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Everything posted by Bevington

  1. The problem with what JOR calls 'tuneful, worthy music' is that it further alienates the organ from mainstream (art-) music making. Concert pianists or violinists don't tend to play 'tuneful, worthy' music. Have I misunderstood you? Or isn't this the problem: who are we trying to attract to organ concerts? Yes, many of us will not get much of a kick out of 'tuneful worthy music' but I would far rather see of a church full of 'man in the street' type audience listening enthusiastically, than five shivering organists and two professors of music banging on about how I did the ornament in bar 34! If we are attempting to change culture - or improve it for that matter - surely we begin where we perceive it needs to be 'informed' and meet it at an agreeable and approachable level . . from the audience point of view. I am not so sure about other concert performers not playing 'tuneful/worthy' etc: it seems to me that whether we like it or not, many top artists (i.e. piano/violin) do include a few potboilers as part of quite serious programmes. I am not suggesting that we take the Classic-FM "throw in anything" approach, but perhaps I was clumsy in expressing myself earlier - a good tune (and plenty of our most illustrious composers have written some) will not hurt any concert programme . . . AND I think if you have the correct sort of programme you can include something strange and avant garde:I know older members of the congregation at my church often remark (favourably!) on contemporary voluntaries . . (so long as it's all things in moderation).
  2. I think that local culture, time and place (speaking literally and culturally) do indeed affect a number of factors relating to certain types of concerts. Sometimes it is part of the history of a town, perhaps the style of music that is prevalent whether it is pubs that have popular weekly rock bands, jazz bands or perhaps a community of people who happen to have a lot of string players around and have small ensembles who like to give concerts. I could expand on this but there is not space and it's a bit off topic. But above all I firmly believe that the way concerts are promoted and presented makes a big difference - and yes, it involves mundane, tedious work and running around. My wife has a sister who sings in a newish Chamber Choir. The choir included us on their rural tour. My wife decided to take on the promotion and in additon to her Mon-Fri job as an acting manager, ran morning noon and night emailing, posting letters, faxing, telling people, putting up posters, handing out leaflets, writing letters to every imaginable local/regional group, "talking it up" sending off media releases to the local paper, sending personal invitations, and so on. It was endless leg work . . and the reward was a very good attendance (and on a cold wet night). At a recent organ concert that I gave, the organisers got a packed the church (admittedly that is only 150 people) and they also ran hard at the publicity, with a small committee that did the same things as my wife. But the programming has to be approacable too. I keep my Vierne and so on for Sunday voluntaries or as a finale in the odd 'big' concert that I do. Most of my concerts are at churches where the people react best to 'user friendly' music . . . but I play only "real" organ music, but that includes (as in my last concert) things like the Bach-Vivaldi Concerto in G; Schumanns Canon in B minor for pedal piano (which interestingly was one of the most popular pieces on the programme), Wolstenholme, Wesley, Claussmann (Scherzo in D), lively chorale-preludes, and so on. It's music that I think is worth learning but it's also tuneful and worthy. Also I talk briefly and positively to audiences: tell them how delighted I am that they turned up on a cold wet night . . . explain how effective their organ is for a particular piece, etc. I keep it brief and pacey: sorry if this is not your style, but it works for me and keeps people on side, interested and asking me to return! In summary organists perhaps need to radiate a more obvious enjoyment and enthusiasm for each piece, every audience, every venue and instrument: don't give up - sell what you love doing!
  3. I agree - years ago I sat in the nave of a church enjoying listening to my assistant play the piece, and fell into a state of shock when the imposing final minor chord was altered to a major chord, thus causing choir men to gently lead me to an estblishment a moments walk away from the church where they revived and restored my equilibrium witnh "medicinal" beverages . . . Seriuosly though, I think the harmony of the penultimate and the anti-penultimate chords do not lend themselves to a Tde P ending: in short, it sounds 'wrong'. However, in other sonatas Rheinberger frequently does end minor key movements in a major key, but it is often that the final few bars/systems/page have already moved into a major key pehaps recalling material from an opening or previous movement. The E flat minor sonata ends on a minor chord as do movements from some other minor key sonata movements and in these I do not think at all that the effect would be musical to alter those final chords to major. The end of Sonata 8 has a particular quality and I find the the most exciting performances are determined by the right sort of rhythmic/pulse approach to the final chord - that slight tension that could go either way, but ends perhaps unexpectedly on that towering, bone chilling minor chord.
