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Danish Ways


Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I have just had sent to me the new Organistbogen from the DOKS of Denmark by my agent.

 

Having spent many, many hours reading just about everything on this Forum in the past few days since joining, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the state of UK organists and organ building passions. Now that this new book has been published (a publication that appears about every 7 years) I feel that many might like (or ought) to purchase it. Hugely illuminating from every angle.

 

What is DOKS? Well, it is the highest professional body of Organists in Denmark that look after the conditions, pay, etc of the top employees in church music. There must be around about 500/600 of them. This book prints every specification of every instrument associated with these positions; the organ's history; every known organist (yes - far before the Buxtehudes in some places) of the church with dates and birthday of the present incumbant; how many concerts a year promoted; how many living in the Parish; the Assistant's name; etc. It is a wonderful reference book as well as being an endless source of dreams for those members here who blow bubbles whilst submerged in specifications!

The DOKS organization is a Union too.

 

Then there are the many hundreds of people who belong to the 2nd rung of Union - the PO's. These are mostly village organists, and Assistants on a percentage of the full salary etc. It seems that a Parish of around 4,000 people seems to also by default get an assistant!

Each has its own conference each year. The PO's have their own books (there has to be 2, becuase of their number). So, just about every organ in the whole country is documented as well as the players of them.

 

Salaries, you ask? I will find out for sure a little later - but it used to be about £20,000 a year for an ordinary organist (non-professional) of PO status doing about 75% time. What the DOKS get (the equivilant of course of a Doctor or Solicitor), I am not so sure. There is the retirement age and the pension to enjoy to take into consideration too.

 

It is also interesting to note that the whole population of Denmark is a few million less than the population of London.

 

The website of the DOKS is Danish Organistwww.doks.dk

 

E-mail doks@doks.dk

 

Just about everyone speaks English if you want to ask how to purchase this amazing publication.

 

The book (hardback & about 450 pages) is about 250Kr (around £25) makes excellent reading for you when huddled round the one bar of electric heating during the sermon. It will warm your heart to know how well looked after your counterpart is across the North Sea.

 

Should these not be the sort of organizations that the RCO/RSCM ought to be? Answers on a Christmas Card!

 

Seasons Greetings,

 

NJA

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Having spent many, many hours reading just about everything on this Forum in the past few days since joining, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the state of UK organists and organ building passions.

 

What, specifically, makes you despair? (not that I don't agree with you, I'm just interested in your views!)

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
What, specifically, makes you despair?

 

The thing that makes me specifically despair, AJ? It is the lack of my hair in the winter months when rehearsing in churches between Sundays when, alas, there is often a surfeit of hot air.

 

NJA

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The thing that makes me specifically despair, AJ? It is the lack of my hair in the winter months when rehearsing in churches between Sundays when, alas, there is often a surfeit of hot air.

 

NJA

 

:P I'm getting to the same stage myself - I'm not sure if it's baldness or my head and girth expanding so rapidly that my hair can't keep up.

 

2 tales from my soon-to-be parish (i.e. I start in January), that make me despair. We have 2 principal churches, one of which has a huge Willis 3, not a great choir, and is in a poor area. The other is a lovely, lovely church, with a very well off "friends association", which provides for a paid choir, and the church has a 2-manual machine, most recently Walker, I think.

 

The Walker needs routine maintenance and overhaul on it, to the tune of about £65k. The director of music at the church has managed to persuade the friends to stump up £35k for an electronic organ, and is planning to remove the Walker so that he can put the choir up in the gallery where the organ is. Fortunately this hasn't been agreed by the PCC yet.

 

The Willis has been neglected for years, and the last time anyone asked for some serious money to get work done, they were told "we'll just mothball it".

 

I think this might account for my lack of hair.

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Having spent many, many hours reading just about everything on this Forum in the past few days since joining, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the state of UK organists and organ building passions.

 

.................................

