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Young Organists


James Dawson

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I have just returned home after a few days away in Kirkby Steven (Cumbria), watching steam trains, and have been pondering the subject of young organists, and whether there are many of them around these days.

 

Why do I ask? Well, whilst in Kirkby I visited the parish church, which I was told, had an interesting, and recently restored pipe organ (my other passion).

 

St Steven's is a very large church, and I was more than pleased to hear some Bach sounding out from the organ as I entered the door. After looking around I sat in a pew to listen for a while, enviously wondering how many decades the organist had been practicing his, or her pieces. I can play hymns well enough, and a few voluntaries, but most of what was being played here was well beyond my modest ability, and beautifully registered.

 

As I sat there daydreaming I heard the unmistakable opening of Cesar Frank's Chorale No III. This has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember, but I have never heard it played live before, so I made a move towards the quire to listen more closely. I was not disappointed, and the adagio in particular was, to me, very moving and memorable.

 

With that the organist switched off and locked up. Imagine my surprise when I realised that the organist was not a grey haired septuagenarian like myself, but a young lad of no more than 16 or 17 years! If I had not seen him with my own eyes I would never have believed it!

 

I don't know who this boy was, and didn't feel it was wise to ask, but it did leave me wondering just how many young organists there are around nowadays, for I don't seem to have seen many? I also wonder what opportunities there might be for bright young organists?

 

It's far too late for me, but I would be very interested to know whether there is indeed a thriving band of young organists out there somewhere?

 

PD

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I think the short answer is that the picture is very, very patchy and only the merest shadow of what it used to be fifty years ago (witness the ways the organ departments at our national conservatoires have contracted and the difficulties Oxford and Cambridge have filling all their scholarship posts), but there is certainly still a sprinkling of young, high-quality talent out there if you hunt.

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I have just returned home after a few days away in Kirkby Steven (Cumbria), watching steam trains, and have been pondering the subject of young organists, and whether there are many of them around these days.

 

 

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

 

Back in the mid 1960's, when I was but a spotty youth, there were at least ten young organists in my home town under the age of 17, and possibly more that I didn't know about. A few were quite accomplished: one especially so, who at the age of 16 probably had an organ technique to rival that of Virgil Fox or Sir George Thalben-Ball. In addition, he was a PAID theatre-organist in his spare time and appeared on TV. (Repertoire from Bach to Liszt and Rachmaninov on piano. The Middelschulte Perpetuem Mobile he played perfectly, such was his pedal technique). The rest of us, mere mortals, only went on to the various things such as B.Mus or, in some cases the RCO exams, but our star performer shot off to the RNCM.

 

Now would that exist to-day anywhere?

 

I personally doubt that it could, outside the obvious academic places and hot-spots, yet my humble northern town produced not only a few remarkable musicians, it also produced possibly one of the most gifted, (and I mean GIFTED) theatre and electronic organists the world has ever known; the late Brian Rodwell.

 

The local organist's association had about 20-25 young organists on its books, and other local associations would have a similar number or more. That means, that in the West Yorkshire area alone where I live, there must have been in excess of 100 young organists connected with the local organist associations in Halifax, Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield at any one time, and that would be turned over every five years or so, as the older ones moved away to study, live or work. At the same time, local Anglican choirs (from where most of the young organists developed their interest in the organ), could easily fill a cathedral nave at an RSCM Festival.

 

I would wager the Charles Trywett shirt on my back, (it’s very nice), that at least 95% of existing ‘serious’ organists once sang in church, chapel or cathedral choirs as children.

 

Permit me to divert slightly by telling a short but poignant contemporary story which could almost serve as an epitaph to a lost world.

 

A while ago, I hit a deer with my car, when the silly thing ran out from behind a stone-wall at high-speed at 5am in the morning. I was travelling at 50mph, the impact was big, the deer died and the damage to my car, though not structural, resulted in lots of broken glass and plastic, as well as the radiator. I worked out the relative merits of an insurance claim or a DIY job, and came to the conclusion that I could effect repairs for much less than my insurance excess, by obtaining used parts from a breaker’s yard.

 

Enter into my life a boy of 13.....”What yer doing?”

