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Liquid in the organ loft


geigen

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I think I am just old-fashioned but it would never occur to me to take liquid into an organ loft, especially were I visiting a church/cathedral to play for a service.

Not only would the consequences of spilling liquid over the console be dreadful (I expect) but I should never live it down.

Having said that I have seen evidence of bottled water (i.e. empty bottles in the waste bin) in one cathedral, and one other place even has a kettle in the loft plus coffee and coffeemate. This leads me to believe that I am far too uptight about this.

 

But which of you actually drink when seated at the console?

 

Time to fess up.

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Tromba:

 

Your policy of no liquids is an excellent discipline. However, not unlike other traditional old-time practises, it seems to have gone the way of all flesh. I think that I would be quite lost without my bottled water when working at the organ during the week and, just lately, during services. Perhaps because I'm over 60 ?

 

emsgdh

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I think I am just old-fashioned but it would never occur to me to take liquid into an organ loft, especially were I visiting a church/cathedral to play for a service.

Not only would the consequences of spilling liquid over the console be dreadful (I expect) but I should never live it down.

Having said that I have seen evidence of bottled water (i.e. empty bottles in the waste bin) in one cathedral, and one other place even has a kettle in the loft plus coffee and coffeemate. This leads me to believe that I am far too uptight about this.

 

But which of you actually drink when seated at the console?

 

Time to fess up.

You can go a whole lot stronger on the Sixsmith rebuild of the 4-manual Hill organ at St Paul's, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Draw the Tibia Liquida and it opens up a cavern of miniatures and lead crystal glasses above the left-hand stop jambs.

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I recall a radio 3 documentary when the interviewer noted the coffee machine in the organ loft of a cathedral North of London. He then asked Olivier Latry if he had such a device at ND. The reply was, I come here to work - my coffee machine is at home.

 

I must confess that I am accompanied by a flask of espresso coffee on Sunday mornings - an advantage of a decent loft in the clouds.

 

M

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Every time I had an organ lesson with Roger Fisher - on his lovely 3 manual house organ - I was served a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, which sat on a coaster next to the key slips. Luckily I never spilled it. He certainly must have trusted in me - at home, given my record of clumsiness, I'm not even allowed to have a drink next to our old Johnannus.

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Tim Hortons (www.timhortons.com) is a defining aspect of life in Canada. I quite often have a Timmie's tea on the bass jamb when I'm practising, and on Sundays I pick up an extra large tea and frosted cinnamon roll before going to play for the 9:15. I eat the cinnamon roll in the Song Room and take the tea up to the service. Most of it gets drunk during the sermon. Sometimes I have a little over to drink during choir practice before the 11:00. I might call at Timmie's on the way to Evensong too.

 

To illustrate how sacred Tim Horton's is, one of my former layclerks from Belfast phoned to say that a local store had started carrying a small range.

 

'The place is full of bloody Canadians', he said, 'all clutching their double-doubles with tears in their eyes!'.

 

On the other hand, I hate to see bottled water being consumed in the choir-stalls. A surreptitious mint is one thing, but swigging from a plastic bottle is not on at all.

 

Last time I played Roger Fisher's organ, I had a big glass of a rather nice sauvignon blanc next to me. Clarion Doublette is right - it's a lovely instrument.

 

I once had an organ scholar who kept a bottle of sherry behind the music desk.

 

Doesn't the Rieger at Ratzeburg Cathedral have a stop marked 'Rauschwerk' that causes a drinks tray to slide out when drawn?

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I once had a tenor in a choir I ran years ago who had a succession of jobs, including one where he was the head porter (or something) at a Very Classy Hotel. He became 'night manager'. This meant that he wore morning dress (or whatever it is that they wear at Very Classy Hotels) and still had this encumbrance when he arrived for Sunday morning rehearsal. He became 'night manager' so for us the beginning of the day... but for him the end of the day. I soon discovered in the choir stalls the numerous empty mini bottles of port that he had 'acquired' at the end of each Saturday night. Many times he would have to be roundly nudged for stentorious snoring during the sermons - more the port than the sermon, I fear! The choirboys thought it was very funny! After a service one day someone gave him a very strong coffee, which he dutifully spilt all over the console, just he walked up to say something nice aboiut the postlude. Dont ask how. I was slightly orbital at that point! However, I must admit that my current organ has a drinks shelf, put in inside part of the organ case, as a joke by an organ building friend of mine. But in coldest darkest winter I sneak in steaming cups of coffee to put on the floor whilst practising, where they will do no damage if knocked. (Ours is not a drink in church place!).

