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Playing In Liturgical Robes


Guest Patrick Coleman
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Guest Patrick Coleman

Our organist got stuck 90 miles away when his car broke down this morning (don't ask!) and so I ended up playing for those parts of the liturgy that didn't require the priest to be actively functioning elsewhere. We use full vestments here, and I do find it very constraining, especially if the chasuble gets caught underneath me on the organ stool (good for singing alto!). Some months ago I had to do the same and tried to provide a fanfare on the Choir Trumpet in the second verse of Stand up for Jesus only to find my left hand caught up the right sleeve of my alb and then playing ten or more notes through the chasuble fabric. It's not that much easier with a cassock and surplice for Evensong. When your mocking laughter has subsided, are there any suggestions that might help, as - not being very practical - I am sure I've missed something very simple that could make the situation far easier to handle. B)

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Our organist got stuck 90 miles away when his car broke down this morning (don't ask!) and so I ended up playing for those parts of the liturgy that didn't require the priest to be actively functioning elsewhere. We use full vestments here, and I do find it very constraining, especially if the chasuble gets caught underneath me on the organ stool (good for singing alto!). Some months ago I had to do the same and tried to provide a fanfare on the Choir Trumpet in the second verse of Stand up for Jesus only to find my left hand caught up the right sleeve of my alb and then playing ten or more notes through the chasuble fabric. It's not that much easier with a cassock and surplice for Evensong. When your mocking laughter has subsided, are there any suggestions that might help, as - not being very practical - I am sure I've missed something very simple that could make the situation far easier to handle. B)

 

 

Trying to be helpful:

So-called 'organists' robes' used to be found on sale from such people as Wipples; they tend to have cut-away sleeves as a particular feature. Conducting in full robes is equally as difficult as playing. I have to say that I have always avoided cassocks as far as possible and where robing was necessary have opted for gown and hood.

 

P.

 

P.S. I'm afraid this will have to be a lesson to you, Father. Next time Lyndon's car breaks down, you would be best advised to use St.Michael's little one-manual (after all, this does live up in the chancel, doesn't it?)!

 

P.P.S. Not terribly helpful, I know, but if you're obliged to remain in full robes, playing standing up is likely to give less trouble than trying to sit down and use the pedals.

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I have to say that I have always avoided cassocks as far as possible and where robing was necessary have opted for gown and hood.

Me too. Why on earth should organists ever be expected to wear cassock and surplice? They are most impractical, even the sort with cut-away sleeves. What violinist would ever play his/her instrument in mittens?* Just because the Oxford Movement decided robed choirs were A Good Thing doesn't in my book compel organists to follow suit. But then, I would be happy to extend this principal in extremis to clergy. Patrick will probably be horrified, but, given the choice between (1) celebrating in full liturgical regalia and messing up the playing and (2) celebrating in a suit and playing well, I think the latter might provide the more satisfying experience. But, knowing how perverse people are, I'm probably totally wrong! B)

 

* The answer to this is, of course, a viola player.

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I never use robes and can't remember the last time I wore a hood & gown. Most of the instruments I play have well hidden consoles so I am afraid 'casual' is the order of the day usually. This whole robes thing is quite interesting though - when I was young the DOM and organist both wore various hoods etc. with cassock and surplice for every service as did the priests and any choir men who had degrees etc. Some places do this still - whereas a friend of mine (MA, ARCO etc.) is only allowed to wear academic garb on high days and holidays. Another has similar conventions but then only if his qualification is 'musically' related - he has a BSc in Astro Physics and is consequently not encouraged to wear his hood . Is this or the previous situation usual?

 

AJJ

 

PS I would be interested to see the Abertillery spec. I seem to remember it was on here once - 'couldn't find it on the church website though.

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Guest Barry Williams

Much nonsense is written about the wearing of robes and more especially hoods, in church. There are even some places where hoods are 'permitted' only at 'Offices' (i.e. Morning and Evening Prayer) and not at Holy Communion services. Others state that only robes indiciating 'musical' academic qualifications may be worn.

