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AJJ

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The fact of something being in London would make me far less likely to travel there.  Personally, I can't stand the place - you can't park, it's noisy, slow, expensive & smelly to travel around, you have to pay six quid for a weak coffee and a sandwich with a sneeze of cheddar on it... No, you may keep London as far as I am concerned.

I know, London is just such a terrible place.

 

We've got the Proms, the RAH organ, the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, ENO, Sadlers Wells, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral (and their superb choirs and organs), the National Theatre, Old Vic, huge variety of musicals and plays, Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Barbican Centre.... and of course Mander Organs.

 

Terrible place, this London.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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I know, London is just such a terrible place.

 

We've got the Proms, the RAH organ, the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, ENO, Sadlers Wells, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral (and their superb choirs and organs), the National Theatre, Old Vic, huge variety of musicals and plays, Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Barbican Centre.... and of course Mander Organs.

 

Terrible place, this London.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

 

I know. Incredible, isn't it? It's a wonder anyone stays there.

 

If only us straw-sucking tractor-driving peasants could summon up the intelligence to understand any of the above (I know, a tall order), the rural and non-Londocentric arts scene might not be such a completely desolate, barren wasteground. I did hear that we've got Bingo in some places now, but mostly people are still voting for Michael Foot and supporting "Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the Old Oak Tree" in its bid to win Eurovision.

 

My point is that there are serious benefits (both to the organisation and the paying membership) of being NOT in London.

 

Now, if you will excuse me, I must go and feed my pigs.

 

David Coram

Too far up the M3 to be of any relevance

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From an outsider's point of view, the problem with London are

the inimaginable prices.

Even a sandwich there costs ten times as much as in my (rural!)

area.

Don't even think to live there if you are a belgian: real estate costs

are at least 20 times higher.

This said, should I go back to London once more in my life, I'd

need a truck -after having commited a hold-up in a big bank-

in order to be able to take the books and the recordings I'd

find there back home!

London is unique in the world -preserve it!-

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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Guest Barry Oakley

Is all this 'news' about the RCO move being cancelled just a hoax? 

We all need to know, don't we?

 

Two pieces of mail have arrived for me from The RCO this morning, not a single word about it in either of them.

I've just visited the RCO website, no a word about it there either.

I've checked, and this topic did not start on April 1st so...

 

Come clean, lads! Tell us who started this brilliant hoax,

 

or

 

Come on RCO get your act together!  The membership have a right to know what is going on.

P.S. I thought I should e-mail RCO administration for an authoritative answer but no reply has yet been received.

 

 

.......................................

 

I was in the company of an engineer earlier this year who is (was?) involved with the RCO Curzon Street project. It would seem that the funding has got out of date and is now insufficient to bring the planned project into reality.

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28 September 2005

 

Dear Member,

 

The College Executive (trustees) met on 22 September to review the financial

position of the College in relation to the proposed move to Curzon Street

station. I am sorry to have to tell you that the meeting was unanimous in

deciding that we should withdraw from the project.

 

In recent months, identified cost increases have necessitated further

negotiations to increase the capital funding package. On the revenue side,

it has also become clear that the ongoing costs of occupation would be very

significant and the opportunity to generate new income highly speculative.

 

Against this background the trustees asked our auditors Kingston Smith to

carry out a full financial review. The resulting report has confirm,ed an

underlying problem with the long-term viability of the project.

 

While there is no doubt that Curzon Street would have provided a superb

headquarters, the trustees have concluded that the financial risk is too

great and could prejudice the future of the College.

 

Clearly this leaves us with many difficult issues to face. Our intention now

is to continue working closely with all of our stakeholders, including our

funding partners in Birmingham and beyond, as we seek both to establish the

RCO in a long-term home and to continue to develop and deliver our core

services and facilities for members.

 

We will update you again in due course.

 

All good wishes

 

Yours sincerely

 

Peter Wright

President

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Dear Alan Taylor,

Thanks.

P.

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I know, London is just such a terrible place.

 

We've got the Proms, the RAH organ, the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Opera and Royal Ballet, ENO, Sadlers Wells, Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, Southwark Cathedral (and their superb choirs and organs), the National Theatre, Old Vic, huge variety of musicals and plays, Wigmore Hall, South Bank Centre, Barbican Centre.... and of course Mander Organs.

 

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

 

And just who pays for all this?

 

So far as I can discern, only Mander Organs are self-sufficient, whilst the rest survive on public funding, historic endowments, lottery funds and money from the majority of licence fee payers who live outside London.

