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pcnd5584

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The magazine certainly seems to have lost its sense of fun, and there's no real sense of anticipation of a couple of hours enjoyment to be had when it plops through the letter box now. Unfortunately, we are not exactly spoilt for choice in this field. Choir and Organ seems to be a thoroughly professional outfit (perhaps too much so) while The Organ continues to frustrate with its amateurish production values and is a lesser magazine without the youthful enthusiasm that Simon Fitzgerald brought to it until his departure a year or so ago.

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Clearly the editors are on a mission to broaden organists' musical horizons beyond the confines of the organ loft. I'm all for having (as the saying goes) fewer organists and more musicians who play the organ, but I prefer to do my own research as and when necessary. What I want from OR is organ-specific information. I mean, for goodness' sake, what has Fanny Mendelssohn got to do with the organ? And did anyone think the magazine was over-egging her case? I've no doubt I need to hear more of her music, but on what I have heard I'd say she can't hold a candle to Clara Schumann (whose music really is worth getting to know).

 

As for the reviews, I was always faintly amused by the old policy of never (or hardly ever) giving a bad one, but you could always take that with a pinch of salt and I really valued the comprehensive coverage.

 

I subscribed again this year after letting my subscription lapse. I shall not be renewing.

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Clearly the editors are on a mission to broaden organists' musical horizons beyond the confines of the organ loft. I'm all for having (as the saying goes) fewer organists and more musicians who play the organ, but I prefer to do my own research as and when necessary. What I want from OR is organ-specific information.

 

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We should be under no illusions that the whole future of organ-music and the organ are under threat as never before; save for the Reformation.

 

If we see "The Organ" as a business, it is perfectly obvious that it is a tool of the trade played by sub-contractors employed by a principal party; namely the church.

I don't need to ramble on about "warship music," because everyone is aware of the third-rate nature of much of that which is now heard in churches.

 

Only the cathedrals and a few collegiate or college institutions now retain the "traditional" aspects of church-music, to the point that the whole thing has become something of a tourist attraction or slightly precious and "up market." In so far as the "man on the Clapham omnibus" is concerned, he couldn't care two hoots of a Tromba.

 

Religion itself is now a niche market, catering largely for the very old and the very young, with an enormous hole in the middle.

 

Outside the confines of the churches, the organ is now marginalised on radio, it is non-existent on TV by and large and, even in the secular concert halls, it is largely perceived as an accompaniment instrument rather than as a solo one. For many, the only alternative is to buy CD's, or perhaps attend a recital, if one can be found.

 

Even moving "down market," both the electronic and theatre organ enthusiasts now belong to an increasingly fragile age-group; the average age of which must be over 70. Long gone are the days when the organ was both an instrument of entertainment and a serious home instrument.

 

With this in mind, I welcome ANY attempt to "broaden horizons" by attempting to connect to "mainstream" music, but I would certainly question the efficacy of any magazine which uses Fanny Mendelssohn as a "go between;" especially since Felix Mendelssohn is not perhaps the most fashionable composer of the moment.

 

When organising conncerts and recitals, I have always tried to be inclusive, to the point that I even fashioned a whole concert around the theme of "organ & strings," by selecting music which was shared by both (such as the Albinoni or a Handel OC), that which was transcribed (such as THAT Toccata & Fugue in D-minor), and that which was originally composed for a pedal-piano, such as the Schumann BACH fugues.

 

However, the broadened horizon thing starts at home, and I despair of organists and recitals where the standard fayre goes something like Bach, Mendelssohn, Widor, Vierne, "a British composer" and maybe a final French toccata to send us on our way.

 

In fact, I really wonder if organists have the slightest interest in being anything other than isolated and exclusive. If my ongoing study of Czech music means anything it all, it is the realisation that it is very often connected to the mainstream, just as Bach, Reger, Mendelssohn, Buxtehude, Handel, Brahms, Guilmant, Saint-Seans, Zelenka, Elgar, ( and dozens of other) were in their day.

