Jump to content
Mander Organs
churchmouse

Organ Anecdotes For Book Wanted

Recommended Posts

Mention of the name of Alan Wicks earlier (and if anyone knows how I might contact him as I would dearly love a few of his stories for my anecdote collection) reminded me of a yarn he told us when he was tutor at Addington palace in 1981 when I attended one of their summer courses for overseas church musicians. If I remember it right, he told us that the one way to keep choirboys in line was to hurl the odd rubber chicken at their heads if they started to misbehave, and he kept a stock of these in the loft for just such a purpose.

I wonder if any of you have been the recipient of a rubber chicken while warbling your best through the mag or Nunc?

Can anyone else corroborate this story? He was definitely a most enjoyable character with a zest for life that put people half his age to shame.

 

cheers

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Everyone own up: how many have ever so slightly raised response notes a tone. Or Two. Or, for the real meanies, three?

 

In reply to the question originally put by Churchmouse (yes, I've forgetten how to cope with quotes, dammit):

 

I can't recall doing this myself, but it does remind me of a singularly disturbing story about a visiting choir at Chichester Cathedral in the days of the old Allen. I don't know how Allen manages the question of transposition these days, but then it was done by a rotating knob which took one up or down according to taste. In the interval between rehearsal and service some of the younger members of the group found their way into the organ loft and pushed, pulled and twiddled every commodity in sight. You don't really need me to continue with this saga, do you? Walmisley in D minor must have sounded very continental; let's hope they didn't have to do the 15th evening either.

 

DRH

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
organ loft and pushed, pulled and twiddled every commodity in sight. You don't really need me to continue with this saga, do you? Walmisley in D minor must have sounded very continental; let's hope they didn't have to do the 15th evening either.

 

I had an interesting experience for my first wedding at a previous church with a Wyvern toaster.

 

I was playing the Charpentier tedium for the bride to come in, when I suddenly started making hideous pedalling mistakes (which isn't that rare for me). So I started watching my feet, only to discover that my feet were operating within "spec" - the pedal board, however, was transposing a tone up. Fortunately a power cycle cured it, never to happen again.

 

Last week before choir, I was experimenting with termperaments on the church clavinova, and forgot to reset it afterwards. Howells Coll Reg Jubilate sounds "lovely" in Mean Tone..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I had an interesting experience for my first wedding at a previous church with a Wyvern toaster.

 

I was playing the Charpentier tedium for the bride to come in, when I suddenly started making hideous pedalling mistakes (which isn't that rare for me). So I started watching my feet, only to discover that my feet were operating within "spec" - the pedal board, however, was transposing a tone up. Fortunately a power cycle cured it, never to happen again.

 

Last week before choir, I was experimenting with termperaments on the church clavinova, and forgot to reset it afterwards. Howells Coll Reg Jubilate sounds "lovely" in Mean Tone..

 

I have experienced this - in a way - on a number of occasions with my singers. If I use the transpose on one of our digital pianos at school they will quite often disregard the key of an intro. and come in (all of them!) at the pitch that the piece should be at. They do not all have perfect pitch or anything similar - in fact as many of them are non music readers I would put this down to some sort of in built 'natural' pitch memory or something similar. My sense of relative pitch is pretty bad so it takes quite a wide margin of transpose to make me feel at all uneasy - it mostly happens with pop type ballads written at impossible pitches where singers want the pitch back in their 'comfort zone'.

 

AJJ

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have experienced this - in a way - on a number of occasions with my singers. If I use the transpose on one of our digital pianos at school they will quite often disregard the key of an intro. and come in (all of them!) at the pitch that the piece should be at. They do not all have perfect pitch or anything similar - in fact as many of them are non music readers I would put this down to some sort of in built 'natural' pitch memory or something similar.

I sometimes wonder whether perfect pitch is actually something quite independent of musical training. At my first ever church we gained a new priest who knew nothing whatsoever about music. He refused point blank ever to let me give him a note for the Sursum corda and seemed oblivious to the resulting chaos when the choir came in. But everything was fine after it dawned on me that, every week without fail, he pitched it on E.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I sometimes wonder whether perfect pitch is actually something quite independent of musical training. At my first ever church we gained a new priest who knew nothing whatsoever about music. He refused point blank ever to let me give him a note for the Sursum corda and seemed oblivious to the resulting chaos when the choir came in. But everything was fine after it dawned on me that, every week without fail, he pitched it on E.