  4. My initial response is Be Careful! I have been through this type of problem - pain is NOT gain. The school where I teach (now part time) has laptop computers for every staff member: we are expected to use them for every part of our work and routine - a nightmare for digitally directed musicians! Within six weeks of using a laptop for everything - roll marking, lesson plans, school notices, etc (and at this time I was teaching full time) my playing was badly affected, requiring visits to an excellent physiotherapist. Since then (encouraged by the physio, an occasional church attender)I have read and absorbed many books with titles such as "What every piano player and organist needs to know about the body" and "What every musician needs to know about the body", plus the stuff from Alexander Technique people and the like. Rob Sholl at S Michael's Croydon knows a lot about this too - I am sure he won't mind me mentioning his name. I am - or now happily, was - familiar with the 'electric shock' feeling that you mention. That suggest to me a "stop immediately" situation. Seek a remedy - and there are plenty. At school (thanks to the intervention of my physio some years ago) I now have a separate keyboard and I use my left hand for the separate mouse. I make a point of using my left hand for all sorts of daily things but keep in check my body alignment, arm postion/posture etc etc. I can happily give you some specific book titles which helped me immensely - and will help you rethink the way you hold your arms/body/wrist/hands/fingers . . and my goodness it has made a world of difference. (I wish my own music teachers thirty years ago knew what I have learnt now). In summary, a problem that can be managed without pain, and additionally may free up your playing . . . but left unchecked will cause pain and frustration.
  5. Bevington


    For what it's worth here is what we do at Pentecost, but I admit that I see your point and perhaps feel your frustration. First of all, we had Ascension Day 'transferred' to last Sunday (as do so many churches now) and our Feast of Title is Trinity Sunday so that is a 'big' day for us too. Additionally, our Ascension Day service was suitably festive, particularly with Evensong's rousing anthem and Stainer (no, not Stanford, Stainer!) in B flat to lift the roof. For Pentecost, I did not actually feel the need to be 'festive' with last Sundays offerings and next Sundays requirements. I also choose the hymns and have some pressure (!) to include crisis driven contemporary music. So for our three services today - out of so many possibilities - we had/will have: Be still for the presence of the Lord (twice); O breath of Life come sweeping through us; Filled with the Spirit's power (to Woodlands); Come down O Love divine; There's a spirit in the air; Father, Lord of all creation (to Abotts Leigh); Rejoice the year upon its way; On this day the first of Days. The choral setting was a straightforward but tuneful one and the anthem was Tallis's O Lord give thy Holy Spirit. (In previous years we have done Elgar's The Spirit of the Lord). Now, with the sort of boys I have I need to adopt a fairly vigorous attitude to much music and we gave this anthem (the Tallis) a quite intense performance with a reasonable build up for the repeated section. Admitedly other things help: Our bishop was present giving a sound and amusing sermon. The congregation are encouraged to wear - and do wear - red clothing. And, the nave is decorated with trios of balloons in red, orange and yellow, making me feel that I am in some kind of enlarged DNA or molecule experiment. And, we have "up the candle" liturgy. The 10am postlude was "Fire" from Alan Ridout's The Canticle of the Rose - I actually named it "Spirit of Fire" in the pew leaflet to give the congregation a better idea of its purpose. So rather than feeling in need of demonstrable or palpable festivity I felt musically fulfilled and spiritually refreshed. This is possibly not much help to you, so I will leave you with three 'howlers' from the year seven music assignments that I have been marking between morning and evening services: "As a child Beethoven learnt many interments". "Mozart had a father who was a composer but not so important, so he became a miner composer". "The piano is a piece of music that you play".
  6. Thank you "all and some" for your interesting comments. The anchor points idea is applicable to so much repertoire, and in terms of the Vierne, defining the anchor points and 'spots for the thumb' gives a necessary and firmer sense of "grip". Fiffaro's point about bits of the Vierne simply shifting up or down tie in with my earlier comment about it being a logical piece, despite its complexities. The Handel gets its concert airing this weekend and has benefited from the suggestions by MM (so thank you, that man!). An amusing anecdote to finish with (and a disclaimer so as not to offend anyone - I told this to my deaf father who no longer plays the organ because of his hearing and even he thought it most amusing). The church where the Handel is being played has a smallish run down instrument, in poor condition. I played there a couple of years ago at the request of friends to help raise money for a local charity. They managed to fill the small church with people. This time it is to celebrate the church organist being 50 years in the position. The organ has tracker action to manuals and tubular pneumatic to pedals, and has not had major attention for 40 years. At my first concert there, some pedal notes were not working, unreliable or in fact stopped working altogether during the concert. Afterwards, at a supper, I was introduced to the aged organist and the following bizarre conversation ensued: Me: I noticed some pedal notes are not working. Church organist: What? Me: I noticed some pedal notes not working at all, on some keys. Church organist (cupping hand to ear): What? What did you say? I'm a bit deaf - you'll have to speak up! Me: (trying not to shout too loudly in a crowded supper room) I said, I noticed that a number of pedal notes don't work! Church Organist: Yes, some of them are a bit quiet! Me: !!!
