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Biographies/cvs On Recital Programmes


Vox Humana
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Does anyone else share my amusement at the way some people inflate their biographies in recital programmes? Obviously you're going to make the most of what you've done, but some people do seem to go a bit far. You know the sort of thing:

 

1) Someone describes himself as Assistant Organist of St Freidegg's Cathedral when in reality he's no such thing. All he probably does is to play hymns on Sundays during August or help out in other peripheral ways. (I've come across this one more than once!)

 

2) "She has just released her first CD." All this involved was getting a local chap in to make a small batch for her to sell privately to friends and on the church's bookstall.

 

Does it matter? Am I just being a Victor Meldrew?

I trust it is obvious that the above is in no way aimed at the professional players on this forum. They don't need to exaggerate anything. More likely they have the opposite problem – deciding what to leave out!

 

As far as my own biog goes I must admit that there's one word that I really ought to tone down a bit, though I think the subtle inflection would be lost on most people. Otherwise I think it sticks to the facts. Heaven knows it strikes me as a bit thin – but, hey! something about me needs to be!

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I trust it is obvious that the above is in no way aimed at the professional players on this forum. They don't need to exaggerate anything. More likely they have the opposite problem – deciding what to leave out!

 

Come to Holland and have a laugh; what you mention is quite customary here:

 

- almost alway you read something like "organist Grote Kerk of ..." - Grote Kerk as in the main church of some village; very often "Grote" ("big" or "large") is not so big after all, and also often the position means nothing; playing some hymns on sunday (because that's what organists do here: play hymns, not much more).

 

- I once read of two young organist (students really) who played the entire Bach organworks; In a hospitalchapel on a small 2 decker; surely it comes up in CV's "played all J.S. Bach's organworks".

 

- also, it seems like you have to have your own cd-label over here; got a microphone? got a soundblaster in you pc? then your an organ-cd-producer!

"Has realesed his so-maniest-cd last year ....". (I just love to see an organ recorded with singers microphones in 'wrong' AB-stereophonic setups).

 

- there are about 2000 organconcerts in the summer in Holland, 90% of which I think is not needed, but boy is the KNOV (dutch organists 'union') proud of it. No, let's not concern about quality; quantity and especially 'vogue' rules in this union (can you imagine: some grocr who plays a bit calls a major soloist like Charles de Wolff 'colleague'?? gimme a break ....)

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"She has just released her first CD." All this involved was getting a local chap in to make a small batch for her to sell privately to friends

So how do you define a "real" CD, and why would it make a difference? Before answering, consider that even a pianist of the stature of Pollini had to pay DG to make and release some of his acclaimed recordings (information from my son, who is a professional pianist, and for whom I made several CDs which you can now buy from the companies we persuaded to take them at no cost).

 

Paul

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The most amusing is the Website of a teacher I fought against

in the 70's and 80's (please understand I won't give the link...).

This guy, a neo-baroque fanatic who despised systematically

all ancient organs -be them romantic or even late baroque ones-

as "decadent canticle bins" etc, in favor of but a handfull of "good"

modern builders who made "northern german" organs that had

nearly nothing in common with a true northern organ save the

stoplists (and tough, only 20% of the nomenclature being retained!),

has now his website, with a Download section available.

 

Here are the details of the litterature available there:

 

-His CV (Curriculum Vitae, a professional biography also), in different languages

and formats; needless to say, it is very, very long.

 

-A photo gallery of his head in different sizes,in color or not.

 

That's it !

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So how do you define a "real" CD, and why would it make a difference? Before answering, consider that even a pianist of the stature of Pollini had to pay DG to make and release some of his acclaimed recordings (information from my son, who is a professional pianist, and for whom I made several CDs which you can now buy from the companies we persuaded to take them at no cost).

 

Paul

I have no great knowledge about how the CD market operates, but I would define it as a CD that features in the standard catalogue of an established record company and is therefore available in the international market. Surely that would provide some assurance that the CD is of a standard to be taken seriously?

 

That is not to say that CDs made privately may not be of a similar quality. They might be completely stunning. They might equally be embarrassingly amateurish. Who knows?

