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THE FUTURE ORGANIST?

 

Is there a future for the organist?

 

The question is simple enough, but the answer less so; possibly because history teaches us little and trends in music-making are notoriously difficult to predict.

 

History only teaches us that the organ, as both instrument and musical machine, has enjoyed great popularity and success, as well as drawn admiration and numerous compositions from composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Messaien and all the rest. Even as a machine, it was once at the pinnacle of scientific and engineering endeavour, (certainly in the 18th century).

 

Until relatively recently, only the pipe-organ could drive a vast congregation along, quell the occasional riot and fill a vast auditorium or cathedral with sound.

 

Let's face it; times and fashions, have changed, and other technologies have now stepped in to fulfil many of the requirements of filling a large space with music; the quality of which is often dubious, as we know.

 

Unquestionably, it is the outstanding progress in the quality of audio equipment which has been the catalyst for change: a quality quite unthinkable even fifty years ago, to the extent that a vast arena may now be blitzed with sound at the touch of a button, thus rendering something like the 6-manual Barton organ which once provided music at the former, (now demolished) Chicago Stadium, completely obsolete.

 

Similarly, whereas a building like the Albert Hall once needed an entire symphony orchestra, massed bands, big choirs or the organ to fill it with musical sound; pop musicians and even solo instrumentalists can do the same thing with suitable audio amplification.

 

Churches, which were once the principal market for "big sound machines," have now moved towards amplification, "music groups" and all manner of synthesised sound; many organs now removed or scrapped in preference to play-spaces and anterooms.

 

Then there is the digital organ market, which fulfils the basic need for a lot of sound, (sometimes just noise), and seriously undercuts the cost of a new organ or the re-building of an existing instrument.

 

Organists, who once formed the foundation stone of local and national music-making, are now seen as almost irrelevant in the music schools/colleges and universities, with many closures of courses and teaching opportunities.

 

Should we be down hearted or even depressed about the situation, or is there a future for organists?

 

Discuss!

 

MM

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Have you checked that the exam question does not contain errors which render it insoluble? ;)

 

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

 

 

 

I've amended the question; the original of which could easily have led us down the path of medical psychiatry.

 

MM

 

 

PS: Grey's (sic) Anatomy......Geriatric care or psychiatry?

 

 

PPS: Not as bad as the English lecturer, who on being asked which of two dates he was available for exam invigilation, replied in writing, "Both or either."

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It might be interesting to widen the question to consider amateurs (like me) and professionals separately.

I've been on the local RSCM committee for about the last 15 years and there has been a significant decline over that period in the number of churches with a regular organist (and choir - but that's another discussion ;) )

While some of it is due to a lack of organists, a greater amount is due to changing fashion as mentioned above.

Steve

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I think there's a need to publicise and popularise the organ, rather than sitting back and letting things happen.

 

Fashions come and go - there are signs that the cult for praise bands may be waning. I'm not the only person who thinks this - John Norman has written about it more than once. Part of my work is in a theological college, and seminarians are far more knowledgeable about - and kindly disposed toward - traditional liturgies and the music that supports them than they were a few years ago. It will take a long time to work through the system, though. Clergy who know nothing but post-Vatican 2 practices (not only in the RCC, but imitated by Anglicans) are now middle-aged and the younger, more broad-minded types have yet to make their mark.

 

I know that one factor in attracting people to St. John's Cathedral is the choral service, pipe organ and Book of Common Prayer (in Canada, the BCP is still recognisable, rather than being a compendium of old, new and whacky as in the USA, Ireland, Wales, etc). It's not just a hang-over from former times, it's a viable and (these days) radical way of doing things.

 

There has been something of a realignment among organ-builders, with a number of (smaller) concerns coming into prominence while a couple of the large ones are no longer with us. There are still top advisors (of the same age as the above-mentioned clergy) who support Continental neo-classicists, but there are other names coming into play. There also seems to be less of the 'one-size-fits-all' attitude, which is encouraging.

 

Despite the attractive initial price of electronic substitutes, the market for new pipe organs in place of electrones seems to be holding up.

