Singing Bishops

Bishop McFuddle of the cathedral of St. Sebastian by the Speedway is in conference. He has summoned his minister of music (M.M.), his choir director (Ch. D.) and his organist (Org.) to discuss the singing of the creeds. Imagine the following scene.

B. – Gentlemen, I have summoned you to enliven the meaning of the creed. Your problem will be to set the creed to appropriate music that will stir the hearts and broaden the convictions of the congregation. The tunes call·for a transition from what we believe when we say it to what we mean when we sing it.

M.M. – Splendid! Our cathedral will become world-famous in rendering this necessary service to all of Christendom. Our missionaries in the bush have hinted at this for some time. But can your reverence give us something to work on?

B. -I have thought of that. For next Sunday morning you provide the music for this:

From of old it has been said: Behold, a virgin bore a son. But hark! The story’s just begun, We must regard it as a myth.

M.M. – Splendid! A musician’s dream! We shall set it in four/four time after the pattern of a Bach Chorale. We’ll put it in the major key of F, and transpose it to the minor key of G. Full organ.

Org. – I could not disagree with you more absolutely. It must be a “kind of war-song picturing major convictions in poetic terms.” Who ever wrote that in a minor key and in four/four time?

Ch. D. – Both of you are wrong. Now look, the first two lines arc not true. Who would give that a full organ and have it sung as though it means what it says? It should be sung falsetto while the major convictions come at the end. In such a case you start softly and build it up when you come to the major convictions. Perhaps we could introduce a little counterpoint.

B. – To that I agree. The conviction is in the last line. Myth calls for the full volume of both choir and organ. The last line should be in unison and repeated three times.

Org. – The falsetto will be best expressed. with the soothing flute and hemidemisemiquavers in the tremolo.

M.M. – I am coming around to your point of view. We had better not have it in four/four time. This is a modem age and we present a modem view of the creed. It should be patterned after the two-beat rhythm of the tom-tom in the bush.

B. – Now we’re getting somewhere. Our harmony here is as beautiful as the harmony between history and myth. We are opening up a new era in the annals of church music. Gentlemen, thank you for coming. Conference dismissed. When the congregation filed out of the cathedral on Sunday morning, a young lady was heard to remark to an aged saint: Wasn’t that two-beat music and the choir wonderful this morning? Wonderful! was the reply; wonderful—in a vacuum.

Sincerely yours, Post Lux Tenebrae