I sympathise with Joan Dillon's views about the music of the Catholic Church, even though I do not belong to her faith ("Lay Catholic says 'lousy music' puts the young off church", The Herald, November 23).
I do have an interest in sacred music (and liturgy), having completed a diploma course on the subject with the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and a university. I was brought up in a Church of Scotland manse, and have been the incumbent musician in a few churches and locum tenens in many more.
Some years ago, having outgrown Presbyterianism, I decanted to the Scottish Episcopal Church for its liturgy and music. Now mainly a chorister, I'm faced with the same music about which Joan Dillon complains. This music comes from a group of composers whose original members began writing music for the Catholic Mass after the Second Vatican Council, 1962. They are referred to as the Thomas More Group. This music was supposed to be easier to sing, more attractive, more melodic and so on.
It is strongly promoted in the church and has quickly become the dominant style, a liturgical de rigueur. Choirs of any denomination now wanting to sing a Gloria, Sanctus or an Agnus Dei in their worship will be hard pressed to find something else, although the RSCM does its best to provide a wider repertoire.
Through this domination, it has spread into the Scottish Episcopal Church. Those works from the More group that I know are not well sung by congregations, not memorable except through endless repetition and not particularly inspiring. They are, however, relatively easy to play and sing and therein lies their popularity.
There is an argument that classic sacred music, generally known as Renaissance polyphony – the music of Tallis, Byrd, Palestrina and others – is thought to be difficult and old fashioned and, therefore, not used by those who might do so.
Anyone who has heard or sung Tallis's anthem, "If ye love me" or his "Nine tunes for Archbishop Parker's psalter" will know differently.
I would also point to the huge range of sacred music, some of it really simple, produced by the Taizé community in France. Worship using Taizé settings, chants and responses has been known to attract thousands to services throughout the Christian church.
I wish the new Academy of Sacred Music well and hope it is talking to the RSCM as it seeks a new way forward.
Dr David Sutherland,
1 Lochend Road,
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