THE ISSUE OF QUALITY IN WESTERN CHURCH MUSIC


Author: Alexandra Fol

Abstract: The article comprises seven parts: I. This author’s viewpoint on the sad state of affairs of Western Church music. II. 20th century testimonials: times are bad Western for church music. III. Church music must be good art music. IV. [Art as] theological imperative. V. Seeking the divine: theoretical and practical theology. VI. Cross-century advice. VII. Problems and solutions, culprits and victims: a summary. Based on an often humorous context provided by 20th and 21st century writers. Fol concludes that on the large scale, today’s Western Church music is of particularly bad quality because of the rise of narrowly specialized training in music, the disappearance of musical apprenticeships offered by church musicians of the past, the rarity of the complete musician who can compose, conduct and play well and would be championed by a church, the misunderstood democracy as a ‘free-for-all’ reign that leads to the gradual disappearance of the job Kapellmeister / maître de chapelle / maestro di cappella and its replacement by a “worship team”, and the demise of steady employment and the rise of per-service honorariums, among others. Fol blames the lack of institutionalized support on behalf of many Western churches for the study, development, and application of church music, the lack of vision for long-term sustainable development, the lack of continuously updated learning resources, the lack of qualified teaching personnel, the lack of full-time jobs that can attract qualified musicians, who would consider church music as a viable career path, the lack of a properly designated music budged forcing music ministers to become beggars before their own community, anti-intellectualism, repertoire stagnation, disappearance of quality criteria for new repertoire selection, usage of illegally reproduced paper and media materials, and the acceptance of rampant mediocrity of music ministers on behalf of clerical staff in the name of misunderstood ‘niceness’. Fol provides theological and historical research in support of her thesis that church music must be of high quality in order to be appropriate for usage in church services and accuses informed and educated persons in community leadership positions of nonchalant attitude and of avoiding taking steps to improve the situation despite being in a position to do so and knowing very well they should. Regardless of the call for hope, Fol’s conclusion does inspire mostly despair and hopelessness.  

Keywords: Western church music, ecumenical overview, quality, theology, education, proposed solutions

About Alexandra Fol

Alexandra Fol, DMus, CTh represented by the Canadian Music Centre & SOCAN composer1981@gmail.com www.alexandrafol.wordpress.com