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AJJ

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One doesn't like to be paranoid or hyper-cynical but...

It is almost as if the BBC want to prove to the general public

how restricted and uninteresting the whole field of organ music is.

Talk about switching of 'en masse'! Few things are more certain.

Sorry - typo! Take two.

 

That should have been switching off

 

P.

 

Exactly. Who chose the T&FinD as the "theme piece" for the nationwide event? Are we all supposed to feel warm inside or something? There are already too many bad performances of 565 in the world without encouraging old ladies on 1 manual pneumatic octopods in equal temperament to join in.

 

Playing non-stop Bach for however long it is is such a Classic FM thing to do except on a much more devastating scale. Never mind their self-proclaimed remit as being the leading proponent of living composers (who will now go without royalties for two weeks before Christmas). This is just boring and punishing on every single level.

 

The BBC always seem to misfire - are they still putting out those dreadful JSW plays Bach programmes on BBC4, with wasps crawling all over the screen and really, really, really silly and offputting camerawork, like a half-witted GCSE Media Studies exercise remaking "Fantasia" on a budget of two pounds? Whatever chance the poor music stood was thrown to the winds.

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I can't entirely agree about the Toccata and Fugue - which is a bit of a surprise because I am an unashamed elitist. Congregations will love hearing it because for 90% of them it's the only organ work they recognise. Another point in its favour is that it isn't too difficult. Suppose they had chosen the Wedge or the G minor Fantasia & Fugue. Imagine the carnage!

 

It could have been worse. They could have sucked up to the philistines in the government by suggesting that everybody play the theme from their favourite TV programme or film on the organ. That would make the organ SO accessible, wouldn't it? :blink:

 

On the other hand I do agree about a fortnight of Bach being a mistake. It's too much even for me. I expect I will be exploring the darker corners of my CD collection instead. I suppose the idiots at the BBC think a fortnight of Bach will act as an intellectual crutch to prop up the network by counterbalancing the utter drivel that has crept in in recent years.

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The BBC always seem to misfire - are they still putting out those dreadful JSW plays Bach programmes on BBC4
The second series starts on BBC2 on Monday! Personally I thought the organs in the last series were fantastic (especially Naumburg) and the playing interesting. As for Damien Hirst's graphics, I entirely agree. If he had any talent they wouldn't have awarded him the Turner Prize, would they?

 

I'll reserve judgement on the Bach fornight until it's over. The Beethoven thing the Beeb did turned me completely off, but that's because Beethoven is one of my blind spots. It seems it went down very well with the public though, from the reports I saw at the time.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Yesterday I received a duplicated letter and a credit-card-style ticket to let me know that The RCO is now officially contactable via a Box No. in South East London!

No explanation was given other than that The RCO were vacating their Birmingham office today. We are told that the website will be re-launched from Monday. I do not expect to receive much in the way of interesting information on Monday: last time there were developments (the cancellation of the new concert hall organ) no reference of any kind was made to this fact at the time on the website.

 

There is no hint as to how long this situation is expected to continue. I have to ask: Is this once august body now reduced to carrying on its activities from someone's back bedroom?

 

What do others think? Has this gone totally pear-shaped or what?

 

I know of organists' associations with less than fifty members that appear to be more efficiently and effectively run, with better communications with members and virtually the same size of educational programme. All that for a sub of £15 or less per year! The RCO still boasts a huge subscribing membership (neither examination fees nor the annual subscription are cheap) and (at least until recently) has/had sizeable assets.

 

What about the Royal Warrant and how long does the present council think that they will be able to justify the holding of this? Is this, or is this not a major embarassment?

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Guest delvin146
Yesterday I received a duplicated letter and a credit-card-style ticket to let me know that The RCO is now officially contactable via a Box No. in South East London!

No explanation was given other than that The RCO were vacating their Birmingham office today.  We are told that the website will be re-launched from Monday.  I do not expect to receive much in the way of interesting information on Monday: last time there were developments (the cancellation of the new concert hall organ) no reference of any kind was made to this fact at the time on the website.

 

There is no hint as to how long this situation is expected to continue.  I have to ask: Is this once august body now reduced to carrying on its activities from someone's back bedroom?

 

What do others think?  Has this gone totally pear-shaped or what?