I may be wrong, but I think the original phone phreaks were street kids in New York City who by chance found they could make free international phone calls from public phone boxes by whistling specific pitches down the phone. They were able to remember which pitch had which effect without any musical training. On a slightly different tack I caught part of a programme on the BBC World Service radio yesterday where they were discussing the connection between 2 specific genes and tonal or non-tonal languages. In spoken English pitch is used for expression but in Mandarin pitch is used to define the meaning of a set of phonemes. Apologies for any linguistic infelicities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a similar problem to AJT. Our choir had been invited to perform at a Methodist church in London. I had been assured there was a proper organ. I quick search on NPOR revealed the organ to have a Compton electronic, with a fairly conventional specification.

 

Upon arrival at the church I quickly discovered that the Compton had been discarded for a theatre type organ with two overlapping keyboards and about an octave and a half of pedals. Despite re-setting just about everything the pedals remained a tone out from the manuals. The church piano was quickly tested, only to find that it was so bad even a honky tonk would blush!!

 

The only plus point that day was the the first rate tea supplied afterwards.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have no way of knowing if this is true; it was told to me many years ago by an ex-colleague whom I no longer see, so I can't verify the details, but here goes.

 

Elgar was conducting a rehearsal of the 'Dream' in the RAH. When it came to 'Praise to the holiest' he stopped the performers after a few moments and asked the Organist to 'make more noise'.

They started again.

Once more, Sir Edward stopped proceedings after a few moments and asked 'Mr Organist' to 'make more noise'.

Off they went for the third time, only to be stopped again.

'Mr Organist, do you have a Tuba on that thing?'

'Yes maestro - several'.

'Good - use them all!'

 

I believe the story was noted down by the man who later conducted the Goldsmiths Choral Union in the 60's, and whose name I have been racking my brains for, (can anybody remember - it was a rather unusual name, but that's as far as my brain will take me) who was at that time a student, and whose own copy of the 'Dream' was duly annotated 'With Tubas'.

 

Regards to all

 

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Psalm 78 v.67
I have no way of knowing if this is true; it was told to me many years ago by an ex-colleague whom I no longer see, so I can't verify the details, but here goes.

 

Elgar was conducting a rehearsal of the 'Dream' in the RAH. When it came to 'Praise to the holiest' he stopped the performers after a few moments and asked the Organist to 'make more noise'.

They started again.

Once more, Sir Edward stopped proceedings after a few moments and asked 'Mr Organist' to 'make more noise'.

Off they went for the third time, only to be stopped again.

'Mr Organist, do you have a Tuba on that thing?'

'Yes maestro - several'.

'Good - use them all!'

 

I believe the story was noted down by the man who later conducted the Goldsmiths Choral Union in the 60's, and whose name I have been racking my brains for, (can anybody remember - it was a rather unusual name, but that's as far as my brain will take me) who was at that time a student, and whose own copy of the 'Dream' was duly annotated 'With Tubas'.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

GCU was founded in 1932 and initially conducted bya Mr (1st name escapes me) Haggis......

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Oakley
GCU was founded in 1932 and initially conducted bya Mr (1st name escapes me) Haggis......

 

"Jock" Sorry, could not resist it.

 

GCU was founded in 1932 and initially conducted bya Mr (1st name escapes me) Haggis......

 

Seriously - "Freddie"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm ploughing through the wonderful heap of organ anecdotes (nearly wrote antidotes - hmmm - could almost be appropriate) and have a delightful one which the author has confirmed that it is impossible for the main players in it to have been the people cited; after consulting the wonderful book "The Succession of Organists" I agree with him... Campbell and Conway could NOT have been the people involved.

But I would dearly like to know if this has any basis in truth and thought if anyone would know, it would be one of you guys here on this forum!

