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I have just been playing a Copeman Hart toaster. There were several couplers on the stop jamb, but no 16' stops on Great or Swell, and no Pedal to Great or Pedal to Swell couplers. After a while I noticed a small button at the back of the keyboards marked Great to Pedal. With this button illuminated the pedal stops were available on the great, as expected, but to my surprise, the pedals were off.

 

Am I right in thinking that this was provided for the manuals-only organist, with pedals off just in case one was trodden on by mistake? Are such couplers common?

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Haven't seen exactly that system - my toaster has something that I think is quite common: AutoPedal (AP) plays the lowest Manual note on any Pedal stops drawn. (don't know offhand whether it operates only on the Gt or on all 3 - have never actually touched it, except by accident).

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My toaster has a "Melodic Bass" function which is the same as Contrabordun's autopedal. When activated, the pedalboard is switched off the pedalboard and the lowest note (only) of chords played on the Great will also play whetever pedal stops are drawn. On my toaster, if you lift the bass note, but leave other notes of the cord pressed down the pedal stops will automatically transfer to the next lowest note - possibly a trap for the reluctant pianist not used to playing legato - but I am sure I have come across other autopedals that do not do this.

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Guest Barry Williams

Elsewhere on this Forum I have referred to these 'auto basses'. They are nothing new. The oldest I have traced is that of Barham in Esssex, which is an 1895 Walker.

 

Casson Positives were invariably fitted with them, as were the Walker 'Positive' extension organs of the nineteen fifties.

 

I almost invariably specifiy them on the instruments I deal with in Oxford Diocese on the simple ground that for £150 they are invaluable. No-one has to use them, but to the reluctant organist they are a boon. The most recent one is an extension organ in Quainton Parish Church.

 

The Casson Positives and single manual Walker Positives also had a 'melodic diapason'. Osmonds fitted similar couplers to their extension organs. See St Theresa's rc church at Biggin Hill for an example.

 

These couplers are not a clever invention by the pipeless brigade!

 

The late Noel Mander said that extension organs were often the only way pipes could be got into a church in certain difficult circumstances. His extension organs were masterpieces with far more colour and musical usefulness than the rather bland products of other makers.

 

Barry Williams

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Elsewhere on this Forum I have referred to these 'auto basses'. They are nothing new. The oldest I have traced is that of Barham in Esssex, which is an 1895 Walker.

 

Casson Positives were invariably fitted with them, as were the Walker 'Positive' extension organs of the nineteen fifties.

 

I almost invariably specifiy them on the instruments I deal with in Oxford Diocese on the simple ground that for £150 they are invaluable. No-one has to use them, but to the reluctant organist they are a boon. The most recent one is an extension organ in Quainton Parish Church.

 

The Casson Positives and single manual Walker Positives also had a 'melodic diapason'. Osmonds fitted similar couplers to their extension organs. See St Theresa's rc church at Biggin Hill for an example.

 

These couplers are not a clever invention by the pipeless brigade!

 

The late Noel Mander said that extension organs were often the only way pipes could be got into a church in certain difficult circumstances. His extension organs were masterpieces with far more colour and musical usefulness than the rather bland products of other makers.

 

Barry Williams

 

There is an excellent example of a Mander extension organ in Shrewsbury Cathedral, its far preferable to any toaster, how do they compate price wise?

 

Barrie Davis

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Elsewhere on this Forum I have referred to these 'auto basses'. They are nothing new. The oldest I have traced is that of Barham in Esssex, which is an 1895 Walker.

 

Casson Positives were invariably fitted with them, as were the Walker 'Positive' extension organs of the nineteen fifties.

 

I almost invariably specifiy them on the instruments I deal with in Oxford Diocese on the simple ground that for £150 they are invaluable. No-one has to use them, but to the reluctant organist they are a boon. The most recent one is an extension organ in Quainton Parish Church.

 

The Casson Positives and single manual Walker Positives also had a 'melodic diapason'. Osmonds fitted similar couplers to their extension organs. See St Theresa's rc church at Biggin Hill for an example.

 

These couplers are not a clever invention by the pipeless brigade!

 

The late Noel Mander said that extension organs were often the only way pipes could be got into a church in certain difficult circumstances. His extension organs were masterpieces with far more colour and musical usefulness than the rather bland products of other makers.

 

Barry Williams

I doubt an "Auto Bass" could be added to a mechanical action organ for £150! It would be an engineering nightmare on mechnical action and could add a great deal of weight when drawn. Do you specify them on all the organs you come across in the Oxford Diocese?

 

I came across such a device on an electronic simulation organ when playing for the service. Before the service, somebody else had been playing the organ and had used the device but had not turned it off (it was not cancelled with the General Cancel and I think was controlled by a thumb piston). I spent most of the service wondering why the organ sounded the way it did and only as I was driving home did I realise what must have been happening!

