With a fine CD as proof, BOYCE & STANLEY are pushing back the musical boundaries of the renewal within the Catholic Church. They met up with Pippa Rimmer.

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"In some of the subject matter you can discern a difference," says Jo, warming to the theme, "although you do have to look out for it. We've got one or two songs where the text has come from references to saints, such as the Prayer Of St Theresa. One or two are specifically Eucharistic, such as 'Glory Glory' from our new album. We are rooted in the liturgical tradition but I think one of the strengths of our work is that crossover and the tension between what is acceptable in a liturgical context that also sounds great on the radio."

Mike is keen to express how much the face of Catholicism has changed over the last few decades, with a loosening of more rigid forms of worships to the newer styles: "All this wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago. The Protestant churches have been using drums and guitars to proclaim the gospel for many years now and the Catholic Church is really catching up. Our vision is to encourage the tradition that we've come from so that we grow as a church." Jo adds, with a laugh: "We're still in the position where a Eucharistic celebration with guitars is called a folk Mass! There's lots of growing still happening which is why we felt called to this particular ministry."

Apart from their obvious Catholic connections, they are regulars on the Irish folk scene in Birmingham and I wonder if these influences creep into their music? Mike ponders: "I think we bring the whole influence of life into our music - not only musical, but the things we read, people we meet and relationships we've had. All that feeds into the music. Because the Irish have won the European Song Contest so many times, they know how to write a good hook and a good melody. The music is an excellent vehicle for carrying the emotions of what the words are trying to say, which I've borrowed from the Irish folk circuit."

The new CD looks set to be another CJM classic. So which bits of 'In The Company Of Angels' are they particularly pleased with? "I'm quite happy with all of it, to be honest," confesses Jo. "Everything we've done over the years has always been a step on from what we last did and we can see the musical growth with this album. I think we've always written strong songs but when you've spent time learning how to use all the equipment we can feel the whole experience. I'm a bit of a softie so I like the ballads - 'Father' and 'The King Of Love' are my favourites.
I like 'Father' for its simplicity. It's difficult to find songs that draw us close to the Father. We're very good at getting close to Jesus but to feel the fatherhood of God is quite difficult for some people, especially in this day and age where the whole image of fatherhood is often negative. But in this song I feel encircled by the fatherhood of God."

I wonder whether GM ever wish to break out once in a while and produce wild music that will have them rocking in the aisles? Mike is cautious to point out: "We have to be careful not to move too far away from where our church is at. As soon as we do that we become useless to people. That's why you'll never hear us doing an album like dc Talk."

So the Catholic Church may not be ready for the heavier side of pop yet, but more importantly, the changes that they have seen encourage Jo and Mike that people are open to push the accepted boundaries back a little. "Many didn't believe it was at all possible," says Jo, describing the new openness to their style of worship. "When they've had a taste, not of just the music but of an experience of worship which resonates with people, they want more."

Mike adds: "It's not all about being the same either. That's not what unity is about. I don't believe unity is about uniformity, I believe it's based on diversity. In our multicultural country we don't expect people to be the same - we celebrate our differences and this is what we try to do in our music and our ministry."

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.