Monday, 30 May 2011

Music and Services and a Quality Threshold

I'm pleased that the 'trinitarian hymn' has found favour with someone well outside the Unitarian fold, and it is proof (if needed) that the 2010 hymn book Sing Your Faith (that supplements Hymns for Living) does stretch the whole range. This is an intelligent Christian hymn using theological concepts. However, I admit to being worried about next week's service in a way unexpected: it is Unitarian traditionalist Christian about the King James Bible and I have done something interesting - I have turned down doing a reading of a Psalm. Now there is a practical reason, which is I prefer to disappear behind the curtain as I operate all the music to assist the illusion of its appearance. But I admit that I really do not like the service structure put in front of me so far, as I get to see the outline in advance. When I was at Barton and the Church of England there I reached a point where I turned down all requests to participate, and this is the case with this example.

I don't even think the service suits the Hull congregation, but then that is just my opinion. Sunday last was Stephen's service on being a hypocrite. That was Christian orientated but also with a light touch. I particularly liked his reference to the late Unitarian Sir Cyril Smith (who opened the Hull church building) and the difference between the write up in The Inquirer and the write up in Private Eye after his death - surely The Inquirer could have contained something of which was in Private Eye, he said. Quite so.

Afterwards I laughed at the editing of my piece about our coming Liberal Catholic preacher in the bi-monthly church rag. By way of explanation, it was "edited down to zero". Fortunately, the other chap's introduction survived, but even it was edited. Meanwhile there is a page about a dog. My view is this. What I wrote might require a bit of work to understand it all, but it we don't put in some effort to tackle something different then we end up with endless mediocrity. If we always write to what we think people will understand, then no one learns anything. I read things I don't understand and then I go and find out what they mean. Anyway, if people are interested, there is a long article left on the side to pick up. I'm not bothered about it but nor am I in any rush to provide content.

However, the AGM comes soon and the report booklet was handed out. It says (Chair):

The music difficulty has now been solved by the willing help of Adrian Worsfold and the new sound system. The services once again run smoothly and the microphone is working well. All this adds to the atmosphere of our worship. Thank you, Adrian, for working so hard for us...

And the Secretary:

Thanks to Adrian is now in charge of the music. Our new music centre is a delight which enhances the quality of the services.

Now as well as the hymns on Sunday last I also put out pieces by Bach, Parry, Richard Clayderman and Pino Donaggio. The latter provided the end piece of music, which people listen to before they get up for the coffee. This was the Love Theme from Don't Look Now, which I explained after is played over the main sex scene intercut with putting their clothes on that the censors liked because it showed two people in love trying to get over their bereavement.

But the music was such that it might have finished here, or here or here, and why didn't I fade it out? Because the whole emphasis, since I have taken over this task, has been on quality, and fading out would ruin the integrity of the music. I do extracts for the collections, but that's all. I edit hymns and extracts so that you cannot see the joins. I 'play' each piece we use unseen by the congregation and to the moment the preacher announces it. The quality of the music the system produces is superb, and to get it I went to a small DJ repair business and chatted with the sole trader again and again before installation (and he didn't overcharge like an obvious place to go would have done). I still chat with him now.

Once you start to 'oh just fade it out' and so on, you're on the slippery slope. And how many pieces of (non-hymn) music have I repeated so far? About five I think. Music is playing when people come in, and it can play through the coffee if they want (it gets turned right down, does go off).

The hymns are either sourced elsewhere, come from Unitarian choirs, or in the end I can transcribe and make the musical sound (and I've got the hang of more or less echo too, an instrument can thus feel further back or forward). I still want someone to learn to make up the two identical CDs for each time; there is just one other trained chap who can play them on the equipment from the track list made every week. On Tuesday last I had a bad cold and lacked energy, and I wondered if it lasted whether a CD would get made up. They are relying on me and it shouldn't be as exclusive as that; but, if you are going to rely on me then it gets done according to a quality threshold.

By the way, if the language of 'working so hard for us' seems not to include me in the 'us', it could be because I am not actually a member of the congregation.

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