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Musical Standards in Church


Vox Humana
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Will, I agree entirely that it is absolutely vital to encourage reluctant players. I would suggest that it's not reluctant players (often, as has already been noted, faithful, committed, enthusiastic people who love what they do but lack training and experience) who damage the organ's reputation in the eyes of the general public, so much as those who are rather less skilled than they themselves realise, but are often anything but reluctant.

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Such a 'reluctant organists' course would be a fabulous idea over here - where a fair number of those in the post are actually pianists. As mentioned before, a focus on hymn playing, registration, wedding and funeral music, and the suchlike would be quite informative to those who wish to gain a broader impression of what is involved in organ playing.

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Certainly, my local IAO association is very keen to help and support reluctant organists. Every year or 2 we run a workshop aimed specifically at reluctant organists. It's usually a Saturday afternoon and we'll usually get a fairly well known teacher in to lead it. It covers how to play hymns, playing suitable voluntaries and service music - and also how to accompany worship songs on the organ, which we find is a big concern to many reluctant organists as many of the songs weren't composed with organ accompaniment in mind but their church is very keen to use them.

 

We aim it very much at the reluctant organists - pianists who play the organ, people who've had no organ lessons but "get by", beginners, etc. We cover things like how to play a hymn (with or without pedals), playovers, registration, use of the pedals, and also a bit of a workshop on pieces of music. We can also follow up with links to organ teachers, etc, if reluctant organists want to have further guidance. Although anyone can come, we try to avoid giving too much coverage to the latest whizzkid in the association who's just got a highly presitgious Oxbridge scholarship and passed his ARCO at 15 as we want to encourage the more humble organists to feel comfortable.

 

A big issue we have is connecting to these reluctant organists - quite often they are isolated away and don't really mix with other organists - so getting word out to these organists about our workshops requires quite a lot of effort and cost on our part. We've found one the best ways to get people to come is to write to all the churches in our "patch" with a flyer and covering letter - but I'm sure it doesn't always get from the vicar to the organist. However, we end up only broadcasting to C of E churches because that's the denominiation most of the association belongs to: it would really help if we could contact non-conformists churches and the Catholic fraternity in the same way. I think it would benefit them as the skills and area we cover would also be useful to them. But the problem is, nobody in our association has enough knowledge to know where to start...

 

I think a big concern many reluctant organists have is confidence. Many of them are very humble and painfully aware of their shortcomings. And it does take a fair bit of confidence to accompany and lead a congregation effectively. So I think it's important at our workshop to be aware of the psycological side, how to give our reluctant organists more confidence and how to make them feel valued for the very important contribution they give. It also gives reluctant organists the opportunity to share experiences and network a bit, which they find very valuable.

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Colin:

My singing teacher, Hilary Llysten Jones, helps with the music at the RC church opposite the library in Winchester. If you like I can let you have her contact details privately.

 

The Brighton organists' association started reluctant organist classes many years ago led by Janette Cooper and John Gardiner. Later they got taken over by the RSCM and the rest, as they say, is history. I can't remember when the RSCM "took over" but I don't think it was as a result of Janette Cooper becoming warden at Addington; I think she was already doing reluctant courses there before she got that job.

 

Malcolm

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Certainly, my local IAO association is very keen to help and support reluctant organists. Every year or 2 we run a workshop aimed specifically at reluctant organists. It's usually a Saturday afternoon and we'll usually get a fairly well known teacher in to lead it. It covers how to play hymns, playing suitable voluntaries and service music - and also how to accompany worship songs on the organ, which we find is a big concern to many reluctant organists as many of the songs weren't composed with organ accompaniment in mind but their church is very keen to use them.

 

We aim it very much at the reluctant organists - pianists who play the organ, people who've had no organ lessons but "get by", beginners, etc. We cover things like how to play a hymn (with or without pedals), playovers, registration, use of the pedals, and also a bit of a workshop on pieces of music. We can also follow up with links to organ teachers, etc, if reluctant organists want to have further guidance. Although anyone can come, we try to avoid giving too much coverage to the latest whizzkid in the association who's just got a highly presitgious Oxbridge scholarship and passed his ARCO at 15 as we want to encourage the more humble organists to feel comfortable.