 

Versailles was the jewel in the crown.....remember what happened there!

 

In any event, Elgar came from Worcester, Holst from Cheltenham, Vaughan Williams from Gloucestershire and William Walton from Oldham. Of the top composers, only Henry Purcell came from London.

 

Some countries such as the Czech Republic, with less people than London, knock musical spots off England. Self-satisfaction is a luxury we can ill-afford.

 

MM

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Gee!

Now I understand this tendancy to put the fire

to the old organs....If only the Neros could be

content with rotted tomatoes (or even eggs).

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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The fact of something being in London would make me far less likely to travel there.  Personally, I can't stand the place - you can't park, it's noisy, slow, expensive & smelly to travel around, you have to pay six quid for a weak coffee and a sandwich with a sneeze of cheddar on it... No, you may keep London as far as I am concerned.

 

Birmingham is central, well served by road and rail (don't know enough about aeroplanes to express an opinion), far cheaper in terms of property and able to be more lenient in terms of building alterations.  You could probably have your own large car park.  Or, perhaps go even further oop north - think of the wonderful wool warehouses in the Little Germany area of Bradford, for instance - equally good road, rail and air links as Birmingham.

 

I'm a confirmed Southern shandy drinking... well, I'll stop there, but in these times something being 100 miles further away is pretty much only a psychological problem, not a logistical one; such a move would at least help bring a bit of life back to those fantastic buildings that were restored diligently and carefully a few years ago, and have laid virtually empty ever since.  And, even if there were objections, how much would it actually cost to put an examiner on a train to Bristol and London two days a year, to use some existing fantastic buildings and fantastic instruments as regional exam centres?

 

I know you don't drink shandy but that's beside the point - How about the RCO following the RSCM to Sarum College situated within the Cathedral Close in Salisbury. Already two practice organs and a library on site...

 

But seriously, this is the first I have heard of all this and find it alarming as an RCO member.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I think it's dandergous to bring up the subject of the RSCM and their move(s). You have opened a can of worms here, Robert F!

 

A now familiar story: the membership (of the RSCM) rallied round and paid whatever they were asked not very long ago, so that Cleveland Lodge might be made the perfect permanent home when the lease for Addington Palace came to an end. Rather like Kensington Gore's lease coming to an end and the move to share St.Andrew's Holborn, maybe? Now another shift is about to take place, into a home that ifs far from permanent.

 

The RSCM has been solidly laying off staff (and selling library stock) and the service which it offers does not (in my humble opinion) bear comparison with what used to be on offer. Odf course, no reduction has been made in fees charged to churches and to those who attend events. So many courses (and even Festival Services) seem to plug compositions by members of staff. If it were not for the RSCM areas looking after their own people and local volunteers working valiantly to ensure that things continue 'decently and in order'. the organisation would be in an utterly parlous state with many asking why they still subscribe.

 

I have always respected and appreciated The RCO, and shudder to think that in any way its services and/or facilities might go through the trauma that the RSCM is being subjected to. Salisbury may be lovely, and it's now thick with the 'great and the good' but I don't think it could be called centralHor easy to access. I note that Professor John Harper (the self-procvlaimed Director General, with a full-time job up in Bangor, North Wales) will have a shorter journey to put in when he feels like actually going to the RSCM headquarters.

 

A kind offer of hospitality, Robert F., but please don't let us have all our church music eggs in one basket!

 

Do correct me if I'm dreaming: was there originally a music department at Sarum College which got closed down?

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Take Two!

 

I apologise. Once again, Im hit the wrong button and my uncorrected version got posted by mistake. Sorry, everyone! I hope it is sufficiently intelligible anyway.

P.

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I think it's dandergous to bring up the subject of the RSCM and their move(s). You have opened a can of worms here, Robert F!

 

A now familiar story: the membership (of the RSCM) rallied round and paid whatever they were asked not very long ago, so that Cleveland Lodge might be made the perfect permanent home when the lease for Addington Palace came to an end.  Rather like Kensington Gore's lease coming to an end and the move to share St.Andrew's Holborn, maybe?  Now another shift is about to take place, into a home that ifs far from permanent.

 

The RSCM has been solidly laying off staff (and selling library stock) and the service which it offers does not (in my humble opinion) bear comparison with what used to be on offer. Odf course,  no reduction has been made in fees charged to churches and to those who attend events. So many courses (and even Festival Services) seem to plug compositions by members of staff.  If it were not for the RSCM areas looking after their own people and local volunteers working valiantly to ensure that things continue 'decently and in order'. the organisation would be in an utterly parlous state with many asking why they still subscribe.

