23 May 2010

One Performance Only

The Alleluia in D tomorrow later today in Providence:

A concert featuring Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor for Double Choir with chants, motets and anthems for the Day of Pentecost by Byrd, Gibbons, Harvey, Henning, Tallis, Thompson, Titelouze, and the world premiere of Ave Verum Corpus by John Masko (b. 1992) — a student from the Wheeler School.

Unfortunate headline, upon which a reader has commented.


Jen Charleson said...

I don't think the title "Like going to church without all the boring stuff" is unfortunate at all. I think it's clever. What's really unfortunate is that most of the choral music we perform is based on religious texts. Do you know how difficult it is to convince atheists or otherwise strictly secular people to sit in a church pew for an hour and a half for a concert called "Mass in G minor"??

I usually tell people "Don't worry, you won't be offended by any God talk unless you are fluent in Latin."

Karl Henning said...

I don't think mere cleverness excuses deliberate insult; and "boring" was pointedly offensive. Of course, decades of experience have taught me that for some atheists, being offensive to, scornful of, and smug about people of faith is the actual message. Pity, really.

Jen Charleson said...

I'm pretty sure there was no intention for insult behind the headline. That blog is geared towards a crowd that goes to performance art shows, coffee houses and night clubs. The fact that it mentioned our choral concert at all was a HUGE step forward for our musical cause. For their edgy readers, they had to put a spin on it that might make it intriguing alternative to the other events taking place at say, Lupo's or AS220, a local art gallery/restaurant/commune/bar.

Unfortunately, religion is off limits for some when it comes to being irreverent, so the title sparked some bickering. That's a shame because they no doubt will avoid listing our type of concerts in the future. Why risk angering people by not being properly sensitive or worse, annoying edgier readers with suggestions that they should go to church on Sunday to hear religious music.

I would like to expand our audiences without any expectation that they meet a certain standard before they can feel entirely welcome.

Karl Henning said...

Many of your points entirely well taken, of course, Jen.

I'm willing to accept speculatively that no insult was 'intended' by the phrase "without the boring stuff." But that simply refocuses the flaw, I think; a bit boorish to fling the word "boring" out there in print, and just assume that everybody thinks as the writer does.

There are a lot of people who find deep and abiding value in church. No one -- atheist, Christian or whatever -- likes having anything which is important to him derided as "boring" in any news medium. I know that you accord me respect in the ways in which our thinking differs; yet the fact that you are apt to rationalize this resulting insult (in effect, whether or not intended, which strikes me as someone not applying a very small amount of self-criticism to his writing) makes it unlikely that I should discuss certain things in your presence. Which in the cosmic scheme of things is no great loss, of course. Probably I bore you to tears already.

I am enjoying our ongoing discussion; I do remain convinced that my mild and sober appraisal of the headline as unfortunate stands intact.

I don't think it really necessary to deride religion as boring, in order to attract edgy audience to a performance of Vaughan Williams.

It might have been billed as "sacred music by an agnostic composer." Being an atheist doesn't require put-downs of religious people, or put-downs of the things important to religious people. If I heard a Catholic or Orthodox insulting atheists categorically as nitwits -- in the first place, a signally un-Christian act -- I would not rationalize the bad behavior out of my common ties with Catholicism and Orthodoxy.

I think that people ought to be comfortable enough with what they think and believe, that they can hold people with other viewpoints in respect. The man or woman who is possessed of that poise, I don't care if he's an atheist or a Christian or anything in between.

I don't find "without all the boring stuff" hip or edgy; in my opinion, it is ill-mannered and snarky.

I appreciate that you think otherwise, but you have not persuaded me yet with your arguments.

I had thought we should agree that the audience is not well expanded by ill manners or snarkiness.