Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

James Dawson

  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by James Dawson

  1. If I know there has been a funeral during the day I try to practice in the evening beofre the heat completely disappears. :D


    We are fortunate that our church heatign works quite quickly, and the treasurer doesn't mind if I switch it on for an hour to take the chill off, but I don't like to do this unless its' very cold.


    I think legally the PCC has a responsibility to ensure satisfactory working conditions for employees, (which means a minimum of 60 °F within an hour of starting work), but I wouldn't want to push that one given the current state of church finances. :unsure:


    Pipe Dreamer

  2. Some of us can remember when the Highway Code was issued on a vinyl record, sung to Anglican chants. Not only did it help people to learn the Highway Code; it was also a very good example of Anglican chanting, and a number of churches used it as an example for their choirs to see "the proper way to do it". I've just found it on YouTube - it's done by The Mastersingers and dates from 1966






    Some of the comments are rather telling; such as (I quote) "any one know where i can get the sheet music for this?"

  3. =====================



    After all, the organ will survive simply because it is a fine musical instrument when played well, and there will always be organs somewhere.



    Surely; the organ became popular in churches because it was the best instrument for accompanying large numbers of congregants in hymn singing? In my view this is still true.


    When our Happy-Clappies take over on the 4th Sunday they insist on using the piano throughout the service; which is OK for the normal congregation of 35 or 40 souls; but if there is a baptism party the whole thing descends into chaos, as nobody can hear the music. On more than one occasion now we have reverted to the organ just to bring some order to the proceedings.


    This is a purely practical observation, which has nothing to do with the style of music.

  4. A friend of mine many years ago drafted plans for a station called 'Radio Polyphony' which might be able to succeed in the DAB era, apart from work on olfactory transmitters for the domestic reception of incense having stalled in its early stages. Essentially, the news was to be intoned to Anglican chant; the weather in Latin; and a hymn from Mission Praise and a reading from the Good News Bible every morning at 3.15am as a quality control measure.


    Incense sticks are readily available, and are often used in this household when listening to 'appropriate' music. :unsure:


    Sir Charles Stanford said of Elgar's Gerontius that it 'stank of incense': well it does in this house. :)


    I agree about only performing hymns from Mission Praise in the dead of night; but I would worry that the mistakes might offend truck drivers and others who listen in the early hours. Looking on the bright side, I suppose the errors, if faithfully performed, would help to keep them awake. :D


    Seriously though, I wonder whether there might perhaps be an opportunity for a radio channel of this calibre in today's world? As I said yesterday, I would imagine that such a channel would be far more popular than most people would ever want to admit. For outside of these four walls, I am sure there are many people who enjoy, and gain comfort from hymns and sacred music, but would never dare admit it to friends and colleagues.

  5. DAB (Digital Radio) has been sold to us on the grounds that it provides radio channels for ethnic minorities, alternative music and those with more diverse interests.


    I wonder; what about a Hymn channel? Or how about an organ and church music channel, to include morning service, choral evensong, and other appropriate material? Then, perhaps on the 5th Sunday of the month, the Happy-Clappies could be allowed some of their own music. :unsure: (No doubt they would want to take it over for themselves.)


    I may be biased, but I would imagine that such a channel would be far more popular than most people would ever want to admit. Like other classical radio channels, one might not want to listen to it all day every day, but it would be wonderful to have it on hand.


    If the TV licensing authorities can provide porn channels on Terrestrial television I would have thought that a request for a hymn and church music channel on DAB radio would be entirely justified.


    No doubt it would need to be funded by advertising, but that itself could create some interesting sponsorship opportunities. :)

  6. Congratulations on your efforts to accommodate both traditions. JS


    Hear hear. :mellow:


    The problem, as I see it, is that too many church people have very fixed ideas about the format of their services, and refuse to compromise to accomodate others. For example, we lost several members, including a Church Warden, when a lady Curate was apointed, whilst others are now threatening to leave if they smell so much as a whiff of incense, or even if there are too many candles behind the altar! I am sure these people are very holy, but their attitudes towards other church members seem distinctly un-Christian to me.


