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Paul Carr

Telegraph Sunday: "Here Comes the Bribe"

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Has anyone else seen this article from Sunday's Telegraph?

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics...ng-couples.html

 

At least the RSCM have responded and put a few things straight...

 

http://www.rscm.com/info_resources/wedding.php

 

 

...it's just such a complete distortion of a joint press release issued by the C of E and the RSCM, which is also available at the 2nd link above.

 

I do think that this part of the RSCM response is to the point:

 

"An additional point in the article concerned the question of an organist taking a fee even if a friend of the wedding couple wished to play for the service. Again, it comes down to the organist’s individual contract but one would hardly expect a couple to approach the hotel where the reception is taking place and ask for their friend who happens to be an expert chef to replace the regular salaried member of staff!"

 

It seems sad that of all the things for a wedding which have to be paid for it's organists who get picked on!

 

Collective scream?

 

 

P :o

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The article is scurrilous, irreponsible and wholly inaccurate. It can hardly be due to misunderstanding either; it smacks of deliberate misinformation. Considering the very considerable expenses that wedding couples are perfectly happy to defray on other aspects of their day, the organist's fee, even when doubled, is peanuts.

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Another very good reason not to buy "The Telegraph."

 

If they can't get the facts right on something like this, what price their news coverage and comments?

 

MM

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Barry Williams has given me permission, in anticipation of this topic being raised here, to cut and paste here a posting he put on another forum yesterday. My own position now is that if I am asked to play for any kind of service in any place of worship they either pay the fee I request or they go without. None of this insulting nonsense of "Can you play for us next Sunday morning; we pay a fee of £40".

 

Malcolm

 

Barry's posting herewith:

 

Regrettably, the article in question was wholly inaccurate. Moreover, the persons quoted did not make the remarks attributed to them.

 

Here is the official response from the RSCM Website:

 

Statement from Lindsay Gray regarding organists' fees for playing at weddings - Mon 23rd August 2010

 

Contrary to a press report this weekend, the Royal School of Church Music is NOT calling for organist's fees for filmed weddings to be scrapped. In a recent joint press release with the C of E Weddings Project, we explain that there are clauses in some (but not all) organists’ contracts which refer to doubling the fee for playing at a wedding which is filmed.

 

Whilst the RSCM makes recommendations rather than hard and fast rules regarding the remuneration of organists, we also emphasise the point that churches have individual contracts with organists and these vary from place to place.

 

It has been suggested that at some time in the future there might be a 'flat fee' to include recordings (whether they are made or not) but AT NO STAGE has the RSCM suggested that extra fees for filming should be abolished. Indeed, the RSCM believes strongly that organists should be properly and appropriately remunerated for their very important work in respect of church weddings - work which involves considerable preparation and responsibility.

 

And here is Lindsay Gray's letter to the editor of The Telegraph:

 

Letter from Lindsay Gray, Director, to the Sunday Telegraph regarding organists' fees for playing at weddings

Sir,

I should like to express the disappointment that I and so many involved in church music must feel on reading the article in the Sunday Telegraph (22nd August) in which church organists are criticised for being overpaid for weddings. Church organists work extremely hard in terms of preparation, preliminary meetings with the wedding couple and their own individual practice even before the actual playing for the service begins.

I also wish to refute the statement in the article that the Royal School of Church Music has backed the call for ‘charges (for the filming of weddings) to be dropped’. Whilst there might in the future be a case for a complete all-inclusive fee to cover filming of services, the current position is that remuneration varies from church to church according to the organist’s contract, a position we fully support. The RSCM makes recommendations regarding fee levels, but contracts vary widely to reflect the many different types and sizes of church as well as the varying qualifications and skills of organists.

An additional point in the article concerned the question of an organist taking a fee even if a friend of the wedding couple wished to play for the service. Again, it comes down to the organist’s individual contract but one would hardly expect a couple to approach the hotel where the reception is taking place and ask for their friend who happens to be an expert chef to replace the regular salaried member of staff!

At the RSCM we delight in seeing couples married in church and we want music to be an important part of the service, but the skills and efforts made by organists and all church musicians must be recognised and valued fully and appropriately.

Yours faithfully

Lindsay Gray

Director, The Royal School of Church Music,

 

It will thus be seen that the article was an extremely irresponsible piece. It has the feeling of being a piece of mischief.