 

So, in general, I think there's scope for optimism, but only if a positive and pro-active approach is taken.

 

On a slight tangent - I watched the YouTube videos of the infamous Chicago Barton organ. It seems a very great deal more impressive than I had been led to believe.

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It might be interesting to widen the question to consider amateurs (like me) and professionals separately.

I've been on the local RSCM committee for about the last 15 years and there has been a significant decline over that period in the number of churches with a regular organist (and choir - but that's another discussion ;) )

While some of it is due to a lack of organists, a greater amount is due to changing fashion as mentioned above.

Steve

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

I understand what you mean, but is the lack of opportunity not shared equally by professional and would-be professionals?

 

 

In my own lifetime, I have known and met many "professional organists" who were not necessarily attached to church jobs or cathedral organ-posts. As time has gone on, there are very few left, and even internationally, there are really very few out-and-out professional organists.

 

I'm perhaps fortunate in being able to comment on both the light and classical organ-worlds, and it is a problem which includes both genres, as well as electronic exponents.

 

How many civic-organists remain, who would often play recitals up and down the country?

 

Thomas Trotter must be one of the last.

 

 

On the light-music scene, imagine how many professionals and semi-professionals have disappeared, never to be replaced. It isn't just the former cinema-organists or venue organists, but a whole army of competent performers on TV, Radio, in combo-groups (eg:Harry Stoneham) and the like, who earned a living or a partial-living out of performing in theatres, dance-halls, ice-rinks,clubs and on seaside piers.

 

 

Even the wedding market has taken a severe battering during the past two decades, and more likely as not, most people are sent to meet their maker with canned music.

 

It's as if the ENTIRE organ-world has been pushed aside, and this is what surprises me. For those who could turn their hand to both genres and thus earn a quite respectable living, the dramatic turn about in fashion has pulled the carpet from under them.

 

 

It leaves only a small niche of professional or "session" organists, who can appear with an orchestra, accompany a big choir or make the occasional appearance at such as the Albert Hall for one of the big works.

 

Discuss further, because it baffles me.

 

MM

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On a slight tangent - I watched the YouTube videos of the infamous Chicago Barton organ. It seems a very great deal more impressive than I had been led to believe.

 

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

 

 

 

Just for the sake of accuracy, what you heard and saw on Youtube would not have been the Barton instrument; the pipework of which perished in a fire whiule in storage. All that remained was the 6-manual console, and to which has been wired all sorts of other unit-chests and even some digital stops.

 

The original was a fairly big, rather dirty sound, which was scattered all around the stadium, and I did have it on tape once upon a time. If I recall, the track was "I've been working on the rail-road," but I do not recall the performer's name.

 

It was apparent in the recording, that the organist must have had a hell of a time trying to keep everything co-ordinated, with all sorts of multiple echoes in evidence. It suggests that your original estimation, (of what was probably a good organ in the wrong place), was probably the right one.

 

Still, at least the impressive console remains.

 

MM

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THE FUTURE ORGANIST?

Until relatively recently, only the pipe-organ could drive a vast congregation along, quell the occasional riot and fill a vast auditorium or cathedral with sound.

Let's face it; times and fashions, have changed, and other technologies have now stepped in to fulfil many of the requirements of filling a large space with music; the quality of which is often dubious, as we know.

Unquestionably, it is the outstanding progress in the quality of audio equipment which has been the catalyst for change: a quality quite unthinkable even fifty years ago, to the extent that a vast arena may now be blitzed with sound at the touch of a button, ...

MM

MM's historical perspective of technology is undoubtedly correct. The role of the organ in bringing orchestral music cheaply to 'the masses' was undoubtedly replaced by broadcast and recorded music, and then live PA. The role of the organist has changed with it, to an audience who appreciate the organ for its own sake.

I am reminded of the JB Priestley play 'When we are married' where the flash young character, (Gerald Forbes?) is an organist. A rock star of the day, no doubt.

