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"the Times" - Less Organ Music


Guest Barry Oakley - voluntarily dereg
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Guest Barry Oakley

I wonder how many on this forum have read today's "The Times" and spotted the following letter? Any thoughts?

 

 

Less organ music

Sir, The decision of the authorities at St Paul’s is both brave and visionary (letters, July 2 , June 23 and 28). Too long has English church music been dominated by the dead hand of the monster that is the post-Victorian pipe organ. Organ music arguably ceased to be in the mainstream of classical music with the death of J. S. Bach and certainly the instrument typically found in Anglican cathedrals is ill-suited to the performance of his works.

 

Perhaps now other cathedral chapters will wake up and consider seriously how their musical establishments can be better brought into the world of contemporary classical music. Let the organ retreat to its original status as supporter of the singing and let the authorities consider widening their resources to include instrumental ensembles much better suited to the Masses by Mozart, Haydn and Schubert now a staple of English cathedral repertoires.

 

MALCOLM BOWDEN, Hartford, Cheshire

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I wonder how many on this forum have read today's "The Times" and spotted the following letter? Any thoughts?

 

I really can't see how replacing organ accompanied music with instrumental accompaniment helps the church or worship... One of the benefits of the post-Victorian organ is that it is versatile enough, in the right hands, to provide a convincing alternative to an orchestra when orchestral colour is required - at the cost of a single person ; I can't imagine any cathedral would find it easy to fund a whole orchestra/ensemble of any worth...

 

I think this guy's really misunderstood the appointment - just because they've not appointed an organist doesn't mean that the whole establishment is going to turn on its head ; all it means is that they think that appointing a professional choir director to direct the choir and leave the organ to the organists is the right thing to do. I'm not entirely sure I agree with it - the current assistant -> DoM moves give the advantage of, effectively, studying at first hand how to train boys (and/or girls), which is a very different skill to training adult choirs. I don't know if the new man at St. Paul's has that experience or not (Carwood, is it?) - I know very very little about him, so this isn't meant as a criticism of him ; he may have that experience in spades.

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"the monster that is the post-Victorian pipe organ. "

(Quote)

 

This is exactly that way that Norbert Dufourcq condemned

Cavaillé-Coll organs.

It was in.....1948.

 

That everyone drawns his own conclusion for himself....

 

Pierre

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It bloody nigh impossible to get the church authorities to pay a decent amount for ONE organist, so I can't see them paying out 20 or so times that every Sunday to a bunch of string players. I've never heard such nonsence!

 

Pah! :rolleyes:

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It bloody nigh impossible to get the church authorities to pay a decent amount for ONE organist, so I can't see them paying out 20 or so times that every Sunday to a bunch of string players. I've never heard such nonsence!

Spot on!

 

In any case, although Viennese masses contain some superlative music, for the life of me I cannot see them as appropriate for the Anglican liturgy. Chalk and Cheese. IMO.

 

I would have thought that the French Romantic organ of Franck's generation and the next one was pretty mainstream, but I might be wrong about that.

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Guest Barry Oakley
I really can't see how replacing organ accompanied music with instrumental accompaniment helps the church or worship... One of the benefits of the post-Victorian organ is that it is versatile enough, in the right hands, to provide a convincing alternative to an orchestra when orchestral colour is required - at the cost of a single person ; I can't imagine any cathedral would find it easy to fund a whole orchestra/ensemble of any worth...

 

I think this guy's really misunderstood the appointment - just because they've not appointed an organist doesn't mean that the whole establishment is going to turn on its head ; all it means is that they think that appointing a professional choir director to direct the choir and leave the organ to the organists is the right thing to do. I'm not entirely sure I agree with it - the current assistant -> DoM moves give the advantage of, effectively, studying at first hand how to train boys (and/or girls), which is a very different skill to training adult choirs. I don't know if the new man at St. Paul's has that experience or not (Carwood, is it?) - I know very very little about him, so this isn't meant as a criticism of him ; he may have that experience in spades.

 

This was rather my own point of view, too, but just as a topic for discussion I thought it would be interesting to see the reaction from learned contributors to this forum. Andrew Carwood did have a spell at the London Oratory as DoM and where boy choristers are drawn from the Oratory School. And so I guess he'll have the necessary experience to train boys voices.

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I wonder how many on this forum have read today's "The Times" and spotted the following letter? Any thoughts?

Less organ music

Sir, The decision of the authorities at St Paul’s is both brave and visionary (letters, July 2 , June 23 and 28). Too long has English church music been dominated by the dead hand of the monster that is the post-Victorian pipe organ. Organ music arguably ceased to be in the mainstream of classical music with the death of J. S. Bach and certainly the instrument typically found in Anglican cathedrals is ill-suited to the performance of his works.

 

Perhaps now other cathedral chapters will wake up and consider seriously how their musical establishments can be better brought into the world of contemporary classical music. Let the organ retreat to its original status as supporter of the singing and let the authorities consider widening their resources to include instrumental ensembles much better suited to the Masses by Mozart, Haydn and Schubert now a staple of English cathedral repertoires.

 

MALCOLM BOWDEN, Hartford, Cheshire

 

 

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

 

 

I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this somewhat scatter-brained letter.

 

I don't expect it is the fault of the organ or the organ builder(s) that it happens to be there, but I do know that St.Paul's would be very much the poorer for it being replaced with a skiffle-band. Short of half-a-million watts of amplification and the LSO, I can't think of anything else which could support large congregational singing quite the same.