This is the yarn:

The story is told (although unlikely to be true), that when Sidney Campbell (he of ‘dry-as-a-bone’ wit) was Assistant to Marmaduke Conway in 1949, there was a most upsetting occurrence at Evensong one day. It is said that Dr Conway left the choir under Sidney’s direction for the anthem, so that he could be in the organ loft in time to play the final voluntary. The voluntary began, then a few minutes later there was the most ear-splitting cacophony of noise from the organ. It is told that, very sadly Dr Conway had died, and lay slumped over the keyboard. Apparently, so the rather unfortunate story continues, Sidney Campbell climbed into the organ loft and pulled the deceased Dr Conway off the organ, placing his body in the corner. Sidney Campbell then continued playing the voluntary, during which time the ambulance men arrived in the organ loft and looked blankly at him. Allegedly Sidney, whilst still playing, nodded towards the corner and said, in his usual, dry voice, “The dead one’s over there.”

 

I look forward to any comments or suggestions - and as always, if any of you have got a good story for me... send it on in!!

Cheers

Jenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have never heard this story and I simply can't imagine the Campbell I knew behaving in this way. Eccentric he may have been, difficult certainly (and to those who challenged his authority he could be a downright b*****d), but it was all in the cause of music and art. In his own way he was, I think, religious and had respect for the human condition. Moreover, SSC was never assistant to anyone, anywhere. His career path was quite unusual in that respect.

 

Conway died in the Isle of Man in 1961 so is inherently unlikely to have died in an organ loft.

 

So if there is any truth at all in this tale, it can hardly have involved either of the persons named. Personally I suspect the whole thing is excramentum tauri.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have never heard this story and I simply can't imagine the Campbell I knew behaving in this way. Eccentric he may have been, difficult certainly (and to those who challenged his authority he could be a downright b*****d), but it was all in the cause of music and art. In his own way he was, I think, religious and had respect for the human condition. Moreover, SSC was never assistant to anyone, anywhere. His career path was quite unusual in that respect.

 

Conway died in the Isle of Man in 1961 so is inherently unlikely to have died in an organ loft.

 

So if there is any truth at all in this tale, it can hardly have involved either of the persons named. Personally I suspect the whole thing is excramentum tauri.

Yep thanks VH, but I did know it wasn't the people first named; but do wonder if there is the slight tinge of truth somewhere there?

How many organists have "died in harness"? Probably quite a few apart from famous ones such as Vierne....

 

Vox, can you tell any other stories about Sydney Campbell? He sounds a character...

cheers

Jenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yep thanks VH, but I did know it wasn't the people first named; but do wonder if there is the slight tinge of truth somewhere there?

How many organists have "died in harness"? Probably quite a few apart from famous ones such as Vierne....

 

Vox, can you tell any other stories about Sydney Campbell? He sounds a character...

cheers

Jenny

I posted this elsewhere - Campbell, not in any conventional sense a "believer" was once asked, when at Southwark, "what's the cathedral for?" to which he replied "to keep the organ dry".

 

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

:mellow:

I posted this elsewhere - Campbell, not in any conventional sense a "believer" was once asked, when at Southwark, "what's the cathedral for?" to which he replied "to keep the organ dry".

 

Peter

 

Brilliant!!!! :o Can I have it?

Jenny

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Psalm 78 v.67

I don't know if it has been mentioned here, but I recall hearing a story concerning S S Wesley at (I think) Hereford. Apparently, he made a total hash of accompanying the anthem one day, and then asked his assistant to play the final voluntary - and promptly dissapeared from the organ loft, to reappear outside the cathedral greeting worshippers as they left, presumably giving the appearance of not having been involved in the music that day!

 

Yesterday, a new deputy who is covering for me next week came to Mass and sat with me in the loft to familiarize himself with the Mass, cues etc. he actually played the opening voluntary and Entrance Hymn yesterday. I was talking to someone outside when he started the voluntary (Bach P & F - can't place which) My wife came rushing up to me and said "psst! get inside quick and walk around so people can see it's not you; he's balls'd up the fugue entry!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember being told a story by my father that happened many years ago at durham Cathedral, how true, I am not sure. It was in Conrad Edens day, when he had a new assistant. ( a Mr D Hill was mentioned ) Said assistant thought as he was to play for his first service soon, it was time he met the organ. So he duly got the keys and went for "a play". Wanting to see how full organ plus the big tuba sounded ( must have been just after the 1970 rebuild) drew said stops, Conrad must have been listening, as he went up to the console and pushed the Tuba back in stating it was only for use on high days and holy days.