 

(However, I suspect that MM underestimates the amount of rehearsal time needed for the band to fill the stadium live. Not to mention that the sound crew can get it horribly wrong, and leave you dimly aware that athough you are, to all intents and purposes, playing a dummy keyboard to yourself, you can hear the sound bouncing off the back wall a fifth of a second later, and the audience can hear your fumbling much better than you can. And as a sometime mixer man myself, I may have dropped a muso in it once or twice. 'At the touch of a button' forgets the effort of unloading the truck and rigging!)

 

You quite often find that sound men are organists, and vice versa. (sorry, often male). There's a similarity in building up layers of sound, and working with timbres, and so on. And both jobs involve making decisions live, in front of many people, and taking the risk that it won't work. Fortunately, the worst that can happen is usually mega-embarrassment.

 

Talking of which, I remember seeing 'Sky' start their set in usual dramatic fashion (arrangement of BWV565), only to have to stop and restart at Kevin Peek's entry because his guitar was horribly out of tune.... and Murray Perahia stop a slow movement at Snape Maltings and wait for a rain shower to pass over, because it was drowning out the piano...

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

 

 

 

Just for the sake of accuracy, what you heard and saw on Youtube would not have been the Barton instrument; the pipework of which perished in a fire whiule in storage. All that remained was the 6-manual console, and to which has been wired all sorts of other unit-chests and even some digital stops.

 

MM

 

There are a few YouTube which at least appear to be the original Barton, including one made before a game in 1994 and three detailing the dismantling of the instrument. Or am I getting that wrong? ;)

 

There are others featuring the present instrument connected to the old console.

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MM's historical perspective of technology is undoubtedly correct. The role of the organ in bringing orchestral music cheaply to 'the masses' was undoubtedly replaced by broadcast and recorded music, and then live PA. The role of the organist has changed with it, to an audience who appreciate the organ for its own sake.

I am reminded of the JB Priestley play 'When we are married' where the flash young character, (Gerald Forbes?) is an organist. A rock star of the day, no doubt.

 

(However, I suspect that MM underestimates the amount of rehearsal time needed for the band to fill the stadium live. Not to mention that the sound crew can get it horribly wrong, and leave you dimly aware that athough you are, to all intents and purposes, playing a dummy keyboard to yourself, you can hear the sound bouncing off the back wall a fifth of a second later, and the audience can hear your fumbling much better than you can. And as a sometime mixer man myself, I may have dropped a muso in it once or twice. 'At the touch of a button' forgets the effort of unloading the truck and rigging!)

 

You quite often find that sound men are organists, and vice versa. (sorry, often male). There's a similarity in building up layers of sound, and working with timbres, and so on. And both jobs involve making decisions live, in front of many people, and taking the risk that it won't work. Fortunately, the worst that can happen is usually mega-embarrassment.

 

Talking of which, I remember seeing 'Sky' start their set in usual dramatic fashion (arrangement of BWV565), only to have to stop and restart at Kevin Peek's entry because his guitar was horribly out of tune.... and Murray Perahia stop a slow movement at Snape Maltings and wait for a rain shower to pass over, because it was drowning out the piano...

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

No, no, MM is perfectly aware of the complexities. I was just using a figure of speech.

 

 

 

Actually, I once sat with the sound-man during a recording session of the LSO, and his attention to detail was just amazing; even to the extent that he stopped one first movement, moved a microphone slightly away from the brass section and re-adjusted everything. He then had a heated discussion about the bowing of some of the string players, and was not afraid to make his views known. My ears were not well trained enough to know the difference, but his certainly were.

 

I can well imagine that setting up an arena for a pop concert is every bit as complex, but that's beyond my experience unfortunately.

 

 

 

MM

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There are a few YouTube which at least appear to be the original Barton, including one made before a game in 1994 and three detailing the dismantling of the instrument. Or am I getting that wrong? :unsure:

 

There are others featuring the present instrument connected to the old console.

 

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

 

 

 

I must have missed those. I shall have a listen. Thanks for correcting me.

 

 

MM

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I think there's a need to publicise and popularise the organ, rather than sitting back and letting things happen.

