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Songs Of Praise - The Organ


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Was he perhaps quoting Isobel Baillie? Her autobiography was entitled "Never Sing Louder than Lovely".

Thanks, Vox. I was trying to remember where I had come across that before. ;)

 

I can think of one or two singers I've made music with recently who could do with heeding that advice! <_<

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I wondered about this silly statement made by Huw Edwards. After some thought, I think I might know why. Often we come across bad spellings of "Lieblich Gedeckt", including "Lieblich Gedacht". Gedacht is a German word for something imaginary, so it's just possible that a BBC researcher, looking in a German dictionary, came up with "lovely imaginary" and decided to make it "lovely thoughts".

That does sound quite plausible, though he could have picked up the explanation at any time. I can see it now: the young teenager approches his German teacher: "Sir, what does 'Lieblich Gedackt' mean?" Teacher, of course, knows nothing about organs...

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Just watched it online, my thoughts...

 

I always predicted that after the programme there would be some things which everybody would see which weren't quite right, as have been highlighted. But it doesn't matter that everything wasn't technically correct, the average viewer will hopefully have got the message.

Main negative point - the old guy really started off a debate which didn't need starting - modern worship songs vs traditional hymns. It just wasn't the place for that kind of debate, and sets organists aside as people who can't and won't modernise.

Archer's bit - was cheesy I guess but I didn't mind it that much.

Good to see young organists featured, showing that the skill is being passed on.

 

Rant time now - that Coe Fen descant (by Jonathan Bielby) was just horrible. A wonderful hymn with fantastic harmony was totally ruined and what should be a great climax was nullified altogether. The re-harmonisation simply turned Naylor's great accompaniment into a mess and all the beauty was lost, and the descant itself added absolutely nothing, it didn't lift the hymn at all. I have heard decent descants to Coe Fen, but they work best with Naylor's harmonisation. A great hymn to choose, but that descant!

And I don't get Engelberg as a tune, don't know what it is, just doesn't sound quite right to me.

 

Overall, good even to see the programme being made, and I think it was decent enough.

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I'm sure the BBC thought that they were doing a good job, the whole thing seemed very well-intentioned and, on the whole, pretty well done too. As others have mentioned, however, there were some intensely irritating moments. My own selection:

 

1. The poor cutting of Gordon Stewart playing the Bach G major. We heard the opening something like three times, all tastefully pasted together. I appreciate they might have only taken one camera to Huddersfield (times are hard!) but why not get Gordon to play different sections while you take photos from different angles?

 

2. The over-dubbing of electronic enhancement at St.Sepulchre's Holborn. This may be a small instrument, but it's an extremely effective one, the sound recordist should have left the natural sound alone.

 

3. They visited several churches, but rarely gave a view of the player or - most relevant to the theme of the programme - the fascinating thing that is an organ console, even for non-organ lovers. Mind you, I can guess the reason: (Cynic by name....) I reckon that while the interviews were new [Anne Marsden Thomas, James Parsons, Gordon Stewart, Malcolm Archer and Richard Ingrams] the hymns were simply snipped out of pre-existing broadcasts. A certain amount more care might have been exercised, or were these the best that they could find relating to this topic?

 

3. Much the worst - having filmed several people all saying that an organ is the perfect instrument to support and lead hymns, they bring in Maurice Murphy (or whoever) playing Piccolo Trumpet at St.Stephen's Walbrook. This, for me, is totally symptomatic of Songs of Praise at its tantalsising, 'rabbit caught in headlights' worst. Ever since some suit decided that descants could liven up a dull programme, there has been a mini industry at work - probably at a fairly generous rate per note for SOP's own arrangers. The Daily Service is plagued with this too. They can't sing a meditative hymn without a guest Oboeist, and they can't do a nice uplifting number without a live Trumpet. To crown the indignity, the spoken introduction for Walbrook told us all about the colours an organ has - and then promptly declined to use them. The descant was 'clever', but in no way did it help the hymn. It was artistic in that it was well-played, but as useful/relevant as a pigeon dropping.

 

4. This is a personal one - why, when you have a singer with a face like a fish, do you put them in the front row and point the camera straight down their throat as if daring them to go on singing?

 

 

Best bits IMHO: David Wood, Huw Edwards (even if the German translation was adrift) and the chunk made specially at St.Giles' Cripplegate with James, Anne and the youngsters.

[in passing: where was the RCO? The RSCM?]

