Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Recommended Posts

A well-worn topic, I'm afraid, but I can't resist the rant.

 

Last Sunday Exeter Cathedral girls and men came to sing Evensong at my local parish church, so I toddled down the hill to hear them. It's no good moaning about clap-happiness if one doesn't support decent church music when it's on offer - and besides, I wanted to hear them. And very enjoyable it was (even if Gray in B flat was mostly unmemorable - it was a practical choice though).

 

Anyway... Actually being in the congregation was an eye-opener. Although this church is quite traditionally minded, with a choir and something of a musical tradition, I had no great hopes that the congregation would show any musical sophistication. But I didn't expect quite the level of pig-ignorance that was shown.

 

As a child I was brought up to treat the time prior to the service as a time of spiritual preparation for the coming service. You prayed and you then sat quietly. Not this lot. Reverence didn't enter into it. What we had was an unholy chatter, entirely devoid of any consideration for anyone who might actually be wanting to listen to Mr Millington's playing - or preparing to worship for that matter.

 

For the concluding voluntary he gave us a really splendid performance of the first movement of Mendelssohn's first - real quality stuff. Now I was quite prepared for the congregation not to listen to the voluntary, but, even with my jaundiced cynicism, I was amazed to see at first hand the level of complete and total disregard of almost the whole congregation. They literally couldn't get out of their seats fast enough to start yakking. With the exception of about eight people (of whom my wife and I were two and the couple whose access to the aisle we were blocking were two more) they didn't just not listen - they totally IGNORED this first-rate playing. Talk about casting pearls before swine. I know I shouldn't be so surprised since we all know this goes on. It was just witnessing it "from the inside" that was so shocking.

 

If this is the level of attention generally paid to us organists - and I feel quite sure it is - what is the point of playing voluntaries at all? As far as this lot is concerned, at any rate, if they didn't get a voluntary I honestly doubt they would notice.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 106
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Funnily enough, I had much the same experience a few years back when the same choir came to sing Evensong at one of my churches. A sizeable congregation actually turned up, but weren't interested in the first organ voluntary at all. I got so cross with the noise that I got up, and went to every row of pews and told them all to shut up!

 

They're better educated nowadays. The vicar goes out before the first organ voluntary, says the opening prayer, and then they sit quietly (well, most of them!) and listen to the opening voluntary. He reminds them quite frequently that it is our practise to remain quiet before the service begins nowadays and this seems to do the trick.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest spottedmetal
If this is the level of attention generally paid to us organists - and I feel quite sure it is - what is the point of playing voluntaries at all? As far as this lot is concerned, at any rate, if they didn't get a voluntary I honestly doubt they would notice.

Isn't this where, whilst an organ might be marvellous, a high pressure reeded Harrison and Harrison comes into its own playing a piece where people just have to sit up and take notice!? I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person mentioning Norman Cocker in recent threads! The Karg Elert Nun Danket is another one that comes crashing in on full organ - people can't chatter with that!

 

Finally my outrageous toaster expansion project is taking shape. For the first time today we were able to connect up 3 of the additional 4 boxes providing over 60 extra stops to the existing 40 stop spec with appropriate amps and speaker units. I opened a large chord on full organ to an unsuspecting visitor . . . and he nearly jumped out of his skin. That's another convert coming to hear Vierne 2 and the 1812 on Easter Monday! (This project, by the way, is not merely to create an instrument of obscene size - it offers a versatility that enables experimentation of organ design, challenges to play and register, as well as for instance giving us access to that Vox Humana combination with 4ft Flute and beating 8ft Flute arising from discussion on the Albi thread.)

 

Getting people to take notice is to some extent the product of a command of drama. This evening at a special opening of a library exhibition about the actor and artistic director Edward Gordon Craig I saw one of his exhortationary instructions to performers. It ran along the lines: "You have to get over that wall. Jump? Too high. Scale it. You have to talk over it - fly it! Live it!" Sadly there was no time to to copy it out exactly, but musicians have to live by the same ideals as others in the performing arts. If people pass you by, you have to grab their attention, and if not, they will pass you by all the same and the worst that might happen to you is a slap in the face.

 

Organists have to find a way of wearing the mantle of drama, and if they do, they will be listened to.

 

Achieving this at the beginning or end of a service is a challenge, but one that must be faced nowadays if the worth of an organist is going to be appreciated and not merely taken for granted.

 

Long live the Ophicliede!

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

Link to post
Share on other sites
The Karg Elert Nun Danket is another one that comes crashing in on full organ - people can't chatter with that!