 

I know of organists' associations with less than fifty members that appear to be more efficiently and effectively run, with better communications with members and virtually the same size of educational programme. All that for a sub of £15 or less per year!  The RCO still boasts a huge subscribing membership (neither examination fees nor the annual subscription are cheap) and (at least until recently) has/had sizeable assets.

 

What about the Royal Warrant and how long does the present council think that they will be able to justify the holding of this?  Is this, or is this not a major embarassment?

 

That brightened my morning. I now have visions of them operating from an ex-mini cab office somewhere in Peckham High Street. :lol:

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That brightened my morning. I now have visions of them operating from an ex-mini cab office somewhere in Peckham High Street.  :lol:

 

No doubt with Del boy and Rodney at the helm.

 

AJJ

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Perhaps the RCO has been reading this thread!

 

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.

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Yesterday I received a duplicated letter and a credit-card-style ticket to let me know that The RCO is now officially contactable via a Box No. in South East London!

No explanation was given other than that The RCO were vacating their Birmingham office today.  We are told that the website will be re-launched from Monday.  I do not expect to receive much in the way of interesting information on Monday: last time there were developments (the cancellation of the new concert hall organ) no reference of any kind was made to this fact at the time on the website.

 

There is no hint as to how long this situation is expected to continue.  I have to ask: Is this once august body now reduced to carrying on its activities from someone's back bedroom?

 

What do others think?  Has this gone totally pear-shaped or what?

 

I know of organists' associations with less than fifty members that appear to be more efficiently and effectively run, with better communications with members and virtually the same size of educational programme. All that for a sub of £15 or less per year!  The RCO still boasts a huge subscribing membership (neither examination fees nor the annual subscription are cheap) and (at least until recently) has/had sizeable assets.

 

What about the Royal Warrant and how long does the present council think that they will be able to justify the holding of this?  Is this, or is this not a major embarassment?

 

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

 

 

I'm not an RCO person and I've never had the slightest interest in anything that the RCO stands for. This is not a criticism of the college, but is more to do with the fact that I have not the slightest interest in academia; which is really what the RCO is about, when other organisations already cover the art of organ-playing quite admirably.

 

I suppose the letters FRCO indicate that someone can play a bit, and from an academic point of view, they are likely to be more than competent. I wouldn't want to be sawn up by just anyone while I'm still alive, and I suppose it is re-assuring to observe the letters FRCS.

 

As an outsider, I hope I can bring a little balance; at the same time, having no axe to grind.

 

In the past, the RCO has been a London-based organisation with a Royal Warrant, and the old glory days of Kensington Gore are an impressive reminder of the history of the college. I do indeed have them to thank for helping me out when I forgot to take music to a London recital; having travelled by train from Yorkshire.

 

The RCO has had to face, I suspect, an extraordinary contraction; not least because of the enormous overheads involved in the running of any sort of organisation in or around London. The sheer costs involved in a London-based headquarters are phenomenal, and as costs have increased in all ways, it is highly unlikely that a largely static, non-growth organisation such as the RCO, could possibly hope to survive in that sort of financial environment.

 

I personally doubt that anyone could have forseen this, and in any event, uprooting a college, removing instruments, calling in organ-builders and re-locating staff, is the last thing that an academic establishment wants; especially with a paucity of permanent, paid staff.

 

I think I could argue successfully, that one of the biggest reasons for the decline of manufacturing industry has not been due to failing markets, but that of increased costs and land/property values. If income is rising at 5% pa, yet costs associated with just staying put are increasing by 20% per annum, then it isn't long before assetts start to be eroded.

 

If (I emphasise the word "if") the RCO has borrowed money against assetts to fund capital projects and/or moves, then I would anticipate very real problems for the financial security of the college.

 

What I have observed since the move from Kensington, is a college which made the very sensible decision to reduce costs by moving away from the capital. However, without knowing the facts, I also sense that certain things may well have gone "pear-shaped", and having worked for large financial institutions, there is, to me, the vague hint that the RCO may well be financially insecure or stretched beyond its current income and resources.

 

Knowing nothing much at all about the finances of the RCO, it would be foolish and unfair to speculate as to the exact position, but nothing would surprise me. I also feel that it would be unfair to level the charge of icompetence until the full facts are known. It may well be that the RCO is simply the victim of circumstances.

