Music in Worship for Aficionados from kiwiconnexionOtis Rodgers November 19, 2019 0 COMMENTS
Hello. Welcome everybody. It’s good to be
here. It’s good to realise that so many people are being involved and interested in
tonight. Yeah, it’s great to have you along Stuart.
You and I are probably the longest-serving presenters in Live On Air, which has gone
past a year’s worth of broadcasts now, along with Max Thompson, who I think is watching.
Tonight is quite special; we’re going to be talking about music and worship, and we’ve
got a number of questions lined up for Stuart, and he’s got a couple of curly questions
lined up for me as well. So, to begin with Stuart; a service of worship is very dependent
on music. Why do you think that is? Because I think music is an important of life
– not just a service that’s very dependent on music. It’s that all meeting together
is dependent on music, or living is dependent on music. That’s why I’m a musician.
You say all life is dependent on music? Do you mean the quality of life is dependent
on being able to make music, or what? Music is an essential part of becoming fully
human; that’s what I mean. In the same way perhaps that speech is?
Speech is, and maths is, and science is, and phys ed is.
Well, I’m not sure that you’d want to put maths in there, but I do think it’s
important to understand that we live by doing sorts of rhythmic gestures, that we speechify.
There’s something in the way our throats and our minds work together. We like to make
song, et cetera. The best parallel is with speech; imagine
how deprived the quality of life would be without speech.
Yeah, to some extent it’s diminished. I wouldn’t say that it’s always diminished
in the way you might be suggesting, but for the most part there’s a diminution if you
don’t have speech, and I think there’s a diminution if you can’t sing and you can’t
express yourself, and you can’t move in some kind of way. Nevertheless, you haven’t
answered my question; a service of worship is rather depending on music – tell me why
that is? Well, certain things happen when – look, let’s
look at the kind of music that we’re used to in church, or that I’m used to in church.
You can say whether it applies to you or not, but music in church, for me is singing the
hymns, and listening to any music played to me.
Right, so it’s singing and it’s listening. Now, when people sing together it’s like
playing team sports in the Olympics; there’s a quality of relating to people in a team
situation that’s special and especially important for the growth of personality and
socialisation – very important areas to develop in living.
When we’re in a congregation, just as ordinary members of the congregation, we do have to
grow in terms of understanding, don’t we? Oh yes.
So you’re saying we’ve also got to grow in terms of musical appreciation of one another?
Oh yes, and of the music we’re being involved in.
What if I don’t appreciate any of the music I’m being involved in? I mean, a young person
today is not likely to come into the majority of our Methodist congregations in New Zealand,
irrespective of what culture it is, because everything is done from an ancient perspective
rather than an in-the-now perspective. You unfortunately need to speak separately
of music in church, from music in the community. I tend to look at the best music in church
typifies the successful principles of music in the community – music in schools.
Well, look I can go along with that in so far as it typifies the best qualities of music-making,
but let’s take the fact that many congregations still use the beautiful instrument of the
organ, but how often do you hear organ music being played on radio stations, unless you
go to the specialist concert program, which only – what? One per cent of the population
or .5 per cent of the population goes there. So my point is that much of the music-making
going on in churches today is actually irrelevant to where most people are at in terms of music-making,
musical appreciation, music listening. I would agree with that, on the same grounds
that I would agree if I was teaching music in schools, and I had a predominance of playing
music just for the basset horn. Many kids wouldn’t even know what a basset horn was.
So you’re not relating the experience you’re trying to develop the particular sensitivities
through, to the experience of the people in front of you.
Yeah, but then you’re getting into quite technical aspects that I don’t think the
average congregation really wants to be involved with. So let me focus your attention…
No, can I pick up one point there? Yeah.
You say I’m being technical; I don’t think the congregation needs to be technical, but
those who choose the music and develop the music need to have a technical understanding
of their area of supposed expertise. Yeah, now that’s very true. So that applies
to worship leaders, et cetera. Of course.
