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Irish Music and Religion

GUEST,Frank Hamilton 23 Jan 03 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,No Doubt 23 Jan 03 - 10:01 AM
sian, west wales 23 Jan 03 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,No Doubt 23 Jan 03 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,Doubting Thomas 23 Jan 03 - 08:50 AM
GUEST,Mikey joe 23 Jan 03 - 08:20 AM
smallpiper 23 Jan 03 - 08:11 AM
Declan 23 Jan 03 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,Davetnova 23 Jan 03 - 07:46 AM
Bagpuss 23 Jan 03 - 07:38 AM
artbrooks 23 Jan 03 - 07:33 AM
IanC 23 Jan 03 - 07:26 AM
GUEST,allen woodpecker 23 Jan 03 - 07:22 AM
mooman 23 Jan 03 - 07:17 AM
mooman 23 Jan 03 - 07:12 AM
GUEST,Doubting Thomas 23 Jan 03 - 07:11 AM
IanC 23 Jan 03 - 06:52 AM
GUEST,Doubting Thomas 23 Jan 03 - 06:39 AM
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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 10:11 AM

Whew, Doubting Thomas! What a dilemma.

You obivously love this music and see the importance of it being spread through the competitions for young people that you are trying to fund. It is important in my view.

You've got a cultural bias that you're dealing with. Most of the members of the organization apparently have a religious agenda as I understand it.

The organization is only as potent as it's membership. When it comes to religious beliefs, they are strongly rooted in individuals with cultural roots IE: Roman Catholics and Irish majority.

Are you able to do what you want to do with your own organization without religious ties to the one you are in? In the States, this is a serious matter that we refer to as "the Separation of Church and State" and what our founding fathers had in mind was to protect those who wish to worship as they please and to keep any one religion from dominating our government. (No Anligcan Church or RC pressure here).

I don't see how you can continue with the organization unless you go along with it's religious agenda. But as Pete Seeger once told me, "It's important to get along with having to go along." An ancillary organization run by you that could work in concert with the one that you are now in seems a solution.

Our country (States) is now as divided as it has ever been in our history over what some of us feel is a short-sighted approach to the problem of Iraq.   So far, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Socialists and Catholics, Jews, Protestants, and most Muslims are not in the streets shooting each other but have learned ways to get along and work together on various issues that they can agree upon. If there is ever to be peace in Ireland, there must be a bridge that spans the gulf of the "Troubles". Forcing a religious agenda is not a stable spansion.
You may have to open the door yourself by not following a "party line". It's not an easy task but an important one in my view.

God bless and the very best of luck to you.


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,No Doubt
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 10:01 AM

The problem I am having with all this is the suggestion that anyone is being excluded from the mass. I have attended many a Catholic mass over the years, and have never been "excluded" in any way. I fully understand that if I am in a Catholic mass, I do as the Catholics do, or in a Jewish synagogue I do as the Jews do, or in a Buddhist temple, I do as the Buddhists do, or in a Protestant service, I do as the Protestants do.

To suggest that anyone is excluded from a Catholic mass is preposterously disingenuous. This has "dual tradition" Protestant sectarianism writ large all over it.

As many have suggested, you may have what in the States is commonly referred to nowadays as an ecumenical service instead of the mass. I would suggest you could also have an ecumenical mass. But none of that will appease sectarian Protestants who insist they are being "excluded" over the communion issue.   No one is ever excluded from a Catholic mass, that is just Protestant superstitious mythologizing. I am reminded of my Lutheran granny saying that Lutherans weren't allowed to touch a Catholic rosary. It seems to me, many a Protestant needs to attend a Catholic mass, just to educate themselves about it.

I have no idea how many Protestants you think will not attend your events if they can't have their own service, or if the Catholics are forbidden to hold mass. It seems to me this is a ridiculous manipulation of the organization, based upon someone's anti-Catholic sentiments. Why else would this be an issue? Have you had Jews and Buddhists complaining about feeling excluded from the fleadh because of the mass? In my view, if Protestants want a traditional music organization to serve their religious worldview, nothing is stopping them from founding their own immigrant music organization and do it their way, rather than taking over someone else's. That way, at least they would leave these members, many of whom have put a lifetime of effort into this organization, in peace to enjoy the music and their mass.