 

“Mending my car,” I said.

 

“Can I help you? I want to be a mechanic,” he said.

 

“OK, grab that wrench,” I replied.

 

To cut a long story short, I rapidly discover that the boy went to special school for kids with behavioural problems and poor academic progress, his father is a drug addict and the mother who abandoned him is not only a heroin addict but a prostitute. Another influence on his life are his peers who roam the streets aimlessly, stealing this and that and then spending the profits on strong cider and drugs, having sold the stolen items to a drug-dealing receiver.

 

Over the summer holidays, I’ve taken him up the Yorkshire Dales, took him for a (safe) climb up a waterfall 150ft high, shown him how to use a camera, played spelling games with him (we’ve moved onto Scrabble) and, as time goes on, the car is looking better than it did. In only a short time, his behaviour is now almost perfect because he is learning and getting much needed input.

 

There are certain moments in life when “Wow” is the only proper word.

 

“Give me a word to spell,” he said.

 

For a joke, I said, “Antidisestablishmentarianism.”

 

He handed me back the piece of paper, which read, “Antidisestablishmentarianism.”

 

“Wow,” I exclaimed, even if he hadn’t a clue what it meant.

 

Last week, I called down to Holy Joe’s to get some music, and he was with me on a shopping mission.

 

I switched the organ on, pulled out the stops and struck up with the BWV565.

He listened as I played, and at the end, as the sound rang around in a veritable sea of resonance, he turned to me open-mouthed and said, “Wow!”

 

I told him how important resonance was to music, and after being taught how to read a few notes, he managed a single-finger tune without help. Then climbing off the organ, he started to sing without any prompting, and what I witnessed was one of the most beautiful treble voices I’ve ever heard; perfectly in tune and in perfect time.

 

Another ‘wow’ moment to supplement other ‘wow’ moments, such as when I showed him a rock fossil in the Dales, and he said, “So all this must have been at the bottom of the sea a long time ago?”

 

It’s those ‘wow’ moments which shape young lives, and if we don’t ‘wow’ them with the organ, then there’s no real future for the instrument outside certain select places.

 

In the film of the Alan Bennett play, “The history boys,” there is a wonderful truth, uttered by ‘Hector’, the somewhat flawed and eccentric teacher, when the potential Oxbridge scholarship students go on a field trip to Fountains Abbey.

As they line up for a group photograph, (I hope I get this right) Hector (played by Richard Griffiths) says to the boys, “Pass it on boys! That’s what I want you to learn. Not for me; not for you, but for......someone. Pass it on boys! Pass it on!”

 

So perhaps the key to anything is education on the one hand, and the ‘wow’ factor on the other, and if a 13 year old boy can be ‘wowed’ listening to an instrument he’s never seen, in a church, (when doesn’t even know what a church is), there’s a bit of hope, because he was responding to something deep within; perhaps a deep musicality he didn’t know was there.

 

The alternative is the exclusion of failed inclusivity; the deceitful olive branch of becoming a pop-star. As ten thousand hopefuls queue up to audition for “Pop Idol,” the only certainty is that nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seven will be failures and only one will be the winner.

 

Many of the churches tragically adopted the same path in the 1970’s; most now relegated to the category of ‘also rans’ and lacking all musical credibility.

 

Still, a few younger people play the organ, even in the UK, and here are one or two examples to enjoy; the French example, (in spite of poor sound quality), quite remarkable..

 

 

 

 

And one obscenely talented young electronic organist in Germany:-

 

 

MM

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How heartening to read of such a chance encounter.

As for young players - there are still a good number of them coming into the world. However, the actual numbers are not so great as in previous decades. There are difficulties these days in Oxbridge places - but not for the lack entirely of playing ability. Colleges are appointing more and more on academic ability (for league tables I presume) even though the playing ability might be of the highest quality. (It doesn't always mean that a brilliant player is gifted in getting 3 A Levels at A Grade). Gone are the days when scholars were appointed on their playing and they then did their best at an academic subject backed by some good testimonials from headmasters and music teachers. The organ was the best key to open a university door in the past. I know that few players are interested in becoming ecclesiastical musicians because of the great demands of their time, dearth of professional remuneration and difficult musical demands. Making a living in the UK from giving recitals is certainly not even conceivable when a modest fee for players should be £1,000 before tax and before expenses of travel and accommodation as Churches have little 'in the pot' for musical artistic outreach into the community (unlike some others in countries throughout the world). The UK has always had a tremendous number of excellent organists who, on Sundays, departed from their professional jobs in the week. This happens less and less. Families are mobile and need to have those 'away days'. Furthermore, musical fulfilment I would suggest for these people, needs to be gained from the ability of having good Liturgy married to the best music that they strive to produce, building on the musical heritage of which they consider themselves to be a part.

