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Ephemera and whimsy
Iris
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Iris » 3 months ago

JohnToo wrote:
3 months ago
S2E2 gloriously features the music of John Rutter...
*shudder*

I've recently watched the wondrous first couple of episodes of series 1. I thought Mrs I was beyond ep1 of S2, but obviously not - that would have been mentioned sternly. She took over the church choir in order not to have to have to Rut.
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by JohnToo » 3 months ago

Iris wrote:
3 months ago
*shudder*

I've recently watched the wondrous first couple of episodes of series 1. I thought Mrs I was beyond ep1 of S2, but obviously not - that would have been mentioned sternly. She took over the church choir in order not to have to have to Rut.
Yes, I didn't think I'd misremembered your aversion to anything musical that is (a) less than a century or so old and (b) popular :)
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Iris
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Iris » 3 months ago

JohnToo wrote:
3 months ago
Yes, I didn't think I'd misremembered your aversion to anything musical that is (a) less than a century or so old and (b) popular :)
Nearly the last time we went out was to Porgy and Bess at ENO. Which is both. But Rutter is just bad. If I weren't on a phone I could explain why, and how it's his badness that makes him popular.
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JohnToo
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by JohnToo » 3 months ago

I can wait for the explanation when you're not on a phone sometime...
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Regulator » 3 months ago

*Sticks on 'John Rutter - The Choral Collection'*

And to compound the offence, I shall follow it up with some MacMillan and Tavener...
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Rocky » 3 months ago

Regulator wrote:
3 months ago
*Sticks on 'John Rutter - The Choral Collection'*

And to compound the offence, I shall follow it up with some MacMillan and Tavener...
You’d be better off listening to Wagner...Parsifal is a good choice.
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Regulator » 3 months ago

Rocky wrote:
3 months ago
You’d be better off listening to Wagner...Parsifal is a good choice.
I rather overdosed on Wagner yesterday...
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JohnToo
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by JohnToo » 3 months ago

Now you're just playing into @Iris 's hands... :)
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Iris
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Iris » 3 months ago

Regulator wrote:
3 months ago
*Sticks on 'John Rutter - The Choral Collection'*

And to compound the offence, I shall follow it up with some MacMillan and Tavener...
They are both decent composers. Unlike Wagner.
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Rocky » 3 months ago

Iris wrote:
3 months ago
They are both decent composers. Unlike Wagner.
I seem to remember we've had this conversation before (in another place) ;)
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Music

Post by LowlifeDes » 3 months ago

Iris wrote:
3 months ago
They are both decent composers. Unlike Wagner.
That bit the orchestra play, as they drift off out to sea, at the end of At the circus is very good.
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Iris
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Iris » 3 months ago

Iris wrote:
3 months ago
Nearly the last time we went out was to Porgy and Bess at ENO. Which is both. But Rutter is just bad. If I weren't on a phone I could explain why, and how it's his badness that makes him popular.
At the risk of pricking Ransos's pretentiometer, here's the outline of a story.

The sort of music Rutter writes depends on a good tune that's easy to pick up, setting the words well and with a decent arrangement. The great modern example of the kind in the same genre is Howard Goodall's setting of the 23rd psalm - the Vicar of Dibley theme - in which the slight syncopations add a slight swing.

Turning to the bit of Rutter featured in the episode - the word setting of the first verse is shaky. He sets:

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, to shine upon-you-and-be-gracious.

Just like that - he repeats "to shine upon you" for no particular verbal reason, just so that he can make a little rising sequence of melody, and then rushes through to the end of the line just where the words demand a little air, with a slight accent on the -cious of gracious by virtue of a short note on gra-. He then compounds it by having one of the lower parts repeating "and be gracious" - again for no verbal reason.

And the melody is just a little awkward - the rhythms are quite foursquare and the melodic patterns meander rather than travel. All of that is pretty typical of Rutter.

Like the Goodall, the structure of the piece is roughly AABA. Unlike the Goodall where there's a clear and meaningful contrast in the B section (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death) Rutter's B section is quite samey. I don't know this particular piece well enough to remember whether it's the case here, but quite often Rutter's B sections have an awkward shift into a distant key. In this piece the last A section just keeps repeating the word Amen - where a more intelligent composer would have found a different way to set the word.

All of that, ironically, makes Rutter quite popular - it's sugary, but (just) not too sugary and it's a very familiar melodic language and structure because it's similar to a lot of pop songs. And it's trebles! For some inexplicable reason, people love trebles.

As an occaisonal church musician I have another problem with Rutter - a lot of amateurs love singing it, but it's actually really difficult. The amount of effort you have to put in to teaching a choir to sing it well (and learn the accompaniment) is disproportionate to the results. So it squeezes out more deserving music. I've had the misfortune to accompany rehearsals and performances of his Requiem as well as several of the shorter anthems, including the Garlic blessing and the Shepherd's Pie Carol. It's all really samey, and really tough.

Compare that with the other choral music in the first couple of episods of Fleabag - I assume it was written by Imogen Waller-Bridge, who I believe is Phoebe W-B's sister and who's credited as composer. It started out as good pastiche Philip Glass, obviously inspired by Einstein on the Beach, but rapidly transformed into something truly original. The Kyrie which the second episode finished with was masterly.
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by JohnToo » 3 months ago

Iris wrote:
3 months ago
At the risk of pricking Ransos's pretentiometer, here's the outline of a story.

The sort of music Rutter writes depends on a good tune that's easy to pick up, setting the words well and with a decent arrangement. The great modern example of the kind in the same genre is Howard Goodall's setting of the 23rd psalm - the Vicar of Dibley theme - in which the slight syncopations add a slight swing.

Turning to the bit of Rutter featured in the episode - the word setting of the first verse is shaky. He sets:

The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, to shine upon-you-and-be-gracious.