 

I am reluctant to speculate further about the possible fianancial position of the RCO, but "if" financial problems are at the root of the current confusion, then assuming that it has assetts which could meet overall liabilities, then the situation may not be entirely grave.

 

I think I hinted in a previous post that the RCO has an option. I would question whether it needs a permanent home at all, when there are so many suitable venues for its activities and examinations. As a body, it could easily be hosted and incorprated within another musical or educational foundation; bringing a degree of prestige to one and added security to the other. The RCO could, like certain examination boards, be simply an umbrella organisation concerned with establishing academic excellence on the one hand, and artistic outreach on the other, and at a fraction of the cost of indulging in the luxury of a dedicated, self-governed premises, replete with shiny new organs and a working-library.

 

I think I also hinted previously, that the RCO could in fact WORK BETTER if it operated as a roving body of excellence, with more regional events throughout the UK.

 

There is surely no shame in an historic organisation such as the RCO being incorporated with another?

 

I'm not suggesting this for one minute, but if we consider Huddersfield University, which has a good music department, a very fine concert hall with a good organ, educational resources, a local town hall for any big events, why on earth could the RCO NOT be incorporated within it? After all, they have telephones and a broadband connection.

 

It could apply equally to Oxbridge, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Durham etc etc.

 

I just cannot see a problem with this approach, and I feel sure that there are numerous musical foundations and colleges which would be delighted to welcome the RCO on-board as a partner.

 

As for "running the RCO from a taxi-office in South East London," stranger things have happened. When Mr Putin can wrestle-back the assets of a massive oil industry, working from of an internet cafe "somewhere in Russia", anything is possible!!

 

MM

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Knowing nothing much at all about the finances of the RCO, it would be foolish and unfair to speculate as to the exact position, but nothing would surprise me. I also feel that it would be unfair to level the charge of icompetence until the full facts are known. It may well be that the RCO is simply the victim of circumstances.
There may, as you surmise, be more to it than meets the eye, but, on the face of it, it just looks as though the RCO was caught out by rising prices in the construction industry and in annual rentals. If that's what it is, then it's just poor business planning. It's well known that construction costs have been rising again for the last couple of years after a stagnant spell. It was foreseen that they would and I can't help feeling that this could and should have been anticipated in the RCO's business plan. But, like you, I'm only guessing.

 

You have a point about the RCO engaging in more outreach work. In recent years they have been doing much more along those lines, though there's still precious little within easy reach of me. I did, however, rather like the idea of bringing the British Organ Archive "in house" to sit alongside the RCO's own increasingly important library,so I do favour a fixed base; I like your idea of co-habiting with a university.

 

On the question of exams, can someone please tell me why on earth they revamped the FRCO score reading test to include three C clefs. To enable people to play from facsmilies of Baroque organ manuscripts? To play from antiquated editions of Renaissance choral music (in which case why not the baritone and mezzo soprano clefs as well)? What on earth is the practical point? An FRCO used to be the mark of good, all-round, practical musicianship. If they felt they had to make the test more complicated it would have been more use to include a transposing instrument.

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There may, as you surmise, be more to it than meets the eye, but, on the face of it, it just looks as though the RCO was caught out by rising prices in the construction industry and in annual rentals. If that's what it is, then it's just poor business planning. It's well known that construction costs have been rising again for the last couple of years after a stagnant spell. It was foreseen that they would and I can't help feeling that this could and should have been anticipated in the RCO's business plan. But, like you, I'm only guessing.

 

You have a point about the RCO engaging in more outreach work. In recent years they have been doing much more along those lines, though there's still precious little within easy reach of me. I did, however, rather like the idea of bringing the British Organ Archive "in house" to sit alongside the RCO's own increasingly important library,so I do favour a fixed base; I like your idea of co-habiting with a university.

 

On the question of exams, can someone please tell me why on earth they revamped the FRCO score reading test to include three C clefs. To enable people to play from facsmilies of Baroque organ manuscripts? To play from antiquated editions of Renaissance choral music (in which case why not the baritone and mezzo soprano clefs as well)? What on earth is the practical point? An FRCO used to be the mark of good, all-round, practical musicianship. If they felt they had to make the test more complicated it would have been more use to include a transposing instrument.