 

Fashions come and go - there are signs that the cult for praise bands may be waning. I'm not the only person who thinks this - John Norman has written about it more than once. Part of my work is in a theological college, and seminarians are far more knowledgeable about - and kindly disposed toward - traditional liturgies and the music that supports them than they were a few years ago. It will take a long time to work through the system, though. Clergy who know nothing but post-Vatican 2 practices (not only in the RCC, but imitated by Anglicans) are now middle-aged and the younger, more broad-minded types have yet to make their mark.

 

I know that one factor in attracting people to St. John's Cathedral is the choral service, pipe organ and Book of Common Prayer (in Canada, the BCP is still recognisable, rather than being a compendium of old, new and whacky as in the USA, Ireland, Wales, etc). It's not just a hang-over from former times, it's a viable and (these days) radical way of doing things.

 

There has been something of a realignment among organ-builders, with a number of (smaller) concerns coming into prominence while a couple of the large ones are no longer with us. There are still top advisors (of the same age as the above-mentioned clergy) who support Continental neo-classicists, but there are other names coming into play. There also seems to be less of the 'one-size-fits-all' attitude, which is encouraging.

 

Despite the attractive initial price of electronic substitutes, the market for new pipe organs in place of electrones seems to be holding up.

 

So, in general, I think there's scope for optimism, but only if a positive and pro-active approach is taken.

 

On a slight tangent - I watched the YouTube videos of the infamous Chicago Barton organ. It seems a very great deal more impressive than I had been led to believe.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

I completely agree that there needs to be a drive to publicise and popularise the organ, but that has been attempted in various ways without a great deal of lasting success. It's easy to see this as failure, but actually, the lack of success is probably more to do with market conditions, as well as statistics and marketing strategy.

 

Although not a problem for me, I do see a problem with a statement such as, "there are signs that the cult for praise bands may be waning".... and ....."one factor in attracting people ......is the choral service, pipe organ and Book of CommonPrayer."

 

Even if a cathedral were full to capacity every day of the week, in terms of the general population, the number remains a tiny percentage. Furthermore, the demographic area of a diocese means that even the relatively tiny fraction who may attend, are spread thinly over a fairly wide area,(especially in Canada I would have thought).

 

Now in marketing, the business of market exposure and market share is extremely important, because it is based on the statistical fact that,(using a very general term), there is nothing which succeeds like success. In other words, if a product or label or brand becomes ingrained in the psyche of people, it generates its own marketing momentum, which given the odd beat with a stick, keeps the rolling wheel in motion. So radio and TV advertising,(especially TV), does not create amarket, it merely stimulates it.

 

It's not just professional sales people who need to compare the meerkat.

 

If we go back in history, to quote another marketing term, the organ was the right thing, at the right time, in the right place, and it isn't difficult to understand why, as the general population emerged from life in the country and migrated to the towns and cities. Prior to the 19th century, classical music was very much the pastime of an educated elite rather than the hoi polloi, and to a considerable extent, it still is. Good church music was comparatively rare, and largely restricted to the cathedrals and collegiate establishments. However, the need to educate people in the many disciplines necessary to oil the wheels of economic and industrial progress, was very marked in the 19thcentury, (as it should be to-day, but isn't).

 

Classical music, like the knowledge of Latin and Greek, was seen as a civilising influence, but without radio and TV, how was this achieved?

 

As we all know, the organ played a very significant role in bringing classical music to people; certainly in the days when good orchestras played at home in the largest cities; large box-trailers yet to be invented. The concept of an orchestra on tour, so far as I am aware, was not a Victorian one. and it was people who went to concert halls. Only brass bands were fully portable with a bit of a struggle. More importantly, the social classes would have been divided between those who went to evening orchestral concerts and those who went to hear daytime organ-concerts, with their usual mix of transcriptions and organ-works. At a more local level, it was brass-bands, military-bands, (including the Salvation Army and the Church Army), church choirs, organ recitals (often with soloists) and, (for more substantial fare), the Choral Unions.

