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Organ Fun Day For Chldren


Peter Clark
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Following on from the "Lytham" thread which included a very interesting discussion about the "attractiveness" of electronics vs pipes, it was suggested that given the right conditions and I suspect adequate preparation, it might be possible to introduce to younger people the pipe organ not so much as the public often perceive it, a dusty and noisy instrument confined to the darker corners of a damp church with a congregation of three, but as something that can be fun and in which everybody, young or not so young, player and non-player, can have a stake or at least take an interest.

 

What I want is some ideas or your own experiences of devising ways of getting children involved, and stories of the outcomes. Some ideas have already been suggested in the Lytham thread - getting children to turn the pages, giving them an organ pipe to take home (from a redundant organ, we assume :)); I mentioned that the local Brownie pack came one evenng and wre all permitted to get a feel of the instrument which they enjoyed immensely. I have once or twice allowed children to operate stops and we have an electronic hymn board which they have once or twice operated. One idea I have is to organise a "fun day" - and I would likesome ideas i addition to the above. I thought of taking aphoto of the organ, and scanning it making it a line drawing for a colouring session- but no prizes, just the satisfaction of doing the work and then displaying it at the back of the church. Jane thought of giving them each a piece of manuscript paper and getting them to put some notes (! ) on the paper which I woud then attempt to make sense of. Anyone who plays, say, the recorder or violin or guitar could bring these along and we could try some duets. I might play some recognisable music - say the Harry Potter theme or Thunderbirds so they can see that the possibilities of even the church organ extend way beyond hymns and such

 

Over to you!

 

Peter

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Guest Lee Blick
Following on from the "Lytham" thread which included a very interesting discussion about the "attractiveness" of electronics vs pipes, it was suggested that given the right conditions and I suspect adequate preparation, it might be possible to introduce to younger people the pipe organ not so much as the public often perceive it, a dusty and noisy instrument confined to the darker corners of a damp church with a congregation of three, but as something that can be fun and in which everybody, young or not so young, player and non-player, can have a stake or at least take an interest.

 

What I want is some ideas or your own experiences of devising ways of getting children involved, and stories of the outcomes. Some ideas have already been suggested in the Lytham thread - getting children to turn the pages, giving them an organ pipe to take home (from a redundant organ, we assume :)); I mentioned that the local Brownie pack came one evenng and wre all permitted to get a feel of the instrument which they enjoyed immensely. I have once or twice allowed children to operate stops and we have an electronic hymn board which they have once or twice operated. One idea I have is to organise a "fun day" - and I would likesome ideas i addition to the above. I thought of taking aphoto of the organ, and scanning it making it a line drawing for a colouring session- but no prizes, just the satisfaction of doing the work and then displaying it at the back of the church. Jane thought of giving them each a piece of manuscript paper and getting them to put some notes (! ) on the paper which I woud then attempt to make sense of. Anyone who plays, say, the recorder or violin or guitar could bring these along and we could try some dues. I might play some recognisable music - say the Harry Potter theme

 

or Thunderbirds so they can see that the possibilities of even the church organ extend way beyond hymns and such

 

Over to you!

 

Peter

 

Sounds like some great ideas. The 'take an organ pipe home' idea would be great for fundraising, Perhaps stuff them with sweeties as an incentive and they

have to fill with coins/notes and return on a subsequent organ day/recital etc.

 

You could have a talent contest and use the electronic hymn board as a kind of a scoreboard like they have for ice-skating.

 

WIth the colouring compettion, do have a prize! Perhaps a free lesson or two on the organ. Or turning the pages for a service.

 

Doing Harry Potter, The Ring, Friends or any other popular TV/Film tune watched by children will be a hit.

 

If possible have a guided tour inside the instrument in small groups. Obviously don't make them climb up onto the soundboards but if some of the big pedal pipes are accessible at floor level, you could play a sort of a 'wack-a'mole game. Where the children have to find the pedal pipe that is being played along the rank.

 

A bingo game based on the names of the stops on the organ. You could print out 'bingo cards' with a big picture of the organ stop jambs with random selection of printed names of the stops. On some organs you can actually twist the stop knobs off. Put them in a big velvet bag and use them for the bingo. drawing. Make a note of where they are suppose to return! Probably would be suitable for kids with their parents.

 

A good approach is to make it fun and engaging and not too academic, worthy or give the impression that organ playing is stuffy, creepy or remote.

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-----------------------------------------------------

I had a wedding rehearsal with a parishioner to-day...... not my own wedding....let's not be silly....you know what I mean.

 

Anyway, she is a teacher, and she brought lots of children from school, because they are going to sing on the big day.

 

For the first time in 16 years, I took a choir-practice, got them to breath properly, lift up their copies and give the music a whirl.

 

It was absolutely enchanting to watch 20 quite young children, (boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 10)

just gape with delight and disbelief as their little voices bloomed in our simply wonderful church acoustic....they were so clear and so in tune.