    If only people would try to understand and enjoy other people's forms of worship we would all benefit. As things stand it seems to me that many church members would rather see their churches close than accepting a different style of worship once in a while.

  7. I think this is missing the point. The RSCM caters for that.


    But that's just the point; it doesn't!


    The daughter of a friend is a very promising organist, and has recently taken up an organ scholarship. She applied to attend a RSCM course two years ago (aged 16), but was told "our courses are designed for adults; and in any case, we don't have a child protection policy, so we cannot teach children".


    The organ world needs young people, and it needs them now! If we wait until the old guard fall off of their perches it will be too late!


    The Raise Your Game day courses run by the RCO and others are very good, but they only scratch the surface.


    I know you will say 'this isn't about organists', but if we don't put the horse before the cart we will never get anywhere!






    Not far away from me, there is a "happy clap" church, where they have hundreds at every service, while the more traditional churches are largely empty.


    I'm not suggesting that what you claim is impossible, but I don't think I would want to take the risk nowadays.




    Equally, I know of a very traditional church not far away from me where they have a strong choral tradition, an excellent choir, and smells and bells with everything. The situation was so bad when the present priest took office that the Bishop told him 'not to worry if things went pear shape' as the church was closing anyway.


    They now have a regular attendance of 150 + every Sunday, with some people travelling up to 50 miles to be there!


    I don't think it should be a case of 'traditional or contemporary' music; as surely there is room for both? The problems come about because many clergy like to be seen as 'hip' and 'modern', and those who pedal the happy clappy stuff will stoop to any level to get their own way.


    However, I think we should remember that music is just one factor in the equation. Many churches are empty because of church politics and cliques, which make 'ordinary' churchgoers feel unwelcome. Others are empty because the clergy are so heavenly minded they are of little earthly use, and simply do not take the time to minister to their people. I would be seriously worried if I saw our parish priest walking up the drive, as he only ever makes home visits to arrange funerals. :mellow:

  8. So my question is, do we need a new organisation to represent our tradition?


    Hmmmm. So who would run this new organisation, and who would it represent? What would be it's aims and objectives, and how would it operate?


    There are many and various organist's associations running at present, but the majority of these are dying (rather like parish churches) simply because they are run by committees of septuagenarians who genuinely believe that nobody should be allowed within a mile of a pipe organ unless they hold a FRCO, and preferably a BSc Hons from Oxford.


    (I resigned from one such organist's organisation because their Secretary simply would not accept that there was a place for those who he saw as subordinate to himself.)


    The RCO and Oundle run some very good courses for organists, but from what I have heard, the numbers and timing are such that individuals often don't get enough time on the bench to get the practical experience they need.


    So, I think there is scope for a new organisation, but it would need to address the practical needs of those who are at the bottom and middle of the learning curve, whether through age or experience; rather than providing yet another opportunity for those who feel they are at the top of the curve to show off.


    As an example, take a young person who perhaps plays the piano, and would like to play the organ. Where does he or she go? Good organ tutors are few and far between, and difficult to track down unless you are 'in the know'.


    Take another example of somebody who is already taking private organ lessons, and would like to apply for a church post at some point, or even an organ scholarship at university, but other than a bit of singing has no experience of a choir? Where do they go?


    From where I am standing I think we desperately need to encourage new organists into the fold at all levels of experience. There are a few outstanding youngsters who have graduated from public and choir schools, but they will never be enough in number to fill he available posts over the next few years; so perhaps we need to widen the intake to include those with less privileged educational backgrounds?


    I think it has been said here before, but perhaps the church, through it's diocesan offices, should be providing more support for those who would like to learn the craft. After all, the church runs courses for lay readers and 'Authorised Pastoral Assistants', so why not organists and choir masters?


    Maybe there is an organisation out there which caters for all of these needs, but I have never found it!

  9. The biggest enemy here is mediocrity. If we ever become satisfied with mediocrity in worship, then our faith will be mediocre and the God we witness to and address will be the same. Mediocre religion is what gives MM every reason to espouse a position he describes as agnostic. He does, however, need to balance his statement by allowing that much agnosticism is laziness, just as much mediocre religious faith and practice is down to laziness too.