Choristers coming into contact with a wonderful pipe organ played with dedication will be enthralled and enthused. I wanted to sing in a choir to be nearer an organ. I was attracted by the sound of it. Surely I was not alone? Sadly I am not at all attracted by electronic substitutes and so if I am not alone, then this will diminish the numbers of young people. Another feature that in retrospect attracted me was the beauty of casework and the surrounding architecture. Still to this day, if truth be known. The continent is a treasure house of such examples. But, I drove my family to distraction when 8 after receiving from Hill Norman & Beard, a bundle of beautifully printed specifications, to visit Beverley Minster - this necessitating the Humber Ferry too! What a long-suffering family I had/have. There are so many influences to inspire I think, but the greatest must be the instrument itself and then next a person to pass on their passion as a player to the youngster. That's the lineage.

These are only my thoughts - so I am sure others will have differing ones.

 

All the best,

Nigel

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Sharing an initial interest in/introduction to the organ and organ music which has already been mentioned, I am shocked at the paucity of players of all ages coming forward - though there are exceptions.

 

Despite the many excellent initiatives around the country - from the more enlightened local organisations*, through the RSCM OTS, to the ST Giles School and the RCO - giving a lot of opportunity for those from all sorts of backgrounds, at all levels, and at all ages to get involved there are still few students in general.

 

The big problem in a church sense, and I think this is shared across all denominations, is the lack of encouragement at local level. This is a well-known problem with some clergy who seem indifferent, but surprisingly it also is exhibited by some local organists who seem reluctant to give a gentle push in the direction of training.

 

Of course, we must all recognise that for every one student who might wish to progress through examinations, there are probably ten who wish not to submit themselves to such assessments - and their aims must also be respected and their skills nurtured. It's just as valid musically. We must also try to be welcoming to serious enquirers to turn up at the console. This is difficult at times, when other things press - and I know it has been aired here previously - but it should be the default attitude perhaps.

 

* - though I expect to be shot down for this, there do still seem to be associations who cater almost exclusively for the organ 'nerd', who is interested in the noise it makes, or for example the marks of planing on the wood of the bourdon, to the exclusion of the music. Sadly, unless we can find new players, and musically appreciative listeners, this organ-as-museum-piece situation may be the one which prevails!

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Hi

 

In the Bradford Organists' Association we have a handful of young organists - helped by our sponsorship of 10 organ lessons for interested beginners (of any age). 2 have passed Grade 5 with high marks within a year of starting organ lessons (no doubt aided by parental support!). Another plays regularly in their home church, and often deputises elsewhere. Introducing youngsters to the organ is key - and equally improtant is ongoing encouragement.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I am pleasantly surprised to see a resurgence of interest in the organ amongst younger musicians here in the states. Not so many years ago the organ was viewed as hopelessly dated, the domain of blue-haired old ladies, crusty old men, and the irretrievably nerdy. Playing the organ was a quaint and socially dubious pastime, akin to running model trains, writing Star Wars fan fiction, or hacking the Linux kernel.

 

But somewhere in the past ten years the organists doffed their anoraks, or perhaps a lot more people donned them. I have seen a lot of kids, teenagers and sometimes younger, taking lessons and planning to pursue the organ as an avocation if not a proper vocation. I don't know whether this is the result of outreach by the Guild, or encouragement from churches who for so long neglected or discouraged interested children. Maybe kids are tiring of pointless diversions like playing fake plastic guitars in front of their game console and are trying to do something real.

