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What Should We Charge For Organ Practice?


stewartt

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A nice tale, Barry. I do believe that, if the church wants organists, it should encourage students by allowing them the use of the instruments free of charge, both for practice and for thier lessons, irrespective of whether the teacher is a member of the church. If those teachers want to play the organ in their own time that is another matter and it is not unreasonable to charge them whatever you would charge other visiting organists. Not having a church job myself, I do not have a view on what the fee should be, but I note Hector's comments. At my last church, which was only opened for the Sunday service, we had a phantom organist. Before my time someone had acquired a key and occasionally used to make free with the instrument. I could tell this because books on the console would be moved or my organ music in the adjacent cupboard would be misfiled. This person also stole my copy of Peeters' Largo - probably it was the only thing in the cupboard he could play - and if he's reading this, I'd like it back! One day, just before we were all finally thrown out onto the street by the diocese, I arrived to practice for an important Christmas carol service to find that this phantom organist had broken the action to one of the pedal notes. No courtesy note of explanation/apology - nothing. We had to call out the organ builders for emergency repairs. If I had known the identity of this inconsiderate, ill-mannered scrounger I'd have presented him with the bill.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
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

 

...and so am I. This is a wonderful example of the way things ought to be. :)

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At the church where I play the local college, lacking its own, uses the instrument for its one organ student, and he is taught by a lecturer in music. Now the lecturer is teaching as part of his overall job so doesn't get paid extra for this pupil. In the circumstances we feel entitled to charge the college for the use of the organ.

 

Peter

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Guest Barry Williams
...and so am I. This is a wonderful example of the way things ought to be. :)

 

 

And I can give another nice example. When I laboured long and hard to take the ARCM performer's Diploma in organ and passed, the church at which I was then organist & choirmaster immediately increased my salary (from £152 pa to 208 pa - it was a long time ago,) which I greatly appreciated. Acts like that encourage musicians to work for the church.

 

Alas, I hear more sad stories than good ones, but there are still some very thoughful clergy and church people around. It is always distressing to learn that a good musical traditional has been destroyed and that the congregation has voted with their feet. It is said that the new broom will sweep clean and bring 'new blood' in. Almost always, the tradition is not replaced with anything and the congregation languishes on a diet of imitation 1960s music, badly played. (Songs of Fellowship, etc = Spinners and Seekers in mock ecclesiastical garb.)

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Barry Williams

I agree, but I find it upsetting when the older folk try to speak to the younger generation in the musical language of their own time, rather than contemporary music. In the nineteen sixties we suffered Beaumont's imitation of 'Salad Days' and then the far weaker Twentieth Century Church Light Music Group's imitation of Beaumont. Now it seems that the music offered to the young as 'modern' is in fact the 'pop' music of their parents' generation, hence my earlier comment about imitation Spinners & Seekers. My granddaughter, who is sixten years of age, has taught me a few things about the music of her generation, which means that I am now conversant with Riff, Rave, Bop, Pop, as well as Heavy Metal and quite a few others besides!

 

There is genuine modern church of this type music around, but it rarely sees the light of day because it needs far greater skill for its performance than most 'Worship Groups' can manage. I get the impression than the qualification of "Grade One and a Half Flute (failed)" is sufficient to ensure a place in any church band these days. If the organist was equally unskilled they would not be permitted to play in public. The argument that they are offering something to God and it must therefore be permitted is nonsense. Such worship is always acceptable to God, but there is no requirement to inflict it on the congregation. (Consider 'Le Jongleur', whose worthy and competent offering was made in private.)

 

The 'Mozart Effect' was recognised in 1994 when educationalists realised that the skills acquired by learning to sing and play an instrument have a significant effect on other learning. The research was done by Agnes Chan in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and subsequently by Professor Glenn Schellenberg of Toronto University. I suspect that a number of unwilling infants are pressed into church and cathedral choirs by slightly ambitious parents for this reason.

 

If by the 'Mozart Phenomenon ' it is meant that as one gets older people lose interest then there was certainly a reason for it in Mozart's case, though his talent seemed to increase. (Bach suffered also, but because his music became old-fashioned.) The sheer pathos of K594 and K608, both written towards the very end of Mozart's short life, bear promise of even greater things that we were denied by his very early death. The ingratiating Andante and three variations in the middle of K608 must comprise some of the finest music ever written for the King of Instruments, matched only by the double fugue that follows and, of course, the Great JSB.

