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Brizzle

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  1. From a couple of posts on Facebook: "Mander Organs Ltd profoundly regrets to announce that, owing to cashflow difficulties and the inability to secure sufficient work, the company has ceased trading as of Monday 27.vii.2020. The management and staff would like to express their gratitude to our clients and friends for the loyalty and support they have given over the years, and particularly in the last few difficult months. Our affairs have been placed in the hands of an independent insolvency practitioner, Insolve Plus Ltd, to whom all enquiries should be addressed." I dearly hope that this isn’t true, but if it is, I offer my condolences to all of the Mander staff. What terrible news.
  2. Brizzle

    Room 101

    Someone said, in the audience preferences thread, that the general public have largely been ignored, and I wholeheartedly agree. I think we’re probably at the stage where we need to concern ourselves less with what we think is good and want to play, but what our audiences want to hear. Given that the Classic FM yearly poll contains broadly the same repertoire each year, we ought to be able to identify some organ repertoire that the general public (and not just other organists) want to listen to. It’ll probably be the Widor Toccata and BWV 565 to start with, but if we can follow it up with well-written and attractive music that stands up to comparison with the best of music in other genres, then we might be able to begin to address our low audiences and the general disdain shown toward the organ and its music.
  3. Brizzle

    Room 101

    Widor is becoming a divisive character! Whatever his administrative and socialite achievements, I don’t think we can escape the fact that much of his music isn’t considered to be any good. Widor lived alongside Delibes, Massenet, Debussy, and Ravel, and even overlapped Poulenc for 34 years; his non-organ music (and there’s plenty of it!) hasn’t found a place in the canon amongst the works of these other composers. (And it is possible for organist-composers to have to done so; Saint-Saëns has a number of widely-performed non-organ works, and Franck’s Symphony still gets an airing often enough, although less so since the height of its popularity in the 60s). We hold up Widor’s symphonies as the epitome of organ composition in the French Romantic style, whilst admitting that very few of them, if any, are consistently successful all the way through to be attractive to musicians and listeners away from the organ world. If, as Germani suggested, they should only be performed in their entirety, then we’d have to subject our audiences to some fairly second-rate music. Pretty much all of it could go in Room 101, I think. Despite this, I would probably suggest keeping the Symphony 5 Toccata - it isn’t a great piece, but it is popular with non-organists, and if it is a way of introducing the general public to good organ music, then jettisoning it would be an own goal. In addition to the Toccata, I’d keep the first and last movements of Symphony 6, the Moderato cantabile from No. 8, and the Andante sostenuto from the ‘Gothique’ symphony. I agree that Vierne’s third symphony is his best, but I’m not sure of its appeal beyond the organ loft. I’m not even sure I’d want to hear the whole thing in one concert. My own pet hate is the Reubke Sonata, which sounds to me like 25 minutes of interminable, dreary diminished chords. I can’t be unbiased about it, but I suspect when non-organists say that they find organ music ‘boring’, this is exactly the kind of piece they have in mind. To replace it, I submit the third of Karg-Elert’s ‘Symphonische Kanzone’, with its gently unfolding fugue, serene Kanzone, and an ethereal epilogue with a violin and female singers. It’s still ‘serious’ music, but I have a gut feeling that it would appeal to any general public looking to explore organ repertoire further.
  4. The German system is interesting, and has historically been successful, but isn’t problem-free: both the A Diploma and the B Diploma in Church Music require full-time study at university level, and, in the UK, it probably wouldn’t make sense to have a degree in such a specialised area without a realistic expectation of gaining well-remunerated employment afterwards - cathedral posts are few and far between, and the appalling ‘RSCM rates’ have been an excuse for parish churches to keep salaries unrealistically low for quite a while. I understand that even in Germany there are at least two major issues - firstly, that there are so many completing the diplomas that the market is flooded, and A diploma graduates are having to apply for B standard posts for the sake of gaining some kind of relevant employment; secondly, some churches, strapped for cash, have done their utmost to make sure that they only need employ B diploma graduates for the sake of saving money. Perhaps one of our German colleagues might be able to confirm or deny this. The RAM had an excellent Church Music diploma for a while, but this has morphed into the (equally excellent) Choral Conducting degree. I’m told, though, that students of that course (and indeed the organ department) aren’t generally interested in cathedral or church work these days. It’s a shame, because there are plenty of churches who really could use well-qualified musicians, but, as is always the main problem, there aren’t sufficient funds to appropriately remunerate them. The brass band world certainly is an example of how competitive playing inspires musicians to keep their skills in good condition, and this might have some application in the organ world, but organ competitions tend to focus on ‘young’ players, in a slightly unhealthy way, I think. The really excellent players around at the moment - I’m thinking of the likes of Stephen Farr, Daniel Moult, Nigel Allcoat, Kevin Bowyer - aren’t fresh-faced youths, straight out of college, but have years of experience of performing and interpreting repertoire, which makes their concerts far more compelling. As you say, there really is no easy solution, and the more I think about it, the more bleak it seems.
