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Last Updated: Monday, 2 February, 2004, 14:21 GMT
Church organists behaving badly
By Suzanne Leigh
BBC News Online

A touch of irreverence is creeping into the Sunday service with snatches of secular tunes tucked into the gospels.

According to messages on Christian website www.shipoffools.com organists are livening up proceedings with tunes such as the theme from Blackadder.

Tony Robinson and Rowan Atkinson
Do thine ears deceive you or is that the tune from Blackadder?
There are also hints of congregations colluding - one net contributor tells how the organist would be handed a sealed envelope with a tune to include.

The site's co-editor Stephen Goddard stressed: "It's just a bit of fun."

"It's partly boredom, but church organists are also very, very bright highly trained people."

The tunes - reported to range from the EastEnders theme to Dambusters at a Remembrance Day service - are usually disguised and intended to amuse only those in the know.

Matthew Redman, 35, a regular organist at Wells Cathedral in Somerset, was inspired by Monty Python to pay homage with the song Every Sperm is Sacred before Evensong.

In-joke

The director of music at Bristol's Colston's Girls' School said: "I'd spent the previous evening watching The Meaning of Life with the choir. Nobody noticed except those who had watched the video."

"The whole point about it is that it's an in-joke for the organist and choristers."

Weddings are the prime occasions for a little irreverence.

It would have been too much to ask of Mr Redman as the congregation waited for a (very late) bride to arrive not to break into "Get me to the Church on time".

Organists are also keen to bow to requests.

Playing for a friend's wedding, Mr Redman treated the congregation to Variations Sur La Viper Noir - or the theme from Blackadder.

Postman Pat
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Much to Thomas Breeze's dismay (or relief) his efforts at St Arvan's church in Chepstow often go unnoticed.

This may be just as well since he confesses to including everything from Frosty the Snowman at Christmas to Postman Pat's theme and Mary had a Little Lamb.

"Nobody ever notices," the 24-year-old opines. "And sometimes I do think that nobody appreciates my art. But it's partly because they're not listening and also there is quite a lot of opportunity to disguise something."

But what about the clergy?

Ship of Fools' co-editor Stephen Goddard says he has yet to notice a backlash.

"I have a very understanding vicar," Mr Breeze understandably adds.

Stories from the UK suggest an innocent sense of humour within the church.

"Swing low"

However, a contributor from the US recounts a worrying example of the funeral of a heavy drinker where the organist broke into a rendition of "Roll Out the Barrell".

More recent examples from Down Under tell of St Peter's church in Melbourne the day after the Rugby World Cup final.

"There's an enemy in the house," boomed the vicar in the pulpit, after the English organist merrily played his way through Swing Low Sweet Chariot.




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