 

It has been my experience that young people are as interested in this music, when it is well presented, as in the their own more ephemoral culture. It is a pity that most churches seem unwilling or unable to address the issue of quality in church music.

 

Barry Williams

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The 'Mozart Effect' was recognised in 1994 when educationalists realised that the skills acquired by learning to sing and play an instrument have a significant effect on other learning. The research was done by Agnes Chan in the Chinese University of Hong Kong and subsequently by Professor Glenn Schellenberg of Toronto University. I suspect that a number of unwilling infants are pressed into church and cathedral choirs by slightly ambitious parents for this reason.

 

If by the 'Mozart Phenomenon ' it is meant that as one gets older people lose interest then there was certainly a reason for it in Mozart's case, though his talent seemed to increase. (Bach suffered also, but because his music became old-fashioned.) The sheer pathos of K594 and K608, both written towards the very end of Mozart's short life, bear promise of even greater things that we were denied by his very early death. The ingratiating Andante and three variations in the middle of K608 must comprise some of the finest music ever written for the King of Instruments, matched only by the double fugue that follows and, of course, the Great JSB.

 

I heard that the "Mozart Effect", meaning an increase in the measurable IQ of children who had been exposed to the music of Mozart, had been discredited, to the extent that the measurable increase was not long-term.

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Guest Cynic

To address the topic:

 

The cost of electricity on a organ of modest size - let's say up to twenty stops - is about the same as a two bar electric fire.

A nominal charge, say £2 an hour would be fair. In the case of a bigger instrument, one could scale this up.

I am firmly against the sort of cheap-skate attitude which says, if they're so keen to play, let them make up the short-fall in the organ fund that we can't be bothered to do ourselves.

 

There certainly is a problem where lots of folks have keys. I have been such a keyholder in a number of places over the years. It was very useful to me, but potentially quite worrying to my hosts. Where lots of outsiders have keys, their security worries are greatly increased. Something is left open, something disappears, someone not authorised seems to have been able to borrow a key and obtain unofficial access etc. etc. I can understand any church that doesn't want to distribute keys to all and sundry. Insurance companies are also very anti key duplication! Essentially, if you've been granted access somewhere and given keys, you've been given a privilege.

 

The whole matter of practice access for students is critical though. I reckon that the demise of the parish church choir (as a regular species) accounts for a major loss in the number of folks taking up the organ. Familiarity with the sounds of the instrument properly played, plus familiarity with those responsible for it, used to make it a common thing that choir members would from time to time present themselves for 'a go'. Bearing in mind that it is very unlikely indeed that anyone playing will actually break an organ, I have always encouraged anyone interested to try out their piano pieces on the organ and/or improvise for a bit of fun. Over the years, I have seen a number of serious pupils emerge from this method.

 

Right, so this stage often doesn't happen now - young people are generally not so familiar with the organ. Incidentally, where would we be without all the students who still come from the public schools? I am the product of a public school, but I am very hestitant to ascribe vital importance to it.... more the question - take away all the young organists who came through that system and I think you'll find practically every name in the younger generation of whizz kids has disappeared! Worringly though, there is now a further, very critical problem in the shape of The Children Act.

 

Nowadays, The Church of England is not just security conscious - churches almost invariably locked when they used to be open - but they are also child and law conscious to the extent that a lot of places won't allow anyone under 18 access to the place on their own, even if locked in. We are now at a stage that if little Johnnie or little Janet want to learn the organ they have

 

1. to find a friendly church*

2. to make sure that mummy or daddy is free to accompany J/J every time they want to practice

I'm sure that this is a far greater hurdle than the church asking for a few pounds an hour for use of the organ.

 

 

 

* A true story

My last pupil is currently an Oxbridge organ scholar.

When he took up the organ aged 11 or 12, he was a member of a church choir in the church where his parents attended. He used to have lessons with me, fairly informally, at school where we had a two-manual pipe organ. In order to meet the access fees charged by the church, he had to carry out the job of church cleaner! Talk about making it difficult!

Hang in there...this story gets worse.

