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MAB

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  1. Quick query. I have just been booked to play a concert of Christmas pieces in December on a small classical organ. It would be lovely if it had a Cymbelstern, but it doesn't. Can anyone point me towards a downloadable MP3 for a Cymbelstern that might be pressed into service, or even one of those tinkly ones Carlo Curley used to have on his console. I appreciate this is utterly naff, but, hey, its (nearly) Christmas. Many thanks M
  2. Many thanks - I have sent you an e - mail off board with my contact details. Regards M
  3. I am trying, without success, to get a copy of this organ transcription for a programme of light music I have been asked to play next year. I have seen it programmed occasionally, and know that Roger Molyneux had a copy years ago, but all attempts to get a copy draw a blank. Any offers or suggestions ? Kind regards, MAB
  4. This is always a good topic. Carl Jung used to paint a mandala at the beginning of each day to assess the state of his soul. I compile my Desert Island Discs each month for similar reasons. Most of them stay the same but a few change, reflecting new discoveries and enthusiasms. My list is a mixture of music I love in 'absolute' terms, and music that holds special memories for me, as follows. Mahler 3rd symphony ; Bernstein My love of classical music undoubtedly started when, as a very young child, I would lie in bed and listen to my father (a great Mahlerian) playing his records downstairs. In this way I got to know all the Beethoven symphonies and all the Mozart piano concertos without realising it by the age of 8 or so. I always loved hearing Mahler, who has remained a lifelong passion, and this piece also reminds me of my father to whom I owe so much, musically and otherwise. Vittoria Requiem ; Tallis Scholars. Arriving at Oxford saw me sing this piece with Schola Cantorum in my second term, the beginning of a realisation that singing could be more than a mere hobby, it could move up to level of excellence. Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 ; Parrott. Another piece I grew to love at Oxford. Also a personal memory as it was recorded at my old church (All Saints', Tooting) and I was lucky enough to sing in a performance with Andrew Parrott at the Proms a few years later - a real highlight of my (amateur) singing career. Bach ; Well Tempered Clavier in the latest Angela Hewitt recording. The one piece of Bach I would have (although all 8 could be Bach) ; inexhaustible in every way. Genesis ; In the Cage and following medley from 'Three Sides Live'. I am delighted at how many board members have chosen pop music. This music reminds me of teenage years, of first love, of the three fantastic Genesis concerts I have been to, of how much joy music can contain and of the great pleasure I have always taken in pop music, both highbrow and low. Prokofieff ; Romeo and Juliet Simply because I love every note Mozart ; Don Giovanni - Kiri te Kanawa and Thomas Allen / Glyndebourne. The beginning of a lifelong love affair with Mozart. Durufle ; Prelude, Adagio & Chorale Varie sur le Veni Creator - John Scott. The one piece of organ music I would have, because I cannot ignore the central role playing the organ has had in my musical life, because it is such a beautiful piece, and because it reminds me of one of my own best performances. Book ; Remembrance of Things Past Luxury ; my electric toothbrush. All things in life are possible, or at least bearable, if I can have enough sleep and can clean my teeth properly. Regards to all M
  5. I know this is an easy target to hit, but I did want to share a recent experience with the board as it crystallised so many of the problems we seem to face when wishing to be taken seriously as musicians. It is many years since I last played for a wedding. Having given up my full time organist's job and started a family, and having been given the run - around by too many brides over the years, I decided that I valued the time with my family at weekends far more than the fee. However, I was recently asked to play for a wedding at my local church. After some consideration I agreed to play. Balancing all the factors I have mentioned above, I asked for a fee which some might find high, but which I regard as a respectable reflection of my professional ability. The bride had no hesitation in agreeing. I was first contacted by the bride 6 months before the wedding and suggested a timetable whereby we worked towards an order of service, with all music being agreed at least 8 weeks before the date. I reserved the right to charge a little more if I had to buy and learn a piece specially. I offered to meet the bride, who lived locally. She never got round to this, although we exchanged ideas regularly by e- mail. I pointed her towards various wedding CDs and sent her internet links for appropriate pieces, none of which she seemed to understand. Eventually, after some gentle suggestion from me that with a week to go we really ought to be finalising the music, she said that she liked a piece called 'Remembered Joy' which she had found. No composer, link or reference was given. After some investigation it turned out that this was a piece of, bluntly, hotel - lift muzak on the site of an American wedding organiser. I explained that if she could have got me the music in time, I would have been prepared to play it but, sadly, I could not guarantee to get the score from America in the 4 working days left to us. Eventually we agreed on fairly standard repertoire. On the day, I started to play introductory music for 20 minutes before the service. The bride eventually arrived 35 minutes late which meant that I was playing for nearly an hour before the service started. The congregation started to drift in with about 10 minutes to go. In many years of playing the organ I have rarely heard a congregation talk so loudly, including numerous mobile phone calls (which continued through the service). The only time they stopped was when I paused between pieces. As soon as I started the next piece, they started to talk again. I played Lord of the Dance and Give me Joy in my Heart (about which much has been written elsewhere on this forum). No - one sang. During the signing of the register, it was announced that the bride's niece would sing a song accompanied on the guitar by her boyfriend. It was also announced that after this, I would play, as requested, Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring. The girl sang nicely, without it being exceptional. The congregation sat in perfect silence, and burst into a storm of applause at the end. The second I started to play Jesu Joy, they all started talking again at the tops of their voices. As I hope you will see from the above, I am not a prima donna either musically or liturgically, and I am more than happy to bring music to people where they are rather than expecting them to fit in with my tastes. However, this service highlighted for me so clearly how as organists in church we are so often not regarded as serious musicians, but at best labourers who, it is assumed, will provide a professional service without for a moment either that musicianship or professionalism being acknowledged. When I recounted the story to my wife, she mentioned that the day before, You and Yours had featured an article on 'the organists fighting back', the gist of which was that some organists refused to reduce their fees when vicars tried to offer cut - price weddings to prospective brides. In full credit to the priest of the church, when he first gave me the bride's contact, I asked him if I was free to name what I considered a suitable fee, and he entirely supported my freedom to charge whatever I wanted. As you may imagine, the experience gave me no reason to change my views about playing for weddings and I imagine from now on, unless I am asked to play for family weddings (which always gives me the greatest pleasure) they will not feature in my musical life.
  6. Thank you for these very helpful responses ; much appreciated. Kind regards, MB
  7. I have recently discovered, with great pleasure, the Kuhnau Bibilical Sonatas and am enjoying learning the Fourth. I am broadly aware of the programme of the piece, but as my Medieval German is not all that it might be, can anyone let me have translations for the exact texts as they appear in each movement ? I would be very grateful for any assistance as, I am sure, would my future audiences. Kind regards, M
  8. MAB