 

I think that I can possibly shed some light on both things you mention. The first is that the Birmingham development as I understand it involved the college being in area where there were going to be all sorts of other developments in close proximity which would have been a supportive environment and provided passing trade. These other developments started to fall through and left the college a bit high and dry. When revamping the figures it became clear the college was going to fall heavily into debt - so it did the only sensible thing which was to get out of that development area too.

 

Regarding the C clef business - the syllabus with score reading in G treble, C alto and tenor and F bass clefs was just merely an exercise which had no practical equivalent, whereas three C clefs, soprano, alto and tenor plus an F bass clef is bog standard in published choral music well into the 19th century. So therefore you could expect to encounter these and need to be able to read them. Just try conducting a Mass by Mozart from full score, for example, and you'll see the point.

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Regarding the C clef business - the syllabus with score reading in G treble, C alto and tenor and F bass clefs was just merely an exercise which had no practical equivalent, whereas three C clefs, soprano, alto and tenor plus an F bass clef is bog standard in published choral music well into the 19th century. So therefore you could expect to encounter these and need to be able to read them. Just try conducting a Mass by Mozart from full score, for example, and you'll see the point.
Thanks for that, but I'm afraid I still don't get it. If I was to conduct a Mozart Mass, I'd want to use an up-to-date edition. When I consult old editions or manuscripts (and I've done an awful lot of that in my time) I can take as much time as I need to work things out, transcribing it if need be - there is never any need to be able to read this stuff fluently at sight. You acquire a certain ability with experience - or at least I did - but I don't see the need to examine in it. In my opinion there are better priorities.

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Thanks for that, but I'm afraid I still don't get it. If I was to conduct a Mozart Mass, I'd want to use an up-to-date edition. When I consult old editions or manuscripts (and I've done an awful lot of that in my time) I can take as much time as I need to work things out, transcribing it if need be - there is never any need to be able to read this stuff fluently at sight. You acquire a certain ability with experience - or at least I did - but I don't see the need to examine in it. In my opinion there are better priorities.

 

All I can say is that there are loads of scores you come across from Bach through to Rossini where you get C clefs times 3, and no matter what amount of time you'd take preparing (even transcribe Rossini's Stabat Mater if you wish) when standing on the rostrum and someone asks you a question then THAT's when you wish you could read the clef fluently.

 

But it's like all exams - it's there to test you, surely, not just see what you already know? It's about what you do when required to think on your feet... to push your boundaries, stretch your mind. (Except we don't do that anymore in modern education do we? Everyone passes, just some pass better than others. "All pigs are equal...")

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Thanks for that, but I'm afraid I still don't get it. If I was to conduct a Mozart Mass, I'd want to use an up-to-date edition. When I consult old editions or manuscripts (and I've done an awful lot of that in my time) I can take as much time as I need to work things out, transcribing it if need be - there is never any need to be able to read this stuff fluently at sight. You acquire a certain ability with experience - or at least I did - but I don't see the need to examine in it. In my opinion there are better priorities.

 

I heartily concur, VH.

 

Here, we regularly perform a wide variety of works which utilise soloists, chorus and orchestra. The editions which we hire are always modern editions and the orchestral parts are likewise reasonably up-to-date.

 

If there has been a need to consult a source (not often), then it is certainly not done during a rehearsal.

 

To be honest, I have never seen a score with three C-clefs. I was once slightly surprised by a couple of lines in a Widor organ symphony, in which the left-hand part suddenly became notated in the alto clef - but I suspect that this was purely due to problems of layout and trying to fit too many staves on a page.

 

As you say, this is rather less useful that one might think (a point of view expressed to David Briggs by another cathedral organist and myself in a pub in Gloucester, when he said that the RCO Council were considering introducing this test). I can think of far more useful things to do - such as a much higher priority with regard to improvisation, the teaching of which is still somewhat sketchy in this country. Yes, I know that the major colleges do have some tuition in improvisation as do courses such as Oundle - but, even ten years ago, there was really very little regular, structured guidance available.

 

Now there, our continental European colleagues put us to shame.

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All I can say is that there are loads of scores you come across from Bach through to Rossini where you get C clefs times 3, and no matter what amount of time you'd take preparing (even transcribe Rossini's Stabat Mater if you wish) when standing on the rostrum and someone asks you a question then THAT's when you wish you could read the clef fluently.

