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At a recent meeting in my local Birmingham organist's Association our president gave an address having just been elected. And one of the things that came back to me while he was talking was the notion that live music is cheap in Churches. He is right of course this couldn't be further from the truth when we as Organist's see how badly Congregations behave in Church. I had to bite my tongue Easter Sunday morning having just played for a high Catholic Mass and wrestled with a larger Congregation then usual. The noise and chatter was appalling. Have u notice it dosen't matter how loudly u play the congregation have this habit of talking even louder over what your playing. But I thought I am not going to give in to this u lot will be begging for mercy lol I happen to be playing the Vierne Final Symphony no. 1 Sure enough I soon got there attention when I drew the super octave couplers with the big reeds and added the big open Wood in the pedal. I could match there endless banter. So seriously why do we bother to spend hours practising and making sure things go smoothly at a Service when we have to put up with these evil congregations ?

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Guest Cynic
At a recent meeting in my local Birmingham organist's Association our president gave an address having just been elected. And one of the things that came back to me while he was talking was the notion that live music is cheap in Churches. He is right of course this couldn't be further from the truth when we as Organist's see how badly Congregations behave in Church. I had to bite my tongue Easter Sunday morning having just played for a high Catholic Mass and wrestled with a larger Congregation then usual. The noise and chatter was appalling. Have u notice it dosen't matter how loudly u play the congregation have this habit of talking even louder over what your playing. But I thought I am not going to give in to this u lot will be begging for mercy lol I happen to be playing the Vierne Final Symphony no. 1 Sure enough I soon got there attention when I drew the super octave couplers with the big reeds and added the big open Wood in the pedal. I could match there endless banter. So seriously why do we bother to spend hours practising and making sure things go smoothly at a Service when we have to put up with these evil congregations ?

 

 

I have certainly felt like you do. To be absolutely frank, I don't think the congregation give it a moment's thought, it's not exactly rudeness, it's just the way they are with everything! This takes us back to the famous incident with W.T.Best and The Mayor (I don't recall at the inaugural recital at the organ of exactly which Town Hall). The mayor announced, 'the organ will now play' and the great Mr.Best (all praise and glory be unto him) simply did nothing.

 

'I said, Mr.Best, the organ will now play!'

 

'Let it, I'm not stopping it!'.

 

People talk over music all the time, they mean no harm. Piped music is to be there to be talked over, whether in restaurants, pubs, even live pianists in fashionable places expect it to be like that. The fact that at the time you describe they're in church and someone is trying to concentrate in order to play well simply does not occur to them.

 

This is not the attitude that bothers me - if you asked any of your congregation whether they enjoy your music, I'm sure they would say they were very happy with it. The attitude that bothers me is the clergy one - pace Revds. Patrick Coleman and Quentin Bellamy whom I am completely sure give their musicians the greatest encouragement and sympathy. The assumption often made by some of their brother and sister clergy is that everything we do is

1. effortless and

2. requires no preparation

 

The fact that I have paper qualifications and have been playing for services at one place or another since the age of thirteen does not make me either clairvoyant or able to turn on a sixpence and, critically, able to get a choir to follow me as I do so!

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The main problem is that these churches will insist on absolving people of their sins week in, week out - two or three times a Sunday in some places. What incentive is there to behave better when you're going to be forgiven in a few days?

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As an experiment, try simply switching off the organ at the end of the service and not play anything. Simply join the rabble for coffee, and see how many people comment on the lack of music. This might provide a good opportunity to make the point.

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At a recent meeting in my local Birmingham organist's Association our president gave an address having just been elected. And one of the things that came back to me while he was talking was the notion that live music is cheap in Churches. He is right of course this couldn't be further from the truth when we as Organist's see how badly Congregations behave in Church. I had to bite my tongue Easter Sunday morning having just played for a high Catholic Mass and wrestled with a larger Congregation then usual. The noise and chatter was appalling. Have u notice it dosen't matter how loudly u play the congregation have this habit of talking even louder over what your playing. But I thought I am not going to give in to this u lot will be begging for mercy lol I happen to be playing the Vierne Final Symphony no. 1 Sure enough I soon got there attention when I drew the super octave couplers with the big reeds and added the big open Wood in the pedal. I could match there endless banter. So seriously why do we bother to spend hours practising and making sure things go smoothly at a Service when we have to put up with these evil congregations ?