As a vocal coach I agree with David about water bottles: why the clinging obsession by so many singers these days? Yes hydration is important, but apart from the extensive environmental problems, it tests my patience when running combined choir rehearsals to see the constant throwing back of heads - not to mention the water stains left on the music!.

And a bottle of sherry behind the music desk? For after the service I assume?

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I was in Amsterdam earlier this year and played at a church during the Sunday morning service. The very gracious lady organist there habitually started her morning with a cup of tea up in the organ loft - and was kind enough to offer me one also.

 

I tend to take water to church with me (particularly at this time of year - with the temperature reaching 35 degrees some days!) but always keep it at a safe distance from the organ. I tend to be rather discreet though when taking a swig - in both churches I play at, the consoles are in full view of the congregation.

 

I remember watching a documentary on Youtube filmed at Notre Dame in the 1980s, and one shot shows one of the resident organists, cigarette in hand in the loft.

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[quote name='Vox_Angelica' date='Jul 25 2011, 10:24 AM' post='60272'

I remember watching a documentary on Youtube filmed at Notre Dame in the 1980s, and one shot shows one of the resident organists, cigarette in hand in the loft.

 

In Vierne's time, one of the priests at Notre Dame put up a huge 'Defense de fumer' sign in the organ loft, which by next day had been removed and replaced with a large ash-tray.

 

When I went to Ulm Cathedral with the Organ Club, we were conducted up to the loft by the organ's designer, Walter Supper, puffing on his pipe. He sat down at the keys, put his pipe in an ash tray, and said, 'There is a service taking place at the other end of the building,. This is Full Organ with the chamades'.

 

Willis's tuner, John Dunbar, used to smoke in the organ. In the last days of the Willis at St. Giles, Edinburgh, it was considered necessary for him to stay inside the beast at important services in case anything went wrong. I often wondered if occupants of the Royal pew, which was in front of the organ, ever sniffed anything unusual.

 

One of the many stories told about Guillaume Ormond at Truro was that he occasionally slipped off for a pint during sermons. One day, he had a visitor in the loft and asked him to play the last hymn if he wasn't back in time. The sermon ended, the visitor was cranking up his courage when the Lady Chapel organ started to play. The penultimate verse was unaccompanied, save for a pounding on the organ loft stairs, and the last verse was the Willis full-out.

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I recall a radio 3 documentary when the interviewer noted the coffee machine in the organ loft of a cathedral North of London. He then asked Olivier Latry if he had such a device at ND. The reply was, I come here to work - my coffee machine is at home.

 

I must confess that I am accompanied by a flask of espresso coffee on Sunday mornings - an advantage of a decent loft in the clouds.

 

M

 

Latry may well adopt this method. However, his colleague Philippe Lefebvre does not. The last time I was up in the tribune for the three Sunday morning Masses (with organ), he brought a flask of hot coffee - and thoughtfully offered my colleague and I a cup each.

 

At my own church, I have a plastic cup of cold water for each service, which I stand on a folded service sheet, and place beside the left-hand stop-jamb. If I do not have water to hand, I find that I do get dehydrated - and a dry throat. Naturally, I am extremely careful with it.

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I think it's time I waded-in with some amusing anecdotes and memories here.

 

As a chorister aged 12 to 14, the organist of the large parish church was a flash young virtuoso aged all of 18, and I was sort of unofficial assistant and gofer. Because the console was semi-hidden if the organist ducked down a bit, he often took a can with him to the console, which he stuffed into his cassock pocket before making his grand entry from the vestry.