 

Just in case this is a local phenomenon -- I am in the state capitol, surrounded by several universities and some really fine organs -- I went on the AGO web site from my home town. Sure enough, they had pictures of a "Pipe Organ Encounter" at my old church with lots of kids (even an Amish or Mennonite girl in plain dress, which is kind of cool) playing the organ and having a good time. There was nothing like this, ever, when I was that age.

 

Justin

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- though I expect to be shot down for this, there do still seem to be associations who cater almost exclusively for the organ 'nerd', who is interested in the noise it makes, or for example the marks of planing on the wood of the bourdon, to the exclusion of the music. Sadly, unless we can find new players, and musically appreciative listeners, this organ-as-museum-piece situation may be the one which prevails![/size]

 

I have to declare an interest here as a member of the Advisory Council of the IAO and a member of three organists' associations, one of which I am the Secretary of.*

 

As marketing people will tell you, perception is all. And thus it worries me that DRD has this perception about organists' associations. I am not going to argue as to whether his perception is accurate: that is neither here nor there. If it is accurate the associations have a problem of substance; if it isn't, they have an image problem.

 

What really interests me is where DRD's perception comes from: in particular, is it hearsay or first-hand knowledge? And is it recent hearsay/first-hand knowledge, or does it date back a decade or two? In other words, are the associations really like his description, or do people just think they are? Either way, we (the IAO and its member associations) have some work to do.

 

It isn't my intention to start an argument here - indeed, I suspect if DRD and I are going to have an argument we will need to move on to different ground.

 

 

 

* I tried not to end this sentence with a preposition but the result, whilst gramatically correct, was ugly and almost incomprehensible.

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I do think the church in general does little to foster an interest in organs and organ playing.

 

During my youth I was almost universally told, usually by some ancient, hirsute matriarch, that no one was allowed to try the organ – that it was out of the question etc etc.

 

In my current church I happily invite any curious person that wants to have a go to climb up onto the bench and make a noise. We also have a local church school that visits us from time to time. After a brief demonstration I always invite volunteers to come and have a try. For some unknown reason 8 year old boys seem to relish the noise of the lowest notes of the Double Trumpet, often reducing them to uncontrollable laughter – can’t imagine why!

 

Funnily enough one church that did invite me to have a play was St Steven’s in Kirby Steven. I politely declined the offer as I was in my wet weather gear, walking boots and was also wearing a generous covering of mud – ah the joys of geological field work!

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I have to declare an interest here as a member of the Advisory Council of the IAO and a member of three organists' associations, one of which I am the Secretary of.*

 

[Lynne Truss Mode] ..for one of which I act as secretary. [/Lynne Truss Mode] ?

 

Sorry...

 

From casual observation only, there seems to be a reasonable number of good young organists in the Midlands. There is quite a group of noticeably keen and knowledgeable youngsters, make and female, that attend Thomas Trotter's recitals in Birmingham. Perhaps one of the local "seniors" would like to comment?

 

The problem area is more the "hobby" organist who would be perfectly competent and happy to play for services at smaller churches but without necessarily wanting to take examinations or diplomas. These seem to be in short supply and this causes a real difficulty in rural area. Even I, with 30+ years handsoff the keyboards and pedals, am been roped in to perform now and again.

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I have to declare an interest here as a member of the Advisory Council of the IAO and a member of three organists' associations, one of which I am the Secretary of.*

 

As marketing people will tell you, perception is all. And thus it worries me that DRD has this perception about organists' associations. I am not going to argue as to whether his perception is accurate: that is neither here nor there. If it is accurate the associations have a problem of substance; if it isn't, they have an image problem.

 

What really interests me is where DRD's perception comes from: in particular, is it hearsay or first-hand knowledge? And is it recent hearsay/first-hand knowledge, or does it date back a decade or two? In other words, are the associations really like his description, or do people just think they are? Either way, we (the IAO and its member associations) have some work to do.

 

It isn't my intention to start an argument here - indeed, I suspect if DRD and I are going to have an argument we will need to move on to different ground.

 

 

 

* I tried not to end this sentence with a preposition but the result, whilst gramatically correct, was ugly and almost incomprehensible.

 

It is a perception rather than hearsay, and has been formed over several decades. If I am wrong, then may I say I'm delighted to be so since it means that all is well in the world of the associations.