I can't imagine this same suggestion being made about klezmer music.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: sian, west wales
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 09:31 AM

The options might vary according to where you are but a couple of things come to mind.

No Doubt's comment (above) on providing two services is certainly possible, but another possibility is what we used to do in the '60s - an interdenominational service. There's probably even some way of including communion for both protestant and r.c. camps...

On the Constitution front, I'd be interested to know your legal status. If you're a registered charity I would think that including any activity which excludes members on the basis of religion would not be looked upon favourably by the Charity Commissioners (or whatever you have where you are).


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,No Doubt
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 09:14 AM

It seems, Doubting Thomas, that you have been aware of the religious sensibilities of (I assume) a majority of this organization's membership for quite some time, but have just now decided to "take them on" regarding their long standing tradition of holding a mass in conjunction with the event. Again, I am assuming your timing on this has to do with you being the event organizer this time around, which (again assuming) you have not been before, otherwise the issue would have come up for you before.

While I understand that the constitution may say non-denom, it doesn't mean that a mass can't be an official part of the event, or any other denomination's church and temple services. Now, I'm not Catholic, but I do understand the role Catholicism has played in the Irish immigrant community, including in keeping the music alive. I haven't got a problem with it at all, as I understand for many (especially older) musicians and their families, the music is as important as their religion, and vice versa.

While I have never been offended by the mass being a part of the events, I simply choose not to attend it, as most people who attend the event nowadays also choose not to do. If you are trying to appease the "dual tradition Protestants" you could always plan two services, one mass, one church service. And voila, you have dual traditions dueling on the day, and you'll have played right into the hands of those who wish to politicize the event along Northern Irish sectarian lines. Which seems like a very hurtful thing to do to the Catholic membership that has kept the organization going all these years. Sort of a slap in the face, that.

It also seems strange to me that, if you have been involved with this organization for any amount of time, that you wouldn't be aware of your fellow members sensitivities along these lines. I don't understand why you believe you should be able to do away with the long standing tradition of holding the mass. If it bothers you so much, perhaps it is you should find or found another organization more to your liking and your personal religious and political proclivities, rather than taking over someone else's and demand they change to suit you.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Doubting Thomas
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 08:50 AM

Thank you and bless you all for all your support and contributions so far - and after only a couple of hours. Keep 'em coming!

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Mikey joe
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 08:20 AM

Stand your ground doubting Thomas. you don't have to be offensive (and you don't sound it) but I think you are correct


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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: smallpiper
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 08:11 AM

Write to your local Bishop highlight recent bad press, the need to bring the community together, non sectarianism, promoting greater understanding amongst the christian and non christian elements of the community, your very real fears for the organisation - which is clearly a valuable asset to the local community and get the other objectors to sign it.

Tribal catholicism is not good for the church or the community and it is important (for the church) not to alienate others as has been happening recently. I think that you might get a pleasnt suprise (if he responds at all - if he dosn't then think of your self and your own christian commitment to all people) - if it is negative leave. Or even better get as many non catholics elected onto next years committee.

Just some thoughts Good luck
Fr John

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: Declan
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:52 AM

If you're talking about the organisation I think you are, you may well find you have a battle on your hands here. Although the organisation is constitutionally non-denominational, I think you will find that the leadership of the organisation, who should be upholding its constitution, will not be neutral on this issue. If I'm doing anyone an injustice here I'm sorry, but I have a strong impression that there's a strong RC ethos in that organisation, regardless of what it says in the rule-book.

If I understand it correctly, no-one is suggesting that everyone must attend Mass, but they do want it to be part of the official activities at your fleadh (assuming we are talking about that particular organisation!) So the advice to make it optional isn't much good to you - if anybody is suggesting compulsory attendence I'd run 100 miles away from having anything to do with if I were you.

As regards who is pushing you into having this I assume it is the local membership who want this rather than being pushed by "the church". Your real dilemna seems to be whether to go with your principled views or the wishes of the membership (or enough of them to make it difficult for you if you don't).

I don't know the right answer here but here are a few suggestions :

Publish a list of local religious services in your program, including the major religious denominations in the area where the event is being held. If there is an arrangement that traditional music is being played at the mass, which I think is often the case, you might be able to highlight this somewhere in the program, but not in the timetable of official events.

