Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Lamenting the great Aussie government-induced cultural cringe . . . in Church music

Lamenting the great Aussie government-induced cultural cringe. See

Michael Kieran Harvey: What Would Peggy Do? - Arts - Browse - Big Ideas - ABC TV

This lecture, although it refers mainly to contemporary secular Australian art music composition, is also highly relevant to Church music in Australia.

I love classical Church music, and I support maintaining a core repertoire of "traditional" Anglo-European Church music. But imposing imported Church music repertoires holus-bolus on Australian Church communities, even if these repertoires are deemed "superior" by music critics and selectors, can be massively emotionally and culturally damaging. This practice effectively stifles local creative movements of the Holy Spirit in our local Australian Churches, and creates undesirable schisms among dissatisfied Church members.

The practice of culturally gagging Aussie congregations and re-directing their admiration / worship to expressing second hand imported music has moral and ethical limits. The fact is, imported Church music repertoires, however excellent, come from a different time and place and population. Although we may empathise with and appreciate non-Australian musical expressions of Christian faith, it is hard, some might say impossible, to reach the deeper communal levels of faith as Australians living in Australia, unless we worship God directly with our own unique Australian music, that comes from the heart of Australia.

It would be interesting to do a survey of just how many Australian-made compositions are included in our Church music repertoires and licensing lists in Australia. I believe that editing out or minimising local Australian compositions in our repertoires risks rendering Church music in Australia culturally irrelevant to congregations. Australians who attend Churches are often musical, and many have brilliant musical concepts, ideas and creations, which are expressed and sometimes briefly admired, but their work is seldom promoted, simply because the composers are local, Australian, and therefore unimportant. Promoting a token number of Australian Church music composers is seen as an acceptable and easy solution, but why should the majority of Australian Church music composers be relegated to oblivion, in preference to a privileged few?

Typical Church music repertoires in Australia include 5% of Australian Church music compositions, which overseas visitors find very strange. This can be easily remedied, as lots of Australian compositions are available, and Church music directors and clergy have the power to gradually increase this percentage. It's time we got out of our comfortable imported music rut.

If there is an Australian Church music composer in your congregation, please seek them out, encourage them to continue composing, listen to / workshop their music, and include as many Australian items as possible in your Church music repertoire. You may be surprised at its quality, and at its effect on your congregation.

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