 

 

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

 

 

Without giving this a lot of in-depth thought and allowing myself time to shape a proper response, my initial reaction would be the suggestion that we now live in an age where two things are very apparent.

 

Firstly, people are often isolated, and whereas there was once a sense of "community," we now see the situation where, for example, an elderly person can starve to death without anyone noticing. The trend seems to be that people communicate in specific interest groups, and it may well be that we as organists, tend to value people on the Mander Board more highly than we do people living next door to us. (In my case, this is VERY true!)

 

Even vain attempts to revive "civic ceremonies" seem to be ridiculed these days.

 

Thus, to a large degree, people live their lives in bubbles, with the television the sole window through which they view the outside world.

 

With that in mind, when people do get together in groups (which isn't restricted to church, but must include pop-concerts, football matches and such), they tend to babble rather than talk; some to an impressive level of social incompetence.

 

I would also suggest that there is a further factor in all this.

 

Wherever people are, they are bombarded by stimuli, which may be visual, aural or just a very high level of background noise from traffic etc. Silence, or near silence, is something which many people find intimidating. Talk to Canadians or people from small, isolated villages, and their speech is often slower, with quite big gaps in the conversation. That, I'm sure, is the result of not being afraid of silence and wide open spaces.

 

Add to all this a certain hyperactivity, and people are in a constant state of neurotic expectation, as if they cannot wait for the next noise or flash of light. That has much to do with the way we live and the pressure under which people feel to rush around and compete all the time.

 

I often listen carefully to the way young Poles speak to each other. They key word is TO, because by way of comparison, those from the UK tend to speak AT each other. The Poles listen, as well as proclaim, and actually engage with those to whom they speak. The same is true of Latvians and Lithuanians, but oddly enough, conversation is often quite difficult with Czechs.

I have yet to discover the reasons for this, but it is a source of endless fascination to me.

 

I suspect that the problem with church congregations is not so much disrespect, as it is neurotic, insecure behaviour.

 

Even the short hop across the North Sea to the Netherlands brings a sense of calm. Even in Rotterdam (a bustling commercial city), everthing and everyone is quieter and calmer: people listen to each other and give each other time and space. Of an evening, the loudest sound in Rotterdam are the kids carrying skateboards and chirping away happily, as they safely make their way home at 10pm.

 

It doesn't matter where you play the organ these days in the UK, this seems to be the norm, and I've got to the point where I just play short loud pieces and then flee.

 

MM

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The main problem is that these churches will insist on absolving people of their sins week in, week out - two or three times a Sunday in some places. What incentive is there to behave better when you're going to be forgiven in a few days?

 

 

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

 

 

Mine would take a month of Sundays.

 

:lol:

 

MM

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Lots of excellent reasons adduced above, with all of which I heartily concur.

 

(I too have 'played' Cage's 4'33", having announced it in the service list as a concluding voluntary. No-one seemed to notice, though I guess it was an authentic performance as they all continued to make ambient noise.)

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This is not the attitude that bothers me - if you asked any of your congregation whether they enjoy your music, I'm sure they would say they were very happy with it. The attitude that bothers me is the clergy one - pace Revds. Patrick Coleman and Quentin Bellamy whom I am completely sure give their musicians the greatest encouragement and sympathy. The assumption often made by some of their brother and sister clergy is that everything we do is

1. effortless and

2. requires no preparation

 

The fact that I have paper qualifications and have been playing for services at one place or another since the age of thirteen does not make me either clairvoyant or able to turn on a sixpence and, critically, able to get a choir to follow me as I do so!

I completely agree with you. In my experience, the clergy are usually incredibly supportive, or not supportive at all. Our current one is on the latter end of that- changing tunes in the middle of the service, deciding to miss items out due to time getting on, turning up with extra hymns and songs 2 minutes before the service starts etc. etc. A recent funeral was nearly a disaster when she 'forgot' to ask any of the organists to play, and even then, there she hadn't told the family that there would be a fee for playing.

 

David

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I don't think the congregation give it a moment's thought, it's not exactly rudeness, it's just the way they are with everything! ...

 

People talk over music all the time, they mean no harm. Piped music is to be there to be talked over, whether in restaurants, pubs, even live pianists in fashionable places expect it to be like that.