 

You wanna bet?! They'll only shout louder, and get cross that the organist is making it hard for them to hear themselves talk! :angry:

Link to post
Share on other sites

Particularly galling for us amateurs who put in hard work to get something up to scratch for "before" and "after". I don't play for that many services, but even in my limited experience you rarely get the bulk of the congregation to show a little respect to those who do want to listen, even if they don't want to listen themselves. The only time I had the majority stay for an outgoing voluntary was for Lefébure-Wély. Still, it's good practice if nothing else.

 

Funny thing is, though, they'll sit and won't move until the outgoing voluntary starts, as if it's their signal to start talking loudly/departing. They'd complain bitterly if there was no voluntary.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest spottedmetal
You wanna bet?! They'll only shout louder, and get cross that the organist is making it hard for them to hear themselves talk! :angry:

;) Oh dear - what a slap in the face. :)

 

As a schoolteacher, my late mother used to relate how a very wise headmistress cautioned her teachers when writing reports "Now remember", she said, "any criticism you make of the child is a criticism of the teacher".

 

Well of course this can be taken too far and inappropropriately at times, but in my new experience of learning how to lead my eldest teenager, I look at what I perceive to be his faults only to see my own failings in not having led him, encouraged him or enthused him in the right way.

 

Even during a service in which my teenagers giggle during a hymn, how can I chastise them when the tune which I dare not call music comes straight out of Salad Days?

 

Perhaps we need the inspiration of Barbara Dennerlein to inspire skills of new music which might be perceived to be more relevant and to thereby gain the interest that our audience lacks? In the case of an inattentive congregation, were one to switch to something wholly unexpected, perhaps they might be engaged.

 

The problem is that we live in an age of musack in which the recording is cheap and live performance is not recognised, take for granted and undervalued. Whilst we expect one sort of noise in the supermarket we expect another in a church, and take both for the background environment in which we as the consumer are always right and nothing else matters. That's what our Godless generation are always told in the illusion of Beelzebub which the modern world inhabits.

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

 

PS

for an outgoing voluntary was for Lefébure-Wély

That jolly one that sounds a little as though it comes from a fairground? Yes - the organist up the road captivated us all with that one. Unexpected foot-tapping happy stuff . . . Can't be regarded in the category of boring or ordinary . . .

Link to post
Share on other sites
As a schoolteacher, my late mother used to relate how a very wise headmistress cautioned her teachers when writing reports "Now remember", she said, "any criticism you make of the child is a criticism of the teacher".

 

Well of course this can be taken too far and inappropropriately at times

 

Spot

 

 

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

 

 

My brother got a report which said, "I can see no potential for this boy!"

 

One PhD later.......

 

I got an English report which read, "He is lazy, inattentive, and a thoroughly nasty little boy."

 

I was gutted. How dare he refer to my size?

 

Everything else was quite true. He died; I wrote a novel. :angry:

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

"I was gutted. How dare he refer to my size?"

(Quote)

 

Which size ?

 

"Everything else was quite true. He died; I wrote a novel."

(Quote)

 

I did the same for a maths teacher: "La mort du professeur de mathématiques".

(The death of the math teacher).

 

Halas someone did tell him about it. My chance was he was a true belgian, so he

laught at it.

 

Pierre

Link to post
Share on other sites

The experience of indifference or downright rudeness on the part of the public is a familiar one, and the mention of the ubiquity of 'muzak' above hits the nail firmly on the head.

 

Nevertheless, when faced with such a demonstration of that rudeness, I am sometimes able to remember the time a congregation sat still for a final voluntary I was playing, and applauded at the end. (Mind you, maybe they applauded because I'd stopped at last!) It does do something to dispel the depression engendered by an indifferent group.

Link to post
Share on other sites

When I sang at St. Mary's, Warwick it was the practice for the audience (for such it mostly was) to listen attentively to the final voluntary. If it was something good, then the gentlemen choristers would dump their robes in the vestry and make a rapid re-entry to the nave to listen. There was usually some applause. It's appallingly bad manners for anyone to make a noise during the voluntary (except the organist!) - I was always taught that the service wasn't over until the last chord had died away...

 

It irritated me for years that the audience in Kings for the Christmas Eve 9 Carols rustled and chatted after the Bach so that one's attention was drawn away from the second piece. In September last year I emailed the BBC and asked if it might be possible for someone at the college to ask for quiet? Whether it was my email or not there was a distinct improvement last year.

 

P

Link to post
Share on other sites
One PhD later.......

My wife's parents were told that she needed to go to a school for the educationally subnormal; they responded (fortunately) by sending her to a good private school. But even they (parents and school alike) didn't twig that the reason she seemed inattentive in class was simply that she was deaf! That was diagnosed by a fellow student at university when getting her interested in music.