 

But it's like all exams - it's there to test you, surely, not just see what you already know? It's about what you do when required to think on your feet... to push your boundaries, stretch your mind. (Except we don't do that anymore in modern education do we? Everyone passes, just some pass better than others. "All pigs are equal...")

 

I'm with you on this, Alsa. Three C-clef scores are rife in various areas of church music; Christ Church, Oxford used to sing a Brahms Motet from such a score. And even if you never have to read Soprano clef in your working life the fact that you can indicates all sorts of good things about your musicianship. I didn't realise it at the time, but looking back on it, the main point of the Harmony and Counterpoint papers at Oxford was to check how much you could "hear" music in your head. The opposite end of the spectrum was an O-level Music teacher who demonstrated a whole-tone scale on the piano to my brother's class by reading it off some manuscript paper.

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I'm with you on this, Alsa. Three C-clef scores are rife in various areas of church music; Christ Church, Oxford used to sing a Brahms Motet from such a score. And even if you never have to read Soprano clef in your working life the fact that you can indicates all sorts of good things about your musicianship. I didn't realise it at the time, but looking back on it, the main point of the Harmony and Counterpoint papers at Oxford was to check how much you could "hear" music in your head. The opposite end of the spectrum was an O-level Music teacher who demonstrated a whole-tone scale on the piano to my brother's class by reading it off some manuscript paper.

 

The fact that Oxbridge colleges may need to read from three C-clefs hardly makes this a common occurrence up and down the land. The tests should surely be more relevant to the sort of problems likely to be encountered by a proficient organist in the course of his/her duties. How about the following?

 

1. Dealing with rambling sermons. A copy of the Daily Telegraph crossword will be shown to the candidate 15 minutes before the practical exam begins. The copy may not be marked in any way, and the use of a thesaurus will not be allowed. Candidates will be expected to complete as much of the crossword as possible during the practical session, preferably between the playing of the pieces and the keyboard skills tests.

 

2. Dealing with noisy congregations. Candidates will be expected to play a voluntary which has taken many weeks to prepare. During the playing, the examiners will move to within 10ft of the candidate and start braying loudly about nothing in particular. The candidate will then be expected to finish playing the voluntary, or at least end it at an appropriate point with some sort of cadential progression. Audible swearing by the candidate may well lead to disqualification.

 

Any other suggestions? :lol:

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The fact that Oxbridge colleges may need to read from three C-clefs hardly makes this a common occurrence up and down the land. The tests should surely be more relevant to the sort of problems likely to be encountered by a proficient organist in the course of his/her duties. How about the following?

 

1. Dealing with rambling sermons. A copy of the Daily Telegraph crossword will be shown to the candidate 15 minutes before the practical exam begins. The copy may not be marked in any way, and the use of a thesaurus will not be allowed. Candidates will be expected to complete as much of the crossword as possible during the practical session, preferably between the playing of the pieces and the keyboard skills tests. 

 

2. Dealing with noisy congregations. Candidates will be expected to play a voluntary which has taken many weeks to prepare. During the playing, the examiners will move to within 10ft of the candidate and start braying loudly about nothing in particular. The candidate will then be expected to finish playing the voluntary, or at least end it at an appropriate point with some sort of cadential progression. Audible swearing by the candidate may well lead to disqualification.

 

Any other suggestions? :D

Nice idea, Graham - both tests are essential. On the more serious point, I'm with innate and Alsa on this one, as I can honestly say I have used every one of the tests on a regular basis in professional life, even the score reading in C clefs (not only at Christ Church, by the way) - knowing the soprano clef fluently makes score reading Clarinets in A a lot easier too.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
The fact that Oxbridge colleges may need to read from three C-clefs hardly makes this a common occurrence up and down the land. The tests should surely be more relevant to the sort of problems likely to be encountered by a proficient organist in the course of his/her duties. How about the following?

 

1. Dealing with rambling sermons. A copy of the Daily Telegraph crossword will be shown to the candidate 15 minutes before the practical exam begins. The copy may not be marked in any way, and the use of a thesaurus will not be allowed. Candidates will be expected to complete as much of the crossword as possible during the practical session, preferably between the playing of the pieces and the keyboard skills tests. 