Now, I wasn’t just holding Stuart’s hand, but of course when he started bumping the
table, it has an effect on our microphone system, which is everyone who watches our
Live on Air knows is a little bit shaky at the best of times. So Stuart, what are the
two most important things a worship leader needs to know about music when they’re actually
in front of the congregation? That’s a good question, David. Well, they
need to know the music that they’re promoting. You’d think that would be a se ne qua non
– a simple thing, but I’ve seen people present a new hymn, and they haven’t really understood
the basic things about the hymn tune. You’ve got to know your subject, and I think you’ve
got to know people. You’ve got to know how what you have chosen as your musical example
to be shared, relates to their experience. Okay, I mean I think that’s an excellent
point, but how would you apply that to the fact that you were almost once sent to jail
over a performance rights issue? Now, we’re not thinking of Mr Manins as a jailbird or
potential jailbird, but this was a very real issue.
Well, I did what I believe was one of the first performances of Jesus Christ Super Star
when I was… In New Zealand.
In New Zealand, yeah – a lecturer at Teacher’s College, and I wanted experiences that were
enriching for my students, and also that they could relate to well, and that had just come
out in the media. I was looking actually at comparative musicology, from an educational
point of view, and I was comparing Jesus Christ Super Star – the treatment of certain material,
with The Messiah. Oh yeah, Handel’s The Messiah?
Yeah, so it was a comparative thing. We performed Jesus Christ Superstar alongside Messiah in
the same way the following year we did Dido and Aeneas, and West Side Story.
Oh right, okay. [8:34].
Right, now this is really what you mean when you say that the worship leader – in this
case it was a lecturer in the Teacher’s College music department was actually contextualising
the ancient with the modern. Many years I spent travelling around the world
with students performing renaissance and medieval music. Now, much of that is not directly related
to the experience of musical people today, but there’s something in reviving the past,
as long as you see it as representative of the past. It’s not the music for today,
but it can speak to us today, if it’s performed well enough, according to the criteria required
at the time it was used. Now, I would say that there’s a very similar
then when we’re using archaic language in church. Just about every congregation I know
goes rip-roaring off – they want the latest version of The Lord’s Prayer, but in actual
fact, if you think – as long as you don’t think that it was written in the language
of King James, but if you think of the courtly language of that time, and the way in which
The Lord’s Prayer was put in that form four-and-a-half centuries ago, what you get is a sense of
occasion in worship – the sense of occasion that you’re participating in a drama or
ritual that actually has come and travelled a long way in the passage of time. Now, it’s
very similar isn’t it; Dido and Aeneas, [John 10:17] Purcell?
Very similar. I had quite a good thought. It’s gone.
Never mind. Tell us why you almost went to jail. I’m always fascinated.
Oh well you know, I was doing this thing with Jesus Christ Superstar. I didn’t say this
morning in church when you discussed it with me, but I also got letters from well-intended
fundamentalist enthusiasts, telling me that by using this music I was corrupting – I think
these are the words they used; corrupting the impressionable minds of the young people
entrusted to my care. I thought what a load of rubbish – I won’t respond to this. I
thought, how unfortunate. They would have been happy to see you go to
jail. Tell us why you almost went to jail. Well, there was this entrepreneur – Harry
Miller who came to New Zealand at the time, and I don’t know why, but he set up a whole
system of – system. He told the press that I was a megalomaniac, treading on musical
fields that were outside my expertise. Now, he had no right to say that really; I was
just as good a conductor of comic opera or anything else. I was trained as a general
musician. I wondered why, and he said that if I went on performing that particular work
– Jesus Christ Superstar – he would sue me. I couldn’t understand why he would sue me,
because I had bought the music – hired the music from APRA – the Australasia Performing
Rights Association. I’d done all the right things that needed to be done; I’d paid
them for the scores, I’d been working with the scores, they knew what I was doing. He
comes in and says I’m doing a dreadful thing – I’ve got a disease with my personality
– megalomania, for doing it, and he would sue me if I went on with it. I actually had
to get a lawyer to decide whom I could perform it to, and who weren’t allowed in. The people
who weren’t allowed in, after the last rehearsal as I told you in church this morning, had
to go outside and for the first time in my life I was aware of people, because their
faces were nosed into the glass windows. They weren’t allowed into the performance, and
had to watch us from outside. Well, as I’ve noted I think any church would
be absolutely singing praises, that Lord if we had people standing out our windows trying
