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
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.
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.Iris wrote: ↑6 months agoAt 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.