 

It is also interesting to note that the whole population of Denmark is a few million less than the population of London.

 

NJA

]

 

Nigel is right. Surely every English organist should experience the Danish organ culture at first hand. Immaculately maintained churches, beautifully crafted organs - true musical instruments rather than mere hymn machines and a joy to the eye as well as the ear. My only slight reservation is that the majority are modern - the result perhaps of an apparent abundance of cash - and not a great number of historic instruments. Add to this the social standing and financial rewards of Danish organists and one may well begin to despair.

 

This is not to say we should seek to emulate our Danish counterparts, even if that were remotely feasible. All I am suggesting is we should take a look at what is happening across the North Sea - such an attitude can only be stimulating and beneficial.

 

JS

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
This is not to say we should seek to emulate our Danish counterparts, even if that were remotely feasible.  All I am suggesting is we should take a look at what is happening across the North Sea - such an attitude can only be stimulating and beneficial.

JS

 

 

John is so right, of course. With connections and travel it is so simple (a Ryan to Denmark from Stansted is far less than a Virgin from Rugby to Euston). We have such opportunities thrust our way by these airlines.

 

I am rooting to increase the stature and situation of the large number of liturgical musicans in the UK. As a teacher I am constantly apprehensive of the future livelihood of many of my excellent/brilliant players. I could write many paragraphs really about the subject - but not here! Strangely enough, there is no State Church in Denmark, but the organists are paid by it. In England we have a State Church and ..........

 

It is interesting to chart the emergence of new instruments in European countries such as Denmark. I suggest that this came with national prosperity. The Netherlands were rich when it mattered to build new organs. They were poor(er) when they could have been smashed up. Now they are wealthy again and when scholarship and knowledge are needed to preserve or maintain the originals. Look at the muscial crimes perpetrated (unwittingly of course) when the The Oxford Movement married the Industrial Revolution in England. Religion has much to answer for! In France their 19th century folk mangled many (not often so very old) instruments so that the 'new' could happen. Would these Forum pages cite Cav-Coll as a goodie or a badie if he was reconstructing today to meet the new developments in music and the using of the latest building techniques? :angry: (Un chat amongst les pigeons!)

 

I just think that musicians this side of the North Sea might appreciate something more than bacon and round confections from Demark when I brought the new book to everyone's attention.

 

Best wishes,

NJA

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An interesting discussion, but how much of the dilution/withering of the Anglican faith in the UK can be seen as contributing towards the disparity with our Danish cousins?

 

Also, one can hardly be casting jealous glances across the North Sea when we all knew when we embarked on our full/partial/occasional careers as organists that the remuneration and regard we would garner would not keep a church mouse in warm socks and cheese most of the time..

 

Ah well, for those of you with the talent, go ye to Copenhagen and it's environs..

 

For the rest of us, we shall raise a glass of the fabled Carlsberg Elephant beer during the next long and largely ill-prepared sermon and get ready to coax our wheezy blowers into life for another rendition of tedious Victorian hymnody...

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The most interesting part of it is that this is EXACTLY what the RSCM should be doing. I am frequently pulled into line for being disparaging about the RSCM, and many of my friends and colleagues are high up within it, but what's it actually for? Maintaining & building standards, I am told. Great, but how far? The premise seems to be that parishes should count themselves lucky to have anyone at all, and no matter that they can't play the pedals or even reliably stumble through a hymn tune; if they are still breathing and willing to turn up, they have the RSCM seal of approval and can, for a modest fee, purchase a badge that says so. The only heartwarming and visible pockets where change for the better is taking place are (as far as I know in my small corner of the UK, anyway) firmly outside the boundaries of any "establishment" organisation, and down to the dedication of a few individuals without whom they would collapse. Worship and ministry are strengthened immeasureably as a result of these efforts. We are teetering on the brink of replacing organs with CD players, and we are contenting ourselves with trying to slow the pace of decay rather than actually reverse it. Surely the RSCM should be representing us to the church, not the other way round?

