The Alignment of Romanticism and Roman Catholicism

England apostatised through Romanticism. It was a suitable portal because it did not appear to be a religion. Most people did not even know the term - they just became obsessively interested in literature, art, music and architecture. Once their interest was captured, the English became very jealous over their right to enjoy the Arts. Ultimately, in 1870, they fought the clergy over the right of the people to have a concert in a cathedral rather than a sermon. The people won and there was no turning back.

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Songs for suffering hearts

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. ~ Proverbs 25.20

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States of America, many of the artistic types in my social media feed merged into a single repetitive voice: On the one hand, they thought the world had come to an abrupt end; on the other hand, they believed that the inevitable misery would be good for Art.

You see, they believe that Art comes from suffering. (By having their will crossed in a political verdict, they think they are suffering.) They also believe that, if they make music, recite poetry and tell stories in the face of evil, then their Art will atone for the sins of the world. 

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How the Death of Charles the First changed the Victorian Church

Before the Victorian rediscovery of Christmas, there were two special non-Sabbath days in the English calendar: Easter and January 30th. If the former is obvious, the latter is more obscure. It was set aside in memoriam of Charles the First, 30th January being the date of his execution. (Historians tell us that this was for the rarity of "regicide", although Kings like Richard III were killed in battle. In terms of the execution of a monarch, we need only look to Queen Anne, second wife of Henry VIII. She was given a coronation in her own name and would have been Queen in the event of Henry VIII's death. If Charles I was the victim of regicide, then Queen Anne was even more the victim of regina-cide.)

But what does this have to do with music?

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The Devil's Tunes? Black Sabbath and Birmingham Cathedral

This week a new work was released after collaboration between Birmingham Cathedral and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. The Dean of Birmingham selected the words (based on Psalm 133) and the choral arrangement was by Paul Leddington Wright; but it is Iommi’s name that is attached to this work. 

We might wonder why. After all, fans of Black Sabbath are unlikely to be interested in Christian-themed choral music, whilst regular attenders at Birmingham Cathedral are - hopefully - even less likely to be fans of Black Sabbath, with their occult and horror themes.

Such a collaboration is not only acceptable today, but it is immune to criticism. In Music Mania, we discover the roots of this modern attitude through events that took place in 1875.

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The Theology of Song

"We Anglicans, like many other Christians, learn a fair amount of our theology through the hymns we sing"

~ N. T. Wright in For all the Saints? Remembering the Christian Departed (Continuum 2003) page xiv

This is the true reason for the deposition of the Book of Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs in the Holy Scriptures from its pre-eminent position as the appointed music of the Church. Their theology does not suit our theology. The Rev. William Romaine stood against the tide in his own generation, when the pragmatist said that the hymns of Charles Wesley were necessary because people were so ignorant of any knowledge of God.

The nature of the worth we proclaim moulds us. If we praise God's tolerance at expense of his justice and if we praise God's love in the absence of his mercy, then we sing from a different hymn-sheet. This does not mean that Christians cannot write good songs. But they are not fit for God's worship. Our theology is too poor and the Lord God knew it in giving us songs for his worship. He leads us as children. If we stand on the table and pronounce that we are tall enough to look grown up and can now write songs for ourselves, we only show how childish we still are.

Tavener: Man’s Requiem to himself

“After the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales, choir singers from all over the world hurried to find copies of Song for Athene, which was sung at that service, so that they too could enter that ethereal, comforting, deeply personal and uniquely imagined sound world.”

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/nov/15/sir-john-tavener-appreciation-bob-chilcott

John Tavener certainly did invent his own world, one in which it was possible to reconcile contradictions of belief. The man who struggled to express “universalism” in his music was born into a Presbyterian family. Those beliefs could have shaped him into a great Christian composer. Instead, he abandoned them to ride the waves of Catholicism, then the Orthodox church, and latterly to invoke Hindu and Muslim ideas within his pseudo-Christian framework.

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The Music of Funerals

The antithesis is sharpening.

Funerals are now taking on a new complexion in England. Some are religious and some are humanist. And people are becoming so indifferent as to the distinction that, more often than not, they do not tell you it will be humanist until you are outside the door of the "Church".

The fact that a funeral is classed as humanistic does not remove religion. In my experience, humanists always need music. 

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The Bible and the Composer

One of the matters I sought to refute in Beauty and Joy: The Christian Nature of Music is the idea that the best art made by Christians is art with content drawn from the Bible.

Paul Westermeyer advocates - or rather assumes - this:

If you emphasise Christ’s humanity at the expense of his divinity, you might choose music that affirms our humanity - music that relates to us who are beings with bodies. If you follow this logic, the music may be rhythmic and perhaps even sensuous. Or may be the highest possible art.

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Whatever happened to Reformed worship?

Tim Challies is highlighting a free to download recording of The Church's One Foundation.

http://www.challies.com/articles/hymn-stories-the-churchs-one-foundation-free-download

His introduction spells out how important hymns are to the Church, and especially as a means of teaching. He selects Exodus 15 as an example of this latter point, which is curious. The songs of Scripture, namely the Psalms, are designed (according to the Holy Scriptures) to record, thank and praise (see Rev. Romaine's Hymns Most Perfect for more information). They are not designed to teach. That might be a side effect, but it is not the purpose of songs. The song in Exodus 15 records, thanks and offers praise. It is a proclamation relating to the specific experiences of the Children of Israel - not a homeschooling sing-song to let the kids know what is going on and why.

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Hubert Parry on BBC 4

Programme: The Prince and the Composer

Aired: Friday 10th February 2012

Hubert Parry is best known for two works: "Jerusalem" and "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind". A religious man, we might think. But no. His father's heart was made to ache by his son's rejection of Christianity.

He reminds me of Samuel Wesley, son of Charles Wesley, who left Methodism and became a Roman Catholic (while the work was there). And he in turn reminds me of so many men who have composed grand music "for the Church" from outside the Church. 

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