MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

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ChrisBrewster
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MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by ChrisBrewster » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:19 pm

The once-excellent classical music service of Minnesota Public Radio has found a new misuse of the airwaves: it has been playing almost exclusively Christmas music, beginning sometime on Thanksgiving weekend. Many of these works push emotional buttons, and it's just wrong to use them this way. Certain works should be saved for the true Christmas season, which doesn't start for a couple of weeks at least. So I'm staying away from the station this month.

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:27 pm

Is it Christmas music, or Christmas muzak?

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ChrisBrewster
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by ChrisBrewster » Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:59 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Is it Christmas music, or Christmas muzak?
It's good music. At its most legitimate, they're playing things like Bach's Advent cantatas. But much of it is the the kind of choral or orchestral music that's almost too evocative for this early in the season. And even if it's appropriate to play a few of these each day, it makes no sense to play nothing BUT Christmas music.

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Prometheus » Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:13 am

It seems that once Thanksgiving ends the Christmas music begins. Last weekend at the store I heard a big band arrangement of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was somewhat interesting, more so than the other Christmas tunes that played during my time in the store.

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by John F » Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:20 am

ChrisBrewster wrote:Certain works should be saved for the true Christmas season, which doesn't start for a couple of weeks at least. So I'm staying away from the station this month.
Depends on what you think the Christmas season is. The Christian churches define it as Advent, don't they? Which begins with Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day - this year it's December 2. So perhaps Minnesota Public Radio jumped the gun, but not by all that much.

More to the point, I should think, is that many in its audience aren't Christians and don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, if at all. People like me and my family. For us it's merely a good excuse to get together, exchange gifts, and party. But that doesn't prevent me from appreciating the best Christmas music, which I enjoy hearing at any time of the year.
John Francis

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 03, 2010 8:27 am

John F wrote:
ChrisBrewster wrote:Certain works should be saved for the true Christmas season, which doesn't start for a couple of weeks at least. So I'm staying away from the station this month.
Depends on what you think the Christmas season is. The Christian churches define it as Advent, don't they? Which begins with Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day - this year it's December 2. So perhaps Minnesota Public Radio jumped the gun, but not by all that much.
Still by four weeks, a great deal. Advent is (traditionally) a season of penitence to prepare for Christmas -- it is not the season of celebrating the Nativity.

At least, where MPR was playing a Bach Advent Cantata (and he must have written about 12, as he wrote three cycles, yes? and there are four Sundays of Advent), they are in line (so to speak).

I'm entirely with Chris in principle. Two of our presets on the car radio started playing Christmas music in November, and they are dead to us until New Year's.

Possibly until February.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:14 am

John F wrote:
ChrisBrewster wrote:Certain works should be saved for the true Christmas season, which doesn't start for a couple of weeks at least. So I'm staying away from the station this month.
Depends on what you think the Christmas season is. The Christian churches define it as Advent, don't they? Which begins with Advent Sunday, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day - this year it's December 2.
Slight correction: The First Sunday of Advent was last Sunday, November 28 (which actually makes it even more reasonable to start Christmas music early by that criterion). Church organists can't help noticing these things. :)

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by karlhenning » Fri Dec 03, 2010 9:17 am

jbuck919 wrote:Slight correction: The First Sunday of Advent was last Sunday, November 28 (which actually makes it even more reasonable to start Christmas music early by that criterion). Church organists can't help noticing these things. :)
Tangentially, John . . . have you ever had occasion to play Tallis's keyboard variations on Felix namque?

Cheers,
~Karl
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Modernistfan
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Modernistfan » Sun Dec 05, 2010 10:54 pm

All Christmas music is too much. For one thing, a significant portion of the classical music audience does not celebrate Christmas as a specifically religious holiday. (I have no objection, however, to playing the Bach Advent cantatas or his Christmas Oratorio, the Messiah, Hector Berlioz's "L'Enfance du Christ," or many other Christmas-oriented works by major composers; I may not share the theology, but I can accept the quality of the music.)

However, even if you do play Christmas music, one should be careful to avoid works that, for one reason or other, would be offensive to non-Christians. A horrible example is the carol "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," played yesterday by KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in the version recorded by John Rutter. The lyrics of that carol include the following:
The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.