  7. Thanks, Peter - that is indeed the man. Not easy to find out much more. Given his date of birth I can't imagine many will recall or know of him.
  8. This enquiry goes back some time, and the name Fergus O'Connor is perhaps familiar to mature aged organists! My elderly father - also an organist - was a chorister at Queens College Oxford under (L) Fergus O'Connor, a man of considerable skill, and who apparently turned the standard of the chapel choir from unspeakable to one of broadcast quality. He was also my fathers first organ teacher. Later I am led to believe that he was probably Organist/Choirmaster at All Saints Kingston in the 1950s after which there seems to be no further record of him. He was very encouraging to young musicians, who respected him greatly, as recalled by my father. I imagine that O'Connor died some years ago, but partly for general interest sake and partly for my father I wonder if anyone knows what happend to O'Connor after his last known tenure at All Saints Kingston? He was probably aged around late forties to mid fifties at that time. Sadly my father tells me that his parents last recollection of O'Connor is his appearing at their Sth London home one day "in a state" and asking to be put up for a few days; which they did, after which he seems to have disappeared . . .
  9. Now that's an interesting idea . . . insert a Stanley voluntary, or part thereof, for a cadenza. Probably more secure than risking an off-the-cuff-job. However, when I practise the Handel and reach the cadenza point, I recall an old LP recording of the late Jeanne Demessieux, who improvised Handel cadenzas that would have had the purists spinning in their graves - full symphonic French style. Very exciting! As for other manuals only composers of similar style, I am fortunate enough to have an 1845 single manual Bevingington mere metres from the Willis so the likes of Stanley, Bennet, Hook and the seasonally named John Christmas Beckwith get regular airings.
  10. Yes, it is the F major no 4. And I am practising it on a firm Kawai piano, and an electro-pneumatic Willis, whilst the organ for the concert is a worn out tracker that was poorly restored in the 1970s. What fun! I think your comment about "naked music" and having anchor points hits the nail on the head - it does feel exposed and somehow the Vierne, whilst technically demanding, seems to give more to comfort and hang onto. I tried your suggestion of lower hand position/claw like finger curve etc - assuming I did what you suggested correctly, it certainly gave a new approach. Like so many I suppose I was always told as a student to follow/read the music and not look at my hands when playing. But I find these days that I often tell my students to look at their hands occasionally, to avoid any false sensory perception that tells them that their fingers and wrists are doing the correct thing when their hand position is actually affecting their technique or fluency.
  11. Oh how I wish I found the Vierne B flat minor Toccata easy! However, as I work through it, I have discovered how logical and 'patterned' most of it is - a bit like having a set of strange building blocks whose main challenge is to have them welded smoothly together. When I began learning it, a friend who has played it for years confirmed that keeping the thumb on white keys is important for giving your hand/s some 'grip' on the keys and around the notes and maintaining a useful hand position. But there are some bars . . . . My own (now deceased) teacher had smallish hands (smaller than mine) but was able to make them release and spread in a way that I did not discover how to do until some yeras later, avoiding strain and tension being a key point. I have an old LP of Dupre playing Bach - also, as you say, not really an historically informed performance. However, his fingering does suit my hands and for the purposes of the concert for which I am preparing the piece, I will aim for an overall 'musical' perfromance, hoping that the Baroque Boys are not hiding up the back in this tiny church in a small town!
  12. Thanks, Peter. One point did occur to me - the Handel copy has of course the extensive fingering inserted by Dupre, which I am using, having decided that it suited me and would save time. The Vierne however has nothing in the way of fingering suggestions, and had to be worked out from scratch, requiring careful planning and revision along the way. I wonder if using someone elses fingering actually slows down the note learning slightly . . . because you are using something that you have not had to think about or decide on for yourself. Both works require clean, precise, accurate (!!) playing but at present my Handel is subject to far more tipped notes and clumsy slips than the Vierne.