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a CD that features in the standard catalogue of an established record company and is therefore available in the international market.

 

But many long-standing companies whose products are available in the international market are in fact run by one overworked individual down the road. It's really not easy to decide on that basis, but frankly, their quality is often higher than that of the 'majors'...

 

Paul

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I understand your point, but I'm not sure I agree. First off, if said blokey doesn't make (fairly) consistently good calls on who to record he doesn't remain overworked for long! Secondly, the fact that someone has faith enough to market a particular performer says something in itself. If a firm thinks enough of you to adopt you and market you, then that is worth more than someone marketing themselves. After all, a good programme blurb is all about how well you are (or have been) regarded by others.

 

If you've cut a CD for local sales then mention it in your blurb by all means, so long as it's clear what you have done. Just don't try to make it look as if you're an international recording artist!

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Yes, the curse of the inflated biography does make me laugh. Thankfully, it does not seem to have taken a grip in the world of the Organ and it is still the exception rather than the rule. When it does occur it tends to be driven by a desire to make the subject seem more an artist/man of letters rather than just a mere organist. This type of biography also expresses a zeal to push the boundaries of the hitherto stade world of organ music. If only those who promote themselves in this way could understand how pompous and puffed up it is they might revert to letting us know where they were educated, who were their teachers areand what posts they hold/have held.

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Does anyone else share my amusement at the way some people inflate their biographies in recital programmes? Obviously you're going to make the most of what you've done, but some people do seem to go a bit far. You know the sort of thing:

 

1) Someone describes himself as Assistant Organist of St Freidegg's Cathedral when in reality he's no such thing. All he probably does is to play hymns on Sundays during August or help out in other peripheral ways. (I've come across this one more than once!)

 

2) "She has just released her first CD." All this involved was getting a local chap in to make a small batch for her to sell privately to friends and on the church's bookstall.

 

Does it matter? Am I just being a Victor Meldrew?

I trust it is obvious that the above is in no way aimed at the professional players on this forum. They don't need to exaggerate anything. More likely they have the opposite problem – deciding what to leave out!

 

As far as my own biog goes I must admit that there's one word that I really ought to tone down a bit, though I think the subtle inflection would be lost on most people. Otherwise I think it sticks to the facts. Heaven knows it strikes me as a bit thin – but, hey! something about me needs to be!

 

 

Related to this topic - there is inevitably going to be a degree of "ego" in anyone who performs in public, because without self-confidence and a belief in your ability you will not give a persusasive performance. This week's issue of Private Eye carries a lengthy letter from the composer Keith Burstein (of whom I knew nothing until recently), a composer who is best described as a neo-tonalist, one who disapproves strongly of unremitting dissonace and who has, it seems, heckled performances of music by, inter ali, Harrison Birtwhistle. He also once described his own music as "ravishingly beautiful". He defends this by arguing that Beethoven, for example, didn't finish the Eroica and then say to himself "that's not all that impressive"; Burstein continues: "(T)here is of course an internal self-critical process, but that has to allow the composer to be moved and astonished by their own work. Why else write?". Could the same critical process be applied to the recitalist, I wonder?

 

Peter

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Related to this topic - there is inevitably going to be a degree of "ego" in anyone who performs in public, because without self-confidence and a belief in your ability you will not give a persusasive performance. This week's issue of Private Eye carries a lengthy letter from the composer Keith Burstein (of whom I knew nothing until recently), a composer who is best described as a neo-tonalist, one who disapproves strongly of unremitting dissonace and who has, it seems, heckled performances of music by, inter ali, Harrison Birtwhistle. He also once described his own music as "ravishingly beautiful". He defends this by arguing that Beethoven, for example, didn't finish the Eroica and then say to himself "that's not all that impressive"; Burstein continues: "(T)here is of course an internal self-critical process, but that has to allow the composer to be moved and astonished by their own work. Why else write?". Could the same critical process be applied to the recitalist, I wonder?