Chorus

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.
Do we really need to play carols that recite the old calumny about the Jews being Christ-killers to a radio audience that undoubtedly includes a significant proportion of Jews? (Los Angeles has the second largest Jewish community in the United States after New York.) I intend to send in a protest to KUSC tomorrow.

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Dec 06, 2010 1:01 am

Modernistfan wrote: Do we really need to play carols that recite the old calumny about the Jews being Christ-killers to a radio audience that undoubtedly includes a significant proportion of Jews? (Los Angeles has the second largest Jewish community in the United States after New York.) I intend to send in a protest to KUSC tomorrow.
Forgive them, for they no not what they do...you're expecting a lot for a Radio Station to check the Lyrics of every Xmas Carol and remove the awkward ones, why not send them a list of all the ones they should not play, that may actually work...

I say that because in 1978 I visited CHUM FM in Toronto with my friend Elvis Costello who was being interviewed on Air, I was shocked to see a list of Banned Records on a big Chalkboard (no relation), it was in the days of Vinyl and the DJ had to be trusted to not Broadcast a "banned" song...I saw that Free Form Guitar by Chicago (pure feedback for 7 minutes) was not listed on the big board so I requested it and they played it, it was in the days of Punk, we did stuff like that then... :wink:
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:29 am

Modernistfan wrote:The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.



Do we really need to play carols that recite the old calumny about the Jews being Christ-killers to a radio audience that undoubtedly includes a significant proportion of Jews? (Los Angeles has the second largest Jewish community in the United States after New York.) I intend to send in a protest to KUSC tomorrow.
Because of the irregular meter of the text (different number of syllables in corresponding lines from verse to verse) and the slightly melismatic quality of the tune, it would be possible to resolve the situation by making some changes along the following lines (such things are done all the time):

The Sanhedrin on me made great suit
[rest of verse the same]

[the Judas verse does not contain a reproach of the Jews]

To Pilate Caiaphas had me brought.
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
He had me scourged and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.

Perhaps you also need to write to some publishers. My royalties if any would be after a standard contract. :wink:

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by John F » Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:58 am

Modernistfan wrote:A horrible example is the carol "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," played yesterday by KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in the version recorded by John Rutter. The lyrics of that carol include the following:
The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance. [etc.]
Are those words actually in Rutter's setting? I haven't heard his recording, but this performance of the piece doesn't include them.



The choir sings the first three verses of the old carol, telling of Jesus's birth, then repeats the first. They are:

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Chorus

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Chorus

Since Rutter composed his version for a collection of Christmas carols (titled "Dancing Day"), I would expect him to omit the verses about Jesus' later life and his death, including the condemnation of the Jews. What I hear in the YouTube clip sounds musically complete, so it appears Rutter did just that. Did you hear differently?
John Francis

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:18 am

German radio stations used to play (25 years ago!) primarily the church hymns and German "caroles" (like "O, Tannenbaum"), now they've become Americanized and play both English and American Christmas songs as well (e.g., "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman"). Fortunately, they don't overdo it----except at public Christmas festivals.

Our classical stations will still offer cantatas, oratorios, masses, etc. without overdoing it.

We're happy with that!

P.S.: One of the most beloved of all songs at Christmas here is "Tochter Zion", the melody of which was lifted directly and unchanged from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" ("See, the conquering hero come!").

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 6:03 pm

Jack Kelso wrote: P.S.: One of the most beloved of all songs at Christmas here is "Tochter Zion", the melody of which was lifted directly and unchanged from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" ("See, the conquering hero come!").
It is found in some American hymnals as the general-purpose hymn "Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son." The tune name is "Judas Maccabeus" (of course).

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Wallingford » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:22 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote: P.S.: One of the most beloved of all songs at Christmas here is "Tochter Zion", the melody of which was lifted directly and unchanged from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus" ("See, the conquering hero come!").
It is found in some American hymnals as the general-purpose hymn "Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son." The tune name is "Judas Maccabeus" (of course).
Today I was on a combination med-appointment/shopping-trip with my father and sister, being buckled very tightly in the back seat while Denver's "cozy" pop FM station--which is 100% holiday fare these days--played us four hours' worth of "suitable" Christmas songs. Congratulate me on my survival.
Good music is that which falls upon the ear with ease, and quits the memory with difficulty.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by living_stradivarius » Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:28 am