 

Consequently,organs, organ recitals and organists were very much a part of local music-making, music-education and musical enjoyment.

 

[/size]

 

 

 

We must also not forget the importance of automata, in the form of mechanical music such as fair organs, barrel-organs, penny-in-the-slot polyphones, player pianos, mechanical violins, musical-boxes and the like. These were the juke-boxes of the day.

 

[/size]

 

 

I would suggest that music of almost ANY type,(especially when it also involved new technology), was consumed eagerly by the majority; especially if it was delivered in a novel way. I think it would also be fair to suggest that music was not as socially divisive as it is to-day; though music-hall was probably frowned upon. (I certainly had a Great Aunt who played the piano in a public-house around the turn of the 19th century, and did so under an assumed name, lest her mother and father discovered the scandalous truth!)

 

It hardly needs pointing out that the fascination of the Victorian Bio-scope shows, (which drew hoardes of people snaking around the fairgrounds in long queues to see them), gave way to the state-of-the-art technology of the silent-screen. Here again, the piano, the harmonium and eventually the theatre organ, provided music, exposing countless people to the sound of organ-pipes.The theatre-organ was, in itself, a miracle of musical technology.

 

Here is Edwin Lemare, recorded playing a theatre-organ:-

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6veaOQuYN_A

 

 

With many more people attending church services up to the end of World War II, even though the music was stylised and formal, the organ would obviously be heard by all who attended, and hymnody was certainly ingrained in the general population. (Even as late as the 1960's, when Reginald Dixon played his infamous, and grossly slap-dash "Storm at Sea," the audience would sing the words to "Eternal father strong to save."

 

So how can we even expect to compete with a musical culture which was largely integrated across the various musical genres, and in which the organ often played a pivotal role?

 

I would suggest that we cannot, unless I have overlooked something obvious, and we have to accept the fact that the organ, like the harpsichord, is now a niche interest market. Nevertheless, it is an important niche even beyond the confines of the cathedral or traditional church, and one which refuses to die in certain quarters. Oratorio is the most obvious genre, but we must also include a great deal of other repertoire such as organ concertos, church sonatas, organ symphonies and solo accompaniment.

 

However, the organ is able to slot into less obvious genres, and this is where publicising and promoting the organ can be achieved very successfully. For instance, organ and brass make a wonderful combination,whether it be organ/trumpet, organ/brass band or organ/brass consort.

 

Organ and synthesiser has certainly been tried to good effect, and Peter Hurford and John Williams did a lovely organ/guitar CD together. The combination of organ and piano is also very effective, as both the Scott Brothers in the UK, and theatre organist Jelani Eddington have demonstrated; not forgetting the Peeters Concerto for organ and piano of course.

 

The organ can also be adapted to work with quality popular music, and even Jean Michel Jarre's "Equinox" has been very nicely adapted by Xaver Varnus in Hungary.

 

It seems to me, that with imagination and a little bit of lateral thinking, the organ can be brought into the concert type of situation in a number of fresh and interesting ways, whereas plugging away at what once worked, but no longer appeals to younger generations, is probably poor marketing strategy in the modern world.

 

As for the light music world, my heart goes out to those who mastered the electronic genre, because the vast majority of players now have very few opportunities. For those who once accompanied singers in clubs, they have been completely wiped out by Karaoke machines.

 

Perhaps the greatest sadness is the fact that "ordinary people" are now largely fed a musical diet of rubbish, skilfully produced and cynically marketed, with the sole aim of making money; quality no longer the first priority. That's a long way away from the outstanding quality enjoyed by my parent's generation back in the 1930's and 40's.

 

 

 

MM

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I agree with everything you're saying. I am, perhaps, thinking on a relatively small scale. A lot of churches - being places with organs in them - would be more viable if their attendance was boosted a little. We've found that doing what we feel we can do well and being confident in it has yielded results along those lines. The same can be said for a number of the smaller UK cathedrals. Those who decided to 'be the Cathedral' have had more success than those who diversify and, for example, try to to things in a 'parish church' way. A good example is St. David's in Wales, where a determination to 'be the cathedral' has bucked things up no end. Look at Bradford - almost destroyed by introducing non-'cathedral' practices and only recently turned the corner with the appointment of a dean and organist who knew what a cathedral was about.