 

I was also surprised to learn that Haydn and Mozart Masses are considered contemporary by some.

 

On the other hand, there is a wonderfully varied and rich repertoire which is not dominated by the sound of large, cathedral organ; but we knew that already, didn't we?

 

The man is clearly a fool, and my greatest concern is the obvious decline in the journalistic standards of "The Times," with the result that such a pointless letter be published at all.

 

I have never heard of Hartford in Cheshire, but I'd hazard the guess that it's on the Wirral. They specilaise in people like that on the Wirral.

 

MM

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I don't expect it is the fault of the organ or the organ builder(s) that it happens to be there, but I do know that St.Paul's would be very much the poorer for it being replaced with a skiffle-band. Short of half-a-million watts of amplification and the LSO, I can't think of anything else which could support large congregational singing quite the same.

I very much doubt that even that would do the trick. The first time I ever enetered St Paul's was to hear a performance of the Berlioz Requiem. We had seats near the back. I heard the first chord and the rest just was an interminably boring wash of sound.* It was a complete waste of money. I'm sure there is no way you could sing to an orchestra in that place. A brass band, maybe, but it would have to be something capable of being incisive.

 

* Yes, I know the Berlioz Requiem always sounds like that, even in a dry acoustic, but it was even more so here.

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I have never heard of Hartford in Cheshire, but I'd hazard the guess that it's on the Wirral. They specilaise in people like that on the Wirral.

 

MM

 

No, it's actually further south than that - nearer to Northwich and Alsager, but the Wirral does indeed specialise, as you say!

 

If you go to the letters page of the Times-on-line and do a search on his (the writer's) name, he's not a newcomer! :rolleyes:

 

David Wyld.

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I have never heard of Hartford in Cheshire, but I'd hazard the guess that it's on the Wirral. They specilaise in people like that on the Wirral.

 

MM

No, it's actually further south than that - nearer to Northwich and Alsager, but the Wirral does indeed specialise, as you say!

 

If you go to the letters page of the Times-on-line and do a search on his (the writer's) name, he's not a newcomer! :rolleyes:

 

David Wyld.

 

I have sent a reply via e-mail. I doubt that The Times will publish it....

 

B)

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Guest Barry Williams

It would be very nice if parish churches and (some) cathedrals were to consider music even half the quality of Mozart and Haydn. It would be even better if this proposed improvement in good taste were extended to the conduct of the liturgy.

 

Barry Williams

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I have sent a reply via e-mail. I doubt that The Times will publish it....

 

:rolleyes:

 

I too have sent a reply: when one looks at how many of 'Ranter' Bowden's letters they've published, I couldn't possibly begin to imagine why they shouldn't print ours too!!

 

DW

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It is possible that a certain nineteenth-century cleric, who was a native of London (and who suffered from the impediment of metathesis), would have referred to this correspondent as a

 

'shining wit'

 

:P

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I very much doubt that even that would do the trick. The first time I ever enetered St Paul's was to hear a performance of the Berlioz Requiem. We had seats near the back. I heard the first chord and the rest just was an interminably boring wash of sound.* It was a complete waste of money. I'm sure there is no way you could sing to an orchestra in that place. A brass band, maybe, but it would have to be something capable of being incisive.

On special occasions, perhaps 2 or 3 times a year, St Paul's Cathedral book the City of London Sinfonia to accompany the choir in its Sunday morning eucharist. I haven't heard that there are any particular problems of ensemble above or beyond what happens normally with the organ.

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But does the orchestra lead the hymn-singing alone on these occasions and is the cathedral full? Perhaps I was not clear, but I was referring specifically to congregational singing.

Sorry, I did misunderstand you.

 

I remember reading a quote from either our host, John Pike Mander, or his father that trying to sing a hymn at the back of a full nave before the major work by Manders was next to impossible.

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Yes but you can't get the crosswords online :( .

 

P

 

When I worked as a keyboard player in Theatreland, (well before all this online nonsence!) we used to photocopy the crosswords and distribute them about the orchestra/band. The first section to complete it didn't have to pay for a beer afterwards in the pub. The crosswords were randomly selected from a dozen or so publications - not always British English publications - and not always newspapers, to add a certain vagary into the finishing process. Then we took bets as to who was going to finish first.......

 

Our minds were always on the job, of course ;)

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I would have thought that the French Romantic organ of Franck's generation and the next one was pretty mainstream, but I might be wrong about that.

A thought has just flitted across my mind. Where did French twentieth-century chromaticism originate? Did it not have its roots in the organ lofts of people like Franck (perhaps as a by-product of their improvisations)? If so, then the world has organists to thank for composers like Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc.

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Guest Barry Williams
A thought has just flitted across my mind. Where did French twentieth-century chromaticism originate? Did it not have its roots in the organ lofts of people like Franck (perhaps as a by-product of their improvisations)? If so, then the world has organists to thank for composers like Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc.

 

 

Vierne was very influential. Debussy admired his music and Messiaen's debt is obvious.

 

Barry Williams

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A thought has just flitted across my mind. Where did French twentieth-century chromaticism originate? Did it not have its roots in the organ lofts of people like Franck (perhaps as a by-product of their improvisations)? If so, then the world has organists to thank for composers like Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc.

But Debussy's great harmonic influence, particularly at the start, was Wagner, who was hugely influential for Franck and Chausson too. The other key figure in French C20 harmony was Satie, who, I think, was also influenced by Wagner at some point. Of course, by the time Debussy wrote the witty parody of the Tristan progression in Gollywog's cakewalk he'd achieved a certain independence.

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