ChrisBrewster wrote:The once-excellent classical music service of Minnesota Public Radio has found a new misuse of the airwaves: it has been playing almost exclusively Christmas music, beginning sometime on Thanksgiving weekend. Many of these works push emotional buttons, and it's just wrong to use them this way. Certain works should be saved for the true Christmas season, which doesn't start for a couple of weeks at least. So I'm staying away from the station this month.
But one just can't resist tuning back in for A PHC :D
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by diegobueno » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:19 pm

John F wrote:
Modernistfan wrote:A horrible example is the carol "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," played yesterday by KUSC-FM in Los Angeles in the version recorded by John Rutter. The lyrics of that carol include the following:
The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance. [etc.]
Are those words actually in Rutter's setting? I haven't heard his recording, but this performance of the piece doesn't include them.
I am certain that Rutter would have removed the offending text upon hearing the first complaint about it. All of my experience with Rutter's compositions* convinces me that Rutter's greatest fear in life is that of offending someone. Anyone. Anywhere.

* Yes, I am performing Rutter's Magnificat not just once, but twice this month, with two different groups at two different veunues!
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by John F » Fri Dec 10, 2010 3:24 am

diegobueno wrote:I am certain that Rutter would have removed the offending text upon hearing the first complaint about it. All of my experience with Rutter's compositions* convinces me that Rutter's greatest fear in life is that of offending someone. Anyone. Anywhere.
I don't know the back story of this piece, and I don't suppose you do either, but I'm absolutely certain that Rutter, born in 1945, needed no one to tell him that the antisemitic verse is hideous in itself and completely unsuited to his purpose of composing a modern Christmas carol! Why do you suppose otherwise?
John Francis

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by diegobueno » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:37 am

John F wrote:
diegobueno wrote:I am certain that Rutter would have removed the offending text upon hearing the first complaint about it. All of my experience with Rutter's compositions* convinces me that Rutter's greatest fear in life is that of offending someone. Anyone. Anywhere.
I don't know the back story of this piece, and I don't suppose you do either, but I'm absolutely certain that Rutter, born in 1945, needed no one to tell him that the antisemitic verse is hideous in itself and completely unsuited to his purpose of composing a modern Christmas carol! Why do you suppose otherwise?
I don't suppose anything. First of all, I just wanted to insert a snarky comment on Rutter's obsessive pursuit of "niceness" in his music. I'm just saying one could imagine a scenario where he sets out to arrange an old carol and says to himself "gee I think I'll use the authentic original words" and it gets performed and recorded and lo and behold someone complains "hey, this is antisemitic!", so he makes another version without the antisemitic verses and that gets performed and put on Youtube.

The other possibility is that the arrangement Modernistfan heard on the radio was not the one by Rutter, though they also played a number of carols that were Rutter arrangements.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by ChrisBrewster » Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:49 pm

diegobueno wrote:I am certain that Rutter would have removed the offending text upon hearing the first complaint about it. All of my experience with Rutter's compositions* convinces me that Rutter's greatest fear in life is that of offending someone. Anyone. Anywhere. ...

... I just wanted to insert a snarky comment on Rutter's obsessive pursuit of "niceness" in his music. ...
One time Rutter visited here (Mn) and was given lots of airtime, both for his music and for interviews. He discussed his music with the serious air of a legitimate composer, but his music is embarrassingly bad. The hints of Andrew Lloyd Webber that I had noticed in Rutter's Requiem didn't nearly prepare me for the horrible, Hallmark/Disney style of his other music. It's not fit for a kids' show.

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:53 pm

ChrisBrewster wrote: One time Rutter visited here (Mn) and was given lots of airtime, both for his music and for interviews. He discussed his music with the serious air of a legitimate composer, but his music is embarrassingly bad. The hints of Andrew Lloyd Webber that I had noticed in Rutter's Requiem didn't nearly prepare me for the horrible, Hallmark/Disney style of his other music. It's not fit for a kids' show.
Rutter is like Stephen King. Not to be taken seriously, but I wish I had his money. :wink:

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by John F » Sat Dec 11, 2010 3:00 pm

diegobueno wrote:I just wanted to insert a snarky comment on Rutter's obsessive pursuit of "niceness" in his music.
Well, if you really must.
diegobueno wrote:I'm just saying one could imagine a scenario where he sets out to arrange an old carol and says to himself "gee I think I'll use the authentic original words" and it gets performed and recorded and lo and behold someone complains "hey, this is antisemitic!", so he makes another version without the antisemitic verses and that gets performed and put on Youtube.
Does the recording you mention actually include the offensive verses? If not, then "one" can't imagine that scenario.