 

Each to their own - different places will do different things well. Each doing a little can add up to a lot.

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Look at Bradford - almost destroyed by introducing non-'cathedral' practices and only recently turned the corner with the appointment of a dean and organist who knew what a cathedral was about.

 

 

 

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

 

 

Bradford's problems, and the way organists have been treated over the years, could fill a sizeable tome.

 

I hope things are better now, but perhaps the most eloquent personal response I can deliver concerns the fact that I live in the diocese, and in he past 15 years, I have been there twice; the first time only to collect someone.

 

:unsure:

 

 

MM

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

 

We must also not forget the importance of automata, in the form of mechanical music such as fair organs, barrel-organs, penny-in-the-slot polyphones, player pianos, mechanical violins, musical-boxes and the like. These were the juke-boxes of the day.

 

[/size]

 

MM[/size]

 

I think it's a shame that these no longer feature in pubs. I'd much rather listen to one of these than a juke box!

 

And only a penny, too!

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I think it's a shame that these no longer feature in pubs. I'd much rather listen to one of these than a juke box!

 

And only a penny, too!

 

If you ever get down into Staffordshire, The Yew Tree pub at Cauldon has several nickleodeons (think that's the correct spelling) mounted on the wall. Just ask at the bar for some free old pennies (240 = £1) and you can take yourself back to past times.

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If you ever get down into Staffordshire, The Yew Tree pub at Cauldon has several nickleodeons (think that's the correct spelling) mounted on the wall. Just ask at the bar for some free old pennies (240 = £1) and you can take yourself back to past times.

 

Thanks, Barry. That's worth remembering. Free old pennies? Don't you have to pay, then?

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  • 4 years later...

This is an old forum to post into but I found it compelling to read, not only because Musing Muso sought more than once to whip a discussion into existence. So I'm using that as the excuse to add, belatedly, my two pence worth on a rather hoary old topic. However I do come at it from an unusual direction.

My website, dealing mainly with detailed technical material relating to pipe organs, has now reached its sixteenth birthday, and this made me realise that it therefore spans a whole generation of those interested in the subject. For example, today's young players or organ builders in their early twenties would still have been small children at junior school when the site first made its appearance.

In parallel, I have pondered on the shifting pattern of interest I have experienced over this period in dealing with a vast amount of correspondence from across the world. Initially this must have been from those at least of an age to be the parents of the aforementioned younger generation, and it was generally of 'high quality': most of those who contacted me were obviously educated in and keenly interested in the more arcane details of the instrument. Over time though, this has changed and now there seems to be far less interest in such matters. Not only that, but more people apparently feel disinclined nowadays to conduct a civilised and polite dialogue. Simultaneously they are also obviously less well educated at several levels, not the least of which are basic literacy and numeracy. I assume, perhaps unjustly, that these interlocutors are members of the new, younger generation without necessarily being players or technicians.

I shouldn't be surprised of course, as this merely reflects what has happened to the internet as a whole during this millennium. Its earlier role as a repository of often useful information has become submerged in a sea of inconsequential claptrap, peddled predominantly by social media sites rather than those acting as an electronic reference library. In addition there is Wikipedia, one of the worst culprits for encouraging unattributable intellectual sloth which did not even exist (like the social media sites) when I first posted my website. It is unsurprising that some universities block access to Wikipedia on their intranets. As well as all this we have seen the rising tide of redundant organs on sites such as ebay, narrowing the pool of playable instruments and mirroring the decline of interest outlined above over a generation.

I am not by nature a pessimist. On the contrary, my glass is usually more than half full. But I am now having difficulty seeing where the organ is going. Presumably it still has some sort of future, though will it become more elitist in the UK as the ranks of those able to play it well are drawn increasingly from the public schools and Oxbridge? And will the focus of activity continue to converge only on cathedrals and a few large churches and concert halls? Is this picture shared by others, or do the numbers of aspiring players entering other music colleges from a broader educational background tell a more encouraging story? I don't know as I don't have access to this side of the picture. I should like to know.

