Easter Songs Of Praise from Jerusalem

I found the Easter Songs of Praise from Jerusalem a little disturbing, to say the least. Maybe it’s just me? (Maybe it’s just me on here that watched it?).

It was the sum of a mixture of issues: parachuting in musicians & singers into a thriving Christian community, using their cathedral and not so much as mentioning the congregation there, the struggles they endure or the plight of Christian Arabs/Palestinians in the city. The couple of minutes given to the new Dean (the first Israeli Arab to be appointed) provided the merest hint of a reference to the struggles in Jerusalem: a comment that sometimes people didn’t get on so well - reminded me of the euphemistic ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.

For me it gave, unintentionally no doubt, a nod to colonial attitudes, with British people getting excited and having a warm, spiritual experience in a bubble that appeared sanitised and a little saccharine.

I tweeted (fairly robustly, I admit) my feelings. The SOP account politely acknowledged me as a viewer and said it would be raised at a programming meeting. I was impressed. Less so with the response from the exec producer who told me I was being unjust and that the programme was celebrating Easter. So I’d hit a sore spot. Surely Easter isn’t a feel-good opportunity for the privileged, surely it’s not about ‘being happy’ and having a lovely celebration? If resurrection is about life arising from the ashes, shouldn’t a broadcast for Easter from Jerusalem address the very real and painful issues the people there face?
There seemed to be an irony in the singing of happy Easter Songs by people flown in for the purpose who originate from the country that occupied Palestine, came up with the Balfour Declaration and pushed off and left them to it. An irony that was apparently lost on the production team.

Comments

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited April 22
    Link, please? Couldn't find owt on YouTube......
  • Link, please? Couldn't find owt on YouTube......

    It's on the iPlayer, entirely predictably. Just about where you would expect it:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0004j15/songs-of-praise-easter-sunday
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited April 22
    Doh! Senior Moment moment......I might have thought of that meself.... :angry:

    @ThunderBunk, thank you.

    It's time for me Tea, so I'll watch it a little later on.

    (If I live).
  • @Bishops Finger sorry, that was just the effect of my day job - one of our standing jokes is that we should be called the "shall I just Google this for you?" team. Not being at work, I was slightly set off....

    Anyway, hope it's useful.
  • No offence taken at all, at all! Yes, it is useful, so thank you again.
    :wink:
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Thanks!
  • Yes, SoP was cringe-making but the whole process of parachuting in people and performers is nothing new. I have memories of a SoP from a cathedral with a world-renowned, Gramophone Award winning choir where the SoP team brought in a team of "musicians" of breathtaking mediocrity and produced a programme with music that bore no relation to anything that might ever be heard in the place where it was filmed.
  • And what's with the echo when they are allegedly singing outdoors?
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Thanks both. Glad it isn’t just me who found it cringe making. I used to work for the BBC religious dept (radio) back in the late 80s/1990 and it was a ‘worthy’, middle class old fashioned evangelical group then, and it doesn’t seem to have changed much. In fact I still hear the same names announced for morning worship regularly! A club. Not an inclusive one. I didn’t fit in back then and would less so today.
    Perhaps a concerted effort to bring these issues up with Points of View might be worth a try...or not. The woman who was offended by my opinion on twitter would be the one asked to respond.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    And what's with the echo when they are allegedly singing outdoors?


    Covers a multitude of sins. At least, that’s what we used it for back in my radio days ...
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 23
    Having sung in choirs, I know what you mean. But on SoP it sounds ridiculous!
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Absolutely. And the musicians will be on union fees, too.
  • Actually the reason why SoP from cathedrals always sounds so dire is because the Beeb tries to avoid paying the musicians (particularly the singing men) so they insist on bringing in amateur musical groups who would never normally be there.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    False economy! They always used to pride themselves in using the local musicians and clergy. This particular programme appeared to be using professional musicians, so they would have had to be paid at the full rate, plus air fares and accommodation. It’s turned into a pick and mix from around the UK, with definite preference for evangelical worship.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 24
    I actually think there's a fair mix of worship styles (though nothing Orthodox, little that's specifically Catholic, and we seem to have lost the Scottish metrical psalms). I think we need to remember just how widespread and popular evangelical-style worship has become, even within the CofE. (And I have to say that those singing it are younger, more mixed ethnically and projecting a livelier impression of the Faith than some SoP congregations singing the more traditional hymns). What does get me is the "pick and mix" - some of the recordings are getting quite elderly now, certainly a year old if not two or more.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    edited April 24
    I’m sure you’re right that they are both reflecting the increase in evangelical worship and portraying younger congregations. Sadly, the quality and range of the non ‘evangelical’ music is limited. I’d love more Iona, Taize and chant, for example.
    I was pleased when they went over to a format that included more interviews and coverage of issues, but the move away from an act of worship in one church means that it no longer feels like broadcast worship. As my own physical health has deteriorated, I would welcome being able to join in a tv programme of quality liturgy, but it’s now only available for special seasons.
  • McMaverick wrote: »
    <snip>It’s turned into a pick and mix from around the UK, with definite preference for evangelical worship.