 

Paul

Link to post
Share on other sites
Isn't this where, whilst an organ might be marvellous, a high pressure reeded Harrison and Harrison comes into its own playing a piece where people just have to sit up and take notice!?

No. Noise is no substitute for music. It would only drive the prople out quicker - or, as Holz says, they would complain bitterly. Force feeding someone never makes them grateful. What is needed is a change of attitude in the congregation. It is a matter in which the clergy/ministers should be taking the lead - the souls of the unrighteous are their bailliwick after all.

Link to post
Share on other sites
No. Noise is no substitute for music. It would only drive the prople out quicker - or, as Holz says, they would complain bitterly. Force feeding someone never makes them grateful. What is needed is a change of attitude in the congregation. It is a matter in which the clergy/ministers should be taking the lead - the souls of the unrighteous are their bailliwick after all.

 

 

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

 

 

I once had a pet oyster, which got very annoyed at the sound of an Arthur Harrison organ. To the delicate sound of a Samuel Green organ, it would open its little shell and positively smile.

 

Seriously; there is a certain psychology about "noise," which is not entirely connected with loudness.

 

Thus, an organ with bright mixtures and even quite modest but fiery reeds, will often make people sit up and listen (or flee) far more than half a dozen Tubas and Ophicleides.

 

I very much doubt, that in absolute number of decibels, a Cavaille-Coll organ is any more powerful than an Arthur Harrison organ, but only with one of them is it possible to still hold a conversation with the person next to you.

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm certainly finding that the pre-service music in the morning is getting to be rather a waste of time, as I can't compete with the gossip. I tend to play very quitely for a while, and then build up to quite a crescendo, then stop. Of course they all then fall silent and realise how loud they've been....but there's only a certain amount of times you can do that. Evenings are much better as they are usually silent before the service (but then there's less people to gossip with).

 

One thing that really annoys me is that on the rare occasions when a preacher chooses a modern hymn, those who don't agree with it simply refuse to sing and stay sitting down. Now, I'm open-minded, and I do like a few modern hymns, but equally I don't like some of the older hymns. That said, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't refuse to sing it, sit down with my arms folded, and stare blankly at the wall. I this is ultimate rudeness on the part of a few individuals, and can really 'make or break' a service for the preacher.

 

David

Link to post
Share on other sites
I tend to play very quitely for a while, and then build up to quite a crescendo, then stop.

 

Preferably on a big dominant seventh chord. I have "fun" with some badly behaved wedding congregations with this. They seem to click on what you want from them after you do this a couple of times.

Link to post
Share on other sites
My wife's parents were told that she needed to go to a school for the educationally subnormal; they responded (fortunately) by sending her to a good private school. But even they (parents and school alike) didn't twig that the reason she seemed inattentive in class was simply that she was deaf! That was diagnosed by a fellow student at university when getting her interested in music.

 

Paul

 

 

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

 

 

This would make a marvellous and funny thread. "What our teachers and tutors said about us."

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sent incomplete above - oh the joys of pedentry!

 

Seriously, I have also all but given up playing before a service since it is difficult to compete with not only congregational but sometimes choristers' chit-chat, and I have even known the pre-service music to be interrupted by the celebrant who wanted to explain something about the day's liturgy!

 

Many years ago I provided a set of notes to the Easter Vigil concluding voluntary - Langlais' Incantation - which was duplicated and given out with the hymnals in the hope that this might reduce the noise level and engender some inteest in the voluntary. Of course I need not have bothered. Indeed Vox, I too sometimes wonder why we bother.

 

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got over this by being ever so nice to everyone in the church. It seems I'm generally liked by most people in the church (even if I have different opinions and tastes to some of them) so I've got an appreciative and supportive congregation when I play. Luckily, I'm organist of a lovely church which seems free of the internal politics and plain pig-rudeness you get in some places. But never overlook the importance of personal relationships and mutual respect - it makes everything else so much easier.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I mentioned on here last week that when attending a "" celebrity"" recital in the main roman catholic church in Marbella, Spain, that the people chatted during quiet movements of the musicl, took photo's with flash of the video screen at the front of the church, during the recital, and walked in and out during the recital and not having the decencey to wait for a suitable break before opening the large sqeaky door. If it had been one or two organists playing that I know, they would have stopped playing, lent over the west end balcony and told them in no uncertain words. It was a shame that this organist must have spent a long time practicing, setting up everthing and having to put up with so many ignorant people ( and there was quite a few ) I am off to Holy Trinity, hull on sat, John Scott Whitley is playing and I would like to bet that everyone acts properly there.