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Sorry - I thought that the RSCM was currently engaged in becoming an anachronism.... Certainly they should be thoroughly ashamed at some of the things I have seen them advertising of late.

 

As far as all things Danish are concerned, I am afraid I am really only interested in Danish Pastries.

 

Money is not everything - form what I hear of Danish church music, I think I would not enjoy being an organist there. I would miss the repertoire I get to accompany at my own church. Neither have I any desire to be custodian over a shiny new Frobenius - give me a vintage C-C, an H&H or a mid-period Hill any day.

 

Rather than knocking the current church music scene in the UK yet again, how about finding some good points? For example, we have some of the best church choirs in the world. We also have an astounding range of instruments - many of them superb - and in a mixture of styles. Then there are the expressions on the faces of our choristers when they have just sung an excellent Advent Candlelight Service, or the Good Friday Liturgy (including Crucifixus - Lotti and The Litany - Tallis), or the Sequence for Epiphany (including Hail, Gladdening Light - Wood and Bring us, O Lord - Harris).

 

Or just the gentle scrape of toes clenching in ecstasy as Full Swell comes shining through the diapasons in the fugue from Reger's* Fantasy on Wachet Auf.

 

Forget Watership Down (Thumper gets it at the end) - there are surely more than three Reasons to be Cheerful, this Christmas....

 

*Max - not Janet.

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For example, we have some of the best church choirs in the world. We also have an astounding range of instruments - many of them superb - and in a mixture of styles. Then there are the expressions on the faces of our choristers when they have just sung an excellent Advent Candlelight Service, or the Good Friday Liturgy (including Crucifixus - Lotti and The Litany - Tallis), or the Sequence for Epiphany (including Hail, Gladdening Light - Wood and Bring us, O Lord - Harris).

 

Or just the gentle scrape of toes clenching in ecstasy as Full Swell comes shining through the diapasons in the fugue from Reger's* Fantasy on Wachet Auf.

 

 

*Max - not Janet.

 

Same here - but we are the very fortunate minority - I have today been out to look at 4 instruments, all mid 1800's and pretty much intact as the day they were built by their (eminent) builders. One is played by a pianist, two are played by little old ladies once a month with piano or leccy keyboard the rest of the time, and the vicar of the last one would prefer it wasn't played at all, or even there. These are the places where the expertise, guidance, vision & passion are needed - and we don't got none, it seems, except for a few very LUCKY parishes. How would worship & church life in general be enriched if the musicians were required to operate to professional standards, and rewarded as professionals? Even £5k a year + benefits (perhaps even per benefice, where organists are shared as they increasingly are) is a drop in the ocean when you consider the benefits that could almost instantaneously arise for the church, the music and the instruments.

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How would worship & church life in general be enriched if the musicians were required to operate to professional standards, and rewarded as professionals?  Even £5k a year + benefits (perhaps even per benefice, where organists are shared as they increasingly are) is a drop in the ocean when you consider the benefits that could almost instantaneously arise for the church, the music and the instruments.

 

The benefice that I'm leaving (3 churches) employs 3 directors of music. One of those has been doing the job for free for 30-odd years, one is me, and I'm paid RSCM rates, and the other has been paid roughly the same as me, but only doing 2 Sundays per month, choir practices on average twice a month. The other services at that church (they have a minimum 2 services per Sunday that require accompaniment) are covered by volunteers.

 

The PCC for that church have cut his salary to £500 per year, and are wondering why he suddenly says that he will not be able to continue covering the current pattern that he does. Yes, he was probably overpaid before, but £500 per year, allowing for, say 12 hours rehearsal, 3 hours prep (depends on the individual, I suppose) per month = 15 x 12 = 180 hours per year = £2.77 an hour.

 

How much sense does that make?

