - along with a rich tradition and the warrant of history too!
The old (and rather hackneyed) joke asks this question:
'What's the difference between a terrorist and church organist/choir master* ?'
and of course the answer is (drum roll):
'Terrorists are willing to negotiate!'
All too often I hear of how choirs or organists or choir masters are 'holding the church to ransom' and how 'everyone' would be so much better off without them. The reality is that this is not the truth.
Who will be out of bed to make the am service in a church and be back again for the evening service?
Is it the rank and file members? I think not, for generally it seems we are a nation of 'oncers'!
Is it the clergy? Quite likely!
So who else is there? The answer is the organist and the choir members, for they can often be found doing the morning service and then returning for the evensong of Sung Eucharist too!
Psychologists tell us that singing in a choir is one of the best ways of ensuring our mental well-being. The joy of making music and being in harmony and belonging is worth it's weight in banana chips.
For those learning to play instruments, the church choir offers the opportunity for the tyro musical type to learn to sight-read, develop pitch awareness and make some beautiful music on the way. It also pays dividends when the practical exam's are upon them because they can do the aural tests with their eyes closed and their mouths open.
For the churches themselves, it provides a source of great music, vocal support for the congregation and something that draws us back to God, for isn't that what music, art and all the other 'soft academic subjects are really all about - being creative is recognising the Creator in us!
So a plea to those who long for the day when we all have worship bands and the organ and the choristers are relegated to the museums that are cathedrals and the like.
Our churches, our children, the adults and God all deserve and demand that the diversity of worship and the richness of the English Church Music tradition bring.
Applaud, encourage, retain and recruit for without it our worship becomes limited and lacklustre.
* delete as applicable
'oncer' - someone who makes one service on a Sunday and knows you should be grateful!