Try to organise some sort of a multi-denominational service instead of a mass if this is feasible - something short with a bit of music could work well after which people could go to their own church or religious service, if they felt so inclined.

You may not get away with either of these, but its worth a chance.

In any event I don't think this is about the relationship between Irish Music and Religion, but about those within a particular organisation who would try to foist their wishes on everyone else.
Many, if not most, Irish Musicians continue to carry out their musical activities without reference to any particular organisation, and would not share the values that the organisation leadership espouse on many topics.

By the way, I personally think you are right - if some people want to organise a mass or any other form of worship then that is fine with me, but making it part of the official activities does conflict with the stated aims of the organisation.

I hope you can manage to find a way around this, but I wouldn't underestimate the degree of difficulty that is likely to be put in your way over this.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Davetnova
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:46 AM

This looks like a real dillema for you. It will difficult to go against the majority of your members if they insist on a mass, but I for one (a non catholic) can't see the relevence of a mass at a secular music competion. If the religious amongst your members feel the need for one is there a possibility of having one as an optional/fringe part of the event?

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: Bagpuss
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:38 AM

You mention that there have been other people who have brought up the subject but have been shouted down. Maybe you should think about speaking to these people before you bring it to the whole group. Maybe that way you will have a bit more support behind you and it will be less easy to shout down a group of concerned people, compared with a single objector.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: artbrooks
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:33 AM

I don't know if this is a possible solution (since I'm not any kind of Catholic), but there was a movement when I was in college the first time (back in the late '60s) for "Folk Song Masses." Perthaps you could revive one of these and incorporate it into your program.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: IanC
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:26 AM


I'm not suggesting that there won't still be arguments. Unfortunately, you've got to have those arguments AND WIN THEM.

If you don't, you're condemning your, no doubt excellent, organisation to being a deliberately sectarian minority organisation until they can discover this for themselves.

As such, they won't deserve to take part in non-denominational events and they should probably be asked to remove that part of their constitution as they have proved themselves to be denominational (I would say sectarian).

You'll obviously be polite (you've already shown yourself to be this) but you've got to be as firm as you can be without losing friends over it and you may just have to let them get on with things, while registring your dissent.

I sympathise, as well as admiring you for what you're trying to do. Be sure of support here and, were you to join Mudcat, you could always PM me for more personal support.

God bless you

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,allen woodpecker
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:22 AM

Hey Doubting Thomas. I'm not a member either, but an interested regular viewer of the forum. Here's my tuppenceworth.
Re. the role of the Church in the past. I would argue that the Church has not been supportive of Irish culture, quite the opposite. In political terms, the church has historically supported British rule (the status quo), excommunicating IRA members, etc. This was church practice from as early as 1179AD. Culturally speaking, the church in the C20th was very anti-music and dancing, and one of the reasons why traditional music and song was in such poor shape in the mid C20th. (puritanical so and so's, rather than ideological opposition, methinks).
Second, I don't know what your organisation is, but if it is constitutionally non-denominational, it really must be kept that way. I'd blow the whistle to anyone investing money and let them know the plans for a mass, if it's to go ahead - seriously the church can be incredibly insidious and it tarnishes the image of Irish music that we all should aim to promote. It's essential to lose the catholic tag from Irish music and make it accessible to all. This politicisation is a relatively recent phenomenon. 2 generations ago, the music belonged to all the people, whoever wanted it. There is a difference between religion and politics. Let the politically minded steer clear if they wish, but protestant children should be brought up knowing that it is equally a part of their culture, not the preserve of the catholics. Music should be non-political and all embracing. While Loyalists will tell their children that it's not for them (which is disgraceful), the fact of the Catholic church insisting upon a Mass at a fleadh is an equally sinister act, re-inforcing stereotypes and excluding people who have a right to their share of the tradition. Be strong. peace and love, a.w.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: mooman
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:17 AM

P.S. I live in Belgium and it might be opportune to remind some of your colleagues that not all people who enjoy and play Irish music (and sometimes take it to new levels of excellence) are necessarily Irish or Catholic.