 

I have always respected and appreciated The RCO, and shudder to think that in any way its services and/or facilities might go through the trauma that the RSCM is being subjected to.  Salisbury may be lovely, and it's now thick with the 'great and the good' but I don't think it could be called centralHor easy to access. I note that Professor John Harper (the self-procvlaimed Director General, with a full-time job up in Bangor, North Wales) will have a shorter journey to put in when he feels like actually going to the RSCM headquarters.

 

A kind offer of hospitality, Robert F., but please don't let us have all our church music eggs in one basket!

 

Do correct me if I'm dreaming: was there originally a music department at Sarum College which got closed down?

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I have absolutely no axe to grind concerning the RCO or the RSCM, as I am not involved with either organisation and almost certainly never will be; being an ex-church organist who has turned his back on contemporary developments.

 

Let's be quite clear about something. Both the RCO and the RSCM had a real role to play in the days when church-organists (and above) were the mainstay of local music. With the drift towards the lowering of musical standards in churches, a cyncial attempt to hijack pop-culture and the sort of theology which was once challenged by O-level students, the churches to-day have no need for the RSCM by and large. The support base has therefore vanished, and with it, a substantial amount of regular income. When faced with that, no organisation can continue with the expenses and fixed costs of a once large institution such as the RSCM was, and "downsizing" is the only possible option. I can fully understand the problems the RSCM has had to face, and I can also understand the need to reduce costs and shed assets.

 

The RCO presents a different type of problem; possibly due to a failure to adapt to modern education and educational assessment. I think it would be fair to say that the RCO has NEVER really been concerned with the best in organ-playing, but has certainly been involved in setting a gigantic academic hurdle for candidates wishing to qualify for Associate and Fellowship status; largely as a consequence of the high pass mark. This possibly explains why a few FRCO holders have been fairly atrocious organists, but academically very able. Most have been very competent organists and able academics. A very small proportion have been brilliant in both fields, but not BECAUSE of the RCO.

 

With the decline in church musical standards, the natural recruiting base has been diminished considerably, so that the RCO faces similar problems to that suffered by the RSCM ie: dwindling support at the grass roots level.

 

Academically, the RCO is very much out on a limb, and perhaps now only serves the function of endorsing those parts which other qualifications fail to address in full. I think it would also be fair to state that the RCO hurdles are very much geared towards the Oxbridge model, which in this day and age, renders it automatically elitist in the eyes of many.

 

It's interesting that the RCO has taken financial advice, and now finds that their planned move and the expenses involved, might threaten the future of the college. I would suggest that even setting up a tent on a brown-field site, with a second-hand digital organ as its' sole resource, would only be putting off the inevitable unless the organisation changes tac.

 

In this day and age of rapid communications, the RCO could actually be a roving body without a fixed base; using established educational resources to fulfil its' mission on earth and presenting regional organ-days and events, as a type of outreach to the wider musical community. In this way, it would be a true college in the spirit of the age; enriching the appreciation for the instrument rather than expecting people to beat a path to the college doors as they once did.

 

Long gone are the days of polished brass and the smell of bee's wax at Keinsington Gore, and merely finding cheaper property is not, in my honest opinion, addressing the fundamental changes and patterns of learning which now threaten organisations like the RCO.

 

Eltism is only elitism when it has become inaccessible to the majority.

 

Sir Simon Rattle pointed the way forward during his days at Birmingham, and they don't come much "elite" than he!!

 

MM

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I think it would be fair to say that the RCO has NEVER really been concerned with the best in organ-playing, but has certainly been involved in setting a gigantic academic hurdle for candidates wishing to qualify for  Associate and Fellowship status; largely as a consequence of the high pass mark. This possibly explains why a few FRCO holders have been fairly atrocious organists, but academically very able. Most have been very competent organists and able academics. A very small proportion have been brilliant in both fields, but not BECAUSE of the RCO.

 

In this day and age of rapid communications, the RCO could actually be a roving body without a fixed base; In this way, it would be a true college in the spirit of the age; enriching the appreciation for the instrument rather than expecting people to beat a path to the college doors as they once did.

 

...the fundamental changes and patterns of learning which now threaten organisations like the RCO.

 

Eltism is only elitism when it has become inaccessible to the majority.

 

 

MM

 

Very nicely put indeed, if I may say.

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And maybe also incorporate some of the ideas Sarum College and the EOS. Chunks of the RCO syllabus requirements can send one running for the nearest pew to hide under whereas these establishments aim to provide practical assistance and ideas for repertoire etc. at a level that some of us at least find reassuringly friendly!

