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Organ Anecdotes For Book Wanted

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Guest Cynic

The name will have to be withheld for obvious reasons, but I just heard a wonderful story (which I sincerely hope is also true) concerning someone quite well-known in the organ-building trade, indeed a much talked-about 'feature' familiar to anyone who has had dealings with the firm:

 

Prestigious (very well-known) company gets new facilities, wife of MD (also an official) arrives at local supermarket asking for a broom., Doesn't understand the principle of going and finding one for herself, demands that shop girl do so on her behalf....fairly hoity/haughty with it - allegedly.

Shop girl passes a (IMHO near miraculous and most apposite) comment as new broom is paid for

'Shall I wrap it for you madam, or would you like to fly it now?'

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A few years ago, I sang with a visiting choir at Salisbury Cathedral for a HC service on the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The preacher was a visiting canon who made considerable mention of transfiguration spells as found in the ‘Harry Potter Books’. As is, I assume the custom at this establishment, the thurifer stood behind him throughout. As a few readers of this board may already know, the Salisbury thurible is a large, silver, lipped bowl.

 

Now, imagine the scene…

 

An elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes is talking about Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, whilst standing in front of another elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes, who is swinging a smoking cauldron…

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The name will have to be withheld for obvious reasons, but I just heard a wonderful story (which I sincerely hope is also true) concerning someone quite well-known in the organ-building trade, indeed a much talked-about 'feature' familiar to anyone who has had dealings with the firm:

 

Prestigious (very well-known) company gets new facilities, wife of MD (also an official) arrives at local supermarket asking for a broom., Doesn't understand the principle of going and finding one for herself, demands that shop girl do so on her behalf....fairly hoity/haughty with it - allegedly.

Shop girl passes a (IMHO near miraculous and most apposite) comment as new broom is paid for

'Shall I wrap it for you madam, or would you like to fly it now?'

 

 

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

 

 

I can almost guess........

 

I had to cope with a lady churchwarden who was like this, and for years, I would improvise slowly on the "Laurel & Hardy" theme, as she regally marched towards the altar with the offetory.

 

When she returned, I would switch to "The elephant" from the "Carnival of the animals".

 

:lol:

 

MM

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A few years ago, I sang with a visiting choir at Salisbury Cathedral for a HC service on the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The preacher was a visiting canon who made considerable mention of transfiguration spells as found in the ‘Harry Potter Books’. As is, I assume the custom at this establishment, the thurifer stood behind him throughout. As a few readers of this board may already know, the Salisbury thurible is a large, silver, lipped bowl.

 

Now, imagine the scene…

 

An elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes is talking about Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, whilst standing in front of another elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes, who is swinging a smoking cauldron…

 

 

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

 

 

Not an organist's story, but one of the very best I know, this concerns the widow of an immensely wealthy cotton-manufacturer in Boston, Mass., USA.

 

Her name was Isobelle Stewart-Gardner (of art museum fame), who was extremely unconventional on several fronts. Not only did she dress in quite outrageous attire (at a time when most ladies dressed in deep black), she also had a pet cheetah on a lead, and a large carriage drawn by an elephant.

 

As additional background, she had a magnificent mock-medieval mansion, which is now the Isobelle Stewart-Gardner museum of art (with some priceless treasures by Raphael etc) in Boston.

 

Due to her immense wealth, she was often invited to attend charitable functions, and so, when the church still affectionately known as "Smokey Mary's" were trying to raise fund, she was invited to attend High Mass.

 

Out came the elephant and carriage, and off they trundled. The route included a steep hill, and the unfortunate elephant got slower and slower, until they eventually reached the church rather late. Dashing to the west-door, Mrs Gardner discovered that the Mass had begun without her, and the procession, complete with incense, was moving down the church as the processional hymn was sung.

 

Having been told that there was aplace reserved for her in the front pews, she didn't hang back and wait until the procession reached the chancel. Instead, she blundered here way through the procession; knocking people aside as she did so.

 

When she got to the boy swinging the incense, she stopped, looked and said, "Honey, that's a simply divine dress you're wearing, but I think your handbag is on fire!"

 

:lol:

 

MM

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When she got to the boy swinging the incense, she stopped, looked and said, "Honey, that's a simply divine dress you're wearing, but I think your handbag is on fire!"

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

Ha HA! Made my day, that one (especially after breaking down on the M3 this morning in the terrible weather!) :lol:

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A few years ago, I sang with a visiting choir at Salisbury Cathedral for a HC service on the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The preacher was a visiting canon who made considerable mention of transfiguration spells as found in the ‘Harry Potter Books’. As is, I assume the custom at this establishment, the thurifer stood behind him throughout. As a few readers of this board may already know, the Salisbury thurible is a large, silver, lipped bowl.

 

Now, imagine the scene…

 

An elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes is talking about Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, whilst standing in front of another elderly, white-haired gentlemen in long, flowing robes, who is swinging a smoking cauldron…

 

 

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

 

That's what "Hogwart's School" lacks....a really good organ!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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

 

That's what "Hogwart's School" lacks....a really good organ!

