From Palestrina to Pino

I think you should watch these. Set aside a few hours, and enjoy.


If you hunt, you might find most or parts of the eight episodes online. Or you might simply splurge and give the BBC some more filthy lucre, for the two series on DVD. You won’t be disappointed.

If for no other reason, watch them to hear The Sixteen sing some of the most beautiful vocal music written for the human voice, and to hear Harry Christopher’s explanations of what the composers were doing in those works.

On the other hand, if you’re in the mood to be jarred or upset, ask this question: from Gregorian, to Palestrina, to Byrd, to Bach, to Brahms, to Pärt and Rutter, how did we get to this?

From each of the composers profiled in the Sacred Music programs to one another, you can draw a nearly straight line. As you progress in time, they build on each other, and develop from one another. Our last example, however, is not just the latest in a natural progression, it is a break altogether. It does not represent an ‘updated style’; it represents an altogether foreign view of what is good, what is beautiful, what God deserves, and how His people respond to Him. Allegri, Tallis, Luther, Bruckner, and Gorecki are different to one another but equivalent in their sentiment. Our sock-waving friends have no correlation to historic Christian sentiment.

So how did we come to this? It is not as if the rolling on of the years brought this naturally, like your child’s height chart. Nor does one go from Allegri’s Miserere to “You Spin Me Right ‘Round Jesus” passively, like sun-bleached paint on the outside of the church. Humans made deliberate choices, and the results of the choices we made are right in front of us on YouTube.

If we are to change matters, we would do well to ask: What was rejected, and why? What was preferred and loved and promoted? What is still being rejected and preferred? Forget about the sock-waving worship-leader; ask, why is there a supposedly Christian audience for this stuff? What did the parents and pastors of those children do (or not do) so that the people in that clip had a strong liking for that music, and considered it worship?

Here’s the trick. Instead of beginning your answers with “They…” or “Some people…”, begin the answers with “We…”

The confession of evil works is the beginning of good works.


7 Responses to “From Palestrina to Pino”

  1. Bill Says:

    Sorry, I just couldn’t make it the whole way through the last one. But it left me wondering who exactly they were worshiping.

  2. christopheram Says:

    I just watched the first two. I’ve got some suggestions for my pastor!

  3. David Says:

    They are good. Like Ryan pointed out over at RAM, some of the eight episodes have some objectionable bits, thrown in for no apparent reason except gratuitous ‘spicing up’ of the otherwise sober content. But they are fortunately rare, and the series is worth your time.

  4. paul Says:

    I am a little uncertain about your conclusion. What comes to mind is Daniel’s prayer of confession for his people in Daniel 9. Are you saying that instead of just standing apart and criticizing, we should come before God in confession on behalf of his church and plead for his mercy to forgive us and change us?

  5. David Says:

    Yes, for two reasons. First, we share a corporate identity with the church. Second, the only way we will do what is right is when we recognise the ways that we have perpetuated and tolerated and prolonged the evils. A thorough repentance for the part we have played will set us toward where we need to go.

  6. Seth Meyers Says:

    Where do you find this stuff? That video is one of the best bad examples I’ve ever seen.

  7. David Says:

    The web is a habitation of devils, the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

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