 

All of this shows how important it is for organists to have a proper contract for their work in church, including full details of the arrangements for weddings and funerals.

 

So that there is no doubt, I point out that the organist has a right to ask for a fee, (not necessarily double the main fee,) in respect of the waiver of their right not to be recorded. That right is imparted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1986, as amended. (See Sections 180 -184.)

 

Barry Williams

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None of this insulting nonsense of "Can you play for us next Sunday morning; we pay a fee of £40".

They still have ways of insulting you though. Not so long ago my wife fielded a telephone call from a local Methodist chapel who wanted me to play for a service - they had been given my name by a Methodist friend of mine. She told them my (comparativelymodest) fee and promised I would ring back. When I did so the "lady" at the other end was really quite offhand and rude. Clearly she had assumed that I would be only too eager to give my services free of charge. In my neck of the woods church folk have very little concept of the professional organist - and the Methodists none at all.

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Vox - You, like me have highly regarded professional qualifications and years of experience in music. Would these people at the Methodist church (or any other church) expect an architect, electrician or surveyor to give their services free of charge because they happen to believe in God and would those architects, electricians and surveyors give their services free for that reason? You know the answer to that and so do most of the members of this Board.

 

Yes, I go to church regularly - I'm going to Mass later this morning. Yes, I was a church organist/choir director between the ages of 19 and 61. Yes, I still play and teach the organ and am increasingly involved in singing teaching, voice coaching and vocal diagnostics (a subject which, for personal reasons, I am very interested in and see as a very positive way of helping others). No, I would not even consider taking another church job. Actually, I have discovered for the first time a rather excting world of music outside the realms of Stanford and Palestrina and am grateful for that. I've even learnt some jazz chords!

 

Malcolm

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<SNIP>

 

No, I would not even consider taking another church job. Actually, I have discovered for the first time a rather excting world of music outside the realms of Stanford and Palestrina and am grateful for that. I've even learnt some jazz chords!

 

Malcolm

Horrors...... :o

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I've been on both sides of the fence and can see how couples can feel pretty miffed, especially if they aren't regular churchgoers and don't understand what's involved in preparing for a wedding. When playing for a wedding I always offer to meet the couple beforehand in church to demonstrate how the music actually sounds on the organ where they are getting married (as opposed to what they want to think it might sound like). I can't remember the last time I played for a wedding that wasn't recorded - even if on a mobile phone - and so I just don't bother any more asking if a video is being made or not. If a guest gets their mobile phone out midway through the service and starts filming on it I can hardly up the fee at that stage.

 

In the case of a professional organist with a contract getting "bumped" by a friend of the family I can fully understand why he or she would rightly feel deprived of a fee. However, I have had experience of churches that have asked me to play for a special service because their regular organist can't hit two notes - only to find afterwards that the regular "organist" demands their fee for having not played.

 

I don't know how widespread that is, but given that there is probably a rather sizeable number of rank amateurs, some of whom shouldn't be allowed near an organ let alone allowed to play for a service, and yet insist on a fee whether or not they play, I suspect some of the anger in the Telegraph article comes from people who have been asked to contribute a fee to someone who can't even play the organ properly, and who doesn't then play for their wedding. I don't want to offend the many "reluctant organists" out there in so saying; but at the end of the day I personally think it is a bit rich to expect a fee under such circumstances. If others disagree or think I'm being unduly harsh then please say so.

 

I'm not entirely happy with the wedding cake scenario either. When we got married, we were asked by the hotel if we wanted to pay extra to have a cake, to which we said no, since my future wife and mother-in-law baked the wedding cake, and the hotel said that was fine. Again that probably isn't unusual - what is the practice of hotels when the cake comes from outside, do they charge or not? (In our case the hotel said that was fine, we paid for everything else, and then they presented us with a bill for the imaginary cake the day before the wedding. We refused to pay, and they backed down...)

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I had a bride on the phone not one hour ago! Would I be able to play the organ for her wedding on Sunday - this Sunday - at a church some 10 miles away? (Clearly good planning - or perhaps she had been let down!)

