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you're wrong about Wayne Marshall and Simon Preston.. I refer you to my previous answer :D

 

 

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

 

I should have realised that Wayne Marshall was an FRCO, because he was the one who presented Petr Eben with his Hon FRCO.

 

Simon Preston....I guess they HAD to give him one!

 

 

MM

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you're wrong about Wayne Marshall and Simon Preston.. I refer you to my previous answer ;)

 

 

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

 

Did I manage to scrape past the required 70%?

 

:D

 

MM

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Indeed, and Jane Parker-Smith is a non-FRCO (and a non-Hon FRCO)too..........

 

And Hon FRCOs are also held by

 

Andrew Lumsden

Barry Rose

Ian Tracey

Olivier Latry

Marie Claire Alain

 

amongst others

 

RCO exams ... it's a dead easy concept to grasp:

 

ARCO is an exam - a hurdle - a qualification - for any organist, and FRCO is one for those who aspire to be professional musicians, or aspire to be of the standard of professional musicians, presumably so that one has a level of qualification which makes it easier to get a good job, be it in a church or and educational establishment or to gain private pupils. That's why people take the exams. Why else would they take them?

 

Some in the list of Hon FRCOS didn't take the exam - didn't get round to it or didn't see the point - possibly some regret in some way not doing it, left it too late, became too distinguished to take the exam without a potential loss of face, but surely its good to have these people "on the inside pissing out" - after all some of them became President and gave their time freely to the college ...

 

... or are distinguished organists from overseas ... good to have them on the college books. What other way could British organists 'honour' these fantastic musicians?

 

Some tried but didn't manage it, however they more than later proved their worth so the college 'honoured' them with a diploma (always a reverse honour - i.e. they honour the College by accepting it)

 

... and Heath - well, he was Prime Minister so there was kudos for the college there - they would have been foolish not to acknowledge him. But none of these diminish the efforts of those who took the exam and passed.

 

Like any exam in the world, in the end it doesn't prove anything other than a level of perceived competency on the day of the things you were asked to do, but at least it does show you have some capability and potential.

 

So what is the point of all this listing?

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ARCO is an exam - a hurdle - a qualification - for any organist, and FRCO is one for those who aspire to be professional musicians, or aspire to be of the standard of professional musicians?

 

Sir Thomas Beecham had other thoughts on THAT particular aspiration!

 

 

Like any exam in the world, in the end it doesn't prove anything other than a level of perceived competency on the day of the things you were asked to do, but at least it does show you have some capability and potential.

 

So what is the point of all this listing?

 

You answered your own question.

 

Perhaps we are discussing the absuridty of institutionalised peer approval?MM

 

 

 

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I for one regard the FRCO very highly, if only because of the difficulties involved in achieving it. I positively yearn to get to a point where I can have a go -- does that make me sad?

 

Compared to the fellowship dips offered by other institutions (e.g. ABRSM, Trinity, LCM etc.) one might say that the performance element of FRCO seems the _easiest_ (granted, the marking scheme adopted may be particularly harsh) but of course there are all those other hoops to jump through.. arbitarily awkward though some of them may be.

 

I was extremely proud when I passed ARCO at the ripe old age of 35, if only because it's not every day you get the thoughts of three cathedral organists on one's own playing (in my case Exeter, St. Albans and Southwark I think...)

 

I would love to see the demographic of those passing ARCO and FRCO. What is the average age? How rare is an FRCO for someone in their 30s/40s/50s ? Does one have to do it in the "white heat" of studenthood or early 20s to have any chance? Perhaps there is no hope for me...

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I for one regard the FRCO very highly, if only because of the difficulties involved in achieving it. I positively yearn to get to a point where I can have a go -- does that make me sad?

 

Compared to the fellowship dips offered by other institutions (e.g. ABRSM, Trinity, LCM etc.) one might say that the performance element of FRCO seems the _easiest_ (granted, the marking scheme adopted may be particularly harsh) but of course there are all those other hoops to jump through.. arbitarily awkward though some of them may be.

 

I was extremely proud when I passed ARCO at the ripe old age of 35, if only because it's not every day you get the thoughts of three cathedral organists on one's own playing (in my case Exeter, St. Albans and Southwark I think...)

