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" Mystery " Programmes comments

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Each of us will have individual artists for whom we would willingly turn out (even for a 'mystery' programme) because we believe in their skill, their powers of interpretation and are more or less guaranteed a memorable experience.

 

Personally, I would not turn out to hear Cameron Carpenter play anything, having watched a variety of his Youtube clips. This kind of superficial performance holds no enduring pleasure for me. Once one has witnessed it once, that's it !

 

I find the same problem with certain instruments - the RFH being one - once heard, there's no allure that would draw me back to hear it again and again. I will confess to to not having heard it yet in its rebuilt guise. I may be tempted when it's completed.

 

H

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Well yes - but why do we do it by talking at our recitals? You don't find this sort of thing going on (much) at "proper" concerts, recitals and opera performances. You may get a pre-concert talk, but it's a separate event you can choose to go to or not. What you do get, of course, are printed programme notes, which you can choose to read or not. In fact, these are ideal, since they offer an alternative source of amusement if the performance fails to hold your attention.

I take your point.

 

But I think the 'man-in-the-pew' seems to quite enjoy hearing a few carefully chosen words from the performer. If it enhances the evening's entertainment, then I'm all for it.

 

For my fourpenn'orth, I am quite happy for performers to speak about a piece if:

 

- it is brief*;

- it is informative; and preferably

- it is slightly witty or amusing.

I couldn't agree more!

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Guest Roffensis

No no no no no, really.

 

 

It is so much nicer when an Organist comes down from his lofty position and tells us all about the piece he is about to play, and of the private life of the composer. All this information is of utmost importance and needs to be conveyed to the audience so that they understand the piece better.

 

It also gives one a break from an otherwise long recital and stops one having to look at ones watch quite so often, because of the welcome distraction.

 

R

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No no no no no, really.

 

 

It is so much nicer when an Organist comes down from his lofty position and tells us all about the piece he is about to play, and of the private life of the composer. All this information is of utmost importance and needs to be conveyed to the audience so that they understand the piece better.

 

It also gives one a break from an otherwise long recital and stops one having to look at ones watch quite so often, because of the welcome distraction.

 

R

 

 

It might depend on what the audience expects and indeed console location. I gave a rercital a couple of years ago at which I introduced each piece as this was the "house style" of the church I was playing in, and it was one of a series of recitals given by local organists to benefit a charity of their choice.

 

At a recital in my own church later, in favour of the same two charities I had nominated previously, I provided programme notes. The two recitals between them raised about £300 shared between the charities.

 

In the first church the console is at the front and so I could easily go from the organ bench and say a few words. I was told this was appreciated.

 

In my own church the console is in the west gallery; the notes I provided were equally appreciated and two of the audience told me that they had learnt something from the notes.

 

So I don't think there is, or should be, a "rule" about this.

 

Peter

 

ps in case anybody is wondering the collections were divided between the St Peter's Brownies and Rainbows and the Cardiff Chaemeleons.

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The long suffering decline into piety and self-indulgence....Herbert Howells and an aniseed ball for a moment of guilty pleasure.

 

Back to "War & Peace" for a bit of light reading!

 

I'd suggest some Barbara Pym - "Virtue is an excellent thing and we should all strive after it but it can sometimes be a little depressing."

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What makes me attend recitals? The organ, the music and performer are all important of course (actually I'd suggest that the music takes precedence for me - I can't say I know that much about which organs and perfomers are among the best), but can I add in cost and distance travelled.

 

I live in Nottingham. Therefore I would be quite happy to go into town to one of the Nottingham Albert Hall's excellent series of Sunday afternoon recitals which run through the summer without knowing the programme. It's a short drive, I can park almost outside for free on a Sunday and all bar the last recital are free to get into (informative programme with notes £1). If I don't like it, I haven't lost much, apart from a Sunday afternoon where I would probably be sat in front of the telly. The organ is excellent anyway so I know that is guaranteed. I would recommend the series - they start again in May.

 

I was quite happy to go to Birmingham a few weeks ago to hear Ben Van Oosten at Symphony Hall, but would not have done so without the knowledge that I was going to hear two excellent major works from the French romantic repertoire. It was too far to travel just on the off chance of hearing something I might like.