 

I can think of two, which are very different in their approaches though I do not know to what extent their aims may coincide. One is very active and embracing several means of communication suitable to the present day, and active in outreach, and in building bridges with other agencies in the field. The other is (and this is again a perception) more traditional in its approach. One seems 'bright and inviting', the other seems less so. What worries me is that if that is my perception, then perhaps it is even starker for any new recruits to the study of music on our instrument and that thus they could be deprived of what could be a valuable source of peer support.

 

As said in the quoted passage above, this is not the thread nor perhaps the forum for an exhaustive debate on these things, nor am I sure where the right place might be.

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* I tried not to end this sentence with a preposition but the result, whilst gramatically correct, was ugly and almost incomprehensible.

 

Surely that preposition was unnecessary. You've just used it with the relative pronoun.

 

*Teacher mode off having just come in from school*

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Surely that preposition was unnecessary. You've just used it with the relative pronoun.

 

*Teacher mode off having just come in from school*

 

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

No, no, no! (This is English at its best, as you can tell).

 

The point surely is, that one can be both Secretary of, and Secretary to something.

 

One may be Secretary to the Queen, or Secretary of State, but obviously not at the same time.

 

Were I to be a member of three association and hold office in one of them, then the office should take precedence over what would just be an ordinary membership. Consequently, one cannot be a member of three and secretary to one, because that would make four. I would suggest that like MA and BA, or MSc and BSc, the lesser qualification is dropped in favour of the greater qualification. However, the protocol does go a bit awry with Knighthoods, which one would assume to be the highest honour. A Professor awarded a Knighthood becomes Professor Sir, rather than Sir Professor.

 

So really, what Nick should have said, was something along the following lines:-

 

I am a member of two organist's associations and hold the office of Secretary to a third.

 

Easy innit?

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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I would suggest that like MA and BA, or MSc and BSc, the lesser qualification is dropped in favour of the greater qualification.

 

I disagree, especially in the case that the Masters degree is in a completely different subject to the Bachelors. If you have it, flaunt it!

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++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

 

 

I am a member of two organist's associations and hold the office of Secretary to a third.

 

Easy innit?

 

:unsure:

 

MM

 

Should it not be two organists' associations? Surely the associations have more than one member.

Help!! Let's please get back to the topic, organs and high pleasure reeds.

N

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Should it not be two organists' associations? Surely the associations have more than one member.

Help!! Let's please get back to the topic, organs and high pleasure reeds.

N

 

Wasn't the topic that of young organists and the numbers thereof?

 

It may just be that the organ attracts a particular type of youngster but they seem to display an annoying facility with the famous toccata (at least they do on youtube). I admit I've come to it too late but it seems that teenage boys pick up the skill along with skateboarding. Both things feel rather like a bobsleigh ride.

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Wasn't the topic that of young organists and the numbers thereof?

 

It may just be that the organ attracts a particular type of youngster but they seem to display an annoying facility with the famous toccata (at least they do on youtube). I admit I've come to it too late but it seems that teenage boys pick up the skill along with skateboarding. Both things feel rather like a bobsleigh ride.

 

"A famous toccata" Were you thinking of BWV565 by any chance? I must say it was very well played too. :) But to be fair this lad had a repertoire that was much wider than a few well known pieces. I listened for over an hour and did not hear anything played twice.

 

As the originator of this thread I am very grateful for the replies that have been given, but I still do not know how many young organists there are out there. As an oldy myself I would like to think that there will still be organs and organists in 100 years time, but I am not sure if there will be any around by then. (No doubt the EU will have banned organ pipes in 100 years because of their lead content. :unsure: )

 

My own perception is that young organists are not always made welcome, and in some cases church people (and older organists) seem to be downright hostile to them. Would they take the same view of a young Cleric, I wonder?

 

A sister church in our parish had a university student playing their organ for a while. He was certainly much better than the elderly gentleman who had played previously, but two of the women who dress up in choir robes (I hesitate to call them a choir) moaned and groaned until the vicar told him that he had to go. They now use a CD player except for special services.

 

(There were also problems when weddings came up, as the vestry insisted that 'old Eric' * should play - and collect the fee, even though he could barely manage the Wedding March.)