 

And you should be proud! Well done!

 

I would love to see the demographic of those passing ARCO and FRCO. What is the average age? How rare is an FRCO for someone in their 30s/40s/50s ? Does one have to do it in the "white heat" of studenthood or early 20s to have any chance? Perhaps there is no hope for me...

 

Not a demographic but I passed ARCO paperwork first time at 18 and the playing 6 months later. I took FRCO three years later and passed the playing first time but failed the paperwork - this was a few weeks after getting a good 2nd Class degree in Music at Oxford. As they say these days "Go figure!". I never bothered retaking the paperwork and wouldn't dream of putting myself through an exam now.

 

At the presentation ceremony for my ARCO the recital was given by Nicholas Kynaston who made a short humble speech in which he warmly congratulated all the diploma holders for doing something he would never have been able to do, referring to his FRCO (hon.).

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ARCO is an exam - a hurdle - a qualification - for any organist, and FRCO is one for those who aspire to be professional musicians, or aspire to be of the standard of professional musicians?

 

Sir Thomas Beecham had other thoughts on THAT particular aspiration!

 

 

Like any exam in the world, in the end it doesn't prove anything other than a level of perceived competency on the day of the things you were asked to do, but at least it does show you have some capability and potential.

 

So what is the point of all this listing?

 

You answered your own question.

 

Perhaps we are discussing the absuridty of institutionalised peer approval?MM

 

 

I detect sort of sour grapes issues here!

 

Beecham - always one with a quick and clever remark - few show any real depth - all covering an insecure person, on the run from his debtors...

 

You missed the point - it's not peer approval that many taking an RCO exam seek, it's ambition to do better and improve ones lot.

 

I for one find it very helpful to have the sort of skills that doing an RCO diploma or 2 made me develop. Without these exams I just wouldn't have got round to it.

 

Those who don't get round to taking the diploma perhaps don't need this carrot or indeed the leg up that an FRCO might give to get onto a shortlist.

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Does one have to do it in the "white heat" of studenthood or early 20s to have any chance? Perhaps there is no hope for me...
Of course there's hope! I did my ARCO when I was about 20 and did quite well - I missed the top prize by one mark (for which I strongly suspect a sloppy piston change was responsible). I then did a very stupid thing. Having consoled myself with the Sawyer Prize I felt I ought at least to maximise my chances at getting one of the FRCO prizes (not that there was ever much hope of that, but nothing ventured, nothing gained). But that meant (a) ensuring I passed both paperwork and practical in the same exam - which in turn would mean waiting until the right history period came around and (b ) since I've never claimed to be Virgil Fox, waiting until there was a conducive set of pieces. In short the moment passed. And passed, and passed... Time rolled on. At one point I even gave up playing the organ altogether for two or three years (not something I would recommend - I've never been quite the same since). Then I got another church job, got back into the swing of things, decided it was now or never and put myself down for the FRCO, hoping I might scrape a pass. I got through the paperwork first time, but the b****rds failed my playing. It wasn't wrong notes - they just didn't like my interpretations. So the next time round I made a point of giving them the interpretations I knew they wanted to hear rather than what I felt was right and passed reasonably comfortably.

 

The point of this is that it pays to find out who the examiners are going to be and what sort of style(s) they like. For, though all of them will claim to be open-minded without any preconceived notions of what is acceptable, you will be very lucky to find ones that are as adaptable as they like to think they are.

 

Further on this, a little story. Many years ago Sidney Campbell was examining - I forget whether it was AR or FR. After one session he came back steaming mildly from the ears. There had been a bit of an argument between the three examiners over the awarding of the top prize. One superb candidate had played Buxtehude's Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor in what, reading between the lines, may well have been a stylus phantasticus interpretation. At any rate, he had begun slowly and wound up the speed. Two of the examiners wanted to award him the prize, but Campbell strongly disagreed. He had thought the interpretation positively bizarre and felt that, although the candidate certainly deserved a pass, he didn't merit a prize. Campbell, being outnumbered, lost. Now when it came to interpretation Campbell was possibly the most open-minded and flexible musician I have ever come across, yet this demonstrates that even he had his limitations.

