The Season after Pentecost
sometimes called "Ordinary Time"
Herself was away last evening, so one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had read all 147 pages (double-spaced) of Daniel McGrath's doctoral thesis, The Choir School in the American Church, which is a hearty defense of men and boys choirs and an advocate for their implementation.
McGrath wisely points out the checkered past of the men & boys choir phenomenon in England: moving from monastery to cathedral and being periodically suppressed by ornery monarchs. In the U.S. choirs of men & boys enjoyed a brief golden age from the 1890s to the early 1920s when there were well over 100 such choirs in the country, many accompanied by choir schools. Now there are about 25 and one school (St Thomas, New York).
McGrath gets a lot right in his dissertation, and his keen observations on rehearsals and structure of choir programs would be well worth a look to anyone in the business.
One of the irritating facets of the dissertation, however, is McGrath's insistence that the 1979 American Prayer Book is antithetical to the notion of a men and boys' choir.
[The] development [of the 1979 Prayer Book] has had a devastating impact on American choirs of men and boys because their repertoire uses the words of the classic Anglican liturgies, and thus the content of the liturgy, rather than the shape, is of greater importance. Some choirmasters of this era argued that it was “inconceivable” that four and a half centuries of great choral repertoire would have to be abandoned just because the priest was saying some thing new at the altar. However, music and the liturgy are so closely intertwined in the Anglican tradition that it is difficult to see how there could be any other outcome.
At face value this just doesn't seem factual or logical. Choirs of men and boys still exist at 25% of their Golden Age levels, and the repertoire they sing is still drawn from those "four and a half centuries". It should be noted that some of these churches still use the 1928 book, but it simply doesn't follow that "traditional prayer book parishes" are the only ones able to support choirs of men and boys.
At times it seems like McGrath's distinction between content (1928) and shape (1979) is an artificial dichotomy he constructs to further his preference for the 1928 book. In my mind, the shape of the Gloria, and its original place in the service (not the errant place it is given in the 1928 book!) has been preserved in the 1979 book. Whether the "content" of the choral Gloria matches the book is irrelevant; no Book of Common Prayer has ever included the Gloria in Latin, yet most choirs of men and boys sing a number of settings in that language.
The 1979 version of Evensong, however, does necessitate some revision in order for the traditional versions of the Preces and Responses to be sung. But to my mind, the 1979 Prayer Book accommodates these "content" changes within the "shape" of Evensong.
And even McGrath admits that places like Grace Church, Newark perform the 1979 liturgy "tastefully".
For all that is well reasoned in the dissertation, McGrath's personal contempt for the 1979 prayer book clouds his arguments in favor of the traditional liturgy. I am not convinced that the Anglican choral tradition is a propaganda tool with which to advocate a return to the traditional liturgy. In some sense, McGrath, whom I presume identifies as an Anglican, and not an American Episcopalian, comes dangerously close to suggesting this.
Nor am I convinced that present liturgical realities will permit a large-scale return to the traditional prayer book. Those cathedrals and endowed parishes in the Episcopal Church who have or desire to have choir "schools" will likely have them with Rite II liturgical language. But how do we prepare our choirs for the next prayer book revision? How do we reconcile the tradition with the theoretical "Rite III"?
If we recognize the men and boys'/girls' choir as an outreach opportunity for the Church that edifies the moral and musical fiber of young men and women, we should seek to open that tradition to all who are interested, and not limit it to a singular understanding of the liturgy.
We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind,
by notions of our day and sect,
crude, partial, and confined.
no, let a new and better hope
within our hearts be stirred:
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from his word.
George Rawson (1807-1889)
The page you're reading is part of Sinden.org
©MMXVII Sinden.org: a site for fun and prophet
Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?
Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption
Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida
The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.
Questions? Problems? email the sexton.
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Zachary Wadsworth | composer
Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the Green (New Haven CT)
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.
the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.
interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.