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Should Southwark Cathedral be hosting 'Tribute to Taylor Swift'?

by Sophie Drew

Southwark Cathedral is due to host an evening of Taylor Swift's greatest hits, in tribute to the country-musician-turned-popstar. 

It reignites a debate about the use of secular music in places of worship; for some, it's unfathomable that a church would allow modern pop music to be played, instead of songs that directly praise the Lord. 

For others, the string quartets covers of Swift's catchiest hits sounds like the ideal evening, with the glorious backdrop of Southwark Cathedral making the event all the more exciting. 

Is there a particular difference between musicians playing a classical-twist on Swift, as opposed to the usual Bach and Tchaikovsky concerts we've come to accept as commonplace? 

Newcastle Cathedral recently announced they would host a stand-up comedy evening, much to the frustration of more conservative members of the Church. 

Does this "come one and all" approach to church events mean we're losing our traditions? Or are we simply making our churches more approachable to those that have never stepped foot inside the House of God? 

Dr Noel Tredennick - a professor, composer and founder of the All Souls Orchestra - says this debate has been going on for centuries - and the distinction between secular musicians and worship music has never been clear-cut. 

He said: "If you read the novels of Thomas Hardy, the 19th Century author, he was talking about his village life and he would talk about the same band that was playing for the village dance, whether it was in the pub, or on the village green on a Saturday night -  those very same musicians would go into the gallery of the church on a Sunday morning, some of them worse for wear, but they'd still turn up and they would play their instruments to the Psalms that were being sung."

Dr Tredinnick has often said that he believes all types of music can be used to glorify God - whether it's directly intended to be worship music or not - because of the synergy it brings. 

He said: "Music does have a function, but all music is a language and all music can be used to glorify God and to speak of him as a great creator. 

"God brings harmony together in his universe and music is harmony together.

"So I think it is a great good that Taylor Swift is being dedicated and remembered by the string quartet. I'm all for these different styles of music, including secular music being used in the cathedrals."

However, Dr Tredinnick accepts that a line must be drawn somewhere - not all music is totally appropriate for a place of worship.

He continued: "If people think about music is distracting from the Christian gospel, or it's not in essence, according to the Christian gospel, then obviously that needs to be looked at, but what we're normally talking about is that music has both association and it has detail. 

"So if I play this music that doesn't have any words, if I'm playing heavy rock music, even though there's only an instrumental in a heavy rock style, some people will say 'well, the association that you have is rock music is inappropriate to bring into a church.'

"Others are saying 'Look, I want to build bridges to my youth group to my young people, or people who are hanging around on the streets outside, and rock music might be the way'.

"Then, of course, one another objection is that if the lyric is not suitable, and that is something that does need to be examined, but something would need to be sort of 'devil worship' or saying something like 'God is not to be honoured', or it might be advocating a lifestyle that's not according to the 10 commandments. 

"So I think, yes, there needs to be some careful editing.

"I think something that is a tribute to Taylor Swift is chosen perfectly if it's played by string quartet, which implies it is instrumental music as well - I can see that that is a good thing, and it's a good thing to have it in a holy space."

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