 

One particular Saturday, when there were five back-to-back weddings, I played the role of catering assistant, and arrived at church with a tuck-box, a gas-stove, tea-bags, sugar and milk of cow. Crouching on the floor, I made a meal of tinned sausages & beans (quite revolting), bread & butter, various cakes and jam tarts placed on paper plates and a pot of tea, complete with makeshift milk-jug and a sugar-bowl crafted out of tin-foil. All this was made during the signing of the register at the third wedding, and handed to the organist as he played the final chord of the Mendelssohn. He had just enough time to eat and drink before the next set of guests filed into church as the photographs of the previous wedding took place at a side-aisle door.

 

Those were the days, when I could earn £5 on a Saturday, just by singing at weddings, in the days when kids got 50p a week pocket money.

 

The organist did rather better....no wonder he ran a Triumph Spitfire!

 

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

 

In the Netherlands, the wife of a very distinguished organist, while accompanying he and I on a sustained organ-crawl, thought nothing of lighting up a cigar at every church: thick plumes of blue smoke issuing forth from her. Amazingly, she was a very fine singer/soloist who often sang with one of the leading Netherlands chamber-choirs.

 

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

 

Then there was old Eric at Halifax Parish Church: a man with a few problems health-wise, which eventually finished him off. He liked his brandy, and tucked a hip-flask into his cassock pocket at every service. The problem was, it didn't mix terribly well with his medication, and he could get quite giddy and vocal at unexpected moments.

 

"By 'eck.....this is a reight grand sing-song," is not the most appropriate thing to cry out just as the head chorister is about to sing, "Once in Royal David's City" in a candle-lit church.

 

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

 

There is the famnous story about S S Wesley, when he was organist of Hereford Cathedral. Due to the extended length of the morning services, he was not above sloping off down to the river for a spot of fishing; usually quite drunk.

 

One day, he slipped and fell; plunging into the water just as a local policeman strolled along the river bank.

 

"May I be of assistance, Sir?" The policeman enquired.

 

Wesley rose to his full height, waist deep in river water, and replied with a slurred voice, "Unless you are able to play the organ, I very much doubt it."

 

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

 

There is also the story of the Russian organ-tuner in Moscow, (I think), when Noel Rawsthorne was about to play a recital. He placed his hands on the keys and nothing happened. Gesticulating to the audience of the concert hall, he went off stage to find the tuner, who was eventually found, dead-drunk, in the blower-room in the basement, surrounded by bottles of vodka.

 

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

 

A very distinguished gentleman to the end, the late Shackleton Pollard, then organist at Halifax Parish Church, went into the organ to investigate a mechanical problem during Evensong. Being dark, he took with him a lit candle, but from the height of the Swell and Great walkway, he dropped the candle, which remained lit as it landed on one of the pneumatic-action boxes.

 

"What did you do?" Asked a breathless student organist and chorister, as SP related the story.

 

"Well, I felt that I needed to make water," he replied with a certain awkward dignity.

 

Apparently, with commendable accuracy, he had managed to pee from a great height and extinguish the flame!!!!!!!

 

MM

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I was in Amsterdam earlier this year and played at a church during the Sunday morning service. The very gracious lady organist there habitually started her morning with a cup of tea up in the organ loft - and was kind enough to offer me one also.

 

I tend to take water to church with me (particularly at this time of year - with the temperature reaching 35 degrees some days!) but always keep it at a safe distance from the organ. I tend to be rather discreet though when taking a swig - in both churches I play at, the consoles are in full view of the congregation.

 

I remember watching a documentary on Youtube filmed at Notre Dame in the 1980s, and one shot shows one of the resident organists, cigarette in hand in the loft.

 

 

I seem to recall a large ivory plate beneath the RH stop jamb at the Royal Festival Hall which read, rather inelegantly, "Definitely no smoking at the console" and which bore the marks of several stubbed-out cigarettes.

 

JS

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Many years ago I found the organ loft in St Giles, Cripplegate to be a cross between a kitchen and a boudoir with a range of mugs, cups (perhaps a kettle) and make-up. Added a new complexion to my reading of Bach at the concert. I also remembered seeing an eminent organist in Paris rehearsing Trois Danses and chain-smoking at the same time.

best wishes,

N

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Many years ago I found the organ loft in St Giles, Cripplegate to be a cross between a kitchen and a boudoir with a range of mugs, cups (perhaps a kettle) and make-up. Added a new complexion to my reading of Bach at the concert. I also remembered seeing an eminent organist in Paris rehearsing Trois Danses and chain-smoking at the same time.

best wishes,

N

 

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

 

 

Nigel, for the sake of archival accuracy, could you possibly eleborate on this? B)

 

For some strange reason, I wondered if "Lip salve regina" would be an appropriate title for a made-up improvisation.

