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February 11, 2006


Tim Worstall

Spot on. One of my sisters actually works in this field. Training choirs of people who’ve never sung, sometimes, children who’ve never actually heard a live voice singing. It’s her almost permanent complaint, that teh decline ofreligion has led to exactlythis, people not just not singing but many not even knowing about it at all....in the sense that it’s an activity, something you do rather than something consumed.

Tom J

A possibly related phenomenon is the decline in singing in one of its other great bastions - the rugby club. Once upon a time it would be almost unthinkable for there not to be a post-match sing-song during the post-match piss-up, but in this decadent age it appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Partly this may be due to there being more children brought along to clubs and the nature of your typical rugby song being deemed unsuitable for their tender ears, but I fear that the commodification effect you describe is somewhat responsible. Here's hoping the boyos in the new Arms Park this afternoon give a counter-example with a good display of hwyl and inspire the Jocks to respond in kind, whatever happens on the pitch.

Robert Jubb

Oh come on. Quite apart from the wierdly nostalgic turn, as a social science claim it clearly falsified by the success of Pop Idol in the States, which, last time I checked, had levels of religious observation comparable to those in Britain - including Ireland - in the mid-nineteenth century. Also, for the decline of religion to have begotten Simon Cowell, religion'd have to be the only source of non-professionalised music. That's just not true: schools, social clubs and the like all offer much the same opportunity. That doesn't mean, of course, that I can offer an explanation for the voyeuristic abomination of Pop Idol, or that I would want to. After all, to explain is to come close to justifying.

Maynard Handley

Spot on, Robert.
(1) I was forced to attend church throughout my school years, and while people wailed along when appropriate, the results (to someone not consumed with the spirit or drunk on nostalgia) were pretty damn gruesome. I don't see how the church singing provided anything superior, in quality or training, to singing in the shower, the car or walking down the street listening to one's iPod, all of which still seem fairly popular.
(2) Last time I checked, church, let alone singing there, were not a big part of life in such places as Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan, ie Karaoke nation.

P. Froward

Amateur singing is exactly the kind of self-reliant, individualistic, and (dare I say it?) American activity to which the European social model provides such a humane alternative.

Once people start singing for themselves, who knows but what they'll want to raise their own children next!

Just leave it to the professionals. They're certified, you know. You'll be much happier that way.


I disagree with this post. In school I had many opportunities to sing, learn instruments, and take part in a chorus. Lots of kids were exposed to music in this way, and enjoyed it. Also, the music experiences I had in school were much richer than in any Catholic service I've attended. Your observations hold true for evangelical, Protestant services perhaps, and I've been to a few of those too, but I really don't think we can blame the decline in religion for Simon Cowell. Weren't there many very popular singing/variety shows that judged talent similarly back in the 50's?

Dave Trowbridge

And we Quakers have definitely not been pulling our weight here.

But then, there's rather a silence deficiency out there, too, so perhaps we may be excused.

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