 

They were absolutely delighted by the experience, and a two or three wanted to know all about the organ, and how much it would cost new (well they are from Yorkshire!) and one little girl talked to me for ages about the fact that she was learning to play acoustic-guitar properly.

 

It made me realise, with all the terrible learning difficulties I had at school, just what music meant to me, because it was about the only thing I could do well; apart from English and Art.

 

 

 

 

It made me realise what a stupid thing it was to get rid of school-choirs and curtail music generally, and appreciate the importance of funding the re-introduction of it.

MM

 

Bravo, MM - this is quite the sort of thing I had in mind - but with many of today's teachers imagining that music began with the Beatles (nothing wrong with the Beatles by the way - I'm a fan) what chance do children have when it comes to "classical"? How can we encourage the children if we can't even get it across to the "grown-ups"? Part of the reason I'm planning this whioe "fun day at the organ" is because NOTHING is ever done like this in the school. And when the school comes to the church for Mass they merely import their own instruments (a couple of electric guitars and a drumkit to supplement the digital keyboard) and their own often dire music. The school thus misses a chance to introduce its pupils to an instrument which, with its music, has inspired Christian (and other) worship through the centuries.

 

Rant over!

 

 

 

Peter

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... If possible have a guided tour inside the instrument in small groups. Obviously don't make them climb up onto the soundboards but if some of the big pedal pipes are accessible at floor level, you could play a sort of a 'wack-a'mole game. Where the children have to find the pedal pipe that is being played along the rank. ...

This is extremely unwise (and may affect any insurance claim if accidental damage ensues). Allowing even small groups of children access to the interior of an organ can be fraught with problems. There are many parts which could be damaged inadvertently. Organs are also dangerous places. If a child were to become injured (for example, by falling off a passage board) the church would be liable.

 

By all means have fun - but be practical and realistic.

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This is extremely unwise (and may affect any insurance claim if accidental damage ensues). Allowing even small groups of children access to the interior of an organ can be fraught with problems. There are many parts which could be damaged inadvertently. Organs are also dangerous places. If a child were to become injured (for example, by falling off a passage board) the church would be liable.

 

By all means have fun - but be practical and realistic.

 

 

The idea of an open day for kids is a good one; I have been involved in similar things, I suppose the most recent was a 'free-for-all' arranged through the Gloucestershire Organists' Association and several consoles were genuinely open to all comers. The day ended at Gloucester Cathedral (courtesy of David Briggs). However.....all good intentions apart, regarding tours round inside organs pcnd's advice (above) is very strongly endorsed.

 

I have very occasionally taken people round the inside of organs, but always one at a time and always at their own risk.

 

Obviously there may be organs with passageboards several feet wide, liberally provided with hand rails to enable safe access everywhere, but if there are any in this country I've never seen them. For your party to stand below and be shown things on an accessible division is perhaps possible...even so, for pity's sake take no risks. If you overbalance and tip over (even fairly gently) into a soundboard's worth of pipes, your church will want several thousands of pounds from you to pay for the damage!

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Or perhaps we should be looking at investing time and money in gaining cathedral choristers, many of whom appear to take an interest in the Organ during their choristership. This would have the advantages of

 

a) giving us more potential organists,

:rolleyes: organists who have full liturgical and musical knowledge

and finally

c) more cathedral choristers, reversing the trend of declining knowledge (and sadly, standards) in recent years

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Or perhaps we should be looking at investing time and money in gaining cathedral choristers, many of whom appear to take an interest in the Organ during their choristership. This would have the advantages of

 

a) giving us more potential organists,

:huh: organists who have full liturgical and musical knowledge

and finally

c) more cathedral choristers, reversing the trend of declining knowledge (and sadly, standards) in recent years

 

That is all very well, David, but I work in an inner city parish and my aim is to re-itroduce to the "ordinary" type of congregation - which includes those children who go to the local school and come to this church - the wonders of the organ and the music that goes with it. And if you get the children interested, the parents might follow....

 

It is possibly because, for many people, the sort of music I am talking about - and indeed the organ itself - is only associated with a kind of elite which the average parish perhaps feels it cannot aspire to. that we have the situation that obtains in many - too many -of today's churches

 

Electronic hymn boards

 

Psalm, ours came from Germany, that's all I can tell you right now. The PP and the patrish secretary are both away at the moment and the assistant priest I spoke to yesterday knew nothing about there the paper work might be, but I'll ask around agin!

 

Peter

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The idea of an open day for kids is a good one; I have been involved in similar things, I suppose the most recent was a 'free-for-all' arranged through the Gloucestershire Organists' Association and several consoles were genuinely open to all comers. The day ended at Gloucester Cathedral (courtesy of David Briggs). However.....all good intentions apart, regarding tours round inside organs pcnd's advice (above) is very strongly endorsed.

