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About twenty years ago, for two consecutive years, I trained an organ scholar to be not only a competent player on the organ but also a litugical church musician, experienced in all aspects of what a church director of music needs to do. He went off to TCL and then to York and is now a professional musician. All this I did in my own time and totally free of charge. Nobody - lay or ordained - ever even suggested so much as a thank-you let alone any payment.

 

Having returned to that church as D-of-M two years ago I decided to try again and for the past 15 months I have had two more organ scholars - now aged 19 and 18 - one of whom is hopeful of going to Cambridge to read music this autumn. One in particular has exceeded all hopes and expectations in the way he has involved himself with the music and life of the church even tough he admits to being agnostic. They get lessons to the value of at least £810 (in practice rather more than that) per year each, totally free of charge as well as experience and training ina parish church music set-up - everything from playing at services to putting up numbers on the hymn boards. Again, the church is happy to take advantage of them - and has been very welcoming to and supportive of them but nobody has ever thanked me for doing this or suggested that the parish should pay anything towards the cost of their lessons.

 

Yet this church likes to think it values the place of music in its worship and likes to think it is one of the wealthiest and best run churches in the area. I beg to differ on all those points and I am certainly not wasting my time reruiting any more organ scholars. They seem to want to ignore the amount of my time that is taken up on this venture and the fact that I am giving more than £1,620 worth of lessons each year without payment. No wonder there is a shortage of organists who are willing to be involved with the church.

 

I emphasise that this is not an attitude particularly originating with the clergy; it comes as much as anything from the laity.

 

Malcolm Kemp

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About twenty years ago, for two consecutive years, I trained an organ scholar to be not only a competent player on the organ but also a litugical church musician, experienced in all aspects of what a church director of music needs to do. He went off to TCL and then to York and is now a professional musician. All this I did in my own time and totally free of charge. Nobody - lay or ordained - ever even suggested so much as a thank-you let alone any payment.

 

Having returned to that church as D-of-M two years ago I decided to try again and for the past 15 months I have had two more organ scholars - now aged 19 and 18 - one of whom is hopeful of going to Cambridge to read music this autumn. One in particular has exceeded all hopes and expectations in the way he has involved himself with the music and life of the church even tough he admits to being agnostic. They get lessons to the value of at least £810 (in practice rather more than that) per year each, totally free of charge as well as experience and training ina parish church music set-up - everything from playing at services to putting up numbers on the hymn boards. Again, the church is happy to take advantage of them - and has been very welcoming to and supportive of them but nobody has ever thanked me for doing this or suggested that the parish should pay anything towards the cost of their lessons.

 

Yet this church likes to think it values the place of music in its worship and likes to think it is one of the wealthiest and best run churches in the area. I beg to differ on all those points and I am certainly not wasting my time reruiting any more organ scholars. They seem to want to ignore the amount of my time that is taken up on this venture and the fact that I am giving more than £1,620 worth of lessons each year without payment. No wonder there is a shortage of organists who are willing to be involved with the church.

 

I emphasise that this is not an attitude particularly originating with the clergy; it comes as much as anything from the laity.

 

Malcolm Kemp

I guess that you need to ask yourself who you are doing all of this for. Is it for the church, the clergy, the laity, the two organ scholars in question, for Malcolm; or is it perchance for Almighty God? If it is the latter, then I suggest that you need not worry about all of the former... because the rewards for what you are doing/have done will be OUT OF THIS WORLD!!

Q ;)

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In the last diocesan music day I attended, they were more interested in Gospel singing and African drumming than anything immediately practical in a mostly-rural diocese. And if theological colleges have snipped out any substantial reference to music in clergy training, then we're all left disenfranchised, clergy, musicians and congregation alike.

 

When I was a music adviser for a diocese there were a number of sometimes conflicting aspects to the role:

 

a] it was praiseworthy, and in very large part due to my predecessor, that the post existed at all - albeit part-time.

b] Apart from a scheme for the post-holder to give organ lessons to 'diocesan organ scholars' a stated desire on the part of the diocese was to encourage music other than what we might call the Anglican traditional mainstream (encourage Gospel, 'world music' etc.)

c] despite the supposed 'stakeholders' (i.e. parishioners and musicians around the diocese) articulating sentiments along the lines of "we come to an Anglican church because we value the traditional in words and music - if we wanted clap-happy services we'd go to another kind of church" the assumption we had to work with was that all congregations really wanted clap-happy, whatever they might say.

d] part of the funding for the post was from trusts which themselves encourage the traditional mainstream

 

In reality, of course, the diocesan organ scholars got my time, along with those parish musicians who wanted advice and guidance in matters which chimed with my own skills (music choice, choir direction, etc), and in trying to give advice to clergy and musicians where disputes arose. This latter sometimes assumed a high proportion of the available time!