to get in, but unfortunately most of them are standing there trying to get out, Stuart
– after some of our musical performances. Okay, so I think that’s a great story. You
and I both know from pretty bitter experience what happens over copyright issues and that
kind of thing. We’ve both been there, we’ve both done that and what I would want to say,
and encourage all kinds of churches, congregations – whoever might be picking this up and watching
it is; make sure that you do get your copyright grounds clear so that you can stand on very
firm terra firma. I’d agree entirely with that, and I’d
followed that right from the start. Yeah. Okay, Stuart you had a question that
you wanted to ask me. Well, how important do you think, as a preacher,
that music is in the worship service? Well, I’ve thought about this a lot, and
I’m going to reach a conclusion that will probably surprise and shock 90 per cent of
you. I would say that the music is absolutely fundamental to the service going well, for
the vast majority of congregations, but from my personal point of view as a preacher, I
can work just as happily with recorded music, clips on YouTube and other kinds of media
as well as live music. In, fact, sometimes I don’t need music at all to operate within
the context of Christian worship. I’ll tell you why, Stuart. You’ll appreciate this,
because you’re quite a superb singer; when I was minister in Timaru I used to have to
go a number of rest homes and do services, and at one particular home it was one of the
Presbyterian homes, and they couldn’t afford, or they couldn’t find a pianist or an accompanist.
So I used to go and I’d sing solo, unaccompanied – hymns like When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
I couldn’t understand why the old people were crying, and I thought it must be because
of the beauty of the words, but I rather realised in retrospect that it was the absolute inability
of me to sing a hymn. From that point on, I began to realise that you have to, as a
preacher, work mainly with words and images. If you can also work with music then you’ve
got it made. You’ve got the start, if you like, of a good production – a good film,
a good video – whatever, but if you haven’t got musical people in your congregation, you
really don’t want to do it badly. That’s my point. There’s no point in doing it badly.
Yeah, that’s a good point, and you would apply the same thing if you had limitations
in speaking, wouldn’t you? Yeah, precisely.
You wouldn’t engage a preacher who couldn’t articulate ideas.
Well, many congregations have done that in the past.
Yeah, and prove me wrong. Yeah, that’s right.
Yes, I know. That’s a little unfortunate. Yeah, I agree. What’s going to happen in
church music as congregations age and dwindle, I think is going to become a very significant,
very serious question that clergy have to answer. As they answer that question it may
force them to start thinking about what they’re actually doing in church services anyway,
in the 21st Century; are they simply perpetuating an old form for the sake of perpetuating the
old form, or are they going to manipulate and move with that old form, and turn it into
something new and relevant that people will be knocking at the door, or faces at the windows?
Well, you know what I think about this, and I thought you made a very good point in your
sermon this morning, David. You said, we may be getting old. We all looked around at each
other, and yes – there were a few people under 60 – not very many. You said, as a set of
oldies, what can we do? We can have an idea of what’s the best in anything for our congregation,
and just because we’re old, it doesn’t diminish the need, or the opportunity to set
that. Right. Now, I’ve very deliberately got Stuart
along this evening. I had hoped to just support what he said. I had hoped to be able to share
with you – Stuart, how old are you? Eighty-something – three, four?
Eight-four? Next week or something.
Stuart and Prue Bell and myself were involved last week in trying to get a series of recordings
here in the e-Learning Centre at Trinity at Waiaki, where Stuart was singing the song
cycle in his work gospel. Unfortunately my audio recording wasn’t good enough to be
able to broadcast that song cycle tonight, but we’re re-recording this coming Tuesday,
and it will not only be available and live on air and YouTube but also on a variety of
other things, including SoundCloud as podcasts. So we’ll put the whole cycle up in SoundCloud,
but I’d like to take you over to a different way out, so our video will go off and we’re
just going to share the discussion of Jonah and then Gospel. So you’ll see coming up
on your screens in the next few seconds, the PDF that you can download when we finish the
broadcast. The song that Stuart wrote – The Tale of Jonah and Whale and the Worm; a song
for voices and piano by Manins and Gibson. Colin Gibson very helpfully put this together,
and there’s a lovely drawing there by a former member of this congregation artist
Ann Gray. What we have in this is a complete musical score for people to do. Stuart, I
forgot at our last recording that we should also include the Tale of Jonah for a separate
podcast. So, that’s the first, and let me just hide this pod, and bring up the second.