 

I agree such devices may be useful for the reluctant organist. I've also found most reluctant organists have real difficulty working out what stops do what and selecting effective combinations. In my experience, most reluctant organists play in churches with not very nice organs, which often have stops that do unusual things (e.g. speak for only part of the compass, or have an electronic simulation that does bizzare things that takes some time to work out) so they're got extra complexity to deal with. To add to this, quite often the stops aren't that good anyway, so it really takes some pretty careful work to get their organ to sound half decent. So I feel some reluctant organists are at a disadvantage to somebody who's got the latest Harrison to play with. In some cases, I've written out "guidelines" for reluctant organists to get reasonable combinations out of their organs for playing for services. In some cases, adding an "Auto Bass" with a lone Bourdon may confuse the some reluctant organists even further...

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Guest Barry Williams

"I doubt an "Auto Bass" could be added to a mechanical action organ for £150! It would be an engineering nightmare on mechnical action and could add a great deal of weight when drawn. Do you specify them on all the organs you come across in the Oxford Diocese?"

 

That is the actual cost (plus VAT) for an organ using solid state. I cannot imagine the price with tracker action!

 

Whenever we have a rebuild using electronic action we always suggest an autobass. They have invariably been hugely successful. Competent players do not need them, but they are a boon to reluctant organists.

 

Barry Williams

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In some cases, I've written out "guidelines" for reluctant organists to get reasonable combinations out of their organs for playing for services. In some cases, adding an "Auto Bass" with a lone Bourdon may confuse the some reluctant organists even further...

 

And they can sound pretty awful when a "reluctant" organist is trying to play tenor and bass with left hand, and the bass part comes out as less than legato.

 

I tend to wonder how much use they are in practice. How many competent organists would want to use an acoustic bass if, say, they had sprained an ankle? Although a competent organist might be able to make the bass part legato by frequently taking the tenor part with the right hand, how many reluctant organists would find that easy? Not many, in my experience of teaching.

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Guest Barry Williams

If churches were to pay proper fees there would be almost no need for reluctant organists, for there is no shortage of competent organists, merely a shortage of organists willing to play for churches. That is why, in certain countries where fees are fixed by regulation, there is no need for auto basses.

 

Barry Williams

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Absolutely, Barry. Thank you. An excellent point.

 

I'd add further that a, the number of happy-clappy hymns which so many churches have nowadays, b, the other rubbish organists are often expected to put up with and c, the lack of deputies willing to put up with the same so that the organist can take a holiday from time to time are also major contributory factors.

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Absolutely, Barry. Thank you. An excellent point.

 

I'd add further that a, the number of happy-clappy hymns which so many churches have nowadays, b, the other rubbish organists are often expected to put up with and c, the lack of deputies willing to put up with the same so that the organist can take a holiday from time to time are also major contributory factors.

 

I remember an A-level English lesson in around 1965 when the master (a church warden) said, jokingly, to one of my fellow-students "What? You've never had a numinous experience? Go outside and have one immediately." Whilst there is room for, and it is good to have, worship in different styles to suite different personalities and situations it does seem to be increasingly difficult to find worship anywhere that is numinous, bringing people to their knees in the awe and wonder of the beauty of holiness. Surely it is that which can bring many people - but not all, admittedly - to a fuller experience of God. I expect that many organists fall into that category.

 

Malcolm Kemp

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Thank you, Malcolm.

 

I am sure that that is the atmosphere which most organists who play for worship hope to help to achieve. Whether we do or not is, perhaps, another matter, considering the unreceptive attitude of many congregations....

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If churches were to pay proper fees there would be almost no need for reluctant organists, for there is no shortage of competent organists, merely a shortage of organists willing to play for churches. Barry Williams

 

This point has been made on many previous occasions. Undoubtably it is true, but tends also to resemble sky-bound pies. One of 'my' churches with its ten-stop, 1880 Forster & Andrews incorporating a novel approach to reliability, enjoys a regular weekly congregation of about twelve souls. What do you think might be a suitable level of fee to attract one of the competent players you mention ?

 

This is not a personal dig at you Barry, but the point you make does not advance the situation for the great number of churches which are in our position. Reluctants, or in my own case, incompetents, are in practical financial terms, the only available source of organists which can be drawn upon.