  5. The ‘playing to an empty church’ issue is not going to go away, I fear, without some very significant effort, or without without some difficult discussions. I’ve always been passionate about the organ and its music (well, some of its music), so I’ve given the issue plenty of thought over the years. As far as I can see, there are a number of obstacles to overcome: Repertoire. How much of the music that we hold dear is a) any good and b) likely to appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners? My list of such works grows smaller all the time. For example, the symphonies of Widor and Vierne are often held up as the pinnacle of French Romantic organ music, but many discussions (including some on this board) come to the conclusion that most of them are good in patches, but not consistently well-written throughout. Personally, I feel that Duruflé’s music mostly fits both criteria, but I struggle to think of a single Dupré piece that would qualify - Cortège et Litanie, perhaps? The worth of Bach’s works is generally acknowledged, but perhaps some of Buxtehude’s music is a little more appealing? Maybe a good measure of quality is whether or not a composer’s non-organ pieces have become part of the ‘canon’ - Bach, certainly; Buxtehude, to a certain extent; Duruflé, yes, insofar that there isn’t very much of it; Widor, no; Dupré, no... When we have easy access to so much beautiful, well-written, inspired music in so many genres, it isn’t hard to see why the cognoscenti aren’t necessarily keen on organ music. It might be interesting, on another thread, to list repertoire that might help our cause, especially not-particularly-well-known works (Kromolicki Variations?), and pieces that generally aren’t well-received beyond the organ loft (Reubke Sonata...) Instruments: Whenever I ask non-organist musicians what it is about the organ that they don’t like, a common reply is that it ‘always sounds the same’. Lacking the expressiveness of other instruments, or the variety of colour of an ensemble (which, in some ways, it attempts to emulate), the organ seems somewhat deficient. At least, perhaps we can recognise that a two-manual, parish church instrument isn’t going to be sufficiently ‘colourful’ to sustain a concert programme. Why should it be, since that isn’t its primary purpose? Concert instruments designed for concert halls are often large, with a variety of sounds, and perhaps these instruments are more ideal for enthusing non-organists about organ music. Performers. Guy Bovet said, in a radio interview, that the organ is the instrument that you can most regularly hear badly played. I’ve lost count of the number of recital series that I’ve attended, often comprised of ‘local organists’, where the performances have really left a lot to be desired. I would never criticise the enthusiasm of many players and churches for their attempts to keep the organ in the public eye, or for using such concerts as a means of raising much-needed financial assistance, but I fear that less-than-inspired music given a less-than-competent performance isn’t going to win any advocates. There is a balance to be had, I’m sure, but I’m not sure that we, as a community of concert promoters and organists, have attained it just yet. Solutions? In any discussion of these issues, the conclusion is that ‘there isn’t enough money’. It’s a sometimes circular argument - there isn’t enough money, so we must do the best we can, even though that ‘best’ might, in some cases, prevent any income-generation. However, it can’t be denied, especially in current circumstances, that advocacy of our beloved instrument would be far easier with more cash. Until such time as that might be achieved, I feel that we can do our bit by showing our enthusiasm for the very best of the organ repertoire, and not just for the instrument (how many music lovers genuinely care what wind pressure a tuba is on?), and by encouraging people to hear really first-class performers, either in person or on recordings. I’m always grateful to read what others think on this subject - whether or not their opinions align with my own. Hopefully, we can share ideas about how to successfully increase our audiences. All the best, B
  6. It appears to have been No. 8 in ‘Stainer and Bell’s Organ Library’ - S&B might do an archive reprint for you.
  7. I hope you’ll forgive a slight diversion, but you might like to check out Gunnar Idenstam’s ‘Cathedral Music’ collections. These pieces are a fusion of French Romantic and rock and pop styles - some of them very effective.
  8. Dear Richard, Thanks for your message. I have indeed seen the Abebooks copy, but having been stung by a less-than-scrupulous seller on that site already, I thought I’d see if I could track down a more ‘local’ copy first! All the best.
  9. Thanks for your help, S_L. I dare say you’ll have discovered quite quickly, as I did, that obtaining the majority of Bingham’s music is a bit of an ordeal. I did indeed get in touch with Dr. Marks, who was most helpful, and confirmed my assumptions that the work is out-of-print and hard to obtain. Unfortunately his copy is stored somewhere inaccessible whilst we’re all in lockdown! Thanks again!
  10. Dear colleagues, I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to obtain a copy of this piece. It is in copyright, but out of print. My emails to the publisher haven’t been answered, and I’ve attempted to purchase it from various book-selling websites with no success (even after shelling out some dosh). Does anyone have a copy that they’d be willing to sell/lend/copy? I’d be most grateful. Thanks!
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