 

I think the real problem was that the young organist played rather too well for the choir, (or didn't make the mistakes that 'old Eric' did), which showed up their weaknesses. The lad is now playing at another church in town with a proper choir, so he clearly wasn't the problem. I have tried to raise this subject at PCC meetings, but have been told that the matter is closed.

 

One would have thought that organists associations would be more welcoming, but this doesn't seem to be the case either. I was a member of one association for a while, but I was appalled by the attitude of the Secretary towards younger players, and those who he felt were less able at the console than he was, so I left.

 

Are there any young organists on this forum? If so, what is your experience?

 

As a retired schoolteacher I would be only too happy to move aside for some bright young talent, but is there anything that us oldies could, or should be doing to help?

 

This is something that I have been thinking about for a while, but it took a young lad playing the organ whilst I was on holiday to make me do something about it!

 

* Not his real name.

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Should it not be two organists' associations? Surely the associations have more than one member.

Help!! Let's please get back to the topic, organs and high pleasure reeds.

N

 

 

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

 

 

May you die slowly and horribly Nigel! :unsure::)

 

You're absolutely right of course!

 

MM

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Wasn't the topic that of young organists and the numbers thereof?

 

It may just be that the organ attracts a particular type of youngster but they seem to display an annoying facility with the famous toccata (at least they do on youtube). I admit I've come to it too late but it seems that teenage boys pick up the skill along with skateboarding. Both things feel rather like a bobsleigh ride.

 

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

 

 

I tried skateboarding for the first time recently. It's not easy!

 

You have to bend your knees and extend your arms; just like playing the organ, but sideways.

 

You know that you SHOULDN'T be skateboarding, when a groups of sallow-faced youths shout after you, "Go Grandad! Go!"

 

Just wait 'til it snows. I'll take them for a spin (literally) in the car, and then do it backwards at 30mph! B):ph34r:

 

 

MM

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I am more and more of the opinion that the C of E dioceses ought to have a Director of Music (or some other position). There are many people who would sincerely play but have little discrete help to support them in their endeavours. I also find that some clergy need discrete help in knowing how to use time and musical talents. I feel that to enable the best offerings to come forward many places just need that helping hand and a sympathetic understanding from the diocese. Some perhaps have help. I know that the Roman Catholic church have a number of such people and choirs and organ playing seems to greatly thrive under such careful direction. I also am beginning to realize (as a DOA) that some pipe organs would not replaced by digital substitutes if the helpful but not over-competent organist had some guidance in how to negotiate the idiosyncrasies of a 19th Century tracker in their church.

I realize that this would cost the diocese but I would vehemently argue that the rewards would be priceless for such an outlay. There are positions for clergy in directing the many areas of the Church's Ministry in dioceses, but I am saddened to think that so few cannot see the value of the Ministry of Music in their thinking. It is often the one part of Sunday Liturgy that can be so easily seen and heard by everyone and can destroy or uplift at the drop of a chord. Such people could devise workshops or private help. They could give pointers about how to recruit singers and what repertoire that would suit them in the context of their church's services. The young organists can be encouraged through any number of ways and given small opportunities to play their offering.

I have always felt that young people will be encouraged by the tiniest offers of kindness and realistic challenges. But it takes a little time to set such things up. The RSCM offered a national need as seen by Sir Sydney Nicholson. My mother was part of those early days in Oundle when he visited. I think that we need smaller and more concentrated activity that is more 'home-grown' so that the changing churches can be catered for. The early days of the RSCM were founded upon the B of C Prayer and so a national spirit to encourage choirs was totally understood when they joined for massed singing days. Now almost every church is different. Could you arrange such a Saturday and get everyone to sing Evensong? I very much doubt it as it would be for most a museum activity. These differences need understanding and knitting back together and the young people are pivotal to any larger plan for the future. Bishop Ken's words "Improve thy talent with due care" cannot be more true. Having organists' associations, The Organ Club, the IAO etc. are needed extras to complement the other work. I just feel that Diocesan enthusers are needed as soon as possible - certainly in the C of E.

But again - I might be just an old fuddy-duddy living in a dream world.