 

I realise of course that the population of this forum operates at a much higher level than I could ever aspire towards, and I fully concur that professional musicians should be properly remunerated. For myself, I have contacted the PCC treasurer and demanded a ten-fold increase in my salary. Not only did he agree immediately, but offered to backdate it ten years. We are going out for a drink to seal the deal. He will have to pay of course because, curiously, I seem to be no better off. :angry:

 

heigh ho

Chris

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Guest Barry Williams

"What do you think might be a suitable level of fee to attract one of the competent players you mention ? "

 

I do not know the going rate. It seems to vary between £30 and £50 per service. Can anyone enlighten us as to the usual rates please? (As opposed to the scale rates, that appear not to be paid much.)

 

Of course, it is not just about fees, as so many of us have said on this Board and elsewhere.

 

There are many able and well qualified organists who will not take posts. It is a combination of factors. Low pay is but one, along with rubbish music, a bad employer, organs in poor condition, unreliable choir attendance and, of course, having to work with a dreadful hymn book (!)

 

Barry Williams

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Some 3 years ago, I was asked by a member of a local church, whom I had known since I was a boy chorister there, if I would consider becoming the deputy organist. OK, I can cope with hymns, psalm pointing, the odd anthem on Feast Days and a reasonable variety of voluntaries suitable for a 2 manual tracker with 8/9 stops and a hitch up swell pedal so I asked how often and how much. The second was easy - nothing, and the first was whenever the "music group", guitar, flute and saxophone, was on duty because the incumbent organist didn't feel comfortable with their level of competence.....

 

My Sundays are still free.

 

P

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"What do you think might be a suitable level of fee to attract one of the competent players you mention ? "

 

I do not know the going rate. It seems to vary between £30 and £50 per service. Can anyone enlighten us as to the usual rates please? (As opposed to the scale rates, that appear not to be paid much.)

 

Of course, it is not just about fees, as so many of us have said on this Board and elsewhere.

 

There are many able and well qualified organists who will not take posts. It is a combination of factors. Low pay is but one, along with rubbish music, a bad employer, organs in poor condition, unreliable choir attendance and, of course, having to work with a dreadful hymn book (!)

 

Barry Williams

 

Around here (West Yorkshire) probably £20 to £30 would be nearer the mark for people playing on an occasional basis. This would be for a Sunday Eucharist or Evensong (but very few do Evensong now). As has been pointed out, one of the factors is the ability of churches to pay.

 

A village Anglican church where I play once a month has an attendance of typically 10 to 15 people; clearly they cannot afford much. The other Sundays are done by 'reluctants' and I don't know what they are paid. The priest in charge considers they are lucky to get anyone to play every Sunday. At the last urban church where I held an organist's post the attendance fell from 70 -80 in the 1980s to c.20 two years ago. This is not atypical as far as I can ascertain, but does go some way to explain why pay often is low and fails to attract committed people. It doesn't solve it, any more than it solves some of the other issues you raise Barry.

 

As for able players who won't take posts partly because of other factors you have identified - broadly, condition of service, could this be a case of chickens coming home to roost?

 

R

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I think this raises many questions, and pay and conditions are essential to finding a good organist and finding anyone 'willing' to play. Sadly, Barry is right about both these aspects, and the other references to happy-clappy churches (or perhaps mainstream churches using happy-clappy music) are increasingly plentiful. It is interesting that people still come out for good liturgy and good music, maybe not as much as previously, but there is immense disappointment when it doesn't happen. For various reasons, we had to cancel choral Evensong last Sunday (school holidays etc.), and we had two people who turned up specifically because it was choral. One stayed to the small congregational offering, the other turned round and went home again.

 

I think the issue we have, or rather, we can address (assuming we can't persuade the church authorities to recognise the skills of trained professionals and reward them accordingly - I studied for 12 years!) is that of training and support of those who are either reluctant or inexperienced. There have been some tremendous efforts over the years, particularly from Anne Marsden Thomas and others, and there are a number of excellent diocesan training schemes, however, we even more. Many reluctant organists are reluctant because they have never had the mysteries of the organ explained to them, or partly at least. The question begs itself, how much of the decline in the number and quality of organists has contributed to the decision of churches to 'modernise' their music, again I think this is true in part.

 

Until the day that professional trained church musicians receive pay and conditions equal to other professionals who have trained for years, i.e. doctors, lawyers, etc., we have to help those who are keeping the organs of this land playing, and perhaps that involves some work for no remuneration.

 

Jonathan

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The question begs itself, how much of the decline in the number and quality of organists has contributed to the decision of churches to 'modernise' their music, again I think this is true in part.

I think this may sometimes be true today, but in the early days of the rot - in the late 1950s and the 1960s - I very much doubt it was that way around. This was the era of the great explosion in pop music and, especially with the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the mid 60s, the "pop" element in church gathered pace. It was led by the clergy who saw "upbeat" music as conveniently demonstrating that God is contemporary and relevant to modern culture. Not every church in those days could find a competent organist, but they all seemed to manage to find someone to play. There was certainly not the crisis there is today.