 

AJJ (Academically OK but technically out of practice!)

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Eltism is only elitism when it has become inaccessible to the majority.

 

MM

 

 

Hi MM

 

Having no connection with either of the named organisations I am in no position to comment on much of this post but the above line caught my eye. It is wonderfully quotable but what is it intended to mean ?

 

By definition an elite is a minority or it would not be an elite. That is why University (= for an elite, as traditionally conceived) education for 50% of the population is so much nonsense , whereas further, additional , extended or even "higher" education are perfectly feasible for that or greater numbers. The great con is in using a name which implies access to an elite status when that is not what will be delivered. No society or organisation needs as many chiefs [=people who sit at desks and supervise but do not actually do any productive work] as it has indians [=people who actually do the work], and certainly not more chiefs than it has indians !

 

In view of the tenor of other posts you have made it seems very unlikely to me that dumbing down so that "all shall have prizes" is what you mean. The rest of the post from which this is lifted seemed to be addressing the relevance orfitness for purpose of much of what was offered by the RCO as well as its mode of delivery of that which it does offer, which is implied to be rather out dated in approach.

 

I just wondered whether what you were driving at here is not so much that people are kept outas that they stay out voluntarilybecause they do not see what is inside as of interest or relevance to them or their concerns.

 

 

The issue of the size of an elite is different from the issue of who can aspire to be a member of it. Meritocracy as usually understood would allow all to apply but select rigorously. Some sort of caste or class system restricts those qualified to apply in the first place. I assume you favour the first rather than the second approach ?

 

Brian childs

 

 

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I'm far from sure what MM means by his post. On the one hand he says they are giving FRCO's to people who can't play very well (i.e. the standard is too low) but on the other hand he complains the standard is so high as to be elitist.

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I'm far from sure what MM means by his post.  On the one hand he says they are giving FRCO's to people who can't play very well (i.e. the standard is too low) but on the other hand he complains the standard is so high as to be elitist.

 

Not so much a question of not playing very well - can play correctly, accurately, with suitable historic knowledge, but with the musical sensitivity and elegance of a panther tearing open a rabbit. In the same way, there are plenty of lousy, thoughtless and dangerous drivers on the roads who were able to tick the right number of boxes on test day.

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It could be argued that the RCO is not so much elitist as snobbish - witness the college's continuing refusal to acknowledge the holding of any diplomas other than its own in members' yearbook entries.

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Not so much a question of not playing very well - can play correctly, accurately, with suitable historic knowledge, but with the musical sensitivity and elegance of a panther tearing open a rabbit.  In the same way, there are plenty of lousy, thoughtless and dangerous drivers on the roads who were able to tick the right number of boxes on test day.

 

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

 

He he! I like that, but then, I once walked a pet cheetah around a garden in the US. That was fun.

 

Perhaps I should explain a little. The FRCO exam is matched by other examinations from the technical performing point of view.....that is not the real hurdle for those who obviously have enough technique and ability to reach the technical standard. The real hurdle is the academic paperwork and the pass mark required; which sets the FRCO apart and makes it both feared and respected.

 

My point is simply that stupendous organ-playing does not rely upon holding an FRCO diploma, and indeed, many great performers do not have the qualification, or ended up being given one. I think Jane Parker-Smith falls into this latter category, unless I am misinformed.

 

Many people "rise to the challenge" of exams, but fall away afterwards. I can think of one cathedral organist from a previous generation, who was a superb choir-trainer, but could barely play Sweelinck's "Meine junges leben." He left all the organ-playing to the assistant.

 

Dr Francis Jackson summed it up wonderfully, when he spoke about the RCO appeal many moons ago. He said, "Gaining a Fellowship means that an organist is....or rather was....at some point....on the right lines."

 

MM

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I'm far from sure what MM means by his post.  On the one hand he says they are giving FRCO's to people who can't play very well (i.e. the standard is too low) but on the other hand he complains the standard is so high as to be elitist.

 

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

 

Nick knows only too well that there are numerous FRCO holders who bore everyone to death with their performances, but the same performances would probably scrape through the FRCO exam. Equally, there are those who have few or even no qualifications, but who can lift the roof. People get there in different ways.

 

The paperwork is of a very high standard, but I did not link this to the elitist tag.

 

I actually said that "some" would class the RCO as elitist, and then went on to suggest that "elitism" is only elitist when it is inaccessible to the majority, and by that, I am not referring to the examinations, but more to the whole ethos of the organisation.