New UK legislation is being introduced concerning claims made in advertising and other promotional material which will, apparently, go some way to ending theatrical producers' misuse of selective quotations from bad reviews. I wonder if the same legislation could cover misleading claims in programme biogs? CV "distortions" that remain private are, of course, a different matter.

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It's not a delusion of grandure, it's sales.

It happens everywhere and not worth getting upset about.

From rubbish soap powders that claim to do everything. To people's CVs - academic and technical CVs are full of lists of publications where a large number are just trivial variations of the same subject. To company capabilites - when I know the technical background I can see that you need to divide the stated capabilites by two or three.

The only thing to be upset about are the occasions when inexperienced evaluators are duped by the descriptions and select an inferior offering above something better, but not packaged so well.

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Does anyone else share my amusement at the way some people inflate their biographies in recital programmes? Obviously you're going to make the most of what you've done, but some people do seem to go a bit far. You know the sort of thing:

 

1) Someone describes himself as Assistant Organist of St Freidegg's Cathedral when in reality he's no such thing. All he probably does is to play hymns on Sundays during August or help out in other peripheral ways. (I've come across this one more than once!)

 

2) "She has just released her first CD." All this involved was getting a local chap in to make a small batch for her to sell privately to friends and on the church's bookstall.

 

Does it matter? Am I just being a Victor Meldrew?

I trust it is obvious that the above is in no way aimed at the professional players on this forum. They don't need to exaggerate anything. More likely they have the opposite problem – deciding what to leave out!

 

As far as my own biog goes I must admit that there's one word that I really ought to tone down a bit, though I think the subtle inflection would be lost on most people. Otherwise I think it sticks to the facts. Heaven knows it strikes me as a bit thin – but, hey! something about me needs to be!

 

 

Sounds as if you could do with reading double bass player Pete McCarthy's bio notes as they appeared at the Tetbury Music Festival programme a couple of years ago: "Peter started to study the double bass after having failed on every other instrument" How about that for some refreshing candour! Pete, I might add, is a very fine bass player and the Tetbury music festival has featured artists of the calibre of Isserlis, Mark Padmore and Emma Kirkby, just to put it in context!

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Does anyone else share my amusement at the way some people inflate their biographies in recital programmes? Obviously you're going to make the most of what you've done, but some people do seem to go a bit far. You know the sort of thing:

 

 

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

 

 

I stopped doing this, because it just looked ridiculous on paper, in spite of the fact that every word written was true.

 

It was when punter came up to me waving the offending biography at me, saying, "You're kidding....right?"

 

:mellow:

 

MM

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I understand your point, but I'm not sure I agree. First off, if said blokey doesn't make (fairly) consistently good calls on who to record he doesn't remain overworked for long! Secondly, the fact that someone has faith enough to market a particular performer says something in itself. If a firm thinks enough of you to adopt you and market you, then that is worth more than someone marketing themselves. After all, a good programme blurb is all about how well you are (or have been) regarded by others.

 

If you've cut a CD for local sales then mention it in your blurb by all means, so long as it's clear what you have done. Just don't try to make it look as if you're an international recording artist!

 

As a matter of strict logic the identity of the publisher is surely irrelevant to the quality of the publication,be it CD, book, picture or anything else - though it would be perfectly possible to argue that the fact that something has been accepted by a major commercial house makes it more likely that it has certain qualities. However those qualities are far more likely to incline to commercial viability than to artistic integrity because businesses exist to make money and if they do not they cease to be in business, as is pointed out in the first paragraph. It ought to follow from this that the deduction most likely to be correct from the fact of the publication of a CD by a major company is the deduction that someone has calculated that this will be a profitable thing to do, ie it will sell lots of copies and certainly more than the things which it beat to the draw. (The fact that someone has made such a calculation does not necessarily mean that they are correct in their conclusion,of course.) Naturally many other things can also be deduced but the artistic merit/quality/worthwhileness of the project is pretty far down the list. This is true virtually across the board. At the time of writing the works of J.K.Rowling far outsell those of Charles Dickens but that does not make her a more important novelist in the history of English literature. It is possible that in time she may come to eclipse Dickens but it would be astonishing if the basis of that judgement depended to any measurable extent on the identity of their respective publishers .