  13. I wonder if anyone can shed some light on a peculiar mental glitch that happens when learning certain styles of repertoire - I don't think I am alone in experiencing this. Currently I am a learning a number of new pieces for general repertoire, postludes, concerts etc. Soon I am also playing a concert at a small church in a small town on a two manual organ of 14 stops. For this concert I decided to learn - as it requires user friendly music - a Handel organ concerto. This is the first Handel concerto I have ever learnt. So I have chosen the Concerto in F from Bk 1 of the Bornemanne / Dupre series. Looks straigthforward enough. (An organist friend of mine desribes this sort of thing as 'two finger grade three music'!). I am also learning Viernes Toccata in B flat Minor, from the Pieces de Fantaisie. Guess which one is giving me the most trouble - yes: the Handel. Smudged notes, misjudged leaps, scrappy scale passages, bung pedal notes, and so on. Yet the Vierne is simmering along nicely. The Vierne will be ready as a postlude sooner than the handel will be a 'clean' concert performance . . . but why? Any observations welcome on this frustrating aspect of practice.
  14. Reminds me of the organist who decided to clean the comsole during a sermon - somehow managed to touch the 'full swell' piston while dusting the swell keyboard from top to bottom, glissando style!
  15. Bevington

    Organist on PCC

    For what it's worth, my contract states that I am entitled to attend four parish council meetings per year or at other times where issues may require my presence or input. However, some years ago, I was once encouraged to stand for a parish council election. But it was the vicar who almost immediately discouraged me - but with what seemed a good reason. He believed I had more 'power' (!) by not being on parish council. His reasoning was that if a musical issue arose and parish council went against what I wanted, or believed was a good outcome for the music, then as a member of parish council I would have to accept the "vote". But by not being on parish council, I could continue to cause a fuss, write letters, get further support etc etc to make parish reconsider or even overturn a decison that was not musically helpful.
  16. Thanks for the link - I have also ordered it.
  17. Like John Sayer, we too have had awkward moments with HTFD - this despite marked up copies and multiple hymnbooks. The congregation have had their own word sheet with just the appropriate Easter verses to make it clearer for them, (and there are different versions here and there of the text). I regret to say one Easter Day I suddenly could not recall which of the verse tunes I had just played (no wonder perhaps, having had services and rehearsals from 6am) and of course the words to each tune more or less fit the other. Embarrassing. The next year I decided that my young assistant should play it! The same thing happened . . . Processing with the choir however, I did note puzzled looks on faces of many of the congregation who to their credit did launch into the refrain. Now we do something else.
  18. I am tempted by having all that in one volume, even though it will give me a couple of double copies, in addition to new music . . but I must be doing something wrong: I cannot locate it on the Musicroom site. VA, can you please tell me the exact title?
  19. . . . and furthermore, the Larghetto was originally a Novello (ed Chambers) edition - mine is of the time that has the old pinkish cover with the St Cecilia window down the LH side; the Andante in E minor (which I now see is indeed S S Wesley) is in the Tallis to Wesley series, and there is also an Andante in G which I recall is less interesting than the E minor one. Also, my father once had an LP on which I am sure Simon Lindley had recorded an S S Wesley Introduction and Fugue in C# minor - but I have never seen nor heard of the piece since.
  20. I am writing this from school (!) so can't check my cupboard for exact names: there is a charming Larghetto and Variations in F# minor, and (unless I am confused with S Wesley) an Andante in E minor. Both with independent pedal parts, worth learning and with one or two intricacies to keep you concentrating.
  21. Isn't it amazing what Stanley Vann and Barry Rose did for Stainer's Crucifixion and also Rose for Olivet to Calvary? I had never heard 'Olivet' until I bought a record of it on a whim years ago. Yes, there is a lot of 'Olivet' that perhaps should not have been written, but when I eventually chanced upon a score of the Maunder it was a lesson in what a top choirtmaster can do with second rate music. Having said that, I agree that the Rose recording of Olivet has some stunning emotional moments as does his Stainer. There is a church two hours from where I live that does the Stainer every Good Friday (and with a top choir) and the building is filled. . . and that's a four figure size congregation.
  22. NPOR lists a three manual at St Patrick Soho Square, with a grade two Historic Organ certificate - or did I mis-read something?
  23. Dr Stanley Vann - another extraordinary musician / cathedral organist - turns 100 on Feb 15th.
  24. Thanks for the link - some interesting comments. I have played the Sicilienne and the Fanfare and March, but await arrival of ordered copies of Symph Two and the Grand Choeur. The finale from Symph 1 gets its first airing on Sunday. I have been using my father's nearly 60 year old copy - don't think he ever played it, as it is in "as new" condition . . . or was, until I started learning the music. With all the recent practise it has become fragile and suddenly started falling to bits at the spine, which is a bit embarrassing after surviving so long. However, it really is worth the effort to learn and revive Weitzs' works, but mostly not easy to play.
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