 

In my time, the encouragement of other music aspect was served by trying to gain good, mutually supportive working relationships with the agencies promoting that kind of church music who were active in the area.

 

One development which was, to me, very worthwhile was a scheme where for at least one session each course Readers in Training received a talk and practical session on singing, public speaking, and general considerations regarding liturgical music. A small amount, I know, but at least a chance for them to come into contact with music and at least one musician. These sessions were also open to clergy, and it is gratifying to recall that some clergy did indeed attend.

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As I have mentioned before, I am both Organist and Reader in our church. When I am taking the service, it is possible for me to both conduct worship and play the Organ. The church is a small one, and it is matter of a few steps from front to back to do both jobs. But I don't and I wouldn't. There is no other player of any instrument in the church, except for the vicar who has a limited command of the guitar and piano. But if she is available to play, I would not be taking the service anyway. Which means that some other source of music has to be found. Don't misunderstand me; I would far rather find another Organist, but that doesn't seem to be an option at present. So what do we do? Use recordings - how else can we manage? We use both 'No Organist, no problem', and 'No music group, no problem'. and while they are not ideal, they are a vast improvement on either singing without any accompaniment at all, or me doing my bit for athletics, and running around the church like a loony doing everything.

 

Please, gents all, have a bit of charity. Some of us struggle to make musical ends meet, and such a device as this helps no end (though I won't be proposing one for the church as we have the CD's already). The ideal musical situation, which I long for, is not available to many of us, sometimes for lack of investment, sometimes for other reasons, and we realise that there is no future, and no training for musical competence in the solution offered by KM, but for some of us it's the only option we have. Unless someone out there knows better ...?

 

Regards to all

 

John

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Furthermore, to take your own example, the potential surgeon ...

 

Exactly. My point here is simply one of statistics ...

 

Gosh, I hope somebody noticed I was being ironical: I thought I was laying it on with a trowel. ;)

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Guest Cynic
About twenty years ago, for two consecutive years, I trained an organ scholar to be not only a competent player on the organ but also a litugical church musician, experienced in all aspects of what a church director of music needs to do. He went off to TCL and then to York and is now a professional musician. All this I did in my own time and totally free of charge. Nobody - lay or ordained - ever even suggested so much as a thank-you let alone any payment.

 

Having returned to that church as D-of-M two years ago I decided to try again and for the past 15 months I have had two more organ scholars - now aged 19 and 18 - one of whom is hopeful of going to Cambridge to read music this autumn. One in particular has exceeded all hopes and expectations in the way he has involved himself with the music and life of the church even tough he admits to being agnostic. They get lessons to the value of at least £810 (in practice rather more than that) per year each, totally free of charge as well as experience and training ina parish church music set-up - everything from playing at services to putting up numbers on the hymn boards. Again, the church is happy to take advantage of them - and has been very welcoming to and supportive of them but nobody has ever thanked me for doing this or suggested that the parish should pay anything towards the cost of their lessons.

 

Yet this church likes to think it values the place of music in its worship and likes to think it is one of the wealthiest and best run churches in the area. I beg to differ on all those points and I am certainly not wasting my time reruiting any more organ scholars. They seem to want to ignore the amount of my time that is taken up on this venture and the fact that I am giving more than £1,620 worth of lessons each year without payment. No wonder there is a shortage of organists who are willing to be involved with the church.

 

I emphasise that this is not an attitude particularly originating with the clergy; it comes as much as anything from the laity.

 

Malcolm Kemp

 

I can echo quite a lot of what Malcolm wrote above.

Please forgive me if I'm repeating the following story, which is 100% true. I have half an idea I've mentioned it before.

 

I no longer give lessons, part of the deal I worked out that got me my early retirement, so I can talk with a clear idea of who my 'last pupil' was - I'll call him 'A' to save embarrassment. He turned up as a regular student at my (grammar) school already playing the piano and was from day 1 a natural leader. Any creative activity in groups gave him a chance to shine and almost immediately any group of kids that included A 'used' him as team coach/chief executive.

 

A belonged to a local parish church choir, one of the few that still existed in the city and desperately wanted to learn the organ. His parents were members of that congregation. We had a rescued two-manual organ in our school hall, and keenies had access to it whenever sports groups had not beaten them to it. I suppose we had half a dozen students at any one time that were learning little pieces and occasionally showing them to me for comment/assistance/criticism. [One of this number is now a member of this forum.]