    I would agree; but all too often we seem to celebrate mediocrity, alongside vulgarity, infidelity, appalling grammar, obscene wealth and the many other trappings of our 21st century culture. :(


    On a brighter note, I was so interested by the comments on this forum that I dug out an old (1949) edition of The English Hymnal from the organ loft to read Mr R Vaughn Williams preface for myself. There were three statements that I particularly liked:


    Firstly, RVW suggests that "……………. hymns are essentially for the congregation; the choir have their opportunity elsewhere". He goes on to say "And it may be added that a desire to parade a trained choir often accompanies a debased musical taste."


    On the subject of choir and congregation singing hymns antiphonally he wrote: "…… the eternal war between choir and congregation, each considering the other an unnecessary appendage to the services of the church, is done away with." :blink:


    And finally: "The custom in English churches is to sing many hymns much too fast. It is distressing to hear 'Nun Danket' or 'St Anne' raced through at about twice the proper speed. ....... The speed indications should not be judged at the pianoforte"


    I really enjoyed reading this wonderfully written introduction, and so much of what he wrote is just as relevant today as it was then. RVW undoubtedly had a way with words, and music. :)

  10. I have recently started deputising for the organist at the small parish church at which I was the "appointed organist" in my teens. I have been told that whilst I am free to choose the hymns for the services for which I am playing (if scheduled far enough in advance, obviously) under no circumstances must I use any worship songs and "that happy-clappy rubbish, that's left for the music group at the family worship in the 10.45 slot". I play for Sung Eucharist at 09.15 which apparently has a larger and more enthusiastic congregation.


    What a sensible approach; something for everyone.


    How sensible, and how refreshing that the Sung Eucharist congregation is not subjected to happy-clappy dross against their will.


    Whilst on holiday earlier this year I met a fellow organist who was just about to stand down from a post that he had held for nearly forty years. The story was that one of the churches in his parish had been taken over by happy clappies, and as a result lost so many of the regulars (who had been paying the bills) that it had to close. It was then merged with a second church, and guess what happned?


    When will they learn?

  11. Personally though, I suspect the "playlist" mentality - especially prevelant in ("popular" music radio) where a limited number of tracks which are deemed to be popular, or which the producer/record company wants to plug, are played in virtually endless rotation - i.e. the output of most of the Independent radio stations in the UK. Someone has decided what they think the public wants (quite possibly based on results of the various "Top Ten Hymns" polls that the BBC have done in recent years, and stick mainly to that limited list. These days, radio and TV is more about keeping the audience than actually challenging them to think!


    Every Blessing




    Our clergy seem to do the opposite to this: they like to choose hymns that nobody knows or likes, and nobody but the clergy can sing, (and even they struggle sometimes). The only exception is baptism services, where they like happy-clappy hymns played on the piano so that the un-churhed don't feel out of their depth. :mellow:


    Some years ago the Vestry decided to ask the congregation whch hymns they liked singing, and a list of some seventy or so hymns was compiled, but the clergy refused to use them.


    Next week we have a PCC meeting to discuss whether 'Back to Church Sunday' was a success. I know already that the hymns won't have been! :angry:

  12. Ulp... Beverley Minster!!! :P


    But whatever the Minster, it would be very refreshing to hear some different hymns.... If you hear a loud scream emanating from the North Wales Coastal Area, you will know that we have had another repeat of "To God be the glory....!"


    I wonder whether the limited hymn repertoire might have something to do with copyright?


    I have noted on many programmes (not just the BBC) that the same music seems to be repeated over and over again, (think of Vaughn Williams 'The Lark Ascending' and the Widor Toccata on Classic FM).


    I realise that this has a lot to do with the programme makers perceived ideas about listener preference, but I have also heard that broadcasters buy a licence to perform/play certain music, which is why we hear the same music repeated, especially during the working week.


    In the case of SoP, they also need to copy the words to provide screen subtitles, which presumably also requires some form of licence?


    Does anyone know anything about this?

  13. ==============



    Southwell has never had architecture like that Quentin. I think you'll find that it was Beverley.


