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What Should We Charge For Organ Practice?


stewartt

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It seems that you folks are not short of an opinion on most matters, so I would like to ask your opinion.

 

I am O & C at Holy Trinity, Hereford. As a church we are not bust and we have a decent organ (details on NPOR for those who can't resist), all of which is in good playing order. Lots of people use it for practice, which is great, and a couple of teachers teach on it. Hardly anybody pays anything.

 

It does seem to me that people ought to expect to put something in the kitty towards the cost of heat, light, electricity and maintenance but I am in a quandry as to what might be a reasonable figure to ask. Students, for sure, should be able to use the organ as much as they want for nothing; we need to encourage the next generation. But what about well-heeled pensioners who arrive in BMWs? And should teachers pay to use the organ?

 

Your thoughts and views will be of interest. What do other people do? What should we do?

 

Stewart Taylor

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Do these people contribute anything towards the church? Are they in the congregation? do they give a recital freely each year, to cover their costs? If not perhaps enough money to cover the costs in the form of a donation to the music fund?

 

Agree about students though (especially being one) - encouragment is needed wherever possible.

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Guest Barry Williams

Any money paid for the use of the organ/church must not be paid under the Gift Aid arrangements, as the tax will not be reclaimable by the parish.

 

Barry Williams

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Whilst Barry will know far more of the legal side of this question, I can add a few thoughts on the moral aspect.

 

Firstly, students practising free - yes, if they are prepared to help-out at times, or contribute in a positive way to the musical life of the church, if this is deemed appropriate.

 

Teachers using the instrument for other pupils' lessons - well, if they are not part of the music staff of your church, I should have thought that it would be reasonable to charge something. I must confess that we would not even consider allowing someone else to teach on the Minster organ. However, this is a special case - the building plays host to something in excess of one hundred thousand visitors each year (many of whom have booked guided tours), and there are many services each week. Add to this several choir practices and the tuition which both my boss and I give to pupils on this instrument and you will perhaps understand why we adopt this hard-line approach. Perhaps a figure of a pound or two per hour might be reasonable, particularly if the teachers and pupils benefit from heating during cold weather.

 

Well-heeled pensioners in BMWs - again, a pound or two per hour I think is not unreasonable. Having said that, we do have one or two older members of our congregation who practise on a vaguely regular basis (if there is such a thing) - and they do not pay. They are also a bit of a trap to the unwary, because they always fail to press General Cancel before switching-off the instrument - and then simply push the stops in by hand. This has occasionally resulted in some unplanned registrations in pre-service music. These days, I can usually tell if someone else has been playing the instrument and I pull out all the stops and then press General Cancel, before attempting to play anything.

 

Perhaps they could be persuaded to lend you their BMWs on a type of time-share basis. After all, the organ in your church is likely to be worth considerably more than even a brand-new '7 series' - with all the optional extras and a one-year subscription to Top Gear magazine....

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Whilst Barry will know far more of the legal side of this question, I can add a few thoughts on the moral aspect.

 

Firstly, students practising free - yes, if they are prepared to help-out at times, or contribute in a positive way to the musical life of the church, if this is deemed appropriate.

 

Teachers using the instrument for other pupils' lessons - well, if they are not part of the music staff of your church, I should have thought that it would be reasonable to charge something. I must confess that we would not even consider allowing someone else to teach on the Minster organ. However, this is a special case - the building plays host to something in excess of one hundred thousand visitors each year (many of whom have booked guided tours), and there are many services each week. Add to this several choir practices and the tuition which both my boss and I give to pupils on this instrument and you will perhaps understand why we adopt this hard-line approach. Perhaps a figure of a pound or two per hour might be reasonable, particularly if the teachers and pupils benefit from heating during cold weather.

 

Well-heeled pensioners in BMWs - again, a pound or two per hour I think is not unreasonable. Having said that, we do have one or two older members of our congregation who practise on a vaguely regular basis (if there is such a thing) - and they do not pay. They are also a bit of a trap to the unwary, because they always fail to press General Cancel before switching-off the instrument - and then simply push the stops in by hand. This has occasionally resulted in some unplanned registrations in pre-service music. These days, I can usually tell if someone else has been playing the instrument and I pull out all the stops and then press General Cancel, before attempting to play anything.