 

Very keen, and serious about his work, he fairly soon reached the point where he would be sufficiently able to play for services and the organist's job at a little church down the road came up. He applied, but his own vicar got to hear of it and talked the other church out of appointing him. He was told this was because

'we may want you here'.

They continued to charge him for his practice - and when I started to give him full-length proper lessons, they charged him extra for me (rather than their own organist) teaching him in the church!

 

A couple of years later, their organist retired/moved on. They offered him the job. Thank goodness, this kid had tact and discretion (more than I have) and he didn't tell them what they could do with their post. He made a success of it and, as they say, the rest is history.

 

Frankly, I believe some places don't deserve to have an organist.

In the way that I believe parishes should be made to pay their own clergy salary rather than a Diocesan Share (which would encourage reality in giving, or reality in accepting that they can't justify the undivided attention of one clergy-person), I think each parish who wants an organist should be able to show that they have contributed to help training one. A bit like current trends in UK industry, these days people are happy to poach ready-trained people, but unwilling to put in any effort this way themselves.

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Guest Barry Williams

This is a perfectly horrid story and, regrettably, all too typical. I agree that such places should not have organists.

 

Some organists' associations have put the word around about certain clergy (of this type) with the result that some churches cannot get organist until a particular incumbent moves on.

 

Equally, such behaviour encourages folk to buy an electronic at home, where this is possible, and thus be independent of ecclesiastical whims.

 

Barry Williams

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As a student, a significant number of years ago, a local church declined to allow me time on their organ. When their organist resigned a few months later, they sought help from the church music department where I was studying to help find someone to fill the position as they were experiencing some difficulty in so doing. The head of the department made the connection, and the short-sightedness of their policy was made evident to them.

 

My wife's work includes supervising the placement of student teachers in primary and secondary schools. She has fielded phone calls from schools that are not able to find teachers for particular subjects, the same schools that have refused requests for student teacher placements.

 

Where I am employed allows all who would like to practice to do so free of charge. They do have to find time around me and those who receive priority because they are my students or dep for me. We see part of our reason for existence as ensuring the continuation of that which we enjoy. We don't have any problems with people trying to tune pipes as it is rather difficult to gain access. A blessing in disguise.

 

Though, people who leave chewed pencils behind, or mark the music desk with pencil marks as the pick up and put down their pencil...

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In principle, I think it wrong to charge, because the people other than the main organists using the instrument will be students who should be encouraged. Other people, who just want to use the organ as a "leisure facility", not making any liturgical contribution, leaving swell boxes closed, changing settings, moving music etc. should not be allowed access at all.

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Well we've had every shade of opinion from "everybody should pay, including the organist" to "nobody should pay under any circumstances".

 

Halifax Parish Church has a flexible system that works very well. The basic charge is £3 an hour, reduced to £2 for members of the Friends of Music, and £1 to members of the FoM who are also regular attenders at services. The music staff and organ scholar get free practice time, as do people preparing for recitals and people who have worked in connection with the recital series (e.g. typing programmes etc). In practice, the youngsters who want to practice get on free, too - this is, perhaps, just as well, because some of them are on the instrument four or five hours a day in the school holidays. Most of the organists' pupils have posts at other churches, so don't practice at HPC. The method of paying is very simple - there are envelopes at the console for you to put your money in, so there's no sending out of invoices and chasing up payment.

 

Warning - mild rant coming up!

 

I think charging the organist to practice is in the same league as charging me personally for the phone calls I make in pursuit of my employer's business - absolutely bangers! And surely the person who suggested charging £10-£15 an hour cannot be serious. That would amount to almost £4,000 a year for 5 hours' practice a week: who the hell can afford that? Even the Bridgewater Hall - a venue where wine that would strip paint sells for £4.50 a glass - only charges £10 an hour for the use of the organ (apparently). The same applies to charging for the use of the organ for lessons: I've had three teachers in the last decade, none charging more than £10 a lesson. Two of them are FRCO, one of whom is an ex-Cambridge organ scholar. The suggested charge for use of the organ would double the price!

 

And I can't see why it would be anything other than downright illegal to charge for organ practice in a freezing cold church. If it's too cold to practice, then the supply (of use of the organ for practice) would not be fit for purpose, and anyone charged for it ought to be able to get their money back through the courts. It's no different from buying a shirt and finding it has no buttons.