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I detect sort of sour grapes issues here!

 

Beecham - always one with a quick and clever remark - few show any real depth - all covering an insecure person, on the run from his debtors...

 

You missed the point - it's not peer approval that many taking an RCO exam seek, it's ambition to do better and improve ones lot.

 

I for one find it very helpful to have the sort of skills that doing an RCO diploma or 2 made me develop. Without these exams I just wouldn't have got round to it.

 

Those who don't get round to taking the diploma perhaps don't need this carrot or indeed the leg up that an FRCO might give to get onto a shortlist.

 

 

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

 

Sour grapes issues?

 

Tommy Beecham insecure and lacking in depth?

 

What sorts of qualifications does one need to make these sort of judgements, I wonder?

 

I hope that the sour grapes issue is not pointed in my direction, because I am completely immune, with not the slightest interest in chomping at carrots, hurdling or short-lists.

 

Maybe I just judge things differently, which may explain why I most admire my closest friend who can barely read or write, but has the sort of business-mind which most MBA's would die for. He laughs all the way to the bank, strokes his race-horses and dusts off his 22 Lowrey paintings!

 

I have ears of my own, and I can easily tell the difference between one Hon FRCO and the next; especially if one was a career politician and the other happens to be someone like Simon Preston.

 

Maybe what most cannot comprehend, is the fact that some people are just born with a clear indication of destiny. It would be a brave man who judged an Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher on the basis of a driving-test qualification.....these people work on a different plane to ordinary mortals. The same applies to those who were born to be brilliant musicians.

 

As for Tommy Beecham, I would die happy if people laughed a quarter-as-much at some of the things I say and write.

 

Pity the clown who lacked depth but who can still can be heard in the BBC archives?

 

I think not!

 

 

MM

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Of course there's hope! I did my ARCO when I was about 20 and did quite well - I missed the top prize by one mark (for which I strongly suspect a sloppy piston change was responsible). I then did a very stupid thing. Having consoled myself with the Sawyer Prize I felt I ought at least to maximise my chances at getting one of the FRCO prizes (not that there was ever much hope of that, but nothing ventured, nothing gained). But that meant (a) ensuring I passed both paperwork and practical in the same exam - which in turn would mean waiting until the right history period came around and (b ) since I've never claimed to be Virgil Fox, waiting until there was a conducive set of pieces. In short the moment passed. And passed, and passed... Time rolled on. At one point I even gave up playing the organ altogether for two or three years (not something I would recommend - I've never been quite the same since). Then I got another church job, got back into the swing of things, decided it was now or never and put myself down for the FRCO, hoping I might scrape a pass. I got through the paperwork first time, but the b****rds failed my playing. It wasn't wrong notes - they just didn't like my interpretations. So the next time round I made a point of giving them the interpretations I knew they wanted to hear rather than what I felt was right and passed reasonably comfortably.

 

The point of this is that it pays to find out who the examiners are going to be and what sort of style(s) they like. For, though all of them will claim to be open-minded without any preconceived notions of what is acceptable, you will be very lucky to find ones that are as adaptable as they like to think they are.

 

Further on this, a little story. Many years ago Sidney Campbell was examining - I forget whether it was AR or FR. After one session he came back steaming mildly from the ears. There had been a bit of an argument between the three examiners over the awarding of the top prize. One superb candidate had played Buxtehude's Prelude and Fugue in F sharp minor in what, reading between the lines, may well have been a stylus phantasticus interpretation. At any rate, he had begun slowly and wound up the speed. Two of the examiners wanted to award him the prize, but Campbell strongly disagreed. He had thought the interpretation positively bizarre and felt that, although the candidate certainly deserved a pass, he didn't merit a prize. Campbell, being outnumbered, lost. Now when it came to interpretation Campbell was possibly the most open-minded and flexible musician I have ever come across, yet this demonstrates that even he had his limitations.

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

 

 

I hope that the sour grapes issue is not pointed in my direction, because I am completely immune, with not the slightest interest in chomping at carrots, hurdling or short-lists.