 

A big issue we have is connecting to these reluctant organists - quite often they are isolated away and don't really mix with other organists - so getting word out to these organists about our workshops requires quite a lot of effort and cost on our part. We've found one the best ways to get people to come is to write to all the churches in our "patch" with a flyer and covering letter - but I'm sure it doesn't always get from the vicar to the organist. However, we end up only broadcasting to C of E churches because that's the denominiation most of the association belongs to: it would really help if we could contact non-conformists churches and the Catholic fraternity in the same way. I think it would benefit them as the skills and area we cover would also be useful to them. But the problem is, nobody in our association has enough knowledge to know where to start...

 

I think a big concern many reluctant organists have is confidence. Many of them are very humble and painfully aware of their shortcomings. And it does take a fair bit of confidence to accompany and lead a congregation effectively. So I think it's important at our workshop to be aware of the psycological side, how to give our reluctant organists more confidence and how to make them feel valued for the very important contribution they give. It also gives reluctant organists the opportunity to share experiences and network a bit, which they find very valuable.

 

I sympathise wholeheartedly with a great deal of this.

 

FWIW, when I put on workshops for 'diffident organists' it is precise the skills of accompanying a congregation (and judging when gently to lead them) and confidence building which are the main concentration.

 

Often a group workshop, carefully planned and conducted to be fair in times and non-threatening, works within a planned group of individual coaching sessions.

 

A variety of instruments can also help (i.e. visits to different venues) and the local association should be keen to help, I'd have thought, as is the case in Hampshire and elsewhere - exposure to different instruments as well as different musical experiences generally results in an increase of enthusiasm.

 

Fundamentally, we must enable people to enjoy their music-making, rather than considering it to be a chore they have fallen into to help their home parish.

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A variety of instruments can also help (i.e. visits to different venues) and the local association should be keen to help, I'd have thought, as is the case in Hampshire and elsewhere - exposure to different instruments as well as different musical experiences generally results in an increase of enthusiasm.

 

This is just so true. In my case a lack of basic talent despite hard work and enthusiasm, rather than reluctance, stopped my progress before the point that I should have liked, but I shall never, ever forget the huge thrill when I was allowed a few minutes on the organ on one of our major cathedrals. The organist let me choose a piece (Karg Elert's Nun Danket) and registered it for me, ending with full organ. My first handson experience of a huge tutti with Tuba and 32' Bombarde gave me so much inspiration that I worked much, much harder than ever before.

 

I'm sure that any reluctant organist, maybe with a village 2P 16, 8, 8, 8, 4 and little idea of how to use the available stops would gain enormous benefit from the chance to play something a little more colourful and be given tips on how to make his instrument sound better than he thought possible.

 

P

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Several (at least 15) years ago I went on a day course run by the RSCM in Manchester. Course tutors inluded Gordon Stewart and a couple of others (whose names now escape me) of similar musical stature. The 20 or so of us were divided into 3 groups - ABRSM grade VII +, intermediate and beginners/reluctants. The ABRSM grade VII + group were taken to St Philip's, Salford for sensitive, helpful but robust criticism of our playing of Bach chorale preludes. The intermediates were taken on an organ-crawl round the city.

 

The reluctants were let loose on the cathedral organ for the day. :huh:

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A big issue we have is connecting to these reluctant organists - quite often they are isolated away and don't really mix with other organists - so getting word out to these organists about our workshops requires quite a lot of effort and cost on our part. We've found one the best ways to get people to come is to write to all the churches in our "patch" with a flyer and covering letter - but I'm sure it doesn't always get from the vicar to the organist. However, we end up only broadcasting to C of E churches because that's the denominiation most of the association belongs to: it would really help if we could contact non-conformists churches and the Catholic fraternity in the same way. I think it would benefit them as the skills and area we cover would also be useful to them. But the problem is, nobody in our association has enough knowledge to know where to start...

 

Hi

 

It's not that difficult in these days of the internet to track down local associations or districts of non-conformist denominations.

 

A few minutes searching for the denomination name will usually find the national grouping's web page, and there are links there to local groupings - I did this recently to track down representative church leaders to invite to a Bradford Organists' association event. There is still the problem of info not getting past the Minister and/or church Secretary - and that happens with denominational mailings sometimes, let alone info from outside bodies, it's a fact of life.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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How far do you find similar playing in countries such as America, Norway and Germany that take church music seriously?