 

This is contrary to all logic, for Holy Communion is an Office. (That is a matter of law, not theology.) Choir (and, as a mere presumption, organists' robes,) ordinarily follow that of the clergy. It has long been established that the formal clerical attire for the Office of Holy Communion is cassock, surplice, scarf and hood. It can be inferred, therefore, that the correct choir robes are cassock, surplice and hood. Scarves are restricted to clergy and readers. Other clerical attire is permitted under more recent enactments.

 

Gowns, in days of yore, were considered appropiate wear for the clergy when preaching and even now, in certain elevated places, the clergy carry (but do not wear) trenchers. ('Mortar Boards'.)

 

There is an interesting piece of legislation in the Office and Oaths Act 1867, section 4, that indicates any person holding judicial, civil or corporate office may attend and be present at any place of public meeting for religious worship in the robe, gown or other peculiar habit of his office, or with the ensign or insignia of or belonging to it, and such attendance does not entail any forfeiture of office or other penalty. (A later Act encompasses the ladies with men in this.)

 

As all academic institutions of note, whether musical or otherwise, are corporate, it follows that the wearing of a gown and hood is always permissible at all church services by right.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Patrick Coleman
P.S. I'm afraid this will have to be a lesson to you, Father. Next time Lyndon's car breaks down, you would be best advised to use St.Michael's little one-manual (after all, this does live up in the chancel, doesn't it?)!

 

P.P.S. Not terribly helpful, I know, but if you're obliged to remain in full robes, playing standing up is likely to give less trouble than trying to sit down and use the pedals.

 

I'm afraid I'll struggle on in that case - I'm not passing up on one of my few chances actually to play Bertha in anger!

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Me too. Why on earth should organists ever be expected to wear cassock and surplice? They are most impractical, even the sort with cut-away sleeves. What violinist would ever play his/her instrument in mittens?* Just because the Oxford Movement decided robed choirs were A Good Thing doesn't in my book compel organists to follow suit. But then, I would be happy to extend this principal in extremis to clergy. Patrick will probably be horrified, but, given the choice between (1) celebrating in full liturgical regalia and messing up the playing and (2) celebrating in a suit and playing well, I think the latter might provide the more satisfying experience. But, knowing how perverse people are, I'm probably totally wrong! B)

 

* The answer to this is, of course, a viola player**.

 

 

**Caution: off at a complete and utter tangent!

 

 

Q.

How do you get a viola player to play with extra vibrato?

A.

Write the word 'solo' above the section where this is required.

 

Another goodie I got from the same (retired) orchestral musician:

Q.

What is the ideal weight for a conductor?

A.

8 ounces, 14 with urn.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
PS I would be interested to see the Abertillery spec. I seem to remember it was on here once - 'couldn't find it on the church website though.

 

The spec is to be found by clicking the picture of the organ or the 'More Details' link on the 'Changing and Growing' page - but here is a link to the correct current spec (adjusted to keep the pedants happy B) ). It is possible you have been looking at the old website put together by my predecessor who died and which I have tried all ways to remove or replace with a redirection page. No one has a clue what his ID/password was; and the hosting company don't seem to want to know. Please excuse the minor rant.

 

PS the correct original spec is now on NPOR.

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The spec is to be found by clicking the picture of the organ or the 'More Details' link on the 'Changing and Growing' page - but here is a link to the correct current spec (adjusted to keep the pedants happy B) ). It is possible you have been looking at the old website put together by my predecessor who died and which I have tried all ways to remove or replace with a redirection page. No one has a clue what his ID/password was; and the hosting company don't seem to want to know. Please excuse the minor rant.

 

PS the correct original spec is now on NPOR.

 

Thanks.

 

AJJ

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The spec is to be found by clicking the picture of the organ or the 'More Details' link on the 'Changing and Growing' page - but here is a link to the correct current spec (adjusted to keep the pedants happy :huh: ). It is possible you have been looking at the old website put together by my predecessor who died and which I have tried all ways to remove or replace with a redirection page. No one has a clue what his ID/password was; and the hosting company don't seem to want to know. Please excuse the minor rant.