 

It has been a source of enormous satisfaction and delight, to discover that there is life beyond Couperin, Vierne, Bach and Reger, and I have even been inspired to recently order music by Petr Eben and Klement Slavickyto add to a large collection of better known works. In fact, I could cobble together a recital of Eastern European music which would have people walking on air or dancing in the aisles, but I bet I'm the only one on this discussion board who could!!

 

All power to OR....but WHY Fanny Mendelssohn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?

 

Are they mad?

 

MM

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In fact, I really wonder if organists have the slightest interest in being anything other than isolated and exclusive. If my ongoing study of Czech music means anything it all, it is the realisation that it is very often connected to the mainstream, just as Bach, Reger, Mendelssohn, Buxtehude, Handel, Brahms, Guilmant, Saint-Seans, Zelenka, Elgar, ( and dozens of other) were in their day.
I once knew an organist who, apart from a liking for anything modern, rarely played any music other than pieces by mainstream great composers. Fair enough with Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn and the like, but loads of others too - most people have written something for organ at some point, even if only as a student exercise. It didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that the organ loft composers were often better ambassadors for the instrument.
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I think John Bertalot's series of choir training 'hints' has had it's time - I find his approach faintly patronising!!
I don't object to Bertalot per se, but I do object to the monopoly he has on the subject. It's high time we heard from some of the other excellent choir trainers out there, if they can be persuaded - people like Stephen Darlington and David Hill for a start (though I expect Richard will have something to say about that!)
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I once knew an organist who, apart from a liking for anything modern, rarely played any music other than pieces by mainstream great composers. Fair enough with Bach, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn and the like, but loads of others too - most people have written something for organ at some point, even if only as a student exercise. It didn't take me long to come to the conclusion that the organ loft composers were often better ambassadors for the instrument.

 

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

 

 

Perhaps that is entirely true, and I can think of many examples such as Healey Willian. The same is true also of Chopin, who wrote for piano and nothing else, if I recall correctly; notwithstanding the concerto. There's nothing wrong in that.

However, in an age where people do not arrive in their hundreds as church, and when town hall recitals can be very poorly supported, some sort of diplomacy is required, and tapping into mainstream music (which is probably no better than the best organ-music) may have a beneficial effect of widening the appeal of the organ as a serious instrument. That's all I was saying, because there was a time when organists were really at the forefront of mainstream music-making, composition and academy-teaching, and this sort of diplomacy simply wasn't necessary.

 

That stated, there is STILL the problem of organists being stuck in a rut of their own making, which could NEVER happen even in the Brass Band movement, which possibly comissions more contemporary music than almost any other genre of music-making. It never fails to astonish me jyst HOW contemporary and dissonant much of that music can be, and just what a support it gets from what many would regard as "middle-brow" people.

 

Of course, the brass Band movement is all about involvement and traditions, with plenty of local and family support, but it doesn't alter the fact that the BB movement seems to WANT contemporary music and rises to the challenge accordingly. They COULD stick to traditional fayre such as "Sussex by the sea" and "Colonel Bogey" if they so wished, but no, they stretch the boundaries all the time.

 

All I am suggesting is that art MUST be about living people as well as dead ones, and I despair of the fact that almost no-one could NAME a dozen contemporary organ-composers abroad, let alone play any of the music written by them.

 

Does organ-music and organ-playing NEED to be rooted in the past, to the exclusion of living-art?

 

I am pleased that I have gone out and discovered new things, and even more pleased that some of that music is memorable, lively and sometimes....just sometimes....downright thrilling or moving rather than merely competent.

 

MM

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

 

In so far as the "man on the Clapham omnibus" is concerned, he couldn't care two hoots of a Tromba.

 

There are (at least) three Claphams in England - one in South London, one near Bedford, and one in Yorkshire.

 

I can speak only for the South London one, but I can assure everyone that there is lots of active church music here.

If (I usually cycle to work) I get on an 88 bus to go to work in the morning I often see enough church singers to sing an introit - if we were not so deeply buried in our newspapers.

 

As to Trombas, we care very much about them.