 

I am not so unrealistic as to suggest that organists must either play to FRCO standard or not bother at all, and one can argue about where to draw the line with regard to what is acceptable (personally I am quite pragmatic about this), but surely there are many cases like the above example when silence would be more seemly? That churches should nevertheless consider such playing an appropriate and acceptable public witness speaks volumes. Does the church get the organists it deserves? What does such playing do for the public image of the church at large? Has the church allowed music to become a bullet with which it has shot itself in the foot?

 

Allowing that all this is true, has anyone come up with a form of words to use to someone who clearly ought to hang up their organ shoes for good? It is very, very difficult, especially when replacements are hard to come by.

How do you put the point across without crushing the person involved or appearing to dismiss their many years of service?

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Allowing that all this is true, has anyone come up with a form of words to use to someone who clearly ought to hang up their organ shoes for good? It is very, very difficult, especially when replacements are hard to come by.

How do you put the point across without crushing the person involved or appearing to dismiss their many years of service?

I agree that this is very difficult, if not impossible. I do not think you could ever reduce it to a standard form of words because it is something that needs to be done in person, not by letter and the approach must be flexible in order to depend entirely on the individual circumstances at hand. I'm sure I couldn't do it because, as I've admitted before, my idea of diplomacy begins by reaching for the blunderbuss. However, you don't do it like this: http://www.mander-organs.com/discussion/in...amp;#entry42619

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I do see what you mean <_< but maybe bone-headed insensitivity is a valuable attribute in a desperate case like this. Apart from anything else, if the organ playing resembles the example provided (owing to frailty), you can imagine how perilous is the car journey to church.

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I do see what you mean B) but maybe bone-headed insensitivity is a valuable attribute in a desperate case like this. Apart from anything else, if the organ playing resembles the example provided (owing to frailty), you can imagine how perilous is the car journey to church.

I think that, sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and be blunt. It's probably better for the person to have to suffer hurt in the short term, rather than having them continue to inflict their offerings on an unfortunate congregation.

 

An organist friend of mine managed to get his fairly incompetent predecessor out of his post by saying each Sunday how sorry he was to hear that the poor fellow's arthritis was obviously playing him up. <_<

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I have known it to work. Nearly 40 years ago someone in Brighton had been organist of the same church for 52 years and his playing was getting even worse than it had always been with a result that Merbecke and well-known hymn tunes became unrecognisable and every bar went at a different tempo. The vicar spoke to the organist's wife who told him she couldn't intervene and that he (the Vicar) would have to do it himself. The following week the Vicar, with much fear and trepidation, called the organist into the sacristy after the Parish Mass and, as gently as possible, told him his playing was obviously deteriorating due to his very poor health and had he ever thought of giving up. The organist - never an easy man to deal with - thanked the Vicar and said he would think about it. The following week, with a few tears, the organist thanked the Vicar for being so honest and handed in his resignation. The Vicar's words had clearly been a welcome final realisation of what he already knew within himself. And this from a Vicar who didn't always enjoy a reputation for being tactful. His leaving was handled with great pastoral sensitivity - which was one important reason why I allowed myself to be appointed as the replacement - a memorial tablet was carved in a pillar when he died and RCO prizes initiated in his memory.

 

I have seen - and continue to see with increasing regularity - so many good, long-standing friends deteriorate physically and mentally due to a combination of age and sickness and I find that very hard to accept. I have told several of my younger friends that should I ever get like that they must tell me. Whether they will, or whether I shall accept it if they do, I can only guess.

 

Perhaps it's not what you say but the way that you say it. Sometimes here and on Facebook I wonder whether readers will take what I have written as I intended it to be taken and understood.

 

Malcolm

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I have known it to work. Nearly 40 years ago someone in Brighton had been organist of the same church for 52 years and his playing was getting even worse .........

 

Malcolm

 

 

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

 

 

Lightening this frivolously and wickedly, I knew one young organist who listened to an ageing choir at his new appointment, and made his first utterance.

 

"Well, perhaps you're not all ready for the glue factory yet!"

 

OMG <_<

 

MM

 

PS: He was a Yorkshireman, of course!

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