Regards

Pete

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest spottedmetal
No. Noise is no substitute for music. It would only drive the prople out quicker - or, as Holz says, they would complain bitterly. Force feeding someone never makes them grateful.
Yes . . . of course! Love can never be demanded, it has to be earned . . . and that Lefebure Wely Sortie III (bet it was that one wasn't it?) is a good way to do it. However, I'm always happy to present an extreme point of view, on principle, as sometimes there's a grain of truth to be excavated.

 

The object of a flourish to inspire sheer awe was certainly not lost on Francis Jackson, Flor Peters, George Dyson and others - if they are still in print OUP "An album of Praise" and "A festive album" are great fun. . . . together with an Arthur Harrison Tuba and Ophicliede to play them on - especially the Sidney Campbell "Gaudeamus". That's a piece that makes people sit up and listen!

 

The trouble with these is managing not to disturb anyone whilst practicing - I'm a little worried about my neighbours when inspiration comes at 2am. :)

 

More seriously however, I'm wondering if the problem is deeper. This morning an organist visited who plays at a church or two and has taught. He brought his Bach and his grandson, and all three were super . . . and the two played the third brilliantly. But he hadn't come across Pierne, Boellmann nor Cocker.

 

One might wonder whether the neo-baroque movement went much too far too enthusiastically and ponder if it caused a shift of respect for repertoire in which Bach came out on top. As Prelude and Postlude, Bach's too comfortable, too intellectual causing people to gloss over it as musack if they can't concentrate and too bland, allowing them to talk over it and ignore it.

 

In focussing on a near exclusive diet of Bach seeking (mere) delicacy of touch and definition, students are missing out on a repertoire in which the (sorry to mention it again) Cocker Tuba Tune presents arguably equal technical difficulties of coordination. Indeed, such pieces can still be enjoyed by a congregation whilst talking ;) and :P one might muse that at least an Arthur Harrison might enable them to enjoy both!

 

Indeed playing on a machine in which the sound comes back 1/4 second later trains one to have confidence in what one's fingers are doing, dissociating the sound almost as a seperate entity secondarily to ones major area of concentration, just as one's audience is doing whilst asking their husbands whether they think that the Sunday roast might be burning already.

 

Are we too serious? :angry: After all, congregations are coming to appease with and celebrate their relationship with the Powers that Be Above, and their love for their neighbours if not to show off their fine Sunday Bests to people they don't really love at all . . . not to their relationship with our organs, music that is too intellectual for them to want to engage, and a concert in depressive silence . . .

 

Best wishes

 

Spot

 

PS As for seemingly lighter music, does anyone else play the Oscar Rasbach setting of "Trees"? I recall a particularly charming performance of this at the Musical Museum at Kew a long time ago - an example of lighter devotional repertoire devoid of the mould of Salad Days.

 

PPS In relation to the final paragraph, which is possibly capable of misinterpretation, why do we bother? Is not the opening voluntary to prepare the mind for Divine intervention, and the postlude the celebration of having received Divine revelation or the going out into the world with the reinforcement of a hell-fire sermon? Do we lack the latter nowadays? Perhaps this is a matter for discussion on

http://www.musikundtheologie.de/

Link to post
Share on other sites

The choir of Westminster Abbey recently toured Australia. I attend their performance in Hamer Hall in Melbourne, where the sub-organist, Robert Quinney, played the Toccata from the T, A & F of Bach in the first half of the program, and Dupre's T&F in g minor in the second half. The choir exited the stage before each of the organ pieces, and the audience responded by starting to talk. Many of them continued when the organ music started, and some continued all the way through, despite 'sh's from people around them. Clearly, for some, organ music was not an integral part of the concert.

 

I did wonder if these were the people who had become used to talking while the prelude and postlude were being played. :o

 

Discouraging, or challenging?

Link to post
Share on other sites
The choir of Westminster Abbey recently toured Australia. I attend their performance in Hamer Hall in Melbourne, where the sub-organist, Robert Quinney, played the Toccata from the T, A & F of Bach in the first half of the program, and Dupre's T&F in g minor in the second half. The choir exited the stage before each of the organ pieces, and the audience responded by starting to talk. Many of them continued when the organ music started, and some continued all the way through, despite 'sh's from people around them. Clearly, for some, organ music was not an integral part of the concert.

 

I did wonder if these were the people who had become used to talking while the prelude and postlude were being played. :o

 

Discouraging, or challenging?

 

 

Did the programme notes (assuming there to have been any) make it clear that the organ pieces were an integral part of the concert? If so, I woiuld have done what I saw a conductor do once in Spain (though I am sure iit has happened elsewhere). He stopped the orchestra about 2 minutes into the piece (first novement of Beethoven 7), tuned to face the audience and requested, in such a way as to make it a command, silence.

 

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...