    That preference has been very noticeable for at least the past 20 years.
    I actually think there's a fair mix of worship styles (though nothing Orthodox, little that's specifically Catholic, and we seem to have lost the Scottish metrical psalms).

    Well no actually. There is never anything remotely catholic (Roman or Anglo): in fact 20 years ago I remember a stand-off between the SoP team and a Master of Music because, having decided they did need his cathedral choir after all, they then said no to anything in Latin or anything like an Ave verum corpus or similar communion-linked motet, even in English.
    I think we need to remember just how widespread and popular evangelical-style worship has become, even within the CofE.
    False argument: its not necessarily popular, it is just that evangelical/ praise-band stuff is the only style allowed in many parishes.
    And I have to say that those singing it are younger, more mixed ethnically and projecting a livelier impression of the Faith than some SoP congregations singing the more traditional hymns.
    That's because they have a marked tendency to go to places that have either been "planted" or that are city-based with professional musicians in the band. The SoP production team ignore the fact that the vast majority of parishes aren't like that not only because they haven't the money but because of sheer numbers - its hard to rock a pro-sounding praise-band in a place where the >1% of the inhabitants attending church are taken from a population of fewer than 5,000.

    If SoP were looking for parishes that are successful in numerical terms they'd be beating a path to our door - our attendance on any average Sunday comes in at a consistent 6% + of the population - more than 5 times the national average - but they're not interested in more traditional worship styles, however successful or popular. In addition we're quite ethnically diverse, but a camera wouldn't show up the number of Bulgarians, Slovenians, etc, in our congregation.

    And you're right, they should stop regurgitating the same on-message clips.

  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    The Organist, what is even more frustrating for me, is that much of this was true when I worked for the BBC religious dept in the late 80s/early 90s. Most of the London based staff (I worked in one of the regions and in radio) was white, middle class and evangelical and didn’t take any other tradition seriously. I don’t know whether it’s still true that a RC can’t be head of Religious Broadcasting and that they reserve a post for a RC producer (that felt quite sidelined in my time). Back then, there were broadcasts from middle of the road and traditional churches, but they were also disproportionally Anglican. Wanting to broadcast from somewhere that reflected the average parish church was frowned upon. The new pick and mix approach means they can claim variety by using footage from a RC Church congregation singing a mainstream hymn that could be from any denomination.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    False argument: its not necessarily popular, it is just that evangelical/ praise-band stuff is the only style allowed in many parishes.

    The CofE needs to face up to the fact that it labels churches ‘Evangelical’ because they have a history of evangelical clergy, but the lay people don’t necessarily identify as evangelical.

  • AnselminaAnselmina Shipmate
    And maybe it's not just a case of evangelical preference as such, but because it's seen - debatably - as more visually appealing? Younger, or more mixed, congregations of generally happy-ish people enjoying modern-sounding worship, whose style wouldn't be out of place in the easy-listening section of the i-tunes store. Fairly undemanding to watch? Pleasantly soothing? Or attractively lively?

    I know there are talky bits in between the songs and hymns which can provide witness and ground it in human experience of faith. But as an integral presentation of worship, SOP really struggles to engage satisfactorily.