As for Rutter being a bad composer, maybe so. I haven't heard any of his music other than the carol. I rather liked it, actually.
John Francis

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by diegobueno » Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:11 pm

John F wrote: Does the recording you mention actually include the offensive verses? If not, then "one" can't imagine that scenario.
What I can't imagine is why you're so fricking worked up about this. What's your problem anyway?

I haven't slightest idea whether the recording has the offensive verses. All I know is that Modernistfan said he heard something on the radio and he said it was a Rutter arrangement. He may be mistaken in that, so hold your fire until he comes back with some verification.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:25 pm

John F wrote:As for Rutter being a bad composer, maybe so. I haven't heard any of his music other than the carol. I rather liked it, actually.
"The carol?" Well, we already knew you weren't a church musician, John. :D

Extremely partial list of carols written or set by John Rutter:

* Shepherd's Pipe Carol
* The Holly and the Ivy
* Nativity Carol
* Coventry Carol
* Christmas Lullaby
* Donkey Carol
* Carol of the Magi
* Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
* Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant (He is Born the Divine Child)
* Personent Hodie
* The Wexford Carol
* Star Carol
*Candlelight Carol

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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by diegobueno » Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:52 pm

ChrisBrewster wrote: One time Rutter visited here (Mn) and was given lots of airtime, both for his music and for interviews. He discussed his music with the serious air of a legitimate composer, but his music is embarrassingly bad. The hints of Andrew Lloyd Webber that I had noticed in Rutter's Requiem didn't nearly prepare me for the horrible, Hallmark/Disney style of his other music. It's not fit for a kids' show.
Rutter is at least competent. He knows how to write for voices and he orchestrates well. He has a pleasant sense of melody; the Esuriente from his Magnificat is quite lovely, actually. If he were American he would have found a secure place in Hollywood as a rival to John Williams. Being in England, where choral singing is big, he found his niche producing choral music that can be performed effectively by amateur choral societies. He's a professional at what he does, and I have to admire his craftsmanship. His music just has this milquetoast personality that gets wearying in large doses. The Magnificat, running about 45 minutes, is a very big dose of milquetoast.

You know, there's nothing wrong with the music they put on those "The most relaxing classical music disc you'll ever own" CDs. It's just their placement together on the same disc that appalls, along with the notion, apparently held by the marketing people, that the main function of classical music is to be relaxing. Rutter's music all sounds like it was intended for a disc of "the most relaxing sacred choral music you'll ever hear", and that's why it bothers me.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by diegobueno » Sat Dec 11, 2010 6:02 pm

jbuck919 wrote: Extremely partial list of carols written or set by John Rutter:

* Shepherd's Pipe Carol
* The Holly and the Ivy
* Nativity Carol... etc.
The Library of Congress Chorale (which I'm singing in) is doing his arrangement of the 12 Days of Christmas.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by johnQpublic » Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:13 pm

diegobueno wrote: Rutter is at least competent. He knows how to write for voices and he orchestrates well. He has a pleasant sense of melody... he found his niche producing choral music that can be performed effectively by amateur choral societies. He's a professional at what he does, and I have to admire his craftsmanship.
Perfect summation. :)


Ladies and gents of the jury. Have you reached your verdict?

Yes, we have your Honor. On the count of Rutter being accused of being a bad composer, we find him innocent but on the count of Rutter not being a great composer we find him guilty as charged.
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Re: MPR's latest abuse of music: ruining Christmas

Post by Chalkperson » Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:44 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
ChrisBrewster wrote: One time Rutter visited here (Mn) and was given lots of airtime, both for his music and for interviews. He discussed his music with the serious air of a legitimate composer, but his music is embarrassingly bad. The hints of Andrew Lloyd Webber that I had noticed in Rutter's Requiem didn't nearly prepare me for the horrible, Hallmark/Disney style of his other music. It's not fit for a kids' show.
Rutter is like Stephen King. Not to be taken seriously, but I wish I had his money. :wink:
I just wish he would just stop Composing...i'd willingly pay him to do that by sending him a check for 3CD's per year... :lol:
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