 

PS the correct original spec is now on NPOR.

 

Hi

 

And if you care to send us the current spec, that can also go on NPOR!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I wear hood and gown for funerals and weddings as it seems people like to see the organist "dressed up" - it is also - especially in the case of funerals, possibly a mark of respect. Other times I wear hood and gown are Midnight Mass and the Easter Vigil - once again because people seem to expect it. Other times it's what I first lay my hands on that day!

 

Peter

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Hi

 

And if you care to send us the current spec, that can also go on NPOR!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

A version of the current spec has been there for some years. It needs updating, but only when all is working fully and settled (almost there!) Would you like the 'dream spec' too? :huh:

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Regarding robes...I was told this wonderful tale by a former incumbent of my parents' church.

 

This gentleman had just acquired the services of a new lay reader, a doctor by profession. After the evensong at which said reader/doctor had preached his first sermon, my parents' friend was accosted by one of the ladies in his congregation.

 

"Vicar", she said, "it's not right that xxx should have a nicer hood than you. If you let me have yours tonight, I'll sew some fur on it for next week".

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A version of the current spec has been there for some years. It needs updating, but only when all is working fully and settled (almost there!) Would you like the 'dream spec' too? :blink:

 

Hi

 

We don't record "dream specs" on NPOR - we have more than enough to do with real organs! We will note "prepared for" stops etc. - but they often never happen. The current one, once the work is done, would be aprreciated.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Lee Blick
Regarding robes...I was told this wonderful tale by a former incumbent of my parents' church.

 

This gentleman had just acquired the services of a new lay reader, a doctor by profession. After the evensong at which said reader/doctor had preached his first sermon, my parents' friend was accosted by one of the ladies in his congregation.

 

"Vicar", she said, "it's not right that xxx should have a nicer hood than you. If you let me have yours tonight, I'll sew some fur on it for next week".

 

Why bother? You could get one on Ebay or buy a 'doctorate' on a dodgy 'university' website... :blink:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dr Head, organist of St Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh may years ago, had many academic hoods to go with his degrees. When he was playing for services, Mrs Head would sit on the bench with him, & during the course of the service change his hood several times over.

Many clergy today, myself included, have tried to pare down the quantity of holy clothes we wear. Unless absolutely necessary, I now simply wear a cassock-alb, accompanied by a stole if the service is a sacrament. It is possible to play in this fairly loose-fitting garment. I see no reason at all for someone who is simply playing the organ to turn out like a Christmas tree.

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Guest Barry Williams
Dr Head, organist of St Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh may years ago, had many academic hoods to go with his degrees. When he was playing for services, Mrs Head would sit on the bench with him, & during the course of the service change his hood several times over.

Many clergy today, myself included, have tried to pare down the quantity of holy clothes we wear. Unless absolutely necessary, I now simply wear a cassock-alb, accompanied by a stole if the service is a sacrament. It is possible to play in this fairly loose-fitting garment. I see no reason at all for someone who is simply playing the organ to turn out like a Christmas tree.

 

I prefer playing without robes whenever possible, being a member of a professional that dresses up from time to time during the week. However, this afternoon I played a well-known Toccata by that chap Widor. I practised it without robes but nearly came unstuck on the last two pages passing my left hand under the right (on the Choir organ) and struggling with the intervention of a long sleeve!

 

It would be interesting to know what attire makes organists 'turn out like a Christmas tree.' and to know exactly what the phrase 'simply playing the organ' means. I am interested especially in 'simply'.

 

Barry Williams

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Surely the best thing is to wear what is appropriate to the traditions of the place, the requirements of the service and the expectations of clergy/congregation etc without becoming slavishly tied to one idea or another. I have managed in cassock and surplice, gown and hood, mufti and once, at a youth service, jeans and tee-shirt. My preference is to conduct in some sort of robes as you are much more visible than at most consoles.

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