 

Perhaps they could be persuaded to lend you their BMWs on a type of time-share basis. After all, the organ in your church is likely to be worth considerably more than even a brand-new '7 series' - with all the optional extras and a one-year subscription to Top Gear magazine....

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They are also a bit of a trap to the unwary, because they always fail to press General Cancel before switching-off the instrument - and then simply push the stops in by hand. This has occasionally resulted in some unplanned registrations in pre-service music. These days, I can usually tell if someone else has been playing the instrument and I pull out all the stops and then press General Cancel, before attempting to play anything.

 

This sounds very strange unless you have some braindead solid state stop action which only responds to changes in the position of the stops while the instrument is turmed on, remembers the last state that it saw while the instrument is turned

off and doesn't bother to rescan the state of the stops when the instrument is turned on again.

 

If that is *really* the case you should be insisting that whoever installed such a stunningly badly designed system come back immediately and *fix* the damn thing so that it works in a sane manner.

 

If not then I have a hard time imagining how the instrument could possibly behave in the way that I think you are describing.

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This sounds very strange unless you have some braindead solid state stop action which only responds to changes in the position of the stops while the instrument is turmed on, remembers the last state that it saw while the instrument is turned

off and doesn't bother to rescan the state of the stops when the instrument is turned on again.

 

If that is *really* the case you should be insisting that whoever installed such a stunningly badly designed system come back immediately and *fix* the damn thing so that it works in a sane manner.

 

If not then I have a hard time imagining how the instrument could possibly behave in the way that I think you are describing.

 

As far as I am aware, this is not unusual. The system dates from around 1986. There is only power to the slider motors whilst they are actually moving. However, there is a problem with the wiring of the entire stop action: the control boxes (for the slider motors) keep burining out, due to a voltage surge. This is partly due to the fact that there is but one rectifier for the entire job.

 

The instrument is due for a major restoration (for which we have opened negotiations). Frankly, I do not intend to let the previous organ builder touch it. I keep replacing the control boxes and hoping that it can last until the rebuild. If not, then I shall have to persuade the church to spend about three thousand pounds on several new rectifiers (one for each department), at least in order to render it more reliable.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

I think the principle should be that if they are making money from using your organ (e.g. through tuition) they should pay you a set percentage of whatever they are charging (10% sounds reasonable to me, but it's just a figure plucked out of the air). Students and others certainly should be asked to help out if they're any good, but the openness and availability of use of the instrument is an asset both to the church and its music - IMHO.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
As far as I am aware, this is not unusual. The system dates from around 1986. There is only power to the slider motors whilst they are actually moving. However, there is a problem with the wiring of the entire stop action: the control boxes (for the slider motors) keep burining out, due to a voltage surge. This is partly due to the fact that there is but one rectifier for the entire job.

 

The instrument is due for a major restoration (for which we have opened negotiations). Frankly, I do not intend to let the previous organ builder touch it. I keep replacing the control boxes and hoping that it can last until the rebuild. If not, then I shall have to persuade the church to spend about three thousand pounds on several new rectifiers (one for each department), at least in order to render it more reliable.

 

This is a great comfort to me, as it's one of the few problems we do not experience here.

 

Of course, now I've written this, it will happen on Sunday morning! :rolleyes:

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As far as I am aware, this is not unusual. The system dates from around 1986. There is only power to the slider motors whilst they are actually moving. However, there is a problem with the wiring of the entire stop action: the control boxes (for the slider motors) keep burining out, due to a voltage surge. This is partly due to the fact that there is but one rectifier for the entire job.

 

The instrument is due for a major restoration (for which we have opened negotiations). Frankly, I do not intend to let the previous organ builder touch it. I keep replacing the control boxes and hoping that it can last until the rebuild. If not, then I shall have to persuade the church to spend about three thousand pounds on several new rectifiers (one for each department), at least in order to render it more reliable.

 

 

I’m sorry to take this thread off topic, but it doesn’t sound like your problem is due to there only being one rectifier. Without seeing what’s there it is, of course, only a guess. From what you’ve said, the control boxes are marginal ie of a current rating that is only just up to the job.