 

Sir Simon Rattle went out of his way to bring great music to the people, and didn't rely on people discovering it for themselves by accident. In other words, he communicated his knowledge, his passion and his very great personal charisma, just as Sir Malcolm Sargent did and Sir David Wilcocks has always done.

 

MM

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By definition an elite is a minority or it would not be an elite. That is why University (= for an elite, as traditionally conceived) education for 50% of the population is so much nonsense , whereas further, additional , extended or even "higher" education are perfectly feasible for that or greater numbers. The great con is in using a name which implies access to an elite status when that is not what will be delivered.

 

In view of the tenor of other posts you have made it seems very unlikely to me that dumbing down so that "all shall have prizes" is what you mean. The rest of the post from which this is lifted seemed to be addressing the relevance orfitness for purpose of much of what was offered by the RCO as well as its mode of delivery of that which it does offer, which is implied to be rather out dated in approach.

 

I just wondered whether what you were driving at here is not so much that people are kept outas that they stay out voluntarilybecause they do not see what is inside as of interest or relevance to them or their concerns.

 

Meritocracy as usually understood would allow all to apply but select rigorously. Some sort of caste or class system restricts those qualified to apply in the first place. I assume you favour the first rather than the second approach ?

 

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

 

Brian raises interesting points, and I'm not sure I have black & white answers.

 

The logic of what Brian suggests is impeccable, but I know it to be flawed.

 

Rather than give answers, perhaps I can fly off at slight tangents.

 

My uncle, now long dead, was a superb singer. He was a bass soloist who did the rounds of the various "Messiah" performances in Yorkshire. He was lined up with singers such as Isobelle Bailey and Kathleen Ferrier. The BBC wanted him to sign up for them, but he declined. 98% of his time was taken up as a dairy farmer...he just liked singing a bit, but never had a lesson in his life. A tonic sol-fa man to the end!

 

In my own case, no-one EVER encouraged me to play the organ, so I taught myself. It was the school of hard-knocks, but I gained some degree of competence on the way; since which I have given recitals at some reasonably respected venues. It's a modest example of how enthusiasm can triumph over adversity, but I've never had the inclination to make music a career.

 

Someone mentioned driving tests. How annoying it must be, when someone like Michael Schumacher comes along and earns millions, and had even picked up a major championship at the age of 16, before he could legally drive on the roads!!

 

Academia must NEVER be remote, discouraging or inaccessible, because not EVERYONE fits into the neat academic sausage-machine.

 

It doesn't matter whether it's Sir Simon Rattle or Carlo Curley; communciation and enthusiasm are the key components in ensuring a healthy future for great music and the organ, and because the RCO is now isolated due to the downturn of interest in organ-music within sparsely attended churches, they need to get off their bums and DO something about it.

 

The resources are there, the organists are there and the music is there. The RCO COULD be a focus for both excellence and communication in equal measure, and if it reaches out, it would never be regarded as elitist.

 

MM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

I always understood that the reason for the particularly rigorous paperwork requirements of the FRCO were there because long ago FRCO was accepted by the Burham Committee (salary levels etc.) as an equivalent of a full university degree. Bearing this in mind, although the requirements have changed a bit from time to time, I think this intended parity is pretty valid.

 

I agree that possession of the magic letters is no guarantee of good playing in later years any more than Dr.Harold Shipman's qualifications gave some of his patients the quality of service they expected.

 

All the same, these qualifications are worth having in my opinion. They oblige candidates to 'put in the hours' and are recognised outside the profession. I couldn't see the point of them for some years and a friend advised me along the following lines...

"When you apply for a post, the selection committee (probably non-musicians to a man/person) often compare your paper qualifications to those who have previously held said post."

 

The question of whether the RCO has sufficiently moved with the times is a valid one. So is the question whether they should do more for organists in general along the lines of Anne Marsden Thomas' International Organ School or Margaret Phillips' EOS.

 

On a personal note: receiving the FRCO gave me particular pleasure, not just pride. The high point was being awarded it at the hands of my one-time choirmaster Sir David Lumsden who never passed the examination himself!

Other notables who never took/never passed FRCO include Simon Preston, David Titterington, and Andrew Lumsden. Truly splendid players all of them!

 

At one stage, I reckoned that a good half of the whole RCO council had not actually passed the college's own examinations including the President. This contrasts quite sharply with Herbert Howells and R. Vaughan Williams who were both very proud of having come up from the sticks and gained them honourably.

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