N

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I am more and more of the opinion that the C of E dioceses ought to have a Director of Music (or some other position). ...

 

Completely and entirely agree.

 

Some years ago, the Archbishops published "In Tune with Heaven" - with recommendations to invigorate parish music. One of these recommendations was dioceses should appoint a Diocesan Music Adviser - precisely to encourage parishes and their musicians.

 

Birmingham Diocese was one which did set up such a role, which is still in existence as far as I know. I was the second in the post, which was pioneered by Rosemary Field who is now, I understand, undertaking a similar role for another Diocese. I think my successor still carries on the work in that role. The work done was very much favoured by parishes, and encompasses all sorts of activities from organ coaching/tuition, through advising musicians/clergy on their particular situations, trying to seed ideas, running workshops to add and upgrade skills, etc..

 

However, I believe the proportion of dioceses who have done this, or who have retained the post against cost-cutting, and so on, is small. As Nigel has pointed out, the potential of such a role is high - perhaps more dioceses, if they realise there is a call for such a post, would implement one.

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Completely and entirely agree.

 

Some years ago, the Archbishops published "In Tune with Heaven" - with recommendations to invigorate parish music. One of these recommendations was dioceses should appoint a Diocesan Music Adviser - precisely to encourage parishes and their musicians.

However, I believe the proportion of dioceses who have done this, or who have retained the post against cost-cutting, and so on, is small. As Nigel has pointed out, the potential of such a role is high - perhaps more dioceses, if they realise there is a call for such a post, would implement one.

 

And the one thing Nigel also meant to point out that this would be a most welcome addition to the job scene. How many Dioceses?

N

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And the one thing Nigel also meant to point out that this would be a most welcome addition to the job scene. How many Dioceses?

N

 

Well, I know of three - hopefully there are more. (When in post as one, it occurred to me that if there were sufficient people concerned, and small 'sharing experiences' group would be useful in order to learn from each others experiences, or at least, perhaps, and annual DMAs' conference.)

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Completely and entirely agree.

 

Some years ago, the Archbishops published "In Tune with Heaven" - with recommendations to invigorate parish music. One of these recommendations was dioceses should appoint a Diocesan Music Adviser - precisely to encourage parishes and their musicians.

 

However, I believe the proportion of dioceses who have done this, or who have retained the post against cost-cutting, and so on, is small. As Nigel has pointed out, the potential of such a role is high - perhaps more dioceses, if they realise there is a call for such a post, would implement one.

 

And the one thing Nigel also meant to point out that this would be a most welcome addition to the job scene. How many Dioceses?

N

 

I must say this does sound like a very sensible idea, although I gather from our Clergy that many of the advisory posts are part time, and non-stipendiary, so the cost to the diocese would be minimal.

 

However, there are two points that I would like to bring out here. Firstly, there seems to be great disparity in how the various diocese deal with music matters, even down to individual attitudes. Having spoken to a few people 'in the know' over the past few days, I have heard that Liverpool Diocese, for example, has a very progressive, enlightened and open policy, in which they actively encourage organists of all ages and abilities. If what I hear is true, they are even allowed to go along to the cathedral for a play on certain days. I don't think that would ever happen on the other side of the Pennines!

 

Secondly, it strikes me that the attitudes shewn towards aspiring organists by the church strongly favour those who are fortunate enough to have attended a choir school, or a public school with a pipe organ; as it seems very unlikely that other children would ever be allowed to gain the experience to play on most church organs. (There have been several articles on this very subject in the press.) This to me is a disgrace, that the church, of all bodies should create a situation where young people who have not been fortunate enough to attend a public school should be denied the opportunity to play the most wonderful musical instrument there is.

 

If the church were to set certain criteria for those wanting to read lessons or intercessions on Sunday mornings there would be an outcry; and rightly so. Yet the same organisation openly sets such criteria for those wanting to play the organ.

 

I am not suggesting that inexperienced or incompetent organists should be allowed to play for acts of public worship, (although I have heard more than a few over the years), but everyone has to start somewhere. The church is always holding it's hand out for money, so why does it not hold out a helping hand to those who would like to help by providing music? If this could happen, the church would gain more than anyone!

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