Joyful noise? The Why, What and How of music in church
Peter Dale in Choir & Organ
Foreword by former Archbishop of Canterbury
Most Revd Dr George Carey (Lord Carey of Clifton)
Illustrated by Bill Hindle
Published by Holy Trinity Press.
Price UK £15.75 / US $30 250 pages.
ISBN 0-9554393-0-2 (13-figure ISBN: 978-0-9554393-0-8)
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|Church and music
|Church and musician
|Church and instrument
|Funerals and weddings
|Playing the verses
|Psalms and responses
|Using the organ
Of all relationships within the church, that between incumbents and musicians seems to be the most delicate and problematic. Why should this be the case? How can music - one of God's great gifts - be a source of division and disagreement in Christian ministry?
By Lord Carey of Clifton
(Former Archbishop of Canterbury)
In answer to this question, Dr Rishton looks closely at the different roles that music and the musician can play in the church and builds up a surprising picture of church music as a pastoral ministry. He charts some of the developments in different denominations that have led to the ambiguities of role that now result in difficult relationships. These principles find a practical expression in a detailed analysis of how the musician can inspire and communicate with a congregation.
However, this is not only a practical handbook for musicians: it is a challenge to us all to rethink our ideas about church music. It should be read not only by church organists and music group leaders but by clergy and church officials too because, central to Dr Rishton's vision, is that all those who have a leadership role in our churches will work together towards a common vision and purpose - the Kingdom of Christ.
Reviews of Joyful Noise
- Review by Peter Dale in Choir & Organ (January 2007, p.69) (as PDF)
This ambitious book sets itself a huge brief in the form of a handbook for the parish organist, covering everything from accompanying hymns to using humidifiers – primary, and sometimes pressing matters, all of them, and the advice here is immensely sound, wise and informative. Just as useful are passages about humility, diplomacy and courage. Then there’s how, diplomatically, to engage with the loud singer in the congregation who has his own tempi, phrasing and compulsion to rallentando at the end of each verse; or how to make expressive use of silence. A rich, deeply considered compilation. In fact, if only the book had an index it would recommend itself as an indispensable vade mecum.
An illuminating feature is its references to Lutheran practices in Norway, where Rishton has taught. It reminded me of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, with conventional courses in performance and composition, but also qualifications in Teaching and Church Musicianship. At a stroke Finland has largely eliminated what are two perennially problematic areas of British musical life.
Where Rishton is most interesting (in the Why? section) is where he is also most contentious. Recognising candidly ‘a substantial group of agnostic organists’, he argues very firmly that church musicians should be ‘theologically competent’, and goes on to lament ‘that we have lost sight of the biblical concept of music as spiritual warfare’. When that expression first crops up it is in the context of Joshua, trumpets, shofars, and so on, but later it becomes clear that what he really means is something much more militant and (if my residual theological memory serves me right), actually rather Manichaean – so, quite frankly, not all that attractive to people of a more quietist disposition. Is he really unaware of, or is he blinded by, his own conviction to the complexity of this issue? And, indeed, to the irony that some of our best hymn/religious composers have been very considerable doubters? But he actually cites one of them (VW) with (innocent?) approval. Better, I think, to have made this the subject of another book, and to have concentrated instead upon the handbook, which is arguably its real forte anyway. Even at this rather high price, it’s worth it for that.
Abridged version of review by Canon Jeremy Fletcher (Precentor of York Minster) on The Foundation for Church Leadership website, 2007
Tim Rishton is Director in Continuing Studies in Music at the University of Lancaster, and an organist with a wide experience in churches in the UK and in Norway. Married to a priest, he sets out in Joyful Noise to right a perceived imbalance between the theological and musical apitudes of the leaders of music in churches, and to provide a theological underpinning to the use of music in worship. Starting with a wide-ranging reflection on the purpose of music and moving to detailed practical hints, much of the book is addressed to music leaders, though ‘non musical’ church will find something of interest and value too.
[There] are some gems for which I am thankful. It is always helpful to be reminded that music has a number of functions in worship, that a church leadership team should include the musical leader(s), and that genuine collaboration is essential, not an unattainable holy grail. The book is good on the processes which have lead to the angry marginalisation of many organists and music leaders, and rightly points out that its is their very specialism in music alone to the detriment of liturgical and theological knowledge that puts many musicians and their clergy on a collision course. The same is not true of Lutheran Churches, where music leaders need to demonstrate theological competence before using their music in a liturgical context. It is something which the RSCM is now giving impressive weight to, but this will take a decade or two to make a real difference.
There is a brilliant passage where Rishton gives a forensic diagnosis of how organists can come to be isolated from the purpose and life changing nature of worship, because of their very concentration on doing the best possible professional job. Focussing on their tasks within a service can mean not concentrating on the worship as a whole, and organists can become arrogantly superior, he says, while denying themselves the opportunity to be changed and to journey through the service with the rest of the congregation. “It is not surprising that so many organists withdraw from an active expression of faith within the congregation: the wonder is that any retain a living personal faith at all”. A discussion of this passage alone between Vicar and Organist could be incredibly fruitful.
The practical sections for organists are detailed and helpful, if at the most basic of levels. Given the dearth of organists and music leaders today this is probably about right.
Church Music Training website
"An entertaining and informative book ..."
ROBERT FIELDING (Salisbury Diocesan Church Music Adviser).