 

MM

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May I recommend a hydration backpack, so beloved of runners, cyclists and long-distance walkers, as a means to solve this issue.

Mine takes a capacious 3L of fluid and the insulated lining means that 6 pints of bitter are kept at the optimum temperature throughout the service.

Of course one does get funny looks departing the vestry with said pack hidden beneath the cassock. The temptation to limp, Quasimodo-like, is strong.

However, as the service progresses and the fluid is consumed, one's appearance quickly returns to normal.

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May I recommend a hydration backpack, so beloved of runners, cyclists and long-distance walkers, as a means to solve this issue.

Mine takes a capacious 3L of fluid and the insulated lining means that 6 pints of bitter are kept at the optimum temperature throughout the service.

Of course one does get funny looks departing the vestry with said pack hidden beneath the cassock. The temptation to limp, Quasimodo-like, is strong.

However, as the service progresses and the fluid is consumed, one's appearance quickly returns to normal.

 

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

 

 

My brother does the Quasimodo thing rather well, using a cushion, but he has the advantage of a false tooth as a result of a rugby tackle, which he drops over his bottom lip, while crying "Esmerelda," pitifully.

 

I tried the hydration back-pack thing, but as I don't like water much or drink alcohol, I filled it with blackcurrant ice-slush.

 

My appearance didn't return to normal at all. I turned blue and had to be helped from the organ, sufering the effects of deep-tissue and spinal hypothermia.

 

So much for the Chinese version!

 

MM

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I recall a radio 3 documentary when the interviewer noted the coffee machine in the organ loft of a cathedral North of London.

 

M

 

There was, presumably, the predecessor of a coffee machine in the organ loft at Beverley in the days when Peter Fletcher was Master of the Music - i.e. the middle 1960's.

 

I was 'up there' for a wedding one Saturday when E. B. Bull, the then vicar, started preaching. "Coffee time", said Peter - and started brewing up!

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I seem to recall a large ivory plate beneath the RH stop jamb at the Royal Festival Hall which read, rather inelegantly, "Definitely no smoking at the console" and which bore the marks of several stubbed-out cigarettes.

 

JS

Its still there, inlaid in the shelf between the Choir/Pos RH key cheek and the RH stop jamb with the words NO SMOKING in a very large font. I didn't notice any scorch marks - though it was very gloomy so I can't be sure.

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

For some strange reason, I wondered if "Lip salve regina" would be an appropriate title for a made-up improvisation.

Other liturgical applications might include "Lip glossolalia" for Messe de la Pentecôte. And "aisle-liner" for crowd-pullers such as the famous Widor and Bach Toccatas.

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There is the famnous story about S S Wesley, when he was organist of Hereford Cathedral. Due to the extended length of the morning services, he was not above sloping off down to the river for a spot of fishing; usually quite drunk.

 

One day, he slipped and fell; plunging into the water just as a local policeman strolled along the river bank.

 

"May I be of assistance, Sir?" The policeman enquired.

 

Wesley rose to his full height, waist deep in river water, and replied with a slurred voice, "Unless you are able to play the organ, I very much doubt it."

I hate to spoil a good story, but I fear that this is mostly a load of pollacks. It is true that, throughout his life, Wesley was very fond of fishing - and shooting too. It probably explains his lifelong affection for Devon and why he always regretted leaving Exeter Cathedral. It was certainly behind his later firm friendship with Dr Linnington Ash, the physician in Holsworthy (hence the tunes he wrote for the carillon Ash provided for the church and the organ piece based on one of them) and it may be one reason (the other being a new Walker organ) why in 1846 he was appointed organist of Tavistock Parish Church, though ultimately he never took up the job, and why he was approached by St Andrew's, Plymouth, when they were advertising for a new organist in 1868. (Whether St Andrew's actually invited him to apply or just asked him for recommendations isn't clear, but there exists a very dismissive reply from Wesley.)