 

I told her that I didn't see a problem with that, providing the church authorities were ok with it, and asked her what she was wanting. She didn't know - the Priest was going to tell her BUT - more importantly was my fee!! I don't do many weddings nowadays and I told her the fee - a good deal less than, I know, quite a number of people in the locality charge. She told me that she would ring me back, it was clearly an issue and I didn't expect to hear anymore. Half an hour later she rang back, this time trying to bargain me down by telling me that it wasn't a Nuptual Mass.

 

I don't think my fee to be unreasonable and explained to her that my travel to and from the ceremony plus the ceremony itself would involve me in about an hour and a half's work and that I thought the fee, for a highly qualified professional person, was not unreasonable. Her plumber would charge twice the amount and a call-out charge for the Gas board is £75 before they do any work!

 

"I've got the organist of the church to do it" she shouted down the phone - so why did she bother to ring me back? Clearly this was one to be kept away from and, clearly, could have put me in a difficult position..

 

Over the 20 years I was DOM at a large Abbey Church I played for hundreds of weddings and encountered a number that one could write an epic book about - indeed, if I did write a book, I suspect no one would believe me. I suspect that there are quite a number of us in the same position.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

I suspect this is a silly season article, or at least covering a slow news period. And this topic has been done to death on this forum, though not without reason.

 

I did have a look at the CofE wedding planning site, in the light of the obviously clumsy treatment of the issue by the new Bishop of Rochester. I can't see how the site is portraying a church wedding as anything more than a performance, in which case logically each performer (including the organist and the priest) should expect a proper fee at a fully professional rate (and to be paid by the hour). Many of you are professional organists and live by your fees, and in the Church in Wales we clergy still receive fees which are meant to supplement the stipend (not the case in the CofE); however, most of us are happy to receive a fee for weddings (and funerals) which is actually a fair bit less than we should command by our professional expertise - simply because we have some sense of vocation to be of service to people at special times in their lives.

 

It disappoints me (and it seldom happens here) when a wedding is just a performance. My organist here (a consummate professional) and those in the other churches I serve see their involvement as a ministry to the couple, and I am very grateful for this. I don't see why couples, or the Church generally, should be allowed to take advantage of their kindness and goodwill, so I shall indeed be abolishing increased fees when the wedding is recorded, and I shall reset the fees at the previous higher level. If they want to give some of this back to the couple, that will be fine. If the couples have an issue with that, they can take it up with me, as I deal with the setting and taking of fees by all involved (asking the PCCs support from time to time) so that they can concentrate on doing what they do best - helping the couple have the right music and providing it on the day.

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Having just joined the forum I find this article most interesting; the Telegraph is typical of the masses who have no knoweldge or understanding of the organist's supreme effort to make the occasion special, be it wedding or funeral. As a lecturer and researcher specialising in early keyboard music I am in a position to offer pieces from right across Europe, frequently being able to pinpoint pieces from a specific town - of course, few non-organists who are let loose on the instrument can begin to approach this level of expertise which comes only from years of experience. It is singularly frustrating when undertakers persist in using pianists rather than organists, not only is it depriving the skilled player of a fee but more importantly it deprives the mourners of an unparalleledchoice of music from the non-specialist.

 

I htink that it is up to the individual player to decide whether to charge for wedding videos, sometimes it's only a family friend waving a videocamera which is not the same as a professional with all the paraphernalia - however, given what is paid out on catering etc, the organist's fee, whether doubled or not, is small in comparison and the labourer is indeed worthy of his or her hire.

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As a lecturer and researcher specialising in early keyboard music I am in a position to offer pieces from right across Europe, frequently being able to pinpoint pieces from a specific town - of course, few non-organists who are let loose on the instrument can begin to approach this level of expertise which comes only from years of experience. It is singularly frustrating when undertakers persist in using pianists rather than organists, not only is it depriving the skilled player of a fee but more importantly it deprives the mourners of an unparalleledchoice of music from the non-specialist.

 

I suspect pianists are used because the 'highly trained' organists are too thin on the ground, or don't want a Church post. The person in the pew who is known to play the piano gets roped in to play on a Sunday and so the ball starts to roll. Added to that, they/we are cheaper because, being aware of our limitations, we don't presume to request a similar fee. Provided the standard repertoire is played in a recognizable fashion, most parties are content with the arrangement.