 

:(

 

MM

 

 

 

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!

 

You're being a bit harsh on Gloucester Cathedral organ aren't you? (Unsubtle reference to the filming location of the Harry Potter movies). Or is Gloucester not a good organ (ooops, slapped wrists all round!)

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Sorry if I'm besides this topic

After a concert in Notre Dame done by Suzanne Chaisemartin ( former titular organist of the ACC organ of St Augustin in Paris and former Dupré's pupill) Pierre Cochereau congratulates her: " what a brilliant concert Suzanne!...it was fantastic...what is your secret?" And Suzanne replies out of the blue:"I sleep alone as for myself!"

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OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!

 

You're being a bit harsh on Gloucester Cathedral organ aren't you? (Unsubtle reference to the filming location of the Harry Potter movies). Or is Gloucester not a good organ (ooops, slapped wrists all round!)

I suspect that those of us on both sides of this particular argument think enough has been said already.

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Guest spottedmetal

Dear all

 

One of my Godmother's stories . . .

 

A lady goes into a church whilst work is being done on the organ, tuning or voicing. Being a curious lady she goes to see what's going on. She meets the man at the console and asks what the knobs are for. The man pulls several stops in turn and demonstrates each one. He gets to the trumpet and afterwards the Vox Humana. "This is the Vox Humana", he says and from somewhere deep inside the organ comes a voice - "What the 'ell d'you think you're playing at". Impressed, the lady commented "How very realistic".

 

There are more stories from her about Ralph Downes, who learned piano from her father Everard Berry, which may be of interest for posterity. Her father studied organ from the organist at Sheffield Cathedral and piano. His organ teacher told him, like many, that he should concentrate on the piano as the organ was going to ruin his touch. Ralph Downes in his turn studied piano with Everard Berry and organ simultaneously. Having listened to EB playing he realised that he could never achieve the standard of touch and tone on the piano and so decided to concentrate on the organ. Whilst he was still studying he answered an advert for cinema organist at "a flea pit" cinema at West Bridgford outside Nottingham. When he was offered the job they asked him what remuneration he expected. Being naive he quote a very small amount and they gently asked him whether it would even cover his fare!

 

Probably a more well known period of his career was when he became organist of the City Hall Philadelphia where Leopold Stokowski was the conductor of the resident orchestra. Apparently RD commented that when LS mounted the podium before a rehearsal the first thing he made sure of was that the spotlight was trained upon his shock of white hair. RD married Stokowski's secretary and after returning to England he taught at the RCO and was the organist of Brompton Oratory. She often went to tea with them she recalls that his wife baked fresh bread every day.

 

Best wishes,

 

Spot

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Here's one I found in an old (1992) magazine of our organists' association, related by an organ tuner who died several years ago. I have no idea whether it's true. I rather hope not!

 

This is a story related by an organist whose vicar has five parishes to look after. At one of his churches there was a dear old lady organist who would put her left foot on bottom C of the pedalboard, her right foot on the balanced swell pedal, and leave them there, the bottom C sounding all the time regardless of where the hands were, and the swell box opening and closing, even if she was playing on the Great with nothing coupled. The organ stayed on throughout the service, stops being pushed in during prayers, sermons, etc. The pedal action (bottom C, remember) was a very old pneumatic action which tended to hiss very loudly. The vicar naturally got a bit fed up with the wind noise during his sermons, etc., so asked the organist several times if she could either move her left foot or at least switch the blower off. She did neither. The organist who told this story was asked to play at the church for a mid-week funeral. He turned up to find that the vicar had taken the law into his own hands and put a chainsaw through the pedalboard from bottom C to top F

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Not an organ story, but funny enough, IMO.

 

A friend of mine once attended service at his local church. It was Easter Sunday, though, and so the building was very full. My friend took two seats: one for his Dad and one for himself. However, his Dad was not yet in the church. An elderly gentleman asked my mate if he could take one of the seats for himself. My friend, in reply, said: "I'm afraid not, sir: my Father is not yet here and I always keep a seat for him".

 

"I admire your commitment to religion, sir" replied the old man before he sat two rows further back. Two minutes later, my mate's Dad turns up - and takes the other seat. My friend looked back at the old gentleman - to see him merely roll his eyes.

 

Dave

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

Here is a little communication between player and priest or victim and vicar! The playing lady in question just happened to be poet John Betjeman's wife - the writer Penelope Chetwode. With some courage she stepped in to play the harmonium whilst the regular lady was ill and until she was restored to full health.

 

My dear Penelope,

I have been thinking over the question of the playing of the harmonium on Sunday evenings here and have reached the conclusion that I must now take it over myself.

I am grateful to you for doing it for so long and hate to have to ask you to give it up, but, to put it plainly, your playing has got worse and worse and the disaccord between harmonium and the congregation is becoming destructive of devotion. People are not very sensitive here, but even some of them have begun to complain, and they are not usually given to doing that. I do not like writing this, but I think you will understand that it is my business to see that divine worship is as perfect as it can be made. Perhaps the crankiness of the instrument has something to do with the trouble. I think it does require a careful and experienced player to deal with it.