Just like that - he repeats "to shine upon you" for no particular verbal reason, just so that he can make a little rising sequence of melody, and then rushes through to the end of the line just where the words demand a little air, with a slight accent on the -cious of gracious by virtue of a short note on gra-. He then compounds it by having one of the lower parts repeating "and be gracious" - again for no verbal reason.

And the melody is just a little awkward - the rhythms are quite foursquare and the melodic patterns meander rather than travel. All of that is pretty typical of Rutter.

Like the Goodall, the structure of the piece is roughly AABA. Unlike the Goodall where there's a clear and meaningful contrast in the B section (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death) Rutter's B section is quite samey. I don't know this particular piece well enough to remember whether it's the case here, but quite often Rutter's B sections have an awkward shift into a distant key. In this piece the last A section just keeps repeating the word Amen - where a more intelligent composer would have found a different way to set the word.

All of that, ironically, makes Rutter quite popular - it's sugary, but (just) not too sugary and it's a very familiar melodic language and structure because it's similar to a lot of pop songs. And it's trebles! For some inexplicable reason, people love trebles.

As an occaisonal church musician I have another problem with Rutter - a lot of amateurs love singing it, but it's actually really difficult. The amount of effort you have to put in to teaching a choir to sing it well (and learn the accompaniment) is disproportionate to the results. So it squeezes out more deserving music. I've had the misfortune to accompany rehearsals and performances of his Requiem as well as several of the shorter anthems, including the Garlic blessing and the Shepherd's Pie Carol. It's all really samey, and really tough.

Compare that with the other choral music in the first couple of episods of Fleabag - I assume it was written by Imogen Waller-Bridge, who I believe is Phoebe W-B's sister and who's credited as composer. It started out as good pastiche Philip Glass, obviously inspired by Einstein on the Beach, but rapidly transformed into something truly original. The Kyrie which the second episode finished with was masterly.
This is going to be a looooong reply... because you sparked quite a debate over the weekend. Knowing you are a former choral scholar, I solicited the opinion of my own tame former choral scholar... who enlisted several of her choral/organ scholar friends, various of whom are now piecing together livings as church organists/choirmasters as such people do.... all whom weighed in with their views on Rutter.

My own objection is a logical one that you justify your dislike of Rutter (which you are fully entitled to) by judging him wanting against some supposedly objective standard and therefore objectively bad. But your standard is in fact surely just your own opinion in a different guise? Further, I respectfully suggest you are not applying it consistently. You criticise Rutter for his treatment of e.g. “gracious” but your own favoured Goodall 23rd always grates with me for its treatment of “silent” (or, see below, “leadeth”) which is so drawn out you waste several seconds thinking “what is this word”. You criticise Rutter for arbitrary repeats but every other Mag or Nunc I sit through repeats all sorts of odd fragments of lines. And if we’re talking Rutter’s repeats of Amen at the end, remind me how many Amens there are in Messiah (or how many “for ever”s at the end of Goodall).

I think Rutter is a distinctive style and there's nothing wrong with not liking it - as long as we’re not not liking it simply because it’s popular.

Anyway, on the musical issues, which are well beyond my competence, I offer you:

“The reasons I like Rutter are:

1. The arrangements are always very neatly crafted.
2. He always gives you options for how to perform a single work (organ, orchestra, piano)
3. The melodies are generally attractive and eminently singable
4. Rutter's contrapuntal voice leading is almost always sound.
5. Rutter very rarely writes dehumanizing 'blocks of choral sound' where each part is just a small cog in a big machine (I.e. Whitacre). With Rutter, the parts always seem to have a consistent melodic independence, which is refreshing.
6. The music never tries too hard to create an effect - something lacking in much contemporary classical music. There's a naturalness to Rutter's style which I like.

Reasons I don't like Rutter:

1. He often over-does the clichés to a point where the music is too predictable.
2. Rutter's vocal writing can be very simple and facile, which is ultimately less interesting for the performer. ”

And

“Haven't seen the fleabag ep in question (watched a couple of episodes and really disliked) - he's right a lot of Rutter is harder than amateur choirs seem to think, but i reckon v picky about the word setting. He's right in the lord bless you and keep you the b section goes to a different key but I think justified by the words "the lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you" going up keys and then "and give you peace" settling back down. I think Goodalls pslam 23 is really not a very good setting, there's some gross parallels in the harmony and the lea-ea-ea-eadeth me in the first verse is surely also pretty crap use of syllables? The point about rutters repeated amens seems weird because what have the past several centuries of church music liked more than setting one or two words oevr and over?
Would also add that while hard, the good bits of Rutter are lovely to sing (wouldn't say that of a lot of Goodall!!) which explains why choirs always programme him. Rutters magnificat is great fun, uses voices very well, nods to past conventions while being attractive to modern ears. Of course all church music shouldn't be Rutter but he's a very good way in”

For myself, I would add that Shepherds Pipe Carol is not imo his best - he wrote the bloody thing when he was 18 and whilst all his characteristics are there, he seems not yet to have got the balance right and to be more interested in technical dazzling (now tell me no classical composer ever produced such a piece 😘) than emotional effect - and I sympathise with anyone asked to play the accompaniment. But you have to ask why amateur choirs still do him despite knowing it will challenge them and despite sometimes having to pay an accompanist. Could it possibly be because the music we produce brings real pleasure?
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Rutabaga » 3 months ago

Separate thread I reckon.
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Joan
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Re: TV/Streaming shows

Post by Joan » 3 months ago

Rutabaga wrote:
3 months ago
Separate thread I reckon.
I'm on it.

It's a chore on my phone.

(I have no knowledge of 20th century English choral music, so I am doubly motivated. I had to google Rutter)
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