 

I have very occasionally taken people round the inside of organs, but always one at a time and always at their own risk.

 

Obviously there may be organs with passageboards several feet wide, liberally provided with hand rails to enable safe access everywhere, but if there are any in this country I've never seen them. For your party to stand below and be shown things on an accessible division is perhaps possible...even so, for pity's sake take no risks. If you overbalance and tip over (even fairly gently) into a soundboard's worth of pipes, your church will want several thousands of pounds from you to pay for the damage!

 

Hi

 

Pictures - or even a live vido feed - wold be possible, and many organ buidlers will have a selection of odd pipes laying around that might be borrowed. Also, if one is available, a positive or portative organ is accessible and shows the principle of a pipe to each note (it's amazing how many people think that the front pipes is all there are!)

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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This is extremely unwise (and may affect any insurance claim if accidental damage ensues). Allowing even small groups of children access to the interior of an organ can be fraught with problems. There are many parts which could be damaged inadvertently. Organs are also dangerous places. If a child were to become injured (for example, by falling off a passage board) the church would be liable.

 

By all means have fun - but be practical and realistic.

 

I definately agree with you about organs being dangerous places.

If I am tuning I never let anyone under 15yrs old into the organ because of the dangers, but I generally let tuning assistants in if there is a lot of work to be done inside.

Some organs I have encountered with free-standing cases have the Pedal bass pipes accessible on the outside of the case, so this "wack-a-mole" idea could be possible if this is the case.

 

JA

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Guest Lee Blick
It is possibly because, for many people, the sort of music I am talking about - and indeed the organ itself - is only associated with a kind of elite which the average parish perhaps feels it cannot aspire to. that we have the situation that obtains in many - too many -of today's churches

 

I think that is very true. What Davidb is suggesting is fine for maintaining organ playing in cathedrals but for the average parish church it is much harder and in my experience it is usually those with 'have nots' either in terms of not having the money/resources/decent instrument who struggle the most.

 

People complain about the growing lack of traditional music in our churches, but if those with the resources don't share it with those without, this is a situation which will grow further.

 

How difficult would it be for Cathedral musicians to initiate links with churches within their diocese to offer, advice, help and active support? Something like that could simply raise morale in the knowledge there is something there to aspire for the parish organist and their choirs. Perhaps there are already dioceses who do that. I would interested to hear of such collaboration...

 

Some organs I have encountered with free-standing cases have the Pedal bass pipes accessible on the outside of the case, so this "wack-a-mole" idea could be possible if this is the case.

 

This is the sort of situation I am suggesting. I am not suggesting people to climb up onto soundboards or fiddle with the actual pipework.

 

I like the video idea. You could ask the organ builder/tuner to come in and do a talk on the inside of the organ with a video camera looking inside and displayed on a television or big screen.

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... How difficult would it be for Cathedral musicians to initiate links with churches within their diocese to offer, advice, help and active support? Something like that could simply raise morale in the knowledge there is something there to aspire for the parish organist and their choirs. Perhaps there are already dioceses who do that. I would interested to hear of such collaboration...

 

I can think of four cathedrals, the music staff of which are actively involved in their own diocese. I doubt that these are the only examples. I happen to have (or have had) links with each, so I have some knowledge of what they do - and have been doing for several years.

 

Generally included are: services and concerts sung by the cathedral choir - using a number of churches in each diocese. Workshops - again held in churches around each diocese. In addition, the cathedral music staff with whom I am acquainted, are out as often as is reasonable, offering advice with choirs, organs or church music in general.

 

My point is, I suspect that most are already doing what they can, Lee.

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  • 9 months later...

Well the evening with the Brownies went off very well. We started with a short intr from me explaining the very basic workings of an organ. Then they were all given a piece of manuscript paper and made some marks on it wich I later attempted to translate into a musical sound (!). They were split into five groups of five or six, each group being identified by badges with a quaver, two quavers, three &c which they wore. Each group came up to the organ gallery, and I opened the door to the organ so they could all have a peek inside. "Wow!" and "awesome" were the kind of comments. They then gave me their music paper and tried to pay some of what they had written. A lot of Schoenbery influence there, with hints of Philip Glass. They each had a chance to sit at the console and play a few notes and had their photo taken. I then played them a "fun" piece (James Bond &c). Meanwhile Brown Owl (aka Jane) had set them the task of creating a stained glass window design based around a musical theme which the parish priest insisted on being displayed in the church. They then played organ stop bingo with me playng a note on the appropriate stop as it was called out. The winner had to shout "Church" instead of "House". We sang a couple of hymns and the PP came in and said a fw words and a prayer anmd they went home happy. We went to the pub, exhausted.

 

A worthwhile exercise with 4 Brownies now turning up regularly to sing in the choir. I now have 7 girls aged 20 and under in the choir.

 

Peter

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