 

The other Sunday I found myself playing for a morning service at a church where there is always a liberal dose of squirmworthy tripe. The curate there - an retired priest whose musical tastes are very close to my own - was showing me the menu which his vicar had selected. I asked him whether the congregation really enjoyed such rubbish. With a sigh of resignation he said, "I'm afraid a lot of them do." Zimmer-frame rockers, you might say.

 

Until the day that professional trained church musicians receive pay and conditions equal to other professionals who have trained for years, i.e. doctors, lawyers, etc., we have to help those who are keeping the organs of this land playing, and perhaps that involves some work for no remuneration.

The bottom line is that properly trained organists are musicians and, if the church wants musicians to work for it, it must treat music seriously and its practitioners with respect, allowing them the authority to do the job properly. Too many parish churches treat music as purely a casual, informal commodity.

 

It seems to me that the British church today may be in much the same straits that the French church was after the Revolution. I have read that the French church was completely invaded with secular musical entertainment to the extent that it completely lost touch with its religious music heritage. It even forgot how to sing plainsong; it had to be rediscovered in the late nineteenth century. Such considerations go a long way towards explaining why Lefébure-Wely's music was as debased as it was.

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Just my six penny'th ...

 

Is it not the case that the vast majority of musicians play for free? Don't most violinists, flautists and trumpeters play in ensembles that not only yield no remuneration but very often they have to pay to be a member? Singers too.

 

I was present at an audition for the up-coming BBC Choirwars yesterday. Brilliant singers. All amateur. They had clearly trained and studied and were stunningly good - and performing (as usual) for free.

 

Do we think the people who arrange the flowers or read the lessons should expect compensation too? I imagine that for many of them it is part of their act of worship. I am sure that for some organists it is part of their act of worship too.

 

I wonder what proportion of violinists are remunerated, and what proportion of organists are remunerated? I wouldn't be surprised to find that a higher percentage of organists get paid for playing - though that's just conjecture.

 

Please don't think I'm against organists being fabulously remunerated; I'm not. I'm all for it. I just think we make a mistake in thinking it should be obvious to everyone else that that should be the case.

 

Best wishes

 

J

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Guest Stanley Monkhouse

A fantasy set some time in the future.

 

There are no organists willing to play, so church councils give organ maintenance low priority. Organs fall apart. They are too expensive to restore, and so decrepit that not even British organ lovers in Europe want them. Unloved. Where will the organists who can’t afford house organs practise? Where will new organists come from – oh silly me, from public schools and Oxbridge, as now. (What happened to top-rank organists coming up through parish churches?). Congregational singing (congregation? singing?) is a thing of the past, dimly remembered by a few ladies in hats (ladies? hats?). Andy and Trish and co with guitars are at their Zimmer frames. Background sound is that of waves washing over pebbles, unpredictable Dr Who kerplinks – the new 'Celtic spirituality' fad.

 

On the other hand, there are some lovely village organs about: Bradbourne and Alderwasley in Derbyshire, to name two of those in churches where I at present serve. Orton near Tebay to name one I played in my youth. A delight to play and to listen to (we are blessed with some committed players). There is no way that these places could afford to pay 50 quid a service. But hold on a minute: organs need playing, and players need organs. You scratch my bellows and I’ll keep your fingers supple. The clergyman who is writing this will let the organist choose the hymns (so long as there is some liturgical and pastoral sensitivity). The hymn book may be awful, but that’s what the church has and the copies are still in fairly good condition.

 

Oh well, I suppose unaccompanied singing can sound very moving.

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Guest Barry Williams

"Do we think the people who arrange the flowers or read the lessons should expect compensation too?"

 

This is not a valid comparison. The skills needed to be an organist are acquired at significant cost to the individual. Good lessons are not cheap and some churches charge considerable sums for the use of the organ to practice. (I learned of one yesterday charging a sixteen year old ten pounds an hour.)

 

I have never earned sufficient as an organist to reimburse me for the cost of musical training. (Piano, organ singing, conducting, harmony & counterpoint, analysis and theory, choir training lessons, examinations, robes, etc, numerous courses on liturgy and music, etc, as well as the cost of buying scores and paying for the use of an organ to practice, etc.)

 

Should the plumber who has to earn his living fit the church's boiler for free, as an act of worship?

 

Whilst I have much sympathy for those churches that really value their musicians but can afford only small fees, (and such churches seems always to get good players and singers, which is the point Mr Monkhouse seems to conside,) the Biblical principle of Luke X verse 7 - and many similar quotations, holds good. The fact is that the mortgage, council tax and other household bills have to be paid, as well as Income Tax on the fees - and very little is deductible therefrom.

 

Barry Williams

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