Thank you ever so much for stepping so generously into the breach when Sibyl was ill; it was the greatest possible help to me and your results were noticeably better then than now.

Yours ever,

F.P. Harton

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Here is a little communication between player and priest or victim and vicar! The playing lady in question just happened to be poet John Betjeman's wife - the writer Penelope Chetwode. With some courage she stepped in to play the harmonium whilst the regular lady was ill and until she was restored to full health.

 

My dear Penelope,

I have been thinking over the question of the playing of the harmonium on Sunday evenings here and have reached the conclusion that I must now take it over myself.

I am grateful to you for doing it for so long and hate to have to ask you to give it up, but, to put it plainly, your playing has got worse and worse and the disaccord between harmonium and the congregation is becoming destructive of devotion. People are not very sensitive here, but even some of them have begun to complain, and they are not usually given to doing that. I do not like writing this, but I think you will understand that it is my business to see that divine worship is as perfect as it can be made. Perhaps the crankiness of the instrument has something to do with the trouble. I think it does require a careful and experienced player to deal with it.

Thank you ever so much for stepping so generously into the breach when Sibyl was ill; it was the greatest possible help to me and your results were noticeably better then than now.

Yours ever,

F.P. Harton

 

Yep! Got that one Nigel!

Cheers

Churchmouse (exhausted after a day dispatching 230 books all over the globe! Look out for yours in your letterbox soon)

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Yep! Got that one Nigel!

Cheers

Churchmouse (exhausted after a day dispatching 230 books all over the globe! Look out for yours in your letterbox soon)

Don't be surprised if publication results in your acquiring another bookful of anecdotes, Churchmouse. :rolleyes:

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Don't be surprised if publication results in your acquiring another bookful of anecdotes, Churchmouse. :rolleyes:

Am afraid already have a digitally bulging folder!! Suspect it is all only tip of iceberg... :blink:

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Cheers

Churchmouse (exhausted after a day dispatching 230 books all over the globe! Look out for yours in your letterbox soon)

 

Mine arrived today; thank you Churchmouse. I hope that the exhaustion has cleared now...

 

The book was immediately snaffled by Mrs H., has now been wrapped in pretty paper and placed under the tree. Umm, buy myself a book with my PayPal account and it turns into an item proscribed until Christmas. :) There's a logic somewhere I suppose....

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Guest Hector5

Thanks Jenny - mine arrived today, and I'm afraid that I simply cannot put it down. It will fill some exceedingly dull Sung Notices with Mass - yes you heard!!!!!!

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Lots of excellent stories. It's good to be reminded of "The organ in sanity and madness" at the Albert Hall in 1966, and many of the organists that I have met since have told me that they also were there. However, the book DOES NOT include a photo of Gillian Weir in her miniskirt, which, I am sure, is a fond memory of many of those of us who were there at the time.

 

Next edition, perhaps?

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Dr Gordon Slater, Organist & Choirmaster Lincoln Cathedral, 1930 - 1966

'Old School' and a renowned character.

 

By the late '50s the Minster organ had received nearly 60 years of daily use which had taken considerable toll on it's pneumatic action.

To help impress upon the Dean and Chapter the need for a complete rebuild, Dr Slater employed one or two less than ethical tactics.

- One of the Choir Organ pistons emitted a very loud 'hiss' if depressed half way, this was deployed during sermons, sometimes for the whole sermon if the Dean was preaching.

- There was an old metal fire bucket in the organ loft, the sand had long since disappeared. Dr Slater used to position this at one end of the pedal board and kick it over whilst playing at some point during the service, often during a quiet verse of a psalm.

 

Lincolnshire Education Department had it's offices in Lincoln and held an annual carol service in the Minster. The Music Advisor (who's name I can't recall) who was an 'FRCO' and a 'Miss' was begrudgingly allowed to play. On one occassion someone asked Dr Slater if 'Miss' was playing that day, the reply came 'Yes, but it's a bit cold in there, I hope she's got her Great Combinations on'.

 

DT

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Lots of excellent stories. It's good to be reminded of "The organ in sanity and madness" at the Albert Hall in 1966, and many of the organists that I have met since have told me that they also were there. However, the book DOES NOT include a photo of Gillian Weir in her miniskirt, which, I am sure, is a fond memory of many of those of us who were there at the time.

 

Next edition, perhaps?

oooh I'll have to look out for that! The great thing was that although I learned about the concert from this board, most of the detail came from Pat and Peter Hurford themselves. It's a joy to get the picture from the horse's mouth. Next time I'll ask Gillian for pictures... :)

And thank you for letting me know your copies have arrived. Unbelievable really since our Post had closed off posting overseas a week earlier!! I fear the bad weather in the states has delayed their Christmas delivery.

 

And while I'm rabbiting on, just want to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a serene 2009 - with heartfelt thanks for your support and kindness.

Jenny

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