Sunday, May 3, 2009

Percy Dearmer's only mistake

Percy Dearmer

Percy Dearmer comes up often in conversations I have with Church people. It is always me who brings him up, unless someone is taking the mickey out of me.

I started reading Percy early on on my journey, and have been an avid collector of books by him since. The Parson's Handbook is a book I go back to often.

This last week, I picked up a copy of The Art of Public Worship (1919). It is a book I have been  longing for for a while. In typical Percy style, he raves on about what is wrong with (then) current practice, and what he would do to fix it. 

Percy's idea for parish music is a great influence on me. He suggests using Merbecke for the Mass setting, with the congregation taking a large role, the choir only having the anthem to themselves.  However, in this new book he says the following:

all harmoniums everywhere should be burnt; their droning produces just that insufferable tone which makes many bright people hate church music, and inferior organists seem to have got it into their very bones (p. 89)
I can only ssume he means reed organs. The pressure harmonium was a rarity in England, and the makes of reed organs they did have were lacklustre. If only he had heard a Mustel!

I also disagree with his "droning" complaint. I think a good solemn drone can be of great use within a spiritual context. It can't all be bright and lively.

So, while I would still regard myself as a Dearmerite, I most certainly disagree with his opinion of that most underrated of instruments. 

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