    It was nice to see Beverley on screen again. It's a while since I marvelled at the architecture of the place and the colours of the sensational stained-glass windows.


    As Dr Alan Spedding used to say, "Welcome to Beverely. There are two great Minsters in Yorkshire: the biggest one and the best one."


    From an architectural point of view, he was probably right.




    I note that the Antiques Roadshow came from Beverly Minster yesterday, and again showed some fine shots of the organ. I wonder whether it was just coincidence that both came from Beverly, or whether the Beeb were killing two birds with one stone whilst the camera crews were in the area?


    Shock horror, they might even be trying to work more efficiently these days. :P

  14. However, two questions interest me.


    Why should the public school/choir school system produce the majority of capable organists in the UK?


    Secondly, how have countries such as the Russia, the Czech Republic and Hungary produced such outstanding organists, when the recent past has included a certain degree of religious intolerance (if not downright hostility) and without a public school in sight?


    I think these questions can be answered together.


    Firstly, in my opinion, the provision of music tuition in most of our state schools is woefully inadequate, with the result that very few students leave school having learnt to sing or play an instrument. Some pupils may opt for private tuition, but peer pressure in state schools is such that many pupils will give up their music studies rather than having to face bullying and general mickey taking. Former colleges tell me that there has been some improvement in recent years, with county music teachers visiting schools on a weekly basis; but there is no timetabled provision for such lessons, which means that pupils have to miss other subjects. I do not believe that this is a satisfactory arrangement.


    Public schools, on the other hand, take a very different approach. Teachers at public schools will tell you that music, like sport, is an essential part of the curriculum, not least because it improves performance and concentration in other subjects. I have no personal experience of teaching in former eastern bloc countries, but I do know that music is held in much greater esteem than it is here.


    It is also the case that most of the better public schools have very fine organs on which pupils can learn to play, without having to negotiate with clergy and PCC's of access to a church organ. I don't know, but I suspect that access to church organs in mainland Europe and the former eastern bloc is probably less difficult than it is here.


    To me, one of the great tragedies of this country, is the fact that so many organs in secular places are seldom used, and when they are, it is often beyond the access of anyone who isn't a "professional."


    No wonder everything is sliding south.




    I can only agree with you. Most of the organs in public buildings have become unplayable owing to lack of use! (Central heating and lack of maintenance have also played their part. ) This is because only the most highly qualified organists have been allowed within five miles of them, and only then after reams of paperwork and countless risk assessments have been completed! This has had the secondary effect of giving organ playing an 'elitist' image, which in turn has done little to encourage new organists into the fold.


    Let's be clear here. An organ doesn't care who plays it as long as it gets played. Organs are not damaged by being played too loudly, or by having the wrong keys played. It is only crusty old organists and mandarins in town halls and the church who have created this situation.

  15. Personally, I think I will stay out of the public schools debate.


    Please do not think I am knocking public schools; I am not. I attended one myself, as did my children, so I have no axe to grind on that score.


    My point is, (and I could be entirely wrong here), that I would imagine the majority of cathedral organists and present organ scholars in this country attended public or choir schools. Or put it another way; how many of them attended secondary moderns?


    There are clearly very good reasons for this, but given that most organs are under-used, would it not be a good idea to encourage more people to play at all levels?

  16. Completely and entirely agree.


    Some years ago, the Archbishops published "In Tune with Heaven" - with recommendations to invigorate parish music. One of these recommendations was dioceses should appoint a Diocesan Music Adviser - precisely to encourage parishes and their musicians.


    However, I believe the proportion of dioceses who have done this, or who have retained the post against cost-cutting, and so on, is small. As Nigel has pointed out, the potential of such a role is high - perhaps more dioceses, if they realise there is a call for such a post, would implement one.


    And the one thing Nigel also meant to point out that this would be a most welcome addition to the job scene. How many Dioceses?



    I must say this does sound like a very sensible idea, although I gather from our Clergy that many of the advisory posts are part time, and non-stipendiary, so the cost to the diocese would be minimal.