 

MM

 

 

Excellent - Good for you!

 

So I just wonder why you need to make so much fuss about FRCOs, honorary or not, seeing that they mean nothing to you.

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Then I got another church job, got back into the swing of things, decided it was now or never and put myself down for the FRCO, hoping I might scrape a pass.
Having wittered on at inordinate length, I forgot the most important piece of info of the lot, which is that I was 32 before I got around to doing my FR. So go for it, mrbouffant!

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Having wittered on at inordinate length, I forgot the most important piece of info of the lot, which is that I was 32 before I got around to doing my FR. So go for it, mrbouffant!

 

Cheers dude. My plan is to give FRCO practical a bash next Summer... As for FRCO paperwork ... :blink:

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Cheers dude. My plan is to give FRCO practical a bash next Summer... As for FRCO paperwork ...  :blink:

Good luck, many do succeed in time - there's even a prize (Richardson) if you can wait until you're at the point where 'broad mind and narrow hips change places' (ie over 40)!!

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Excellent - Good for you!

 

So I just wonder why you need to make so much fuss about FRCOs, honorary or not, seeing that they mean nothing to you.

 

 

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

 

I didn't suggest that the RCO exams didn't mean anything to me; it's just that I have never had a personal interest in wanting to sit them.

 

I think the point I tried to make, is that ANY exam is only a window through which others look and judge accordingly. I can fully appreciate the academic content of the paperwork and the very high pass-mark required at all levels, and on that basis alone, I would suggest that the RCO exams are a measure of competence at the very least. The FRCO has always been a good ,alternative, graduate-status qualification specifically geared at organists, and in that respect, it has weight and relevance.

 

However, the initial discussion was about the future of the RCO rather than the examinations, and this was addressed by many, including myself.

 

Rubbing away at a crystal-ball, and being acutely aware of massive changes in the fortunes of organists "on choir-screens and places where they tootle," the whole future of organ-playing is threatened by the relative paucity of career positions; not so much at the highest level, but in those churches which once had links with schools and had the choral-tradition which required an organist of professional ability.

 

I don't think I can put an accurate figure upon it, but I'd guess that 75% of those linked apppointments have now disappeared.

 

This is a problem now faced not only by organists, but also by the RCO, as the sand shifts and the stream of support begins to dry up.

 

On that basis alone, the RCO must re-invent itself and perhaps place far greater emphasis on outreach to a now almost completely secular world. The further danger is that the RCO remains as it is, for it will surely start to shrivel away into a cosy, academic-club for those who are not really in touch with musical reality.

 

It is, in fact, exactly the same position in which poor old JSB found himself, when his contemporaries referred to him as "old Bach."

 

I would go further, by suggesting that the academic requirements are well covered by other institutions, who do very similar things. As for C clefs and other niceties, it really isn't that much of a hurdle to learn them IF THEY ARE REQUIRED.

The same is true of figured basses, which are possibly more relevant to concerto and accompaniment organists performing with early-music ensembles.

 

As I have also suggested, I would not have a prayer of a hope of even ARCO paperwork, due largely to an almost dyslexic handicap which amounts to an almost complete inability to "think" music and then write it down. Curiously and frustratingly, if someone points me towards a melody, I'll instantly harmonise it and then improvise a whole symphony!! There ARE stranger things, but not many.

 

Any examination is a personal challenge and something of a hurdle, but when it comes to performance exams, they possibly mean less than we may hope. If I selfishly gaze upon my own abilities, yes I could probably match a number of very good organists at playing a Bach fugue, and I have played the Reubke from time to time in concert.

 

There is, however, an enormous difference between my abilities and those of certain people on this board such as Stephen Farr and Paul Durrett. THEY would be able to match MY attempts almost at sight, whereas "aye" would have been laboriously practising for weeks to match theirs, and yet, if it were an exam performance, no-one would be able to examine that critical difference in ability.

 

So on the basis of "man first know thyself" I made a very conscious decision to abandon music and do something else; leaving "professional" music to those who are the true professionals. Self-delusion is the worst of enemies, and I've never tolerated that in others, and even less in myself.