This is the problem with people today, isn't it? I agree it's not intentional rudeness; it's just that it does not occur to them to listen to music. It's not in their culture. Their engagement with music is casual and superficial; it is merely something that is heard. To attract their attention music has to have short, repetitive phrases that hammer themselves into the consciousness so that they simply cannot be ignored. Oh, and incessant drums of course - there cannot be music without drums. Mindless catchiness, that's what's required.

 

What? Me, cynical?

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The main problem is that these churches will insist on absolving people of their sins week in, week out - two or three times a Sunday in some places. What incentive is there to behave better when you're going to be forgiven in a few days?

 

Where are we expected to queue, please ?

 

Pierre

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Guest Patrick Coleman

I agree that church music (indeed any sort of music) is generally considered cheap or wanted 'on the cheap'. Paul is very kind to point out that there are those of us clergy who support church music and musicians as much as we can. We do struggle with tightwads as well as with philistines.

 

It may be, though, that this isn't only the case with music. The general perception of church life and worship is that it comes 'on the cheap' and church authorities of all varieties have colluded with this, often under the illusion that this is somehow identifying with the 'poor'. Though I don't see many churchpeople of this sort spending nights in cardboard boxes to identify with the poor!

 

It takes a long time and a lot of patience to scrape through the encrustations of indifference and to rediscover the awesomeness that leads people just to fall silent before great church music. Of course, if they've got used to the mediocre, it will take longer again.

 

Perhaps this is a plea to the many disaffected musicians to keep trying and not to leave us prey to the tedious and mediocre that deserves to be talked through!!!

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Where are we expected to queue, please ?

 

Pierre

 

You may queue here. A rebuild or at least a good recital is all that it will cost!

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

With that in mind, when people do get together in groups (which isn't restricted to church, but must include pop-concerts, football matches and such), they tend to babble rather than talk; some to an impressive level of social incompetence.

The business of "babbling" rather than conversing reminds me of one particular definition of intelligence as exhibited by what people talk about:-

 

HIGH - talk about their own ideas (e.g. MM)

MEDIUM - talk about other people's ideas (this one's more me)

LOW - talk about other people (thankfully not a frequent occurence on this forum)

 

As for who's definition this is, I'm can't recall.

Sq.

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The business of "babbling" rather than conversing reminds me of one particular definition of intelligence as exhibited by what people talk about:-

 

HIGH - talk about their own ideas (e.g. MM)

MEDIUM - talk about other people's ideas (this one's more me)

LOW - talk about other people (thankfully not a frequent occurence on this forum)

 

As for who's definition this is, I'm can't recall.

Sq.

 

 

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

 

 

Mmmmm!

 

This I find dubious, or we would never have had philosophy, opera, science or even church-music.

 

"My" thoughts, by the way, have been discussed many times before in various places, but as they overlap with those of the social sciences, you may feel free to accord them whatever level of intelligence you consider to be appropriate.

 

Personally, I wouldn't give tuppence for them!

 

 

:)

 

 

MM

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I too have 'played' Cage's 4'33", having announced it in the service list as a concluding voluntary. No-one seemed to notice, though I guess it was an authentic performance as they all continued to make ambient noise.

 

 

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

 

 

A fine work indeed, and the inspiration behind my "Improvisation over an unheard theme," which searches in vain for almost anything. Some have suggested that it is reminiscent of Herbert Howells, which I took as frankly insulting; though I raged at them tacitly.

 

Of course, you know when people are not listening, and pay compliments to the "new Tuba" stop, which YOU know to have been a passing fire-engine in a hurry.

 

MM

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Since 4'33" has come up, I wonder whether I could ask advice from those who have performed it. What stops should one use? Presumably one is allowed to change them between the movements, but how about during them? And what about the use of swell/crescendo pedals? I am finding this so difficult and seriously doubt whether I have the necessary technique to play the piece.

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Guest Patrick Coleman
Since 4'33" has come up, I wonder whether I could ask advice from those who have performed it. What stops should one use? Presumably one is allowed to change them between the movements, but how about during them? And what about the use of swell/crescendo pedals? I am finding this so difficult and seriously doubt whether I have the necessary technique to play the piece.