    However, there are two points that I would like to bring out here. Firstly, there seems to be great disparity in how the various diocese deal with music matters, even down to individual attitudes. Having spoken to a few people 'in the know' over the past few days, I have heard that Liverpool Diocese, for example, has a very progressive, enlightened and open policy, in which they actively encourage organists of all ages and abilities. If what I hear is true, they are even allowed to go along to the cathedral for a play on certain days. I don't think that would ever happen on the other side of the Pennines!


    Secondly, it strikes me that the attitudes shewn towards aspiring organists by the church strongly favour those who are fortunate enough to have attended a choir school, or a public school with a pipe organ; as it seems very unlikely that other children would ever be allowed to gain the experience to play on most church organs. (There have been several articles on this very subject in the press.) This to me is a disgrace, that the church, of all bodies should create a situation where young people who have not been fortunate enough to attend a public school should be denied the opportunity to play the most wonderful musical instrument there is.


    If the church were to set certain criteria for those wanting to read lessons or intercessions on Sunday mornings there would be an outcry; and rightly so. Yet the same organisation openly sets such criteria for those wanting to play the organ.


    I am not suggesting that inexperienced or incompetent organists should be allowed to play for acts of public worship, (although I have heard more than a few over the years), but everyone has to start somewhere. The church is always holding it's hand out for money, so why does it not hold out a helping hand to those who would like to help by providing music? If this could happen, the church would gain more than anyone!

  17. This weekend is Heritage Open Weekend, when a number of municipal buildings and works are open to the public.


    I have been informed that there is to be a rare opportunity to hear the City Hall organ in Newcastle upon Tyne this weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday.


    The City Hall organ was built by Harrison & Harrison in 1928, and has been little altered since then. The Newcastle instrument was one of the last great town hall organs built during the early part of the 20th century, and is of national importance. It also has some very loud Orchestral Trumpets, operating on some 20" of wind pressure!


    The organ is not in the best of repair, (there is an ongoing project to restore it), but it still makes a magnificent sound in the right hands.


    There is no programme as such, but I believe there will be several organists from local associations who will be playing a selection of pieces - ciphers permitting!


    Times are from 12.15 to 1.45 on both days. Admission is free, but pre-booking with the Box Office is advised. (Call 0191-261-2606 or use the online booking form.)


    There are also tours of the hall backstage, with free refreshments provided.


    See the City Hall Website for more information.

  18. Wasn't the topic that of young organists and the numbers thereof?


    It may just be that the organ attracts a particular type of youngster but they seem to display an annoying facility with the famous toccata (at least they do on youtube). I admit I've come to it too late but it seems that teenage boys pick up the skill along with skateboarding. Both things feel rather like a bobsleigh ride.


    "A famous toccata" Were you thinking of BWV565 by any chance? I must say it was very well played too. :) But to be fair this lad had a repertoire that was much wider than a few well known pieces. I listened for over an hour and did not hear anything played twice.


    As the originator of this thread I am very grateful for the replies that have been given, but I still do not know how many young organists there are out there. As an oldy myself I would like to think that there will still be organs and organists in 100 years time, but I am not sure if there will be any around by then. (No doubt the EU will have banned organ pipes in 100 years because of their lead content. :unsure: )


    My own perception is that young organists are not always made welcome, and in some cases church people (and older organists) seem to be downright hostile to them. Would they take the same view of a young Cleric, I wonder?


    A sister church in our parish had a university student playing their organ for a while. He was certainly much better than the elderly gentleman who had played previously, but two of the women who dress up in choir robes (I hesitate to call them a choir) moaned and groaned until the vicar told him that he had to go. They now use a CD player except for special services.


    (There were also problems when weddings came up, as the vestry insisted that 'old Eric' * should play - and collect the fee, even though he could barely manage the Wedding March.)


    I think the real problem was that the young organist played rather too well for the choir, (or didn't make the mistakes that 'old Eric' did), which showed up their weaknesses. The lad is now playing at another church in town with a proper choir, so he clearly wasn't the problem. I have tried to raise this subject at PCC meetings, but have been told that the matter is closed.


    One would have thought that organists associations would be more welcoming, but this doesn't seem to be the case either. I was a member of one association for a while, but I was appalled by the attitude of the Secretary towards younger players, and those who he felt were less able at the console than he was, so I left.