 

CEP

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"And will the focus of activity continue to converge only on cathedrals and a few large churches and concert halls? Is this picture shared by others, or do the numbers of aspiring players entering other music colleges from a broader educational background tell a more encouraging story? I don't know as I don't have access to this side of the picture. I should like to know."



Your guess is perhaps as good as mine, Colin. But I fear it will be the concert halls, cathedrals, and very large churches who will be the main focus in the future,


Lack of money in a city such as Hull is perhaps putting a question mark over the future of the four-manual, 104-stop instrument in Holy Trinity even though it's the country's largest parish church. Compton rebuilt and enlarged it in 1938 when the city supported large, family businesses, the owners of those businesses being typical public benefactors. I often wonder where the finance is going to come from for the organ's much needed renovation.


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I shouldn't be surprised of course, as this merely reflects what has happened to the internet as a whole during this millennium. Its earlier role as a repository of often useful information has become submerged in a sea of inconsequential claptrap, peddled predominantly by social media sites rather than those acting as an electronic reference library. In addition there is Wikipedia, one of the worst culprits for encouraging unattributable intellectual sloth which did not even exist (like the social media sites) when I first posted my website. It is unsurprising that some universities block access to Wikipedia on their intranets.

CEP

 

Colin, I couldn't agree more! I remember, quite some time ago now, setting a group of students as essay to write on Anton von Webern's approach to 'Klangfarbenmelodie' technique. On receiving one essay, from a bright young student, I sniffed that I might, just, have read some of it before! Eventually I wrote at the bottom of the essay "I, too, have read Grout!"

 

Nowadays essays arrive, littered with 'unattributable intellectual sloth' (lovely phrase!), mostly gathered from 'Wikipedia' which, I am ashamed to say, I do, very rarely though, reference. Most of the students have never seen a copy of 'Grout' - staple diet when I was an undergraduate - but that is a long time ago! The internet could be an enormous force for good but the trash that is often pedaled as 'good reference' is, so often, shallow, without substance and, in some cases, down right incorrect!

 

As for the future of the organ? I'm afraid I am, slightly, more pessimistic! Soon, I fear, it will become an instrument nearly always studied by ex-public school students at Oxbridge! We are, I suspect, not that far away from that situation now - even the more reputable music colleges have 'thinned down' their organ departments and some barely have any first study student organists! And yet the standard of playing is higher now, I think, than it has ever been!

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As for the future of the organ? I'm afraid I am, slightly, more pessimistic! Soon, I fear, it will become an instrument nearly always studied by ex-public school students at Oxbridge! We are, I suspect, not that far away from that situation now - even the more reputable music colleges have 'thinned down' their organ departments and some barely have any first study student organists! And yet the standard of playing is higher now, I think, than it has ever been!

 

Thank you SL for this, which answers my question about what is happening in the various music colleges. However it seems not to be all good news.

 

As to your other remarks about Wikipedia, one only has to turn up the entry concerning Robert Hope-Jones to take a random example which I have just looked at again before writing this. Among many other things, it places an entirely misplaced emphasis on a book by G L Miller, a work which any half-reasonable student of the subject knows to be a laughable travesty. To quote other shortcomings of the article would be out of place here, and waste readers' time and mine. Anyone trying to do the decent 'wiki' thing and edit such an entry would have to spend hours doing it, and then quite likely find that an 'edit war' had been declared and thus the original version would re-appear. The whole Wikipedia edifice is so shocking for an otherwise advanced intellectual culture that further words fail me. Among other consequences, it has put traditional and respected scholarly reference sources such as Encyclopedia Brittanica and New Grove under financial strain to the extent one wonders how long they will be able to continue.

 

I sometimes think the only solution will be to starve Wikipedia to death if and when sufficient right-minded people refuse to donate to their usual Christmas begging appeal.

 

Thank you again for your interesting reply.

 

CEP

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