Well, not Trombas perhaps -

but I am seriously looking for a genuine Hunter 8ft trumpet (Gt), a 16ft Contra Fagotto (Sw) and a 16ft Trombone (Ped)

to complete our organ without compromising its integrity...

 

Any offers?

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

Perhaps that is entirely true, and I can think of many examples such as Healey Willian. The same is true also of Chopin, who wrote for piano and nothing else, if I recall correctly; notwithstanding the concerto.

 

Sorry MM I am confused as to your meaning here. What is Healey Willan an example of ? Presumably an organist -composer who produced more appealing music for the instrument than more mainstram composers

 

Of course, the brass Band movemThat stated, there is STILL the problem of organists being stuck in a rut of their own making, which could NEVER happen even in the Brass Band movement, which possibly comissions more contemporary music than almost any other genre of music-making. It never fails to astonish me jyst HOW contemporary and dissonant much of that music can be, and just what a support it gets from what many would regard

 

Is dissonance a requirement of contemporary music or can you write modern stuff which people can hum and play to their granny without giving her a heart attack ? I am somewhat out of touch with the brass band movement but I suspect a great deal of the support is for the band itself and does not necessarily testify to any particular liking for the music they play, though of course much support may well be so conditioned

 

 

All I am suggesting is that art MUST be about living people as well as dead ones, and I despair of the fact that almost no-one could NAME a dozen contemporary organ-composers abroad, let alone play any of the music written by them.

 

Does organ-music and organ-playing NEED to be rooted in the past, to the exclusion of living-art?

 

No, of course not, but living composers can become dead one's with regrettable rapidity. Should their music then be regarded as old hat. I do not think I am in my dotage yet but when I first became interested in the organ Marcel Dupre, Jean Langlais, Maurice Durufle, Olivier Messiaen, Flor Peeters, Healey Willan, Benjamin Britten, Herbert Howells and Kenneth Leighton to name but a few were all livingcomposers. I cannot think you really hold the opinion that what was OK to play on Sunday after Evensong becomes somehow less worthy on Monday when news of the death of its composer is announced

 

I am pleased that I have gone out and discovered new things, and even more pleased that some of that music is memorable, lively and sometimes....just sometimes....downright thrilling or moving rather than merely competent.

 

But how do you bring it to the attention of the rest of us ? Your published links are very valuable but it would be nice if a few of those in the countries of origin had the courage of their convictions and produced some recordings for the rest of us to hear. As I am writing this I am listening to DGW playing Guy Bovet on the organ of the RFH - as far as I know he is still alive. He also has a sense of humour - I have a fantastic recording of him playing inter alia Saint Saens Danse Macabre on a Wurlitzer !!!

 

MM

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Brian asked:-

 

Sorry MM I am confused as to your meaning here. What is Healey Willan an example of ? Presumably an organist -composer who produced more appealing music for the instrument than more mainstram composers

 

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

I think the point being made, was that quality is not restricted to the mainstream, but the mainstream is what captures the attention of a wider musical set. Every choral conductor or enthusiast has heard of Handel, but how many would recognise the name Dupre, who wrote some brilliant choral-music?

 

Diplomacy is all about getting alongside people and sharing thoughts, and without a considerable interest in what many would regard as "mainstream," we are simply not communicating. Bach, for example, was acutely aware of ALL styles of music, at home and abroad....even extending into Poland.

 

Brian's suggestion about the Brass Band movement is actually quite fascinating, and demonstrates an immediate lack of knowledge, but for entirely respectable and understandable reasons....it's a world apart from organ OR mainstream.

 

Let me put it in an anecdotal way. I was at the 1974 (?) Brass Band World Final at the Albert Hall, when "Black Dyke" won a resounding victory under the baton of Mjr.Peter Parkes, playing the superb composition "Connotations for Brass" by Edward Gregson. It was the the year that "Dyke" picked up the triple-crown and blew everyone away in the process.

 

Now, I ask the questions. Was it municpal-pride? Was it sport? Was it gang warfare? Was it art?