 

I've left them with a proposal for employing a benefice musical director and benefice choir, plus utilising the existing hotch potch of gallery orchestra and "worship group" to rotate around the churches, thus consolidating resources and trying to up the general standard - e.g. one choir instead of 3, etc.

 

It would be very easy to start ranting about the state of the Anglican church full stop, but I *will* resist - this isn't the place...

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Sorry, I meant 12 hours rehearsals + services.

 

And of course you must remember that your Mr brown will need his income tax from that £2.77 an hour.

I do hope that everyone declares weddings and funeral cash on the Inland Revenue forms. New Labour need to find much spare cash. Every little helps. Beware! Will the books of churches be viewed to see who gets paid what? No doubt. Many countries like Austria, Germany etc. have a number of people who have pensions paid and ample money to live. All that is taken care of - just like Denmark. How many churches in Uk pay towards the organist's NI stamp? It is only fair when the Church needs the musicians to enable the Liturgy to happen. That is a worship partnership I think. Without the masters will there be enough disciples to carry on all the good works done in the past?

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There is always the U.S. - they pay well. However, colleagues and acquaintances who are working (or have worked) there say that the money alone does not really compensate for the often sub-standard music and musical taste which has to be endured. Obviously, I am not referring to places such as Washington National cathedral, Buffalo Cathedral, the Church of the Advent (Boston), St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue or St. John the Divine (NYC). Nevertheless, organists working in the average large American towm church will probably have to suffer handbell choirs and generally uninteresting music. True, one may have the custody of a four-clavier Aeolian-Skinner, or a G. Donald Harrison, eighty thousand dollars' remuneration (including Healthcare up to eighty percent). This alone would not be enough for me, if the music was not good - in every sense of the word.

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There is always the U.S. - they pay well. However, colleagues and acquaintances who are working (or have worked) there say that the money alone does not really compensate for the often sub-standard music and musical taste which has to be endured. Obviously, I am not referring to places such as Washington National cathedral, Buffalo Cathedral, the Church of the Advent (Boston), St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue or St. John the Divine (NYC). Nevertheless, organists working in the average large American towm church will probably have to suffer handbell choirs and generally uninteresting music. True, one may have the custody of a four-clavier Aeolian-Skinner, or a G. Donald Harrison, eighty thousand dollars' remuneration (including Healthcare up to eighty percent). This alone would not be enough for me, if the music was not good - in every sense of the word.

 

Up to you to make it good. Go for it!

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The most interesting part of it is that this is EXACTLY what the RSCM should be doing.  I am frequently pulled into line for being disparaging about the RSCM, and many of my friends and colleagues are high up within it, but what's it actually for?  Maintaining & building standards, I am told.  Great, but how far?

I can remember the old days when it certainly did promote good standards. They lost credibility for me during the seventies when they started to cave in to lower standards of taste. The final straw for me was a series of articles in their magazine giving a blow-by-blow account of 100 Hymns for Today (or was it More Hymns for Today?) Every single one - would you believe? - was a perfect gem. Oh, pur-leeze! That wasn't teaching discernment and standards; that was just blatant propaganda. But don't take any notice of me - I'm just a grumpy old stick-in-the-mud.

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I can remember the old days when it certainly did promote good standards. They lost credibility for me during the seventies when they started to cave in to lower standards of taste. The final straw for me was a series of articles in their magazine giving a blow-by-blow account of 100 Hymns for Today (or was it More Hymns for Today?) Every single one - would you believe? - was a perfect gem. Oh, pur-leeze! That wasn't teaching discernment and standards; that was just blatant propaganda. But don't take any notice of me - I'm just a grumpy old stick-in-the-mud.

 

That seems to be about it - go for a fairly low denominator, then the target is easier to hit. Around my way they are busy cancelling all the courses and workshops (young organists, improvisation etc) at a terrifying rate, and it's thanks to a couple of dedicated individuals taking financial risks that any of the courses will still happen. Where is the leadership in that?

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