 

:rolleyes:

 

I should add that a properly designed power supply (rectifier) SHOULD maintain a relatively stable voltage as long as it’s being operated within its designed current rating.

 

:(

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I would have thought either turning the power off or on, or preferably both, should effect a general cancel.

 

Clearly this is not the case!

 

Whether it is a long-standing fault in the system, or it was a cheap set-up, I do not know - it was installed a few years before I arrived. It is not a particular problem (now that I am aware of it), so I am not inclined to worry too much about it, until the rebuild. It simply adds fuel to the fire, so on that score, it is quite useful.

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I’m sorry to take this thread off topic, but it doesn’t sound like your problem is due to there only being one rectifier. Without seeing what’s there it is, of course, only a guess. From what you’ve said, the control boxes are marginal ie of a current rating that is only just up to the job.

 

:rolleyes:

Twelve-and-a-half volts. However, we think that it is spiking at around seventeen or more volts, on occasions. It is difficult to measure, since it is an intermittent problem.

 

I should add that a properly designed power supply (rectifier) SHOULD maintain a relatively stable voltage as long as it’s being operated within its designed current rating.

 

:(

 

According to our organ builder, two or three rectifiers are desirable on this instrument. I am not sure why, either. I also do not know why (and am more worried by) the voltage surges which burn-out the control boxes. One of our choirmen has reverse-engineered and rebuilt (using more robust components) one of the dead boxes. He is also not sure why this happens. We have since changed our supplier and are using different units which (so our choirman assures me) are at least different in design, with certain features apparently missing. However, so far, they seem to work well.

 

I wonder if it is not as basic as the fact that a lot of the transmission dates from 1965, and is electro-mechanical. To this has been added in a piecemeal fashion, new(-ish) draw-stop solenoids, a capture system (c.1986) and a few other odds and ends. Parts of the system are clearly on their last capacitors, as it were. I suspect that the whole thing simply needs renewal - although I am loath to have the clavier action changed, since I am not convinced of the promptness, repetition or reliability of Solid-State, so far. I wonder if any builders out there would consider rebuilding (or newly manufacturing) a similar electro-mechanical system, complete with wiring looms and coupler boards?

 

With my apologies to whoever started this thread....

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Guest Barry Williams

"I am not convinced of the promptness, repetition or reliability of Solid-State, so far. I wonder if any builders out there would consider rebuilding (or newly manufacturing) a similar electro-mechanical system, complete with wiring looms and coupler boards?"

 

I have much sympathy with this statement, for every disaster I have experienced with solid state mechanisms has arisen from an interaction between the key mechanism and the piston system. The makers say it does not happen. In my experience systems that are totally separate do not have such problems.

 

I am convinced by the promptness of solid state mechanisms that fire simultaneously. Those that run like a snake seem less satisfactory. However, I would never have a system that ran both piston and key mechanism together on the same apparatus.

 

I assume that this instrument is fitted with a spike protector? If not there may be a serious warranty issue. The warranty could be complicated if the organ builder has tried to transfer part of the potential liability to the solid state supplier in the terms of the contract.

 

Barry Williams

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"I am not convinced of the promptness, repetition or reliability of Solid-State, so far. I wonder if any builders out there would consider rebuilding (or newly manufacturing) a similar electro-mechanical system, complete with wiring looms and coupler boards?"

 

I have much sympathy with this statement, for every disaster I have experienced with solid state mechanisms has arisen from an interaction between the key mechanism and the piston system. The makers say it does not happen. In my experience systems that are totally separate do not have such problems.

 

I am convinced by the promptness of solid state mechanisms that fire simultaneously. Those that run like a snake seem less satisfactory. However, I would never have a system that ran both piston and key mechanism together on the same apparatus.

 

I assume that this instrument is fitted with a spike protector? If not there may be a serious warranty issue. The warranty could be complicated if the organ builder has tried to transfer part of the potential liability to the solid state supplier in the terms of the contract.

 

Barry Williams

 

Thank you, Barry.

 

May I contact you off-board, please?

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Isn't it interesting this? I asked a simple question and over half the replies are nothing to do with the question I asked. Wouldn't it be good if folks could stick to the topic?