    I'd put my recorder on to 'tape' SOP if they started doing on location, beginning-to-end worship from Orthodox churches, Quakers meetings, house churches, AOG, full-fledged Pentecostal, the local Anglican shack's Eucharist, or the Presbyterian Lord's Supper. But then I'm probably weird. There'd maybe not be much of an audience for that kind of thing!
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 25
    McMaverick wrote: »
    I don’t know whether it’s still true that a RC can’t be head of Religious Broadcasting.
    Nor do I. But at least one has been Muslim.
    The new pick and mix approach means they can claim variety by using footage from a RC Church congregation singing a mainstream hymn that could be from any denomination.
    True. But I remember my (secular) choir taking part in SoP in early 1972; even then we were well aware that the congregation was not mostly composed of people who worshipped in the church we were in, and that the hymns had been chosen by the BBC folk. I think there has always been a policy of (usually) choosing the largest/most photogenic/most historic church building in an area and filling it with a pretty diverse bunch of people.

    FWIW one of my other moans about SoP ten years ago was that it largely confined itself to traditional hymnody and seemed to ignore modern worship music and what was being sung in the BAME churches. I would say that those who complain and say, "We aren't having any decent traditional hymns anymore" should recognise just how widespread modern worship music has become across the whole breadth of British Christianity. Also, they should perhaps realise that their perception may be smrewhat distorted by their own musical preferences. Perhaps I can illustrate this from my own experience of being asked, 40 years ago, by my Pastor to lead a modern music "slot" with a couple of "choruses" each Sunday morning. Even though we still included at least 3, often 4, traditional hymns in the services, some people started saying, "We're sorry that we're not singing hymns any more" - even though that wasn't the case at all!

    I have to say that I'm not always enamoured by some of the modern re-arrangements of traditional hymns on SoP. Some do work well, but there's quite a lot which just don't work.

  • The current head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC is James Purnell, an avowed atheist.
  • I didn't know that. Perhaps more germane to this discussion is the editor or producer of SoP - do we know anything about him/her?
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Baptist Trainfan, true: it’s easy to take for granted the recent move towards including churches that have been previously excluded. Yes, the filling up the church with people from all and no churches is a long-standing practice. In radio, we didn’t have to worry about how full the service looked or how photogenic, and consequently, I think the sound was far better!
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    The current head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC is James Purnell, an avowed atheist.


    I think I knew that and had forgotten. Also the previous, Muslim head of dept, who was very good and well spoken of. I think they ‘stole’ him from Channel 4.
  • Baptist TrainfanBaptist Trainfan Shipmate
    edited April 25
    I heard him (Aaqil Ahmed) give a lecture some years ago and we had a good chat afterwards; I was impressed with him. But I think he was later "reorganised" out of his job, possibly for being a bit too enthusiastic about it!
  • McMaverick wrote: »
    Yes, the filling up the church with people from all and no churches is a long-standing practice. In radio, we didn’t have to worry about how full the service looked or how photogenic, and consequently, I think the sound was far better!
    The Welsh version "Dechrau Canu" is much better in that regard - except that I can't understand a word!

  • Songs of Praise has not be produced in-house by the BBC for some time (I think since 2015?). Production of CoP programmes was put out to tender by the Head of Religion and Ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, and the bid was won by a partnership of Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media. It appears that Cardiff-based Avanti do most, but not all, of the work on SoP, but the changing format of the programme means that there is continuing direct BBC involvement: for example, by using the SoP "slot" for things like Gospel Choir of the Year the BBC continue to have direct input to the programme.

    The current Series Producer if Matthew Napier, who cut his teeth on things like Grange Hill, Acquila and Raven for BBC children's TV before moving to SoP.

    Looking at the way the series is commissioned and the programmes produced, I suspect there is zero to be gained from making any comment or complaint to the BBC.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    ... I suspect there is zero to be gained from making any comment or complaint to the BBC.
    Probably true. You'll just get a bland reply from some middle range producer full of the sort of meaningless phrases one might get from a government department.

