Wednesday, October 27, 2010

James MacMillan: bullied by Liturgists

James MacMillan reveals he had an awful time with a liturgical committee in Scotland over the Mass he wrote for the Papal visit. I have met James on a couple of occasions, far from being "il Maestro", he is gentle, self deprecating, respectful, even defferent to clergy and the Church. Therefore it is surprising that he feels so strongly about how badly he was treated that he writes about it the Telegraph.
Fr Z makes some comments here.
In all their years of facilitating the commission of new music, Boosey and Hawkes had never dealt with such rudeness and shoddy behaviour. They were deeply shocked; and I was embarrassed because of how my Church was being seen by my professional representatives and colleagues. I had dealt with all of them in good faith from day one. I worked professionally, delivering the music in days and continued to offer the Church my services to see the project through to a fruitful conclusion.
I have given up being surprised at how badly the Church can treat people; how arbitrary, partial, self serving, cruel, unprofessional those with power can be, when they exercise it. For some reason the bullying which is constrained in secular world by legislation, good practice guidelines and clear and open procedures, is unrestrained in the Church.
I am glad James has made this public, there is nothing like the bringing things into the light to deter ecclesiastical bullying. It is same type of bullying that coerced the victims of child abuse to keep silent, wherever it occurs it should be exposed. There is no reason for the Church to be less just than the secular world.

14 comments:

terry said...

Sadly, Mr Macmillan`s account has the authentic ring of truth.

I hope he will still be commissioned to write more works and that he will not be disheartened by his very unfortunate experience.

It is very strange to say the least that a man of Mr Macmillan`s calibre was treated in such a shabby way.

Joseph said...

One has to question why, despite decades of warm words from the Popes, those in power in the Church, both clerical and lay (for certain lay people seem to wield an enormous amount of power over the clergy when it comes to the liturgy), react with a 'hermeneutic of suspicion' whenever professional artists become involved in the Church's life. I used to think it was about money - we are an un-established, largely 'immigrant' Church in this country, and resources are scarce - but I see from James' post that he even waived his fee. Why, then, this hostility toward him and his work? I speak as one from Scotland when I say we should be rejoicing over the fact that one of the pre-eminent composers of our day wants to contribute to our liturgical life. Instead, the powers that be react with a semi Jansenist horror of anything that might be considered excellent, or challenging, or requiring thought and application. In the C19th, working men and women in these islands raised beautiful and lasting monuments to God, often in the teeth of great poverty and opposition. What are we doing, excluding our best from the churches they worked so hard to build?

EFpastor emeritus said...

Well said, Father Ray. Bullies will get away with it unless confronted.
I surmise you have heard about the difference between a Terrorist and a Liturgist?
You can reason with a terrorist.

Richard said...

If most managers treat their staff or customers badly, they will leave.

But there is only one Church, so priests (or musicians with a strong faith) have no-where else to go.

I have worked in both the private and public sector, and my experience was that staff were treated far better in the private sector (in the public sector the formal contractual conditions might be better, but the personal, day-to-day treatment was worse). Same reason - the council, hospital or whatever that you work in is the only one in the area, so it's much more difficult to leave and find another job with a better boss.

The Church is the ultimate monopoly!

Zephyrinus said...

Last throw of the dice by the Modernists/Liberals. Their days are numbered. They know it.

Johnathon Adlem said...

I'm not sure I agree. I didn't think much of MacMillan's papal mass setting. I thought it was twee in parts and didn't flow well. I didn't think the congregational singing of it during both the Scotland and Birmingham masses was good, very few people seemed to be joining in and overall it sounded very limp. I'm not surprised that reservations were expressed and I wonder if it fulfilled the brief. In retrospect, probably the original music listing for Birmingham would have been a better choice.

I think the MacMillan mass setting wasn't ready, it didn't sound like the finished product. It may have potential but it was composed too quickly and with too great haste. I quite like much of MacMillan's work but I don't think he's a good composer of congregational music generaly. As for the Tu Es Petrus, I thought it sounded very similar to the theme music from Star Wars or that type of blockbuster genre! I was very suprised.

Finally, I think Bishop Conry has a point when he says that the Concillar documents say the sanctus should ideally be sung by the congregation - that wasn't done at the Westminster Cathedral mass. I don't think it's a good trend and the rubrics should be respected.

dillydaydream said...

Imagine if you work for a neat little cartel with a publishing house attached.Imagine you are looking forward to all the royalties from the sale of CDs and sheet music contingent on an international event. Imagine someone comes along who is contracted to another publishing house, and whose Mass setting is chosen before you can put forward your own or your friend's lucrative suggestions.

I'm not suggesting for a moment that this happened. I had a cheese toastie for dinner and it stimulated my over-active imagination.

Sadie Vacantist said...

@Johnathon Adlem

Totally agree! Interesting point about the Sanctus.

Patricius said...

I thought James Macmillan's Tu es Petrus magnificent and I have for some time been impressed with the kind of things he says about liturgical music, however, having looked forward to his mass, I was somewhat disappointed. I do not dispute its quality or its singability but, as a mediocre sight-reader, I struggled with it at the Beatification Mass at Cofton Park. Why was no effort made to teach it to the congregation - either in the parishes beforehand or even before the start of the mass? Before Pope John Paul's visit in 1982 both of these things happened with the result that my living simultaneously in two ecclesiastical provinces equipped me with the music for both Coventry and Cardiff. At the very least it might have been provided on the CD we received with our "Pilgrim Passports". Those who criticise from the point of view of "congregation-friendliness" MIGHT have had a point if the mass had been given a fair chance.

fidelisjoff said...

My bishop is liberal ang bullies as a matter of course. There is no dialogue just he dissents and any challenge to his waywardness is dealt with aggressively with his admonishments copied to your parish priest in order to shut you up. My experience is that with liberal dissenters in the church shutting others up is their modus operandi of course they will say they are having an " intelligent debate"!

Crux Fidelis said...

Joseph. Re suspicion of professionals: When I was a seminarian many years ago our music teacher (a Belgian) used to declare "When they [parish priests] want a plumber they get a plumber. When they want a carpenter they get a carpenter. But when they want an organist they get a butcher."

Fr O' said...

Fidelisjoff,
I don't think too many of our bishops do "nice", I speak as a priest.

IanW said...

Johnathon Adlem: what do you have in mind when you suggest that "Bishop Conry has a point when he says that the Concillar documents say the sanctus should ideally be sung by the congregation"?

Johnathon Adlem said...

Sacrosanctum Concillium explicitly states that every effort should be made for the sanctus to be sung by the congregation so they make take their rightful place in the liturgical celebration. Yet during the Westminster Cathedral mass, a choral sanctus was used precluding the active participation of the faithful. I'm just highlighting the selective use of the rubrics which many traditionalist types advocate.