 

2. Dealing with noisy congregations. Candidates will be expected to play a voluntary which has taken many weeks to prepare. During the playing, the examiners will move to within 10ft of the candidate and start braying loudly about nothing in particular. The candidate will then be expected to finish playing the voluntary, or at least end it at an appropriate point with some sort of cadential progression. Audible swearing by the candidate may well lead to disqualification.

 

Any other suggestions? :D

 

1. and 2. above, yes - absolutely.

 

You ask for others, I suggest:

 

3. The candidate must sightread a current (but unfamiliar) 'worship song' on the organ, simultaneously both reharmonizing it, making it sound idiomatic to the instrument and performing the rhythm of the given melody line as it actually goes (as opposed to how it has been notated). Extra marks to be available for anyone who can continue beyond the first verse, following all directions as regards second time bars, hidden coda and variable links between any other verses which should be not expected to scan similarly to the first verse given.

4. The candidate must demonstrate the ability to sing a choice of at least three different voice parts from the console in an accompanied item to cover acceptably for likely absentees. Extra marks here should be for the ability to 'throw the voice' sufficiently to make it appear that the organist is standing alongside other singers.

5. The candidate must show the ability to explain to someone with the reduced understanding equivalent to a recently-trained clergyperson the possible function and public expectations of

Traditional Carol Service

Choral Festivals

Choral Evensong.

Marks will be deducted for a patronizing manner or signs of either petulance or weariness.

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1. and 2. above, yes - absolutely.

 

You ask for others,  I suggest:

 

3. The candidate must sightread a current (but unfamiliar) 'worship song' on the organ, simultaneously both reharmonizing it, making it sound idiomatic to the instrument and performing the rhythm of the given melody line as it actually goes (as opposed to how it has been notated).  Extra marks to be available for anyone who can continue beyond the first verse, following all directions as regards second time bars, hidden coda and variable links between any other verses which should be not expected to scan similarly to the first verse given.

4. The candidate must demonstrate the ability to sing a choice of at least three different voice parts from the console in an accompanied item to cover acceptably for likely absentees. Extra marks here should be for the ability to 'throw the voice' sufficiently to make it appear that the organist is standing alongside other singers.

5. The candidate must show the ability to explain to someone with the reduced understanding equivalent to a recently-trained clergyperson the possible function and public expectations of

      Traditional Carol Service

    Choral Festivals

    Choral Evensong.

Marks will be deducted for a patronizing manner or signs of either petulance or weariness.

 

All mentioned, plus:

 

Role-Play Exercise.

The candidate will outline an appropriate response to the following scenario:

During the post eleven o'clock mass voluntary, an elderly and beligerent member of the clergy will emerge from the sacristy, thump the music-desk and shout loudly into the candidate's ear these or similar words: 'They're trying to say the bloody Angelus'.

Use of the Tuba is not permitted.

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Nice idea, Graham - both tests are essential. On the more serious point, I'm with innate and Alsa on this one, as I can honestly say I have used every one of the tests on a regular basis in professional life, even the score reading in C clefs (not only at Christ Church, by the way) - knowing the soprano clef fluently makes score reading Clarinets in A a lot easier too.

 

 

Exactly sjf. I think we have to remember that ARCO is the standard proficiency test and FRCO demonstrates proficiency to the highest professional standard, which includes being fluent in score reading. Whether you think it applies to you or not, it does apply to a lot of people at the top of the trade and that's what FRCO was set up for.

 

I like the suggestions in the second part of Paul's email though too. Definitely worthy of serious consideration! They might have been written with his tongue in his cheek, but ...

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Nowhere did I suggest that one shouldn't be fluent in score reading. But is it more useful to be able to read three C clefs, or a score that includes two C clefs and a transposing instrument (any one of them, without prior warning)? And, while we're at it, why limit the score reading to four parts? If you're looking for the highest professional standards, then five ir six parts should definitely be on the menu. I hesitate to suggest eight since, with so dense a texture, the counterpoint tends to become confused by the amount of crossing of parts.

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Nice idea, Graham - both tests are essential. On the more serious point, I'm with innate and Alsa on this one, as I can honestly say I have used every one of the tests on a regular basis in professional life, even the score reading in C clefs (not only at Christ Church, by the way) - knowing the soprano clef fluently makes score reading Clarinets in A a lot easier too.

 

Exactly Stephen - but you are a cathedral organist by profession. Most organists are not! Does this mean that the FRCO should only be aspired to by those who follow a certain career path?