 

Some organists are just scary. Reading another thread where a distinguished contributor was proud of chewing off the ear of a lady caller from the RSCM (who was only doing her job, poor woman) it is not surprising if an obliging and competent amateur is given first refusal. (Perhaps this formidable veneer is acquired through bitter experience; high-handed assistant curates do not take into account one's seniority in the secular world when issuing censure, I have found)

 

I have sympathy with those who charge double when they are being recorded (I only receive an extra £10 ) but have not yet had the nerve to demand a fee for vacating the stool in favour of a guest organist. I thought the Telegraph article was mischievous, btw.

 

If a 'proper organist' wants my job please (please!) apply. I don't need it - I work full time as it is and would be happy to forfeit the extra income to have my Saturdays back.

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I suspect pianists are used because the 'highly trained' organists are too thin on the ground, or don't want a Church post. The person in the pew who is known to play the piano gets roped in to play on a Sunday and so the ball starts to roll. Added to that, they/we are cheaper because, being aware of our limitations, we don't presume to request a similar fee. Provided the standard repertoire is played in a recognizable fashion, most parties are content with the arrangement.

 

Some organists are just scary. Reading another thread where a distinguished contributor was proud of chewing off the ear of a lady caller from the RSCM (who was only doing her job, poor woman) it is not surprising if an obliging and competent amateur is given first refusal. (Perhaps this formidable veneer is acquired through bitter experience; high-handed assistant curates do not take into account one's seniority in the secular world when issuing censure, I have found)

 

I have sympathy with those who charge double when they are being recorded (I only receive an extra £10 ) but have not yet had the nerve to demand a fee for vacating the stool in favour of a guest organist. I thought the Telegraph article was mischievous, btw.

 

If a 'proper organist' wants my job please (please!) apply. I don't need it - I work full time as it is and would be happy to forfeit the extra income to have my Saturdays back.

 

My comment re undertakers is actually aimed at their using pianists during the week when there are organists available who may be working part-time or have retired. And yes, the pianists get paid the same amount - surely something wrong here?? I would add that a good pianist either playing the piano or playing the organ as sensitively as possible if no one else is available is certainly better at any time than CDs etc.

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My experience is that crematoria are amongst the best places for being valued, treated professionally and paid promptly. One just up the road from me, owned by a well-known large company, cannot get organists to play there regularly, and when I am asked to play there by funeral directors or clergy I can charge what I like. The other one, owned by the city council, also ten minutes walk from my house in Brighton, is able to keep a team of about five, or even six, of us employed regularly in its two chapels and, so far as possible, the admin staff ensure that we are each given a fair share of the work. You are told in advance what is wanted, you turn up, speak to the person taking the service to ensure you are on the same wave-length, pass the time of day with the very helpful staff, play the service, come away again and feel you have helped people at a difficult time in their lives. There is no involvement with PCCs, worship committee or anything like that and almost all the people I come into contact with are a joy to work with. We are valued, well treated and get an annual pay rise. Increasingly I am happy to restrict my service playing to weddings and funerals. A poll of funeral directors established that they would rather have "live" organists than the Wesley system.

 

As a very experienced and well qualified church musician I really don't see why I should have to tolerate the way one gets treated by churches. I'm still trying to get the fees from one church for work I did for them up to nine weeks ago.

 

Mr Collins- was it you who used to go to Saturday evening organ recitals at St Andrew's Worthing in the mid-1960s when John Partridge was organist there?

 

Malcolm

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I believe the fees in question are perfectly acceptable on principle, and indeed may have some legal clout behind them.

 

If I understand things correctly, the policy of doubling a wedding fee for a video recording stems from Performing Rights - professional musicians have the right to receive a fee for all performances, and the playing back of a recording counts as a performance in the eyes of the law. Since it would be a logistical nightmare (and unreasonable) to demand "repeat fees" from couples every time they play back their wedding video, the organist can charge a lump sum (50% of the fee for audio, 100% of it for video - hence "double") to waive such rights in future.

 

As for the matter of charging despite the couple bringing in their own organist, I suppose there's a strong argument towards it being redundancy pay - after all, what else what you call it if you arrived at work one day to find someone else in your Office doing your job? Even if the boss told you it was just for a day and that you'd be back at work as normal next morning, you could still have him for making you redundant.

 

Of course, as others have already pointed out here, the issue becomes a lot thornier when taking into account that many "organists" are not professionals, still less able to play as well for a wedding as the couple's chosen friend who is FRCO...!

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