 

A starts to play the organ, not surprisingly gets on quite fast - parents ask at church, 'may he practice there?' 'No'.

A year or so passes, 'may he practice?' 'Yes, but it'll cost'. Of all things, A agrees to work as a supplementary church cleaner to earn the money to pay for practice (NB he is still a member of the choir!) and, much the worst, a special charge is levied by the church to ease the pain of me coming to give him a weekly lesson on the same instrument.

 

This continues up to age 14 or so and a little church elsewhere in the town contacts me in the hope that we might have a likely lad just waiting around, able to play hymns. I immediately suggest A who meets them and demonstrates his ability. Out of courtesy, vicar of little church contacts vicar of larger church who promptly says, 'you can't have A, we think we might need him any time soon because our organist is retiring'. A remains where he is and continues paying for lessons and practice...I would have blown a fuse, but then fortunately not every organist has the personality and physique of a hippo like I do.

 

Eventually, A was offered the post of organist, but this was more than a year later on, by which time he has successfully passed an RSCM proficiency exam and an Associated Board grade or two. The vicar wouldn't let him run the choir, which he would have been good at, but then (I believe I am right in saying) that choir no longer exists anyway, so maybe things were developing in (shall we say) an intended direction. Since then, A has been organ scholar at the local cathedral, organ scholar at a distant cathedral and this summer sees the end of his final year as an organ scholar at Oxford.

 

Not only do churches seem very often to take organists for granted, but their attitude to the young can be worse still. My wife built up a large choir in her last post, only to see a new vicar arrive who found children an encumbrance, kept falling out with the teenagers and picking fights. You would have thought that any organisation would see the point in encouraging new life/new membership/talent...........

 

I should add, there are some wonderful priests out there - I have met them, I have even (from time to time) enjoyed the real pleasure of working for them. This may be a debatable observation, but I have a theory which says that the really good pastors do not often seem to end up at prominent churches. They will be quietly beavering away in the parishes that the 'one-day's-work-a-week-and-lots-of-dressing-up' brigade are not interested in.

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How unbelievably ......

 

I hope that, from previous discussion, I haven't given the impression that my church would behave in such a fashion. There is a distinct difference between finding cash to financially sponsor studies, (wonderful though that might be), and allowing for, or in our case it would be encouraging, the use of already existing facilities (the organ) where the extra cost would be negligible.

 

I can't imagine they would, but if anyone on our PCC, including the Vicar, were to be silly enough even to suggest refusing a pupil the use of the organ, let alone charging for it, there would certainly be a very lively discussion, (one h**l of a row).

 

Really sad, but not new. when I started organ lessons in the 1950s my local church (which I still attended and had been in the choir until my voice broke) wouldn't let me near the organ. More specifically the 'organist' (a non-pedal playing pianist) wouldn't, and the vicar hadn't the guts to persuade - or tell her - otherwise. So I had to pay another church three miles away for organ practice, where I had my lessons. I always vowed I'd never do that to anyone, and it's really disappointing when it turns out this sort of thing still goes on. After all this time I never knew why, and wonder why such churches expect loyalty. They don't frankly deserve it. Some of these people seem to have no idea of the notion of getting people on board and encouraging them. I have to say that subsequent experiences have mostly been happier, but what do we have to do to alter this? R.

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How unbelievably ......

 

I hope that, from previous discussion, I haven't given the impression that my church would behave in such a fashion. There is a distinct difference between finding cash to financially sponsor studies, (wonderful though that might be), and allowing for, or in our case it would be encouraging, the use of already existing facilities (the organ) where the extra cost would be negligible.

 

I can't imagine they would, but if anyone on our PCC, including the Vicar, were to be silly enough even to suggest refusing a pupil the use of the organ, let alone charging for it, there would certainly be a very lively discussion, (one h**l of a row). But it would never come to that; everyone would delighted just to see a pupil on the organ.

 

 

Watch for The Childrens' Act, however! Yesterday there was a superb concert presented by three local under-18s at Holy Trinity Hull. My wife had to remain in the church all the time on the various occasions they were preparing (about six hours of her time, I suppose) because of their age. For some reason, having a non-church chaperon was deemed not acceptable!

 

I believe that any church that now allows anyone under age to rehearse (specifically in the building on their own) are running several risks. If Barry Williams still belonged to this forum he could confirm/clarify this question.

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