 

Well, before I hi-jacked the thread, I (for one) gave a full reply - most of which you ignored, choosing instead to comcentrate on the one short, flippant paragraph with which I ended my original post.

 

So there.

 

:blink:

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Isn't it interesting this? I asked a simple question and over half the replies are nothing to do with the question I asked. Wouldn't it be good if folks could stick to the topic?

 

In which case you should have not posted that here and instead added it to the "stick to the topic" thread elsewhere.

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Guest Hector5

Regrettably we have had to stop offering our organ for practice. This is because various visitors have felt the need to 'tinker' with the organ - including one person practising for a concert who evidently tried to tune an out of tune note, made it worse, then phoned me in a fit of pique refusing to play the organ as it was in an unplayable state! Others who wished to practice plagued me with calls complaining that they had traveled all the way to church and a service was on!!!! Fed up with this, I sent a letter out asking for all keys to be returned to stop the nonsense. It seemed evident that people were really taking advantage of us - ignoring bills from the church treasurer to pay for their practice time. There is no way I would allow anyone to practice on an ad-hoc basis. If I were offering advice, I would say, ask for a deposit - say around £25.00, and say that it's against occasions when swell boxes have been left closed, possible abuse of the facilities offered, key cutting - not much, but a suitable carrot to behave. A local church charges between £15-25 per hour, which is quite steep but certainly sorts out the genuine articles from the organ-hoppers. The biggest trouble these days is that churches are locked, organs often have ignition switches, and keys are required. My predecessor cut a new key for anyone who asked to play the organ, which caused a security nightmare.

 

Sorry to not be more positive.

 

Hector

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Isn't it interesting this? I asked a simple question and over half the replies are nothing to do with the question I asked. Wouldn't it be good if folks could stick to the topic?

You've already admitted your error in mentioning BMWs. One of the posts in the thread is from you where you'd pressed Add Reply before replying. First remove the mote...

 

I have to say that the topic was covered pretty thoroughly in the first few posts. If you just wanted a survey you should have said so. I'd say £5 per hour unless you are still at school, a student, unwaged, or prepared to help out with services in an emergency. If the teacher is on the staff of the church lessons should not incur a charge, if not it should be £5 or £10 per hour depending on how much is being charged for the lesson.

 

Given ajt's comment, could you let us know if this now a thread about charging for organ practice or about the interestingness or otherwise of sticking to the topic?

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My thoughts on the subject are generally along the lines stated here.

 

We do not allow non-staff members to use the organ for teaching, partly as pcnd says, because the church is fairly heavily used.

 

Secondly, I would never charge my students nor my assistants students for practice, and very rarely any genuine students.

 

Thirdly, charging a couple of pounds per hour is reasonable I think, especially as the cost of electricity, maintenance, etc., needs to be covered.

 

The proviso would be members of the congregation and those who regularly dep for us should not be charged either.

 

Having said all that, we do not currently charge anyone, because despite our rather fine 1990 Nicholson, not many people come to practise, and those who do are all students, members of the congregation, or deps.

 

Jonathan :blink:

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Guest Barry Williams

Many, many years ago, when I very impecunious, I wished to use a particular organ for practise because it had a similar touch to the instrument that was to be used for an examination. (Pressure box pneumatic.) I obtained the use of the desired instrument for about four months. When the examination was taken I called on the Vicar to return the keys and present him with a note of the number of hours I had used the organ, expecting to pay. He returned the note stating it was the church's contribution to my musical education and there was no charge.

 

Some twenty years after, that church had an 'organ transplant' as the earlier instrument had failed. I was invited to give the opening recital on a rather nice 'Father' Willis. The same Vicar, now the Archdeacon, asked me at the post recital party what my fee for the recital was. I gave him the piece of paper on which I had recorded my practise hours years before. He was delighted and so was I. This cleric, The Vernerable Frederick Hazell, now retired, was the first incumbent to give an organist paid maternity leave. Throughout his ministry he always treated organists as equal colleagues. Needless to say, he was never short of organists.

 

I am only sorry that not everyone has been treated like this.

 

Barry Williams

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