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

 

 

Or indeed a few others not in Plymouth or by Rushworth and Dreaper!! :D

 

R

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

Hmm. Not too sure about that. The instrument is mostly curiously underwhelming except when the Trombas are out.

 

Surely it's our job to educate, arouse interest and inform as well as to entertain, is it not?

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.

Personally I find the pieces played to be quite important and that the role of the organ and the organist is merely to convey the music.

 

I am beginning to think I am odd.

I think you probably are, but if there's room on the park bench, budge up and I'll join you.

 

I'm not sure exactly when the organ ceased to be regarded as worthy of equal standing with mainstream musical instruments, but that is certainly how it is regarded today and has been for a very long time indeed. Your average orchestral musician barely regards it as a musical instrument at all. It is, they think, an oddity, an unsubtle one-man band incapable of proper musical expression. Its current status is probably nearer to the accordian than to orchestral instruments. The classical guitar enjoys greater respect. The story of the organ's decline would certainly be a complex one because it will have happened entirely unintentionally and probably imperceptibly. In fact, I suspect that it is not so much a case of the organ's esteem sinking as of getting left behind when we gradually began to accord mainstream classical music the almost reverential respect it now has (? in the late nineteenth century??) The town hall organist of yesteryear may have been an object of great respect in his community, but his entertainment, consisting largely of arrangements, was by and large just a makeshift second best for other instruments; everyone enjoyed it, but they knew it wasn't the real McCoy.

 

There is, one would think, no reason in principle why the organ should not be the equal of mainstream musical instruments and concerted efforts were made around the middle of the last century to rehabilitate it. For a while those efforts did show some small signs of success (with, for example, the BBC Third Programme and its successor Radio 3 giving it a fair amount of regular air time), but they were not sustained and the instrument returned to its status in the general musical consciousness as a medium for popular rather than high art entertainment. Perhaps its players were largely to blame for not wanting to join the musical mainstream; perhaps the genuine, original repertoire for the instrument wasn't strong enough to allow it. Personally I'm not inclined to blame the repertoire. But certainly the nature of programmes has been a significant factor and perhaps the organs themselves have bowled a googly by encouraging a return to playing the sort of second-best musical solutions for which many of them were actually designed. It would be unfair to lay the blame entirely at the door of arrangements, but they do epitomise the problem. However much they may enable the player to show off the instrument and however much they may enable an audience to revel in kaleidoscopic tone colours and dazzling technique, you are not likely to win over mainstream musicians by presenting their pieces in a debased form with a range of expression inferior to the originals on a mechanical contraption that interposes a plethora of gadgets between the player and the music s/he is making. Suggesting that you regard other musicians' instruments as inferior to your own (for paranoia dictates that there is always a hint of this about arrangements) is not going to win you kudos. Nor is perpetuating the image of the one-man-band, that second-best musical experience. There are still organists around who do not like to compromise in promoting the serious image of their instrument, but it seems to me that a majority of recitalists these days prefer mixed programmes in the interests of entertaining their audiences - it is rare to see a programme without at least one arrangement in these days. My purpose in mentioning this is not to pass judgement, but merely to note how the motivations of organists and the reception of their music may differ.

 

The net result is that, perhaps more than most instruments, the organ has a dual personality, inhabiting the musical worlds of both common entertainment and high art.

 

Bringing all this back to the OP's question, I would suggest that any decision about chatting or announcing might usefully be governed by the nature of the recital and the audience. In a recital aiming at a mainstream presentation one would probably wish to adopt the same protocols as at e.g. a chamber music recital, i.e. programme notes and no talking. Less sophisticated audiences hoping more for simple entertainment than erudition (and these are surely the majority?) always seem to appreciate some chat.

 

Put simply: what does your audience want?

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