I would like to think this was true, but I am not sure when David Hill was at Durham.

regards

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just seen Durham Cathedrals web site and the assistant would have to have been Alan Thurlow. so the story must have been made up somewhere along the line

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just seen Durham Cathedrals web site and the assistant would have to have been Alan Thurlow. so the story must have been made up somewhere along the line

 

 

================================

 

Can anyone confirm the truth or otherwise, of the story concerning Dr Alan Wicks and Dr Francis Jackson, when they bumped into each other whilst shopping in Leeds?

 

The story goes that Dr Jackson asked Alan Wicks (then his assistant) why he wasn't at the Minster in York.

 

Alan Wicks stated that it was his day off, but Dr Jackson claimed it to be his day off also.

 

The punchline came, when Dr Jackson said, "Oh never mind! I expect SOMEONE will be playing Evensong!"

 

:lol:

 

MM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
================================

 

Can anyone confirm the truth or otherwise, of the story concerning Dr Alan Wicks and Dr Francis Jackson, when they bumped into each other whilst shopping in Leeds?

 

MM

 

Yes.

 

I asked FJ if it was true.

 

He asked "which version?" so I told him and he said "No.".

 

So I asked him which version WAS true and he said "None of them!".

 

David Wyld.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes.

 

I asked FJ if it was true.

 

He asked "which version?" so I told him and he said "No.".

 

So I asked him which version WAS true and he said "None of them!".

 

David Wyld.

 

That's odd, because I have the strongest recollection of having been told the story by Dr Wicks himself; "you pays yer money . . "

 

The story of Campbell hauling the corpse off the organ seat sounds so wonderful that one wishes it were true; but I think it probably isn't. However, I do recall him telling me that he was visiting Dr Conway in the Isle of Man to where his predecessor had retired. SSC was taken by the Conways for an afternoon spin in the car and they chanced upon a way side restaurant which looked suitable enough for afternoon tea. The proprietor, as he saw them approach, jumped up and immediately wound up an enormous horn gramophone and started a record, only to be greeted by Dr Conway with "Oh, do turn that off; we none of us like music!"

 

May I be forgiven the smallest of points in respect of the correspondence about Sidney Campbell: he greatly disliked having his name spelt with a "y"; it was always "Sidney", though he could be very formal about those who were invited to address him informally; I never was.

 

Do keep the stories about him coming, though; without doubt one of the last of the great ecccentrics.

 

DRH

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That's odd, because I have the strongest recollection of having been told the story by Dr Wicks himself; "you pays yer money . . "

 

The story of Campbell hauling the corpse off the organ seat sounds so wonderful that one wishes it were true; but I think it probably isn't. However, I do recall him telling me that he was visiting Dr Conway in the Isle of Man to where his predecessor had retired. SSC was taken by the Conways for an afternoon spin in the car and they chanced upon a way side restaurant which looked suitable enough for afternoon tea. The proprietor, as he saw them approach, jumped up and immediately wound up an enormous horn gramophone and started a record, only to be greeted by Dr Conway with "Oh, do turn that off; we none of us like music!"

 

May I be forgiven the smallest of points in respect of the correspondence about Sidney Campbell: he greatly disliked having his name spelt with a "y"; it was always "Sidney", though he could be very formal about those who were invited to address him informally; I never was.

 

Do keep the stories about him coming, though; without doubt one of the last of the great ecccentrics.

 

DRH

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

sorry - pushed the wrong piston!..........................................

 

I was going to say:

 

I'll be seeing him again very soon and will ask again ( it has been 17 years since the last time, on a train to London to make a recording of him playing all of the Whitlock Sonata at the RAH) if this would add verisimilitude.

 

There are so many of these stories and so many of them ARE good, but with little basis.

 

DW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...