    Are there any young organists on this forum? If so, what is your experience?


    As a retired schoolteacher I would be only too happy to move aside for some bright young talent, but is there anything that us oldies could, or should be doing to help?


    This is something that I have been thinking about for a while, but it took a young lad playing the organ whilst I was on holiday to make me do something about it!


    * Not his real name.

  19. Grade 7 seems a bit extreme for GTB's Elegy. It really isn't difficult. (I am judging from having sight-read it a few times; I really must get a copy!) I don't know what others think, but I would be inclined to put it at grade 5 (perhaps at the trickier end?).


    Thank you all for this information. I will have to re-read what I thought I knew about this! :unsure:


    I have just re-checked the new (2011) ABRSM syllabus, and unless I have it wrong, the GTB Elegy is shown as Grade 7. And they tell us that exams are not getting easier! Mind you, I always thought Vierne's Berceuse was quite easy for Grade 5.

  20. In the event the listing was lifted, and the building demolished. I gather that plans for a remarkable new building are well under way, that will enable the Church's mission to continue in this area for generations to come. Meanwhile the congregation meets in the nearby school hall, going from strength to strength which makes you wonder why we needed buildings in the first place.


    However, I'm fairly sure that the style of worship, and budget, and building design preclude the possibility of installing a pipe organ. So, back on topic again, I doubt there will be any appointments advertised for organist and choir director for this church once the new building is completed.


    I have heard that Morrisons have bought up a few redundant, or unmanageable Victorian churches in urban areas to build their supermarkets on. They have then built smaller, replacement churches nearby to a very high specification, complete with pipe organs.


    On the subject of 'successful churches', I cannot help but feel that some Clergy and PCC's would destroy a successful church within five years even if it were handed to them on a plate. The main problem seems to be a tendency to destroy any musical tradition in favour of happy-clappy hymns, and ultra low church ideology.

  21. I have just returned home after a few days away in Kirkby Steven (Cumbria), watching steam trains, and have been pondering the subject of young organists, and whether there are many of them around these days.


    Why do I ask? Well, whilst in Kirkby I visited the parish church, which I was told, had an interesting, and recently restored pipe organ (my other passion).


    St Steven's is a very large church, and I was more than pleased to hear some Bach sounding out from the organ as I entered the door. After looking around I sat in a pew to listen for a while, enviously wondering how many decades the organist had been practicing his, or her pieces. I can play hymns well enough, and a few voluntaries, but most of what was being played here was well beyond my modest ability, and beautifully registered.


    As I sat there daydreaming I heard the unmistakable opening of Cesar Frank's Chorale No III. This has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, but I have never heard it played live before, so I made a move towards the quire to listen more closely. I was not disappointed, and the adagio in particular was, to me, very moving and memorable.


    With that the organist switched off and locked up. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the organist was not a grey haired septuagenarian like myself, but a young lad of no more than 16 or 17 years! If I had not seen him with my own eyes I would never have believed it!


    I don't know who this boy was, and didn't feel it was wise to ask, but it did leave me wondering just how many young organists there are around nowadays, for I don't seem to have seen many? I also wonder what opportunities there might be for bright young organists?


    It's far too late for me, but I would be very interested to know whether there is indeed a thriving band of young organists out there somewhere?



  22. The usual request here is to "play something nice", which is a fairly broad description! :unsure:


    I recently heard the Elegy by George Thalben Ball played, and wondered whether that might be appropriate. It is certainly very memorable. However, seeing it is listed in the new AB syllabus at G7 I also wondered whether it might be a bit tricky?


    I am told that the Elegy is an improvision on a hymn tune, and that GTB first played it when the BBC church service he was playing for ended earlier than expected. Does anyone know what the hymn tune is?



  23. How would the voicing of 17th century English organs compare with the instruments that we play today, I wonder? We know there have been big changes over the past 100 years, so perhaps these 17th century comentators knew more than we give them credit for.


    There have been some interesting comments about the organ in our own church, for example. It is reported that a new Swell division was added in about 1883, to great acclaim, but by 1900 it was said to "sound so awful" that it was removed. :unsure:



  • Create New...