We do the fancy versions well, but we almost never get to sing them "straight."
With all the doo-dad versions in the stores, on the radios, I think the originals, sung beautifully, could be a refreshing change.
I don't know how 'minority' the opinion is, but it's one I largely share. There are some hymns and carols which I think can do with a bit of "tarting up" starting with a different tune in some cases), and there are some 'new' harmonies which are gorgeous, but in most cases the old engineering adage applies -- "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" And if it is a sow's ear to start with then no additions of bells and whistles will make it into Pop Idol, just let it rest in peace (to thoroughly mix metaphors, not to mention splitting infinitives).
On the other hand, taking an existing hymn and using it as a jumping-off point to create a full chorale setting or a cantata has a long and distinguished history going back before Bach or Buxtehude. Although maybe if one isn't a spiritual descendent of either of them one should think about it first (I know my few attempts have been less than satisfactory), and it can be safely predicted that a lot of people won't like it.
Both apply. Trying some new variations may either reveal progressions that no-one thought of that could be the heart of a new song, or amplify the intensity. Of course, it's more probable that the new variation will just be a poop cake. But the great gets copied and repeated while the ick just disappears into oblivion. As an example, "O Holy Night" isn't something you can do a lot with. Most times the singer gets louder and more intense as the climax builds, perhaps with a huge choir behind them and orchestral crescendo. But one version had only a single female singer in front, and at the climax, a single male singer previously unseen behind the crowd harmonized with her. They kept the same even intensity of the beginning, but the simple trick employed added the necessary emphasis without shouting.
There is no need to "amplify the intensity" of traditional carols (for instance)...we get amplified intensity out the kazoo in stores and in commercial versions of them for a month before Christmas. Besides, when sung with skill and thoughtfulness by a good choir, there's enough intensity to affect anyone.
Rutter, for instance, cannot let a traditional carol alone...and does not improve it.
I can understand the desire to put a personal stamp on traditional favourites but I really wish that the attitude of traditional=old=outdated would change. There are times when a song - whether it be a hymn, carol, or otherwise - can be changed and even improved but there's a reason why the original song became a favourite.
I'm a fan of the traditional way hymns and carols are sung. I don't mind people experimenting to increase the musical experience. However, when the traditional versions can't be found or heard because they aren't the "new" "improved" "modern" or "patriotic" version, I get ticked. Not everyone likes things the same way so the options should be available.
Although the still-current trend of breaking a song to insert rap or a different beat should be banished. Or severely punished. I like music to flow, not be interrupted by clashing notes or rapping.
The point of a tradition is that it's...well...traditional. That's what a tradition IS; that's what it's FOR.
The POV that values something on the basis of its age--the chronological fallacy--is equally wrong whether it values only the new (traditional = outdated = bad) or only the old (novel = "fashionable" = bad.)
There's a brief "Composer's Datebook" thing on the local classical station that annoys me with its tagline, which basically implies that if you don't like some new composition, you're wrong because "all music was once new." Yes, and a lot of it never survived its birth decade because not all new music is or was good.
I agree with you completely. We were just discussing the value of "community memory" in the Irish fiddle class I was in at a music camp last week. The idea of members of a community coming together to play through tunes, and sing songs which one alone might not remember in their entirety, but which when remembered as a group create a memory bigger than themselves. It's the idea of connecting time and space together to, for example remember happy times or folks who are no longer there. I think it's an intrinsic part of being human.
On the other hand, there are works of music which truly need the lush harmony and "twiddly bits" to make them overwhelmingly beautiful. However, as you say, not every new piece is this way.
I'm sorry to hear you're feeling poorly. Hope you shake it quickly, and that things are much cooler where you are than where I am (West TX). May we have rain soon!
Cover versions bite bubbles. The only one I've ever heard that was worth the cost of the gunpowder to blow my nose was "Silent Night" without the guitar.
And some degrees are merely certification that the bearer has been trained to be wrong according to procedure. Had I the energy, resources, and address, I would find great joy in serenading your choir director with Carmina Burana-- in the style of Willie Nelson.
No, no...I LIKE my choir director. He is a GREAT choir director. But he likes some stuff I don't like (and, no doubt, vice versa.)
So, not even Axl Rose's "O Holy Night," then?
I missed that one.
For some reason I do not feel the lack.
--And now I've got the Carol of the Old Ones running through my head.
I agree with you 1000% about the "tarting up" of familiar hymns. (Yes, I tend to be a minority opinion on a lot of subjects.) The extreme example of tarting up I heard decades ago; Simple Gifts in 4-part HARMONY, staggered entrances and perhaps twiddles in the accompaniment as well. What a travesty.
Speaking as a writer and arranger of songs, on the one hand I agree that the simple beauty of the tune needs to stay accessible, but on the other hand I have experienced the temptation to "dress it up." So I can see how these things end up happening.
What I'm a little confused about is why some choir directors choose the overdressed versions. Maybe the temptation to show off what their choir is capable of?
Bingo. I think the desire to show off a choir's ability to sing difficult music can infect any choir director...and make them less respectful of, and less willing to assign, music they consider 'too easy.'
Easy music that is also beautiful deserves respect for the skill/inspiration/talent of the composer. But they know the choir, not the composer. Maybe this is why they want to show the choir off, and singing easy music well is a more subtle kind of showing off than singing hard music well.
I hope you're feeling better enough to sing on Sunday.
But here's something to cheer you up: my cat Frodo giving his approval to "Kings of the North". http://i24.photobucket.com/albums/c29/zenfrodo/KingsOfTheNorth-1.jpg
It's the part where Aliam is describing the fish and meats on his table to Andressat. Of COURSE Frodo's gonna like that. ;)
I like a lot of old carols and hymns, and I love singing all the verses. One of the joys of living alone is breaking out into "In the bleak midwinter" any time I like. I do occasionally become enamored with specific choral arrangements of hymns, but they are hit or miss.
Fisherman's Friends cough drops got me through several concerts when not singing wasn't an option.
I too tend to lean towards the "if it ain't broke" side of things, though I did really like some reworks of old favorites that took the Alto-Drone line and did something interesting with it (while E5 is a perfectly reasonable and nice note, it doesn't need to be 80% of the notes sung by one group of people in a song ... with 15% being C5 and the other 5% being G5). I still smile at the memory of the sopranos (and altos pretending to be sopranos) whining about having a drone part while the alto and bass parts were having fun. I think it was about 12 measures of 2 different notes for them.
I hope you feel better and that your con-crud didn't spread.
Oh, I agree with you about the alto/bass "drone" parts--which even beyond being boring, teach altos and basses bad technique. I, along with many other altos, learned to sit on a note...and then sort of squash it in the process (risking going flatter and flatter) and not make the effort to "improve" the note when it was repeated or held out.
I'm specifically talking about versions of carols and hymns that change them so that they're barely recognizable as related to the original.