 

Would it not depend how noisy the stop action is? :)

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Since 4'33" has come up, I wonder whether I could ask advice from those who have performed it. What stops should one use? Presumably one is allowed to change them between the movements, but how about during them? And what about the use of swell/crescendo pedals? I am finding this so difficult and seriously doubt whether I have the necessary technique to play the piece.

I've only performed it on the piano, so I haven't had to think about these matters much. I did wonder whether to make the middle section una corda, but decided that would be over-egging it.

 

Paul

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and of course, do you play from the piano score, or arrange it specifically for organ?

 

Being quite tight-fisted, I refused to buy the score and learnt it by ear. :lol:

 

Took ages though..... :)

 

:lol:

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Being quite tight-fisted, I refused to buy the score and learnt it by ear. :lol:

 

Took ages though..... :)

I had a wonderful time one year playing an excerpt of it in a concert. I had to fill a gap while the kettles at the back of the church boiled... :lol:

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I had a wonderful time one year playing an excerpt of it in a concert. I had to fill a gap while the kettles at the back of the church boiled... :)

 

Joking aside, I remember giving an organ recital a number of years back as the first meeting of the local organists' association who had just restarted the association after it had been dormant for a number of years. The idea was to have the recital, then tea, and then the first General Meeting to appoint officers. I finished the programme with Franck's Piece Heroique. And guess what happened in that big dramatic silence before it moves into B major for the last page? A ruddy loudly whistling tea urn, that's what!! Wrecked the effect totally! :lol:

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Joking aside, I remember giving an organ recital a number of years back as the first meeting of the local organists' association who had just restarted the association after it had been dormant for a number of years. The idea was to have the recital, then tea, and then the first General Meeting to appoint officers. I finished the programme with Franck's Piece Heroique. And guess what happened in that big dramatic silence before it moves into B major for the last page? A ruddy loudly whistling tea urn, that's what!! Wrecked the effect totally! :)

 

 

Having been reading the posts on this site for a while now, I read the postings on this topic and sent the comments below earlier today to my good friend Barry Williams who sugested that I should join immediately so here goes:

 

The modern Anglican and Roman liturgies are full of rubrics like “a period of silence may be kept”. Initially a number of Brighton area churches – particularly of the Anglo Catholic persuasion – started things like the Celebrant at Mass sitting down in silence after Communion and before saying the Post Communion prayer but this seems gradually to have faded out.

 

 

A reason given for keeping everything going with everybody “occupied” an “jolly” all the time is the presence of young children. More than once I have heard Martin How say that children cannot create a reverent atmosphere but they can respond positively to one created by adults.

 

 

 

Around ten years ago, at an extreme Anglo Catholic church in Hove where I was D-of-M the then Vicar (now an RC layman in Lowestoft) gave me a totally free hand to arrange Maundy Thursday Tenebrae (in a shortened form, lasting just over an hour) on the Wednesday evening. The congregation had to do and say/sing absolutely nothing; they just sat there in a dark church the whole time listening to a carefully hand-picked group of singers singing chants and the music of Vittoria and Allegri. The congregation said it was the best service of Holy Week and I got wonderful letters of praise from them. It also got one of the biggest congregations of the week and it was even larger when we repeated the service the following year. (That church celebrates its Patronal and 125th dedication festivals together in early June this year and I have been asked to return for the occasion to play and provide a semi-professional octet to sing.)

 

 

 

My present church is as bad as any for noise before and after Sunday morning services yet on Maundy Thursday this year, when we finished the stripping of the altars and people were praying at the Altar of Repose the only noise was that of people in and around the vestry/sacristy area whispering to each other to be quiet.

 

 

 

People are afraid and uncomfortable about sitting passively and letting things quietly and slowly happen around them. Our somewhat curtailed and non-Eucharistic Easter Vigil was done in almost total darkness and lasted around 45 minutes (oh, for the old days when I was young and the service lasted over two hours, ending with Lauds). This involved a lot of chanting of music which we only ever sing at that service and which, as much for an easy life as anything else, and bearing in mind that choirs don’t like turning out on a Saturday evening, I sang mainly myself. Afterwards a member of the congregation who I happen to like came up to me in a very friendly manner and said “We needn’t have come; you could have done the service with just you here”. She thought she hadn’t been doing anything or participating yet, surely, she had been actively participating with her ears?

 

Malcolm Kemp

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