 

Well of course, it's all these things, but done in a spirit of great friendliness. The last question is the most important, but perhaps the small boy sitting to my right, who "just happened" to play for the James Shepherd Junior Band said it all, when he leapt out of his seat, punched the air and said, "Wow! That's what I call music."

 

He was absolutely right and his enthusiasm was boundless.

 

Brian went on to make the valid point about life and death, and perhaps I should have included "modern" composers as well as contemporary ones. However, I was thinking more in terms of music not more than 50 years old.

 

There's an aspect to modern Czech music which intrigues me. Brian asked is dissonance is a requirement of modern music, to which I would reply with the suggestion that Bach could be extremely dissonant and Gesualdo positively perverse. Under the communist regime, "people music" was all important, and the use of extreme dissonance was discouraged. Consequently, the Czech composers built on their roots....folk-song, gregorian chant etc etc. It means that much of the music (assuming it to be mainstream communist-party approved) was actually quite often melodic, sometimes a little "old fashioned" for the period, but always very user-friendly, with sparkling rhythms and even a sense of humour. It's very "human" music by and large. Martinu, who was certainly mainstream, is a good example. Petr Eben can get very dissonant, but them, he can use rhythm and recurring themes to hold the attention, as in the splendid "Moto Ostinato" from the "Sunday Music" (now called "Musica Dominicalus").

 

At the moment, people think I am a mad vocal improvisor as I go around humming TUNES they have never heard before!

 

Now that Eastern Europe is largely liberated from the constraints imposed by "the party," it should be interesting to see where the music goes stylistically. Their pop music is rubbish!!

 

In addition to an "IronCurtain" there was also very much a "Tin Curtain," and only rarely did the communist countries allow organists to perform abroad....though I did once hear Jiri Ropek. That is part of the problem and the legacy. Everything was published and promoted by "offically approved" bodies such as "Supraphon," and there was no great effort to market anything internationally. Even now, it is very difficult to find music and recordings, but I feel sure it will get better as time goes on and people travel, visit and enter into dialogue.

 

Hopefully, I will go over there this year, and I'm going to dig about a lot more, but if the internet has one great use, it is the fact that I can contact people long before I get there.

 

Of course, poverty and ruined economies may have played a part in all this, which makes any journey of discover all the more valid and worthy, BUT THIS IS OUR EUROPE HERITAGE AND WE SHOULD EMBRACE IT!

 

Must get back to practising my newly arrived "Sunday Music" by Eben, and the delightful, distinctly non-contemporary 14TH CENTURY organ music from Poland !!

 

:o

 

MM

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[

Brian's suggestion about the Brass Band movement is actually quite fascinating, and demonstrates an immediate lack of knowledge, but for entirely respectable and understandable reasons....it's a world apart from organ OR mainstream.

 

I happily confess to knowing next to nothing about the Brass Band Movement, which has always been more of a Northern than a Southern movement, and seems to be concentrated in areas where a large number are (or at least once were) employed by a single large employer. For that reason it was not a particularly noticeable feature in the musical life of East Yorkshire whilst I was there and is not significant in Ulster. (However if you want to know about Flute Bands and Lambeg Drums...)I do like Cornet Carillon, but my Brass Band LPs tend to date from the era of Harry Mortimer !

 

Let me put it in an anecdotal way.  I was at the 1974 (?) Brass Band World Final at the Albert Hall, when "Black Dyke" won a resounding victory under the baton of Mjr.Peter Parkes, playing the superb composition "Connotations for Brass" by Edward Gregson. It was the the year that "Dyke" picked up the triple-crown and blew everyone away in the process.

 

That would be the John Gregson whose Tuba Concerto has just appeared on a Naxos CD along with others by Steptoe, Golland and, of course, RVW's. A CD well worth getting . I quite like orchestral concertos featuring Brass instruments!

 

Now, I ask the questions. Was it municpal-pride?  Was it sport?  Was it gang warfare? Was it art?