 

As someone who has been collecting CDs of organ music for more years than I care to admit to, I can say without fear of contradiction that the activities of major record companies (with the honourable exception of Hyperion and Naxos, if they count as majors) have been virtually insignificant to the growth of my collection of organ recordings ( I do collect other things and "the majors" can certainly supply my needs for Mahler and Sibelius symphonies, for example). True it may be also that Priory is now a candidate for inclusion in this category but they certainly were not when I first bought LPs from them of Guildford Cathedral and Huddersfield Town Hall. But apart from that company (as it now is) it has been to the likes of Amphion,Raven, Pro Organo, JAV, Lammas, Guild, and Regent that one has turned, not forgetting those like Vista and Wealden that are no longer with us. Many of these are indeed one man and/ or husband and wife operations and the line between publication by one of these and self-publication can surely not always be regarded as a clear bright line, especially if a guarantee against losses incurred on the project is provided by the artist . In other words, whatever may be said as to the significance of the adoption of the work of an individual by a "major" company in other areas of human endeavour, in the field of minority musical interests the significance of such an endorsement (or its absence) as an indicator of quality is rather less than clear cut.

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I can't help feeling that this discussion is losing sight of the point I was trying to make. It is not about the standard of the player, but about the degree of match or mismatch between the way any given organist perceives his/her own achievements and their reputation at large.

 

There are a lot of quite brilliant organists around who are completely unkown to the organ world at large, though I daresay they are well enough known on their local circuit. There are also a rather larger number of amateurs of distinctly more modest attainments. And of course there are people in between. I would expect that the majority of organists write perfectly "straight-bat" biographies, but organists of all standards are capable of inflating them, for their own, individual reasons.

 

It's really a question of degree, isn't it? As I said in my original post I don't see anything wrong with putting a positive spin on what you have achieved - talking yourself up - so long as what you write is a fair representation.* But for a rank amateur to have lost grip on reality so far as to pretend that they are of "cathedral" standard when they are incapable of playing two consecutive bars without a mistake is just ludicrous. This is an extreme example, of course, but over the years I have certainly met a couple of "thud and blunder" merchants who match this description exactly.

 

* On the other hand, as one whose playing is only a mere shadow of what it once was, I find myself thinking that my perfectly factual biography is increasingly in danger of promising more than I am now capable of delivering. Looking on the positive side I don't think I need to worry too much just yet, but it's only a matter of time.

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* On the other hand, as one whose playing is only a mere shadow of what it once was, I find myself thinking that my perfectly factual biography is increasingly in danger of promising more than I am now capable of delivering. Looking on the positive side I don't think I need to worry too much just yet, but it's only a matter of time.

 

 

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

 

 

I just enjoy my little jokes with people, and it leaves them blinking and wondering what sort of lunatic is at the console.

 

In my recent programme notes (no biography) I wrote something like the following:-

 

"Mushel lived and worked in Soviet Uzbekistan, where he made a life-long study of Uzbek music. The communists insisted that music must "come from the people," and Mushel used many of the rhythms and tunes associated with traditional music. The Toccata ends rather weakly, and appears to be at least one bar short of a symphony, and it is for this reason that many organists extend and change the ending. The Russian Communist authorities would have been delighted to know that the ending heard to-day, was composed by an ethnic Yorkshire truck-driver!"

 

Oddly enough, no-one said a dickie-bird about it, but as Halifax has at least one bus-driver holding the ARCO diploma, and an organ-playing plumber with a PhD, perhaps they are quite used to such oddities.

 

:mellow:

 

MM

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

I just enjoy my little jokes with people, and it leaves them blinking and wondering what sort of lunatic is at the console.

 

MM

 

 

I once had to introduce an organ programme to a group of visiting American Architects who were about the stuffiest bunch of people I had ever met. In desperation my introduction went something like "We are starting with the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor which of course you all know Walt Disney comissioned Bach to write for his film "Fantasia".

 

No one batted and eyelid and nothing was said afterwards - come back Bernard Manning!

 

FF

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