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One thing that does strike me is that we have a tremendous ambassador for the organ in the person of Huw Edwards. After all, when did you ever hear of a senior newscaster enthusing about the pipe organ and admitting to having learned how to play in the chapel in South Wales? On his programme "The Welsh in London" there is a feature of him striking a chord at the console of St Paul's Cathedral and he talks of this being the fulfilment of a lifetime's ambition - he's an organ nut - and that is terrific!! I have not the slightest problem with Huw Edwards presenting that programme - possibly it was the best thing about it. Next to Archer's smirk..... ;)

 

Another pro-organ newscaster is Boggy Marsh on Wogan's prog - but I don't listen to that since I discovered that Radio 4 is much better to lull one back to sleep.....

 

Actually we've a lot to be thankful for - and I shall not look at another Lieblich Gedeckt (as spelt on my Wyvern Toaster) without having lovely thoughts.... <_<

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Gilding the lilly, I thought. Mind you, the gild wasn't very attractive in either the descant or the reharmonization.

Utterly. I was expecting something good, and was very disappointed. I couldn't see the point in it.

 

I wonder if the point if Malcolm Archer's contribution was aimed not at organists but at Joe Public - two well known tunes from differing eras and traditions being knitted together on an instrument which many of JP will have heard of. No doubt MA himself winced a bit imagining the ribbing he might get from cathedral collegues!

 

I wonder why Huw Edwards in his demonstation of the stops didn't illustrate the mutations or mixtures?

 

Peter

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I wonder if the point if Malcolm Archer's contribution was aimed not at organists but at Joe Public - two well known tunes from differing eras and traditions being knitted together on an instrument which many of JP will have heard of. No doubt MA himself winced a bit imagining the ribbing he might get from cathedral collegues!

 

I wonder why Huw Edwards in his demonstation of the stops didn't illustrate the mutations or mixtures?

 

Peter

 

He was sitting at what appeared to be an unaltered little H&H from the 1920s or 30s. At the time, I thought it might have been St.Sepulchre's again - anyway, seated at a 15 stop H&H, you don't demonstrate mixtures because there aren't any!

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He was sitting at what appeared to be an unaltered little H&H from the 1920s or 30s. At the time, I thought it might have been St.Sepulchre's again - anyway, seated at a 15 stop H&H, you don't demonstrate mixtures because there aren't any!

 

Huw Edwards was playing the St. Sepulchre organ, careful observation proves this, and fine it sounds too. In our music God is glorified, may well have been accompanied on an electronic, which might explain the difference in sound, the keen eyed amongst you will have noticed a second console in the church. I too was disappointed by Malcolm Archer's contribution, surely someone of his talent could have played something entirely from the theatre tradition, even if it is Songs of Praise!

 

Jonathan

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Anne Marsden Thomas's comment about young people having access to practice is very true, I have experienced this with some pupils! They are the future of the organ, and it is very shortsighted of churches not to allow them access. Well done Anne for making the point so strongly.

 

Jonathan

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Anne Marsden Thomas's comment about young people having access to practice is very true, I have experienced this with some pupils! They are the future of the organ, and it is very shortsighted of churches not to allow them access. Well done Anne for making the point so strongly.

 

Jonathan

 

 

Sadly, this is not a new problem and I agree 100%.

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Just one more niggle while we are about it.

 

"The way this pipe speaks is much like a child's recorder ..." Not the same as like an adult's recorder, then. The recorder can be a very beautiful and subtle instrument when well played, but that phrase, probably quite unintentionally, doesn't do the recorder justice.

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And another! "The idea of a town hall, a concert hall with its own instrument is a thing unique to Britain and starts in the 19th century and it's all part of civic pride."

 

Technically that may be strictly true, but it's as well to remember the Dutch tradition, that the organ in the church often belonged to the town, and the organist was employed by the town rather than the church.

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Anne Marsden Thomas's comment about young people having access to practice is very true, I have experienced this with some pupils! They are the future of the organ, and it is very shortsighted of churches not to allow them access. Well done Anne for making the point so strongly.

 

Jonathan

 

I have not yet watched the programme, so I hope that I have not mis-anticipated her line of reasoning; However, there are some churches (as distinct from cathedrals) where this presents a genuine problem. At my own church, my pupils cannot normally practise on the instrument for the following reasons:

 

1) It is one of England's 'greater churches' and has a high number of visitors annually - with regular guided tours taking place.