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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: mooman
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:12 AM

I agree with IanC on this and understand your dilemma Doubting Thomas. There is no need for religion and Irish music to be connected in this way although I can understand the historical and logistical reasons why this may have happened. I think Ian's suggestion for a low-profile, optional Mass for those who want to attend one might be a compromise worth exploring.


(Irish citizen, Irish traditional musician for 40 years and practicing Buddhist (I haven't fully mastered it yet either!))

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Doubting Thomas
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 07:11 AM

Thanks, Ian. Your post reminds me of my own wedding. My wife isn't a Catholic and we got married in an Anglican church. We then had a convalidation (basically, another wedding service) in a Catholic church, mainly to satisfy my mother who apparently believed that if I didn't do that it would mean that I risked bursting into flames if I tried to take communion at her funeral.

Even then we still had one of her friends pestering us about why weren't we having the full monty mass, never accepting that to do so would exclude several people there - including the bride!

Anyway, I'm getting off the subject. Your post was very welcome, Ian. Unfortunately, I don't think these people do 'low-key'.

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Subject: RE: BS: Irish Music and Religion
From: IanC
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 06:52 AM

You're quite right, but there's always a soft option.

I'm a Quaker, married to a practicing Catholic. When we got married, we refused (for obvious reasons) to include a mass which, by its definition would exclude me and half of the people there (i.e. my family etc.).

This caused a small storm in Liz's family, but she simply offered to go to mass with anyone who wanted to come earlier in the day.

In this way, the people who wanted the mass got it, without it causing any problems.

I think you could organise an optional, low key mass in support of the event, but not as an official part of it.

How could anyone object?


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Subject: BS: Music and Religion
From: GUEST,Doubting Thomas
Date: 23 Jan 03 - 06:39 AM

I know I'm a guest and I hope you won't think I'm trolling - I certainly don't intend to. I've just got this dilemma and I'd like the advice and thoughts of this community.

I am involved in an organisation that promotes traditional music. We have existed for a long time and most of the chief figures in it have been there almost as long. For lots of perfectly understandable historical and sociological reasons most of our members in this particular area of the world are members of the Roman Catholic church.

There have historically been strong links between the church and our organisation - we've relied heavily on church facilities, many clergy have contributed greatly to our work and so on. There are other parts of the world this is less true and our membership is more diverse in those areas. Even in areas where it is still the case many members question the links between our organisation and the church, especially in the light of recent revelations about child abuse.

Now, I'm a Catholic myself and I still practice (I'm still no damn good at it) but our organisation has a constitution and it states clearly that we are non-denominational and non-political. In my view, that is how it should be and must be if our organisation is to have a future as well as a past. However, the last couple of meetings that I went to where anyone pointed this out, they got howled down in no uncertain terms. One of them was me.

Here's the crunch: I'm now involved in organising our annual competition for young musicians. This feeds into a larger, world-wide competition and if it does not happen, our kids can't progress to the larger event. I've found a terrific venue with a supportive and enthusiastic management. If it comes off it will be brilliant.

My collegues in my own branch and most of the organisation in our part of the world insist on incorporating a Mass into the event. I don't want to stop anyone practising their faith but I just don't believe that we are in business to promote religious events that by their nature exclude non-members of that particular church.

We are also going to have to raise money through sponsorships as well as our awn activities to pay for the event and subsidise people's participation. If we approach outside bodies for money on the basis of our constitution (remember, the one that says we're non-denominational) and then have a Mass at the event I'm concerned that we could be accused of taking money under false pretences.

I also feel personally that by having a Mass we are making a statement to the effect that our organisation is a Catholic organisation for Catholics- and it isn't. However, I'm up against 50 years of emigrant conservatism on this one.

We have a national meeting due soon at which I have to present information on the site and our plans for the event. I don't want to have a Mass as part of the event and if I'm overruled It's going to be very difficult to continue in my present role. On the other hand, I want this event to happen and I don't want to quit.

I've already suggested that we schedule the event so that people can go to church on Sunday but nothing doing. Of course, 'being able' to go to Mass isn't what it's about for these people. They want to use our organisation and our music as a vehicle for their own beliefs and I'm afraid that they're going to kill our organisation off, along with the work it does, in the process. If I had any sense I'd walk away from it but like I said, I don't want to do that.

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