 

Whether you charge and how much makes a major difference I think, as well as the purpose of the recital. A local charity recital in the parish church is being held principally for the purposes of raising money (and probably charging a pretty small entry fee) and the concern of those attending is probably contributing to the appeal as much as what is being played. Releasing a programme probably wouldn't make much difference. However, when you are asking people to pay anything beyond a fiver in a commercial venue I think they have a right to know what they're going to hear.

 

As regards talking, it depends again on the situation, as Peter describes. The Nottingham Albert Hall series have a pre-recital talk before each recital, starting half an hour before. Perhaps this is a good way of making the option to hear the recitalist talk about what they are performing without forcing it upon people.

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To be honest, these days I am much more interested in service playing - recitals do not hold much of an attraction for me. It is so easy to hear the same old warhorses trotted out - or having to endure contemporary works which often sound as if the compositional technique involved hitting the keys with two dead cats still in the stage of full rigor - and then writing down the result. However, listening to a really good organist playing for a mass (for example) - and I am thinking primarily of those which may be heard in many French and English cathedrals - can be a thrilling experience. On the one hand, this would include, in addition to a wide repertoire, beautifully crafted improvisations which provide excellent commentaries on what is taking place - and fitting the mood of the service exactly; then. on the other side, a range of sympathetic accompaniments to some excellent choral singing. Clearly standards will vary - and there will be some repetition of repertoire, but I much prefer this kind of experience to a solo organ recital.

 

In many ways I agree with this observation. I think service playing is a more difficult art to acquire and so much more specialised, especially where there are opportunities for improvisation such as at a lengthy offertory or at Communion. How often one hears superb playing of voluntaries before and after a service with the same player producing either an indifferent or even inadequate performance during the service. Good hymn playing seems to me to be quite rare. Recently, in another part of the country, I heard really good playing before and after a service yet in the hymns the rhythm was constantly unsteady, phrasing was lacking and the final beat in each bar tended to be cut short. Admittedly, there are now fewer opportunities for young organists to learn choral service accompaniment in parish churches but it is an important aspect of the craft of an all-round church musician which must not be allowed to disappear. After all, church organists tend to be employed primarily to play for services, not to give recitals.

 

Malcolm

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How often one hears superb playing of voluntaries before and after a service with the same player producing either an indifferent or even inadequate performance during the service.

I am surprised at fairly regular intervals to come across otherwise very musical and able organists who seem to have no clue about the concept of accompaniment whatsoever. I can only assume that they feel it their job to lead by virtue of volume, because the whole affair turns into an organ solo with faintly audible choral backing. I have heard of one organist being told on several occasions that his accompaniments are too loud, but he has never got the message. Why any musician should think that it is enjoyable listening to a piece of choral music being drowned by an organ beats me.

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I'd suggest some Barbara Pym - "Virtue is an excellent thing and we should all strive after it but it can sometimes be a little depressing."

 

 

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

 

 

I am reliably informed that in my home town, there are no ladies of virtue.

 

MM

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In many ways I agree with this observation. I think service playing is a more difficult art to acquire and so much more specialised, especially where there are opportunities for improvisation such as at a lengthy offertory or at Communion. How often one hears superb playing of voluntaries before and after a service with the same player producing either an indifferent or even inadequate performance during the service. Good hymn playing seems to me to be quite rare. Recently, in another part of the country, I heard really good playing before and after a service yet in the hymns the rhythm was constantly unsteady, phrasing was lacking and the final beat in each bar tended to be cut short. Admittedly, there are now fewer opportunities for young organists to learn choral service accompaniment in parish churches but it is an important aspect of the craft of an all-round church musician which must not be allowed to disappear. After all, church organists tend to be employed primarily to play for services, not to give recitals.

 

Malcolm

 

 

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

 

 

I recall a few years ago, being absolutely appalled by the hymn accompaniment of one BBC "Songs of Praise." The organist was loud, out of time, didn't know how to lead and possibly ruined the whole thing.

 

A week or two later, and they had a similar event from Blackpool Tower, with Phil Kelsall (the principal resident organist) accompanying on the Wurlitzer sans Tremulants,

 

It was perfect....absolutely perfect!

 

MM

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No no no no no, really.

 

 

It is so much nicer when an Organist comes down from his lofty position and tells us all about the piece he is about to play, and of the private life of the composer. All this information is of utmost importance and needs to be conveyed to the audience so that they understand the piece better.

 

It also gives one a break from an otherwise long recital and stops one having to look at ones watch quite so often, because of the welcome distraction.