    Changing tastes

    This is a very interesting subject, and I can think of lots of ways in which it has informed my tastes over the years, and not just in music. Sometimes it has been a landmark performance that has 'opened the doors'. Sometimes it is just one's tastes changing with maturity. Sometimes someone else's enthusiasm can help release something in me. Let me give some examples of all of these. In music, I never used to see what all the fuss was about over Mozart, until in quick succession I heard a performance of the Clarinet Quintet which, literally, left me shaking with tears and laughter all at the same time, and read Hesse's Steppenwolf which depicts in literary terms the icy, unearthly perfection of the last minutes of Don Giovanni. From those two moments I was hooked. Often, as I say, someone's enthusiasm for a piece can unlock a piece in my mind. This is one reason why I find Desert Island Discs (when on form) such a revealing programme. Often a snippet of music with a penetrating insight can lead into a world which was otherwise, or previously, closed. Several times I have had to rush out and buy a CD after hearing it in this way, and it is single handedly responsible for opening me to the musical glory of (amongst others) Frank Sinatra, and if only for that has my undying gratitude. A common experience I have had, sadly, is that unimaginative performances in my youth has left me with a poor impression of pieces that I now love dearly. I had to grind through one of the '48' for my Grade 6 piano that left me thinking that the Well Tempered Clavier was simply ... grade 6 exam fodder. A few years ago I picked up Angela Hewitt's new recording of the 48 and now listen to it endlessly. How could I have been so stupid as not to realise what marvellous music this is ? But then, my experience of Bach has, if I am honest, been rather like this. When I was a student, learning the organ, I enjoyed Bach but it was not central to my musical experience either as a performer or listener. I said that I enjoyed Bach because I felt I had to say that as a 'serious organist' but my heart wasn't really in it. However, over the years I have sunk deeper and deeper into Bach and now I would put him above any other composer. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, and as I often say myself, 'when it comes to music, there is Bach, and everything else is stamp collecting'. There was no one turning point in my appreciation of Bach, although having said that, playing continuo for the St John Passion was very important in moving Bach from my head to my heart. I view Messiah in a similar light, having taken part in far too many well - meaning but dull performances as a young musician. One day I heard a really excellent professional performance. I went along merely to be polite, but was gripped and moved from the first note to the last. A good example of a landmark performance for me was hearing Madame Durufle (on CD) play the Franck Fantaisie in A - a piece I had heard several times before, without for the life of me being able to understand why anyone would bother with the time spent in learning the notes. She really opened the piece up to my ears and heart, and I now love it dearly, and went through a phase of playing it a lot. In fact, Franck is probably the best example of a composer who has suffered from my fickleness. When I first heard his music I loved it. As I grew older, I rejected it as shapeless and corny, but with the years I have come back to it, to love it more deeply than my first, inexperienced love, and I am sure I will love it for ever more. I think this is due simply to how the ageing process has affected me ; I am not sure I have grown any wiser with the years, but my corners have been rubbed off, and I am more open to naked emotion, even if it tends towards sentimentality, than I allowed myself as a rather severe young man. This is an interesting trajectory I have heard described by others (including David Sanger in relation to Franck) ; of loving a piece, falling out of love, but then falling back in love more deeply. In the same way, with the years I have grown more tolerant of pieces that I thought, sniffily, were too popular to be any good, or too popular for me to bother with. The Suite Gothique comes firmly into this category. Perhaps I despised the fact that it was such a warhorse, which was terribly snobbish of me in retrospect, but on learning it again a few years ago, I came to admire so much about it ; accessability, tunefulness, elegant craftsmanship, satisfying to play, and warmly received by the audience (another damning indictment of a piece to my priggish teenage ears). Outside music, my experience of literature is very much the same. At university (where I read English) I detested, above all, Dickens and Henry James whereas now (surprise, surprise) I read both authors more or less cyclically. So, many factors at work here, but I suspect the greatest is simply the passing of the years and the realisation that the masterpieces are masterpieces for a very good reason and are bigger, thankfully, than my ego. Of course, another interesting and related subject might be those pieces that hit you for six when you first hear them, and never lose that impact. If you would kindly step forward Herr Julius Reubke .... Regards to all M