 

2) There are at least two services every day.

 

3) During January and February the building closes at 16h. My students will barely have left school by then.

 

4) A spate of thefts has resulted in our insurance company forbidding any member of staff from lending keys to anyone other than another authorised keyholder.

 

5) I teach every day and each week-night evening. I am simply unavailable to let pupils in and out of the building. (In any case, they are not permitted to remain unsupervised locked in the church.)

 

6) If I need to practise in the day, even I have to play very quitely - unless I am practising shortly before a major service.

 

To give but one illustration of how difficult things can be, even for me:

 

Last year, I had managed to reserve one Tuesday and a couple of Saturday evenings in which to practise for our carol service and other special services. Next to the entry in the diary, I had written in very clear capitals: 'PLEASE DO NOT OVER-BOOK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.' A church member contacted me to say that he wanted to use the Minster that evening in order that some chap could come and talk to any interested parties about the preservation of our medieval wall painting. I asked him what I had written beside the booking and he said "Oh, but I did not think that it meant that - it is the only time he can come." I pointed-out that, in order to fulfill the requirements of my job to the best of my ability, I had to practise. Since all other evenings were taken up with every school in the area using the Minster for their carol services, these were the only occasions on which I could practise. As it happened, I won - that time.

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And another! "The idea of a town hall, a concert hall with its own instrument is a thing unique to Britain and starts in the 19th century and it's all part of civic pride."

 

Technically that may be strictly true, but it's as well to remember the Dutch tradition, that the organ in the church often belonged to the town, and the organist was employed by the town rather than the church.

 

 

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

 

 

That was just a legal loop-hole I think. The Dutch uber-protestants, like their English counterparts, had this thing about "the word of God" and simple metrical psalms. Thus the organ was banished from worship. With a flash of true genius, the secular authorities realised that by making the organ a civic-instrument with a civic-musician, they could use it up to the point that the services began, and then afterwards once worship was ended. Furthermore, the protestants did not recognise the sanctity of churches except during divince worship, and to this day, that is still very much the case in the Netherlands, when many protestant churches become museums, concert-halls and even dinner-venues. (I recall a Dutch host wandering around a church smoking a cigarette while I played the organ).

 

Of course, the real genius of the Dutch after the reformation, was their ability to allow things to happen which were forbidden.

 

So if you were looking for the RC Church in the Attic ( "Op Boom") in Amsterdam, no-one would know where it was, and they would probably have denied all knowledge of it.

 

I'm not quite sure how you hide an attic church at the top of a warehouse on a quiet Sunday morning, when there is quite a substantial 2-manual organ situated just beneath the roof!

 

It could only happen in tolerant and pragmatic Holland.

 

MM

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Curiously the presenter announced a trumpet stop and then drew a "cornopean".

 

He continued about "The lovely trumpet descant that is based on the tune associated with the great organists Henry Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke". The programme "factsheet" states "The trumpet descant is based on the famous 'Trumpet Voluntary', thought for many years to be by Henry Purcell, but now known to have been composed by Jeremiah Clarke."

 

It certainly has nothing to do with the famous 'Trumpet volunteer" based on the Prince of Denmark's March, which probably was written by JC but mistakenly attributed to Purcell by Henry Wood. It is actually based on the "Martial Air" which, as far as I know, has never been associated with Clarke.

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We're a critical bunch, aren't we, folks?!

 

The BBC has actually dedicated a programme to promoting the organ to Joe Public, and made it informative and (I think) enjoyable to the layman, and here we are grumbling about it.

 

Perhaps the BBC could be persuaded to launch a new programme called "Grumpy Old Organists"! :P;)

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

(I recall a Dutch host wandering around a church smoking a cigarette while I played the organ).

 

MM

;) Just like the tribune at Notre-Dame de Paris then... or at Saint-Denis, where Pierre Pincemaille's most impressive skill is improvising (in characteristic white hot fashion) one handed whilst, with the other, retrieving a cigarette from the open packet under the stop jamb and lighting it from the dying remnants of the almost spent cigarette in his mouth. Seamless, and totally authentic!

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Curiously the presenter announced a trumpet stop and then drew a "cornopean".

 

He continued about "The lovely trumpet descant that is based on the tune associated with the great organists Henry Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke". The programme "factsheet" states "The trumpet descant is based on the famous 'Trumpet Voluntary', thought for many years to be by Henry Purcell, but now known to have been composed by Jeremiah Clarke."