    I made a formal complaint a few years ago. It was about about something else - their taking up a large part of a news programme with something of next to no general interest that could only be described as treating the national news like their in-house staff journal. That's what I got. And when I said I wasn't satisfied with the response, I got another similar one a few weeks later. At least, though, you'll get the satisfying feeling you've made somebody there feel they've had their time wasted having to deal with an uppity member of the public. So go for it.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Interesting, The Organist. Enoch, with an outsourced contract we’re really left with no influence as viewers, except not to view. Twitter proved to get more of a response than your official complaint, albeit unprofessional: the series producer jumped on my comments and told me I was being unjust. She clearly took my criticism of the programme personally and I must have hit a nerve for that reaction.
  • If you have a strong stomach iPlayer the offering from today which IMHO was a real doozy, including quite the most nauseating rendition of Ave Maria I have ever heard, and the sound of which was better than the visual of two simpering singers "acting/emoting" their way through it. There are no words - we need the vomit emoji.
  • Agreed - the Ave Maria was awful!!!
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    You might get a complaint noticed if you wrote into Points of View asking if the downturn in Songs of Praise quality was a conspiracy to allow the BBC to stop broadcasting religious programmes. The reasoning being that if the SoP viewing figures fall to low enough levels there is no need to continue. (The BBC are questioning the need for religious programming; it comes up regularly in complaints about Thought for Today, and Songs of Praise is their main Sunday programming.)
  • I rather God the impression that yesterday's programme was a bit of a bodge, squeezing bits about the Sri Lanka massacre and the Notre Dame/York Minster fires into a programme which had originally been intended to focus much more on Faith and Art. I suspect that various segments which they'd originally intended to include got left out in the process.
  • I suspect Songs of Praise is a bit like The Sky at Night and The Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 in that it's been running for so long it's easier to keep producing it rather than deal with the howls of protest should it be cancelled.

    Naturally, these howls would mainly come from people who haven't watched/listened in years, but inevitably questions would be asked about the purpose, and therefore unique funding, of the BBC that the BBC would rather avoid hearing.

    So it goes on, poorly funded and watched by few, as a sort of loss-leader giving the Beeb a wee bit of worthy gravitas in a sea of commercial entertainment.

    It occurred to me, slightly facetiously I admit, that if people want a proper religious programme they couldn't go far wrong with Gardener's World. It is one of the most ritualised of programmes, largely because it follows the seasons and because many gardening jobs are unchanging, but at the same time it is informative and interesting (even to a non-gardener like me) and something of a balm. And it shows gardeners gardening and the gardens that they have created. In other words, Gardener's World is about gardens, gardeners, and gardening in a way I doubt Songs of Praise is really about belief, believers, and the practise of belief.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    Colin you are spot on! I love Gardeners’ World and it has so much more integrity than any current religious programming on the BBC. I was horrified to catch the end of the Morning Service on Radio 4 on Sunday, from Rugby School Chapel. The sermon was excruciatingly awful, with the message being that the point of telling the Easter Story was because we all want to know death isn’t the end for us, with a side order of how we all want to die peacefully wit a cup of tea in one hand & a copy of the Church Times in the other. Not how I envisage my best version of popping off this mortal coil!
    The Organist, I think I’ll take your word for it as I don’t think I could cope with the Ave Maria you describe!
    CK Points of View is rarely on when I need it to be.
    BT back in the day, a special programme would have been put together instead of bodging together something at the last minute.
    I do wonder whether the worship SOP broadcasts is actually a reflection of the image of the church in the eyes of the producers and is infecting the perception of the church in the eyes of society. The latter is already poor and inaccurate.
  • At least the music from Rugby School was good. And the parsonic platitudes in the sermon were no worse than most heard recently, and better than quite a lot.
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    At least the music from Rugby School was good. And the parsonic platitudes in the sermon were no worse than most heard recently, and better than quite a lot.
    The quality of the music was good, but The Battle Hymn of the Republic?! That would never have got past the producer in my time.
    Yes, sadly the parsonical and poor preaching was no worse than of late. Followed swiftly by the excellent secular programme Point of View with high level, intelligent content, religious broadcasting is beginning to look ridiculous. Maybe there is, indeed, a plot to get rid of it. If so, those who failed to adapt and develop it over the years are seriously to blame. Ingenuity and creative ideas were positively frowned upon by the department in my day, in spite of Radio controllers being excited by such attributes.
  • Aren't we getting muddled now between radio and TV programmes?
  • McMaverickMcMaverick Shipmate
    The two are linked by virtue of the fact they’re both from BBC religion. That and my brain working that way 😉
    Aren't we getting muddled now between radio and TV programmes?

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