 

Wesley's well-known accident happened while he was at Leeds, on a December evening in 1847. While returning from a fishing expedition he fell while leaping across a small brook, breaking his leg badly. He was discovered by some boys (not a policeman). No drink was involved. He was laid up in a local inn for seven months and for many weeks was considered in grave danger. It was soon afterwards that he wrote his setting of "Cast me not away" with its reference to "the bones which thou hast broken".

 

A quote from Wesley that I do like very much comes from his final years at Gloucester when his love of fishing took precedence over the conduct of the cathedral music. When one of the canons dared to criticise a performance of an anthem, Wesley drew himself up and retorted,"Sir, I am at the head of my profession: you, Sir, are a nobody. I am amazed at your audacity. Good afternoon, Sir."

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I hate to spoil a good story, but I fear that this is mostly a load of pollacks. It is true that, throughout his life, Wesley was very fond of fishing - and shooting too. It probably explains his lifelong affection for Devon and why he always regretted leaving Exeter Cathedral. It was certainly behind his later firm friendship with Dr Linnington Ash, the physician in Holsworthy (hence the tunes he wrote for the carillon Ash provided for the church and the organ piece based on one of them) and it may be one reason (the other being a new Walker organ) why in 1846 he was appointed organist of Tavistock Parish Church, though ultimately he never took up the job, and why he was approached by St Andrew's, Plymouth, when they were advertising for a new organist in 1868. (Whether St Andrew's actually invited him to apply or just asked him for recommendations isn't clear, but there exists a very dismissive reply from Wesley.)

 

Wesley's well-known accident happened while he was at Leeds, on a December evening in 1847. While returning from a fishing expedition he fell while leaping across a small brook, breaking his leg badly. He was discovered by some boys (not a policeman). No drink was involved. He was laid up in a local inn for seven months and for many weeks was considered in grave danger. It was soon afterwards that he wrote his setting of "Cast me not away" with its reference to "the bones which thou hast broken".

 

A quote from Wesley that I do like very much comes from his final years at Gloucester when his love of fishing took precedence over the conduct of the cathedral music. When one of the canons dared to criticise a performance of an anthem, Wesley drew himself up and retorted,"Sir, I am at the head of my profession: you, Sir, are a nobody. I am amazed at your audacity. Good afternoon, Sir."

 

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

 

 

 

I would kill talented organist and good guy in Halifax, David Barker, except that I believe we are related, and killing one's own family is frowned upon; at least in this country. :angry:

 

I don't know much about S S Wesley, do I? :blink:

 

With regard to the last bit about S.S.Wesley, I don't know how reliable the source is, but I once heard that Bairstow was not beyond ordering errant clergymen out of the organ-loft at York, in no uncertain terms.

 

Does anyone know more?

 

MM

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My first experience with coffee-brewing in a church dates from the Anglican Christ Church Vienna during study times. There the choir run the coffee machine on the organ loft after singing up, so shortly before the organ prelude. And the nice smell of coffee and the typical finishing noises of the boiler - both very noticeable to the congregation due to the small size of the church - belonged to sunday morning. As a catholic then, I would not have dared to consume anything except Holy Communion within the church building, but learned that Peter Planyavsky, a heavy smoker in those days, took a cigarette in the stairs to the organ loft during every service he played on the gallery organ.

With a group of Daniel Roth students from Saarbrücken, we found J-P Leguay smoking on the NDdP organ loft.

 

The "Rauschwerk" on the Rieger of Ratzeburg Cathedral is still there (though its initiator, Neithard Bethke, has retired some years ago). But the tray was meant to be filled by the visiting organist! On my rare visits, I found it always empty....

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With a group of Daniel Roth students from Saarbrücken, we found J-P Leguay smoking on the NDdP organ loft.

 

The "Rauschwerk" on the Rieger of Ratzeburg Cathedral is still there (though its initiator, Neithard Bethke, has retired some years ago). But the tray was meant to be filled by the visiting organist! On my rare visits, I found it always empty....

and so is there a Rauchwerk at NDdP?? :blink:

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