General Synod’s plans to introduce new EBACH qualifications for church musicians have been dropped, it was announced today. The proposed qualifications would have seen Associated Board organ exams and Royal College of Organist qualifications replaced by a new qualification, the brainchild of Michael Pob, the Church of England’s Secretary of State for Worship.
Pob’s plans for the new qualification would have meant that all church musicians, from Cathedral organists, to choirmasters and worship group musicians, would have to sit the EBACH examination after a 2 year course prior to being allowed to be involved in music making in Church of England services. “Standards are way behind those of other countries,” explained Pob, “and by narrowing the curriculum and focussing on the core skills of improvising in the style of J.S. Bach, accompanying hymns, reading figured bass to accompany Purcell anthems and composing fugues, my vision is of a return to a golden age of church music, probably the 1950s, or the 1740s.”
Worship groups had warned Pob that the proposed qualification was too narrow and did not reflect the range of musical idioms being used in Church of England services. “The EBACH did not meet the needs of most parishes,” explained Reverend Rock Sunderland, whose worship band Bon Jehovi employs a range of musical expressions lying somewhat outside the Baroque tradition, “and the idea of asking all members of worship groups to learn how to improvise double, inverted fugues is very old hat. Bass guitarists, you might be in with a chance of explaining that to, but for most worship group members, frankly, it’s enough of a challenge to get all of them to keep to the beat. Has Pob ever even met a drummer?”