 

It certainly has nothing to do with the famous 'Trumpet volunteer" based on the Prince of Denmark's March, which probably was written by JC but mistakenly attributed to Purcell by Henry Wood. It is actually based on the "Martial Air" which, as far as I know, has never been associated with Clarke.

 

I read with interest the comments from "we, who know better". It is easy to knock walls down but I wonder how many of us have contacted the BBC to tell them how splendid it was to have an enjoyable and interesting programme about organs and when can we have another one?

 

If I were a BBC producer, having read some of our gripes it would be pop groups, pianos and guitars and even combs and paper from now on.

 

It's joe public we need to get interested. Lets launch a `thanks' campaign and ask for more.

 

FF

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I read with interest the comments from "we, who know better". It is easy to knock walls down but I wonder how many of us have contacted the BBC to tell them how splendid it was to have an enjoyable and interesting programme about organs and when can we have another one?

 

If I were a BBC producer, having read some of our gripes it would be pop groups, pianos and guitars and even combs and paper from now on.

 

It's joe public we need to get interested. Lets launch a `thanks' campaign and ask for more.

 

FF

 

Whilst I agree that appreciation often helps, unfortunately this method apparently had no effect with regard to Music for the Iron Voice and other former Radio Three organ broadcasts.

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I read with interest the comments from "we, who know better". It is easy to knock walls down but I wonder how many of us have contacted the BBC to tell them how splendid it was to have an enjoyable and interesting programme about organs and when can we have another one?

 

The answer - at least as far as Wales is concerned - is, so far, nil!

 

S

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I may be grumpy, but there is a serious point to be made. There are many people around who are knowledgable about organs, and if any one of them had been invited to view the programme at a late stage in editing, most of the errors would have been identified and removed. I am sure that there was plenty of other good material available which could have been spliced in to fill any gaps.

 

WE know that there are errors, because it is our particular interest, but when we watch programmes on other topics we don't always question what we are told. One can't expect the production teams to know a lot about all of the programmes that they work on, but I think that it is reasonable to expect that people who know the subjects should check programmes for accuracy before they are broadcast.

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I have not yet watched the programme, so I hope that I have not mis-anticipated her line of reasoning; However, there are some churches (as distinct from cathedrals) where this presents a genuine problem. At my own church, my pupils cannot normally practise on the instrument for the following reasons:

 

1) It is one of England's 'greater churches' and has a high number of visitors annually - with regular guided tours taking place.

 

2) There are at least two services every day.

 

3) During January and February the building closes at 16h. My students will barely have left school by then.

 

4) A spate of thefts has resulted in our insurance company forbidding any member of staff from lending keys to anyone other than another authorised keyholder.

 

5) I teach every day and each week-night evening. I am simply unavailable to let pupils in and out of the building. (In any case, they are not permitted to remain unsupervised locked in the church.)

 

6) If I need to practise in the day, even I have to play very quitely - unless I am practising shortly before a major service.

 

To give but one illustration of how difficult things can be, even for me:

 

Last year, I had managed to reserve one Tuesday and a couple of Saturday evenings in which to practise for our carol service and other special services. Next to the entry in the diary, I had written in very clear capitals: 'PLEASE DO NOT OVER-BOOK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.' A church member contacted me to say that he wanted to use the Minster that evening in order that some chap could come and talk to any interested parties about the preservation of our medieval wall painting. I asked him what I had written beside the booking and he said "Oh, but I did not think that it meant that - it is the only time he can come." I pointed-out that, in order to fulfill the requirements of my job to the best of my ability, I had to practise. Since all other evenings were taken up with every school in the area using the Minster for their carol services, these were the only occasions on which I could practise. As it happened, I won - that time.

 

I think we all appreciate the problems in some churches (and cathedrals), but there are many out there where there is no activity during the day, and where a pupil could practice (supervised by a parent), but the church authorities won't lend a key, because they cannot be trusted, or they don't want the organ played. To me this is just criminal. Firstly they are making the assumption that as they are under eighteen they must be untrustworthy, and secondly, they are ensuring that at some point in the future their organ is never played!

 

Jonathan

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The answer - at least as far as Wales is concerned - is, so far, nil!

 

S

 

 

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

 

 

They're far too busy making cooking and house-hunting programmes.

 

I must have complained a dozen times about the puacity of "Shaun the Sheep" episodes, but to no avail.

 

MM

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