 

R

 

Agree with you absolutely. However the point I am desperately trying to make on this thread; and I can see I am failing,is essentially " would one attend a recital/concert, or anything else for that matter to which one is not a party to the content".

 

Personal qualities/abilities, or even the complete lack of them even, do not form my original question.

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I would love to be able to answer "no", but truthfully, I cannot. I go to concert and recitals to hear music, not to adulate the performers, so I dislike not knowing the programme in advance. However, out of a sense of duty I do support our local foghorn recitals here and these are organised by a man who does not publish the programme in advance, though at least he does advertise the composers to be played. I would feel much, much happier if (i) I was free to decide by looking at the programme whether I wanted to attend or not and (ii) the organ was worth listening to.

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Agree with you absolutely. However the point I am desperately trying to make on this thread; and I can see I am failing,is essentially " would one attend a recital/concert, or anything else for that matter to which one is not a party to the content".

 

Personal qualities/abilities, or even the complete lack of them even, do not form my original question.

 

 

I only give recitals now and then and I generally put a notice in the appropriate church bulletin or newsletter along the lines of "Peter Clark will be giving an organ recital at St Ogg's Church, Anytown on Spetember 12th at 7.30pm. The programme will include music by Bach, Ligeti, Brahms & Liszt".

 

I also put posters in the local library, neighbouring churches (they don't usually object) and my local pub(!).

The local paper has free advertsing (in a listings page) for non-profit events.

 

Peter

 

ps Vox what's a foghorn recital?

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I once went to a recital where there were (IIRC) twelve major works on the programme, and the recitalist spoke about each of them for a good five minutes. And then played two encores. Talk about losing the will to live. The pubs had nearly closed by the time we got out. :P

 

 

and that is most certainly "not on" :)

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I only give recitals now and then and I generally put a notice in the appropriate church bulletin or newsletter along the lines of "Peter Clark will be giving an organ recital at St Ogg's Church, Anytown on Spetember 12th at 7.30pm. The programme will include music by Bach, Ligeti, Brahms & Liszt".

 

I also put posters in the local library, neighbouring churches (they don't usually object) and my local pub(!).

The local paper has free advertsing (in a listings page) for non-profit events.

 

Peter

 

ps Vox what's a foghorn recital?

I do the same thing for concerts at our church. We don't usually publish the entire programme on the flyer but just include something like "music by Bach, Brahms and Bartok"... It's usually enough to give the potential punters an idea of what to expect. If I send out an email or publicise it on the Internet I'll usually try to include the entire programme - I think people expect this sort of info on the Internet.

 

Places to publicise - anywhere - pubs are fair game to me and usually very accomodating. I remember being in the music office at a Cathedral when the assistant was discussing publicity (i.e. where to put posters and flyers) for the forthcoming recital series with the marketing officer. "And don't forget the railway stations!" said the assistant. The marketing officer gave a quizzical look. "you find lots of people interested in organ recitals at railway stations. It's something to do with pistons, pressures, rods, levers ..."

 

I once went to a recital where there were (IIRC) twelve major works on the programme, and the recitalist spoke about each of them for a good five minutes. And then played two encores. Talk about losing the will to live. The pubs had nearly closed by the time we got out. :)

Too true! Finishing after leaving time should be a criminal offence for concerts! And not say anything of the poor recitalist! Anything over 1hr 20 is a lot of playing! But a concert lasting over 1hr 30 (including the interval) is more than enough for most people to take - especially on pews. I do wish some recitalists and concert organisers would take this important point on - it drives people away from coming again if they have to sit through a gruelling marathon. But this problem is not limited to organ recitals, which are not the worst offenders by far. I hate to say it but amateur groups, usually ones with younger members or leaders, are worst. If I see a programme that'll go on for hours these days, I'll usually try to avoid it...

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Agree with you absolutely. However the point I am desperately trying to make on this thread; and I can see I am failing,is essentially " would one attend a recital/concert, or anything else for that matter to which one is not a party to the content".

 

Personal qualities/abilities, or even the complete lack of them even, do not form my original question.

 

No, absolutely not.

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Guest Roffensis

ps Vox what's a foghorn recital?

 

Perhaps I can suggest?

 

I imagine self indulgent use of that delightful stop the English Chewbar. Good for Cocker but useless for everything else. (In my humble opinion, most, if not all should be melted down.)