 

The saddest thing of all is when examination success turns into a type of sport, or become an excuse for unjustified conceit. God knows, the world is full of people like that!

 

So in parenthesis, as it were, maybe I am simply trying to point out that any exam is but an image through a window, and not an entire landscape view. In this, difficult though they may be, the RCO examinations are no different.

 

MM

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As we now seem to have moved from the topic of the RCO moving to the actual examinations I wonder if I might throw a little something in here?

 

Does anyone know (especially if there are any RCO examiners lurking here!) just what they (the examiners) are looking for in the improvisation part of the keyboard tests for the FRCO? I would be very glad for some suggestions!! (exam looming!)

 

F-W

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I always understood it was:

 

* Imaginative and relevant structural use of the theme

* Convincing shape/form

* Good, competent control of harmonic vocabulary. (I assume there's no bar on modern styles so long as the idiom is deliberate, competent and consistent; I'd be interested to hear further views on this.)

 

In short, a miniature musical composition rather than an aimless waffle.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
As we now seem to have moved from the topic of the RCO moving to the actual examinations I wonder if I might throw a little something in here?

 

Does anyone know (especially if there are any RCO examiners lurking here!) just what  they (the examiners) are looking for in the improvisation part of the keyboard tests for the FRCO? I would be very glad for some suggestions!! (exam looming!)

 

F-W

 

 

I seriously advise you to track down someone who has taken part in RCO examining recently, or to attend an officially sponsored RCO examination workshop. This will save you a lot of heartache. The requirements for several tests at the organ are very specific to the RCO and common-sense will not necessarily save you! This is one of those times when to spend a little of your hard-earned on a master lesson from someone genuinely 'in the know' will pay serious dividends - not least to your peace of mind on the great day itself.

 

I think very few candidates do this sort of thing by preparing entirely on their own, and although you may be totally brilliant and cruise through everything without anyone's help, a bit of well-directed advice cannot hurt and could give you those extra marks that really make a difference.

 

If I was to try to tell you exactly what the current examiners expect, I (and many like me) would be thoroughly out of date.

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I always understood it was:

 

* Imaginative and relevant structural use of the theme

* Convincing shape/form

* Good, competent control of harmonic vocabulary. (I assume there's no bar on modern styles so long as the idiom is deliberate, competent and consistent; I'd be interested to hear further views on this.)

 

In short, a miniature musical composition rather than an aimless waffle.

Bang on. In my observation most FR improvisers have been well 'over' or well 'under'. Those that succeed usually produce pieces of music that

 

a are inventive and interesting to listen to (good ideas, textures and registrations that are derived from the given material)

b Have a clear structure supported by changes in tempo, dynamic and distribution

c have clear and characteristic rhythms

d have a consistent and coherent key plan and harmonic rhythm

e make effective use of the pedal

 

As well as following Paul's excellent advice you should regularly record yourself, leave it a few days and then listen carefully (and honestly) with the marking criteria (p25 of current syllabus).

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Bang on.  In my observation most FR improvisers have been well 'over' or well 'under'.  Those that succeed usually produce pieces of music that

 

a are inventive and interesting to listen to (good ideas, textures and registrations that are derived from the given material)

b Have a clear structure supported by changes in tempo, dynamic and distribution

c have clear and characteristic rhythms

d have a consistent and coherent key plan and harmonic rhythm

e make effective use of the pedal

 

As well as following Paul's excellent advice you should regularly record yourself, leave it a few days and then listen carefully (and honestly) with the marking criteria (p25 of current syllabus).

 

In a word - MUSIC

 

Best wishes and happy crafting.

 

NJA

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Guest Barry Williams
I take it you mean soprano clef? The FRCO score reading test has always used alto and tenor clefs and I think that is fair enough since they are both standard in the orchestral repertoire. Indeed, I would like to see the alto clef being used much more in organ music too. Many's the time I've seen left hand passages replete with leger lines or clef changes which would be far more conveniently notated in the alto clef. I sometimes use the Peters edition of Bach's "18" that uses C clefs and like it very much.

 

 

I find it easier to read from alto and tenor clefs without leger lines than treble and bass clefs with leger lines. Is this unusual?

 

Barry Williams

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