While he’s doing that, can I tell you why I wrote it?
Yeah. You gave a series of talks or sermons on Jonah
and the whale, and for the first time I realised that the setting and the understanding and
the main intention of the book was a humorous one, within the books of the Bible. Their
humour is deliberate, right from the beginning to the end, and I don’t know of many hymns
that catch that approach. Oh yeah. No.
That’s why I wrote it; for fun. Yeah, it was great that you did. The most
majority of hymns about the story of Jonah are dreadful. You know? What’s my favourite?
It comes from the 19th Century I think from the Anglican Collection – Ancient and Modern;
My God this is an awesome place without coal or candle – only fishes tripes to eat and
fishes tripes to handle. Well, I can imagine a congregation singing that, about the…
Yeah, it’s humour, but it’s humour is an irony.
Yeah, precisely. So another thing I asked Stuart to do, and we’ve been collaborating
now since – well, for a very long time, in our AIM publications, but I asked him to write
a series of Bible stories for young people, and he chose the Beatitudes to work with.
We have this published as Gospel – beautiful production, where Stuart has put together
modern words to tell Bible stories, but alongside of Gospel now, we have the complete song cycle
that goes with it. So when you download this version of Gospel, it’s minus the song cycle.
So we hope in the next week or so, to publish the song cycle, with the podcasts and the
words together. So those are the things coming up that say, yeah you can be 80 years old,
or you can be eight years old; the important thing is to get involved musically. The more
we get our congregations involved, the stronger a chance we’ve got of making some kind of
gospel connection with people. Anything you’d like to say before we bring the broadcast
to an end? We’re trying a new format in Live on Air, and we want – I really don’t
want to have to edit a whole lot. We’re almost at 7:25 – a couple of last closing
comments from you, Stuart? Yeah, the over-riding comment that comes to
mind, is the ease with which you can solve the problem that I sense in much of what I
hear from the pulpit, of people being given a space to fill in, and then struggling to
fit it in. I listen to speakers, and I categorise them into sheep and goats; those who have
really got something they want to share, and those who have got a job and they have to
fill in 50 minutes a week. What I see you doing is getting to know the people in your
audience. It’s not a problem because any audience has a wide variety of expertise,
but if you start from that source and just develop that and share it within your congregation,
you’ve got plenty of really valid up-to-date, practical things to handle.
Absolutely. No, virtually everything we’re publishing now in Live on Air, in AIM publishing,
through Kiwi Connexion, it’s sort of all interlinked, but virtually everything has
its genesis – it’s origin amongst the creative things that people have done in the congregation.
Every congregation has people like this in abundance. The real question is; how do you
take their work – because 99 per cent of them just have no clue about how to get that work
promoted. How do you actually get it seen? How do you actually get into a wider audience?
So often the work is lost that has such pertinence and relevance and sheer dynamism. Stuart and
I have been working with Joan Miles book years and years ago, and it’s been an absolute
delight to be able to go back – John gave me permission to start working on this, and
we’ve created a zine – a beautiful little Zine. The zines are something else in Facebook;
just click on a zine and you’re taking to the author’s work and the links in it go
live in kinds of directions. All of these things are being done so that the folk that
are involved in ordinary congregations – we’re just an ordinary congregation up here in Auckland,
and we’ve got ordinary congregations in Riverton and Fielding and goodness knows where.
You too can come on in and have that work given a wider audience, because I really feel
that it deserves it. I wanted to say one more…
Okay, one final comment. After that, finito. The other requirement is you’ve got to have
a David Bell in the equation. Well, I don’t know about that.
Well, you’ve got to have a David Bell or a David Bell equivalent.
Well, yeah let’s forget that. I’ll edit that bit out.
You don’t have to be modest, David. I’ve just…
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