 

Every test I did for ARCO has been useful to me at some point. I've had to sightread, score-read and transpose at very short notice, and have accepted this as par for the course. Although I do some freelance playing, I earn my principal living outside the world of music. With family commitments too, practice time is always at a premium, and I can't imagine ever wanting to sit down and learn these clefs, knowing it would be for a complete "one-off".

 

I agree that the ability to be able to read these clefs says many good things about musicianship and the ability to be able to master a discipline, but I suspect that most organists would consider them largely irrelevant compared to what they do on a regular basis.

 

I reckon a far more valuable test would be to place a hymn-tune (composed by an RCO examiner) in front of an FRCO candidate 15 minutes before the exam (along with the transposition test), let them play through it once during the exam and then expect them to reharmonise it fluently in the manner of an accomplished last verse descant. Only my opinion of course....................

 

As for me, I'll keep practising the DT crossword................... :D

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Exactly Stephen - but you are a cathedral organist by profession. Most organists are not! Does this mean that the FRCO should only be aspired to by those who follow a certain career path?

 

Every test I did for ARCO has been useful to me at some point. I've had to sightread, score-read and transpose at very short notice, and have accepted this as par for the course. Although I do some freelance playing, I earn my principal living outside the world of music. With family commitments too, practice time is always at a premium, and I can't imagine ever wanting to sit down and learn these clefs, knowing it would be for a complete "one-off".

 

I agree that the ability to be able to read these clefs says many good things about musicianship and the ability to be able to master a discipline, but I suspect that most organists would consider them largely irrelevant compared to what they do on a regular basis.

 

I reckon a far more valuable test would be to place a hymn-tune (composed by an RCO examiner) in front of an FRCO candidate 15 minutes before the exam (along with the transposition test), let them play through it once during the exam and then expect them to reharmonise it fluently in the manner of an accomplished last verse descant. Only my opinion of course....................

 

As for me, I'll keep practising the DT crossword................... :D

 

Yes, sjf is a cathedral organist and a very good one too! Isn't the FRCO designed to be "the gold standard" for those who aim to be at the top of the profession - not just those who are very able, but nevertheless amateur.

 

I went to an ARCO training session once where the examiner had each of us in turn either play a piece or do a test and we all gave a mark for it. His marking was at odds with all of us because he gave lower marks. One of us said that he was marking harshly and that everyone had played to an alright standard (no-one had had a fail mark), but the examiner stuck to his guns and I remember him saying something along the lines of - yes the playing is alright but what about these points which were not as good as they could be, or missed altogether. And what do we do for marks if we give 27 28 or 29/30 for this satisfactory but not totally accurate and stunning performance, and then the next candidate to come into the room is the John Scott of the next generation?

 

That's the trouble - we all know what we like and what we'd prefer to do, but professionals have different requirements. Just imagine what would happen if they ran the Royal College of Surgeons on these lines!

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I see the "new" RCO website is up and running and that their "opening" hours remain the same. I have visions of knocking on a door on a side street somewhere between the hours of 10 and 4 and being led into someone's back bedroom. lol....

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I have visions of knocking on a door on a side street somewhere between the hours of 10 and 4 and being led into someone's back bedroom. lol....

 

 

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

 

You didn't specify whether this would be during the day or during the night.

 

This could be greatly misunderstood, I fear.

 

MM

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That's the trouble - we all know what we like and what we'd prefer to do, but professionals have different requirements. Just imagine what would happen if they ran the Royal College of Surgeons on these lines!

 

Well OK - but I have never heard of anyone being killed by incompetent organ playing.

 

I also take Stephen's point - yet there is still the fact that another cathedral organist and I raised this point with David Briggs in a pub in Gloucester some years ago. This particular cathedral organist had never had to use C clefs and was very much against the idea of introducing them into FRCO tests.

 

Whilst I accept that Stephen and 'Alsa' have found them useful, nevertheless I have never met a score with unusual C clefs - and have played for quite a number of events, involving orchestras, organs, and various other types of ensemble.

 

I still think that there are more useful things to do - some of Paul's suggestions are quite amusing - but also contain a grain of truth.

 

Anither possibility is testing the ability of an organist to cope with a priest who insists on choosing either inappropriate hymns, or inappropriate tunes to hymns - and without resorting to the use of firearms.

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