 

Foghorn recitals have several features that generally attract huge audiences.

 

1. The Organist says to himself "how much can I get away with using, rather than how much do I need to use.

 

2. Full organ means exactly that, Tubas and all manual doubles are coupled up.

 

3.All soft pieces end with a 32 foot flue for the last chord, regarding of the score. (Nothing new).

 

4. Any Bach work is over mixtured. The more screech the better.

 

5. Anything pre Bach is ignored unless "arranged".

 

6. When the Tubas are used (frequently) sub and octave couplers are drawn.

 

7. Prolonged applause at the end is often misunderstood by the organist as appreciation. The only real appreciation (of those gifted enough to know the difference), is that it is over.

 

8. Audiences feel they are being physically assaulted by decibels for at least 90% of the time.

 

9. Large noisy pieces are chosen, preferably played fast to cover up the mistakes.

 

10. Balancing on one cheek, if observed of the organist , may be a sign that other sounds are more musical.

 

 

R

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It's not so much the manner of playing, but the nature of the instrument itself (though the latter does dictate the former to a large extent).

 

Imagine flues without any truly vivid colours lest they stand out (except for one or two stops on the Solo), but instead voiced for maximum smoothness to aid blend and deliberately slow of speech to aid that romantic feel, all centered on 8' pitch with all the upperwork discreetly subdued lest it draw attention away from unison pitch. Imagine chorus reeds just as oily-smooth, none more so than the Great Tromba chorus at 16', 8' and 4' which, when added, obliterates everything else. Then of course there's the Tuba, which probably was intended to be added to full organ. Result: stops devoid of presence and interest that crescendo into an offensive wall of white noise. All in a not very resonant acoustic. Hence foghorn.

 

One thing I will say for it, however. On the only commercially available recording of it ever made - a CD of Whitlock's organ music played by Jennifer Bate - it shares the disc with the Willis in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea and definitely comes off the better of the two.

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Guest Roffensis

Oh that organ!!!

 

And there was me thinking........... :blink:

 

R

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We ramble this way and that on the board. That's part of the pleasure.......

 

However, I wasn't the one who decided to take a sideswipe at a particular recitalist; possibly because I know just how musically and brilliantly he can play when the occasion demands.

 

Hector Olivera enjoyed similar comments from "the establishment" in America, but he could probably outplay 99% of them.

 

Each to his own......I would be delighted to hear Cameron Carpenter, if only to marvel at his technique and showmanship.

After Carlo Curley, the last showman I heard was the Late Sir George Thalben-Ball, and to brutally honest, his playing bored me.

 

I rarely attend recitals knowing what people are going to play.

 

MM

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Too true! Finishing after leaving time should be a criminal offence for concerts! And not say anything of the poor recitalist! Anything over 1hr 20 is a lot of playing! But a concert lasting over 1hr 30 (including the interval) is more than enough for most people to take - especially on pews. I do wish some recitalists and concert organisers would take this important point on - it drives people away from coming again if they have to sit through a gruelling marathon. But this problem is not limited to organ recitals, which are not the worst offenders by far. I hate to say it but amateur groups, usually ones with younger members or leaders, are worst. If I see a programme that'll go on for hours these days, I'll usually try to avoid it...

 

I try to keep mine to 50 minutes - that's based on when I was a lecturer and 50 mins was the length of each lecture and the maximum attention span. That is usually enough for me and the audience! And I NEVER compromise on closing time. That is a mortal sin!

 

Peter

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I did respond to this post some months ago to say that with an artist such as Carlo Curley, I would happily attend any of his concerts without knowing what the programme would be because I know that I would have an enjoyable evening.

My only wish is that Carlo would sometimes include the tunes recorded many years ago at Ally Pally , but presumably his repertoire is immense !

I recall that when I was a concert organiser there were people who demanded to know what the programme was, beforehand and without this information they were not prepared to attend. I did point out that full details were contained with the programme which it was hoped would be purchased on the night to offset costs.

The problem here of course, is what do you do if the recitalist alters the programme ?

So, for my part I attend concerts depending on who the recitalist is, and I like the element of surprise as to the music I am going to hear.

Colin Richell

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A recital on our city's four-manual, Rushworth & Dreaper foghorn! :blink:

 

At least it would not be necessary to travel to Plymouth in order to hear it....

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