Monday, September 10, 2007

The Singing Thing (John Bell)

This was a book I bought and actually read at Greenbelt, and (combined with the Richard Giles books - reviews forthcoming) it has really shifted my thinking about the liturgy. But I'll write about that elsewhere. Bell splits the book into two parts (and the book itself is the first of two books). In the first part he outlines all the reasons why human beings sing, and why it is so important. As you might imagine, he found a receptive reader in me. He lists ten reasons:
- because we can
- to create identity (especially community identity)
- to express emotion
- to express words (beliefs)
- to revisit the past (remember ourselves)
- to tell stories
- to shape the future
- to enable work
- to exercise our creativity, and
- to give of ourselves.
All of which were very persuasively argued for. He then goes on to ask 'why do most people - in England in particular - not sing?' He argues that:
- almost everyone can sing, but most have been told they can't at a formative age;
- the 'performance culture' inhibits joining in (and he is equally critical of robed choirs and worship bands);
- the layout within a church often undermines congregational confidence; and
- there is often appalling leadership, from clergy and choirmasters, organists and musicians and choristers, all of whom seem theologically bankrupt when considering singing in church. (My summary - not his language!)

This was a really good book, which I think needs a much wider circulation. I'll be reading part two shortly....

One last thing - it really reinforced the truth in the song 'Roots' by Show of Hands:

"Now it's been 25 years or more,
I've roamed this land from shore to shore.
From Tyne to Tamar, Severn to Thames,
From Moor to Vale, from Peak to Fen.
I've played in cafes, and pubs and bars,
I've stood in the street with my own guitar.
But I'd be richer than all the rest
If I had a pound for each request
For "Duelling Banjos", "American Pie" -- it's enough to make you cry.
"Rule Britannia", or "Swing Low",
Are they the only songs we English know?

Seed, bud, flower, fruit,
They're never gonna grow without their roots.
Branch, stem, shoots.
They need roots!

After the speeches when the cake's been cut,
the disco's over and the bar is shut.
At Christening, Birthday, Wedding or Wake,
What can we sing until the morning breaks?
When the Indian-Asians, Afro-Celts -- it's in their blood below the belt.
They're playing and dancing all night long,
So what've they got right that we've got wrong?

Seed, bud, flower, fruit,
Never gonna grow without their roots.
Branch, stem, shoots.
We need roots!

And all away boys, let them go,
All in the wind and the rain and snow.
We've lost more than we'll ever know,
On the rocky shores of England.

All away boys, let them go,
All in the wind and the rain and snow.
We've lost more than we'll ever know,
On the rocky shores of England.

We need roots!

And the minister said his vision of hell is 3 folk singers in a pub near Wells.
Well I've got a vision of urban sprawl.
It's pubs where no one ever sings at all.
And everyone stares at a great big screen,
Overpaid soccer stars, prancing teens,
Australian soap, American rap, Estuary English, baseball caps.
And we learn to be ashamed before we walk,
Of the way we look and the way we talk.
Without our stories, or our songs,
How will we know where we come from?
I've lost St George in the Union Jack,
It's my flag too and I want it back!


Seed, bud, flower, fruit,
Never gonna grow without their roots.
Branch, stem, shoots.
We need roots!

And all away boys, let them go,
All in the wind and the rain and snow.
We've lost more than we'll ever know,
On the rocky shores of England.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.