  9. I do not know which pieces Peter Hurford recorded at New College, although it should not be difficult to find out, but I can mention that Graham Barber made a recording at New College of music by Johann Nepomuk David which would have been in the mid to late 1970s. I imagine that this is pretty a much a rarity now, and only on vinyl, but I remember it as a tremendous recording of some very fine repertoire that deserves to be better known. Regards M
  10. Dear colleagues, Many thanks for these most helpful suggestions ; I feel quite overwhelmed by the number of venues proposed. At the moment the choir seems to be closing in on the City of London School for Boys, but I will certainly bear these suggestions in mind. The choir is often on the lookout for new venues for this type of project, so it may well be that we come back to one or more of these in the future. Kind regards, M
  11. Just to add my contribution to this thread, earlier this year I was lucky enough to play in the Sunday afternoon series at St Paul's. The music staff could not have been more kind and welcoming to me, from my first contact about 9 months before, until the actual weekend. I was welcomed to the console and told to stay there pretty much as long as I wanted into the evening. A model of how it should be done. By contrast, I found the staff 'on the floor' to be abrupt and off - putting on several occasions, challenging me when I went downstairs to the toilet and almost turning my friends and family away on the day of the recital when they tried to enter the nave. My brother - a policeman - remarked on this obstructive and unhelpful attitude ; he had to push very hard to be admitted at all. At first I was prepared to give the staff the benefit of the doubt. St Paul's is an enormous tourist attraction with many people passing through its doors who may be less than respectful of what it stands for. And, sadly, in these security conscious days it probably has to be extra careful about keeping track of all its visitors. Having read this thread, though, I am not so sure. It is not the first time I have visited a cathedral where I have felt inclined to remind them that the ministry of hospitality is a very important part of the Christian message. For many people, dealing with the floor staff in this way may be their first and only encounter with what the gospel stands for in practice. A brusque attitude does our Lord no favours. M
  12. Dear Colleagues, Here is a challenge for you ! I have been asked to accompany a choir in a recording of James Whitbourn's Missa Carolae. If, like me, you have not come across this before, it was written in 2004 for Midnight Mass at Rochester Cathedral. The mass is set to the tunes of well known carols. The organ part is conceived for a fairly large parish church / cathedral organ with, in particular, a prominent part for a solo reed. We are looking for a suitable recording venue, but as it is an amateur (but extremely good) choir, there are some fairly tight restrictions, namely ; * We cannot afford anywhere very expensive. * The venue needs to be within reasonable reach of London (Oxford Colleges are actively being considered). * West and South of London would be preferred. * As recording will take place over the weekend, a non - liturgical building (eg, school chapel) would be preferable, alternatively, a church without a busy Sunday programme of events. * The organ should be of reasonable size with, ideally, some sort of solo reed. We have found a number of places which fit all of the above criteria, but which have small, classical organs that will not quite give the effect that Whitbourn intended. Just to get you started, our thoughts have so far included St Stephen Walbrook in the City, Tonbridge School Chapel, University College School, Hampstead and Exeter College, Oxford. I would be very interested if any members can suggest other possibilities we might consider. Regards to all, M
  13. MAB

    Bourges Cathedral

    Just to let readers know that I have now got in touch with the organist at Bourges and received a most warm reply inviting me to play the organ on my visit. An excellent example, if I may say, of the collegiate warmth of this board, and of the welcome we receive from our brothers overseas. M
  14. MAB

    Bourges Cathedral

    Dear David and AJJ Many thanks for these most helpful replies. I am already drooling in anticipation ! I will let you know how I get on. thanks again, M
  15. MAB

    Bourges Cathedral

    I will be visiting the eastern side of the Loire this year and very much want to visit Bourges Cathedral. It is one of the few 'premier league' French cathedrals that I have not visited, and from looking at photographs on the web it looks magnificent. Does anyone know anything of the organ ? I have a vague memory of an acquaintance playing there some years ago, which suggests it is a fine instrument. I have also found a CD on the internet which suggests that the instrument is Classical rather than modern. If possible, can anyone suggest how I might approach to ask if I could play the instrument ? French cathedrals and their organists always seem a mystery to me ; there never seems to be an organist or other appropriate contact named on the website and, obviously, nothing like the 7 days a week music programme that we have at cathedrals in this country. On the other hand, my experience in France has generally been that if you make a courteous enquiry, you are welcomed warmly. Hope someone can help. Kind regards, M
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