 

.Since you acknowledge any or all of these factors could be at work, I do not think my original suggestion was all that wide of the mark. The evidence of the response of your friend is the testimony of a single witness to the event. Others, whose evidence we do not have might have been simultaneously celebrating success whilst wondering how it was achieved , given the piece played. Equally they might have shared  your young friend's enthusiasm. There is nothing to indicate one way or the other

 

There's an aspect to modern Czech music which intrigues me. Brian asked is dissonance is a requirement of modern music, to which I would reply with the suggestion that Bach could be extremely dissonant and Gesualdo positively perverse. Under the communist regime, "people music" was all important, and the use of extreme dissonance was discouraged. Consequently, the Czech composers built on their roots....folk-song, gregorian chant etc etc. It means that much of the music (assuming it to be mainstream communist-party approved) was actually quite often melodic, sometimes a little "old fashioned" for the period, but always very user-friendly, with sparkling rhythms and even a sense of humour. It's very "human" music by and large. Martinu, who was certainly mainstream, is a good example. Petr Eben can get very dissonant, but them, he can use rhythm and recurring themes to hold the attention, as in the splendid "Moto Ostinato" from the "Sunday Music" (now called "Musica Dominicalus").

 

If dissonance was only a modern discovery our word for it would probably be a lot longer, if we could confine ourselves to a single word. The issue as far as I am concerned is not so much the FACT of its use as the EXTENT of its use. I know of nothing by Bach in which dissonance comprises the majority of the music but some modern organ music could be thus described. As far as I am concerned I prefer it to be like seasoning in cooking - a small amount adds interest and stimulates the palate but too much produces something inedible. Still to each his own

 

, BUT THIS IS OUR EUROPE HERITAGE AND WE SHOULD EMBRACE IT! 

 

: I am perfectly happy to fully endorse this sentiment

 

MM

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If dissonance was only a modern discovery our word for it would probably be a lot longer [...] As far as I am concerned I prefer it to be like seasoning in cooking - a small amount adds interest and stimulates the palate but too much produces something inedible. Still to each his own
Ah, but define dissonance! It can mean different things in different conexts. Conservative musicians thought Monterverdi's use of unprepared sevenths quite beyond the pale. A dominant seventh is technically a dissonance, but no one would find it offensive these days. We have acclimatised, as it were, and to much else besides, but I daresay the degree of acceptable dissonance vairies from person to person. I adore the harmony in Duruflé's Requiem (especially in its full orchestral colours) and don't find it the least offensive - in fact the piece would be nothing without it - but I could hardly pretend it is concordant.
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====================

 

I play brass....or at least used to do.

 

I can assure Brian that the "Connotations for Brass"  is by Edward Gregson.

 

http://www.edwardgregson.com/

 

On that site is a snippet of the music, of which I have a copy somewhere among my sheet-music.

 

MM

 

Yes , and so is the Tuba Concerto so I assume it must be the same man. I cannot account for why I wrote "John" unless either I was thinking of a celebrated British Actor from a previous generation or I had transposed the christian name of one of the other composers on the CD who is indeed John. Disc is still worth getting though. I am reliably informed that the new term to describe such aberations is "intellectual overload" though it might also be simple tiredness caused by staying up past my bedtime .

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Having read the latest issue of OR it is clear that it is still far off the pace since its relaunch. Previously the photo on the front cover used to be glorious and of superb quality. I can't understand why the photo of the Rouen case could not have been on the cover instead of in the centre. Even there it is not of particularly high quality. The review section has also lost it's focus. Mind you, not everything about the old format was attractive. Corna dolce was spectacularly unfunny and you could always rely on half the correspondents on the letters page being mad !!

 

The fall out from this is that, in my view, Choir and Organ is now the clear leader in the Organ Mags field. A high quality production, it contains interesting features and well written articles even though editorial decisions about the the content might be informed by a desire to increase sales on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

I found the latest issue of 'The Organ' extremely tedious. Its layout has improved over the years but each issue reveals evidence of sloppy proofreading.

 

In conclusion, I only fork out for Choir and Organ now.

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