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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.

 

B)

 

Getting slightly back on to the thread. There ought to be some charge for the use of the instrument unless used on `church business', which must including the titular rehearsing.

 

I have seen several cases where an organist has set this up an excellent system and raised a not inconsiderable amount for his organ fund. What happened? The PCC hi-jacked it when the roof leaked for which they had made no financial provision.

 

Shall we start a new thread? "What I love about PCCs".

 

FF

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I have to confess that unless there is a sound financial necessity for charging to use the instrument, I would certainly never request payment from those associated with the parish and/or its music making. An external organist wanting to use the organ on a regular basis might receive a request for a modest amount if it was unlikely he would ever share his expertise with us.

 

As one who was given the keys to the church when appointed in 1969, I am in the fortunate position of just making sure the church is not in use before popping in and practising. I have always ensured that any assistants I have had over the years have enoyed the same privilage, and it has never been abused (though it took a while to get a set of keys returned on one occasion!).

 

Such an approach has generally ensured that the youngsters who have benefitted have always willingly made them selves available to play for us when returning home during university studies, and indeed in their post-graduate lives if still living in the area.

 

We also offer young people undertaking GCSE and A-Level music studies formal accreditation for the Group Music making element of their examinations, which has encouraged a number of younger voices into the choir over the years. We don't charge them either!

 

I appreciate that such an approach may not be viable with the larger churches and cathedrals where, perhaps, professionals are employed, and where there might deemed to be a greater element of privilage inherent in the use of the facilities.

 

Tony

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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

 

 

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

 

 

Apart from being charged to practise on a theatre organ at about £5 per hour, (really!), I can't recall ever paying a penny anywhere, and I think this is how it should be.

 

Since the days when I started on the organ, I think I have given back an awful loot more than was ever given to me.

 

Churches NEED organists, and we need all the help we can get.

 

I've recently been considering giving FREE lessons to anyone who wants to learn the organ at church, as a sort of informal "organ scholar."

 

I have the strange feeling that if I were to make this known, I would probably get 20 people from Eastern Europe expressing an interest, and almost no-one from England!

 

MM

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Guest Patrick Coleman
==========================

Apart from being charged to practise on a theatre organ at about £5 per hour, (really!), I can't recall ever paying a penny anywhere, and I think this is how it should be.

 

Since the days when I started on the organ, I think I have given back an awful loot more than was ever given to me.

 

Churches NEED organists, and we need all the help we can get.

 

I've recently been considering giving FREE lessons to anyone who wants to learn the organ at church, as a sort of informal "organ scholar."

 

I have the strange feeling that if I were to make this known, I would probably get 20 people from Eastern Europe expressing an interest, and almost no-one from England!

 

MM

 

Well come and do it in Wales then!

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In the 1960s many London churches charged 2/6 per hour (large 3 manual organs), which equates to about £2 per hour in current terms.

 

I thought this was a reasonable scale of charge.

 

One needs to think of things from the student's point of view - how many hours does he need to practice a week? I would have thought upwards from 4 hours a week. Otherwise progress will be very slow or non existant. Therefore at £2/hour the pratice bill would be £8 per week. In one of the earlier post someone suggested £10/hour, well £40 a week is a significant outlay!

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Good grief! I should want to be paid £5 per hour to practise on a theatre organ....

 

B)

 

 

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

 

 

Ha!

 

I'm going to run a competition to see which church organist makes the biggest mess of playing a theatre-organ.

 

As in "Harry Potter," it is important to study the "dark arts" if you want to be a proper wizard.

 

For those who have the capacity to think like an arranger and orchestral-conductor, the theatre-organ is a wonderfully expressive instrument. For those who haven't the capacity, the theatre-organ is "all wrong."

 

Still, on which other instruments was it possible to play early French baroque music convincingly in the 1930's, huh?

 

Trio sonatas take on a whole new clarity with added Chrysaglot percussion over a proper 8ft string bass.

 

MM

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Trio sonatas take on a whole new clarity with added Chrysaglot percussion over a proper 8ft string bass.

It's quite good fun if you have a MIDI keyboard to play Bach clavier music on a drumkit or multi-percussion patch with a different sound on each note. Playing a trio sonata on a similarly-equipped two-man and ped organ would be hilarious.

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