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Liquid in the organ loft


geigen

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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. :blink:

 

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

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

 

I have been told a while ago, I forget by whom, that the fishing incident occured near Helmsley - and the inn was the Black Lion in that town (now a hotel).

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I have been told a while ago, I forget by whom, that the fishing incident occured near Helmsley - and the inn was the Black Lion in that town (now a hotel).

That's right, except that the pub was actually called the Black Swan.

 

Apologies for the delay in replying - have been in France with a choir for the last few days.

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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.

 

I'm rather intrigued about this, and wonder what other choir types think about it. Personally I take the view that just as cars need oil, voices need water - especially untrained or partially trained voices, frequently self-confessed amateurs, sometimes children, especially early in the morning, and very especially having had little or nothing in the way of a constructive warm-up. I'd rather see water in the stalls than hear strained voices straining further.

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I'm rather intrigued about this, and wonder what other choir types think about it. Personally I take the view that just as cars need oil, voices need water - especially untrained or partially trained voices, frequently self-confessed amateurs, sometimes children, especially early in the morning, and very especially having had little or nothing in the way of a constructive warm-up. I'd rather see water in the stalls than hear strained voices straining further.

 

 

I suppose the first answer that comes to mind is that choirs managed fine without bottled water in the stalls for most of the first couple of millennia, it's just that a bottle of water seems to be indispensable to some people in any situation.

 

I guess my principal objection is that it looks terrible, especially if there's been some effort to make the choir look like a body of voices rather than a bunch of inidividuals.

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I suppose the first answer that comes to mind is that choirs managed fine without bottled water in the stalls for most of the first couple of millennia, it's just that a bottle of water seems to be indispensable to some people in any situation.

 

I agree. In all my years as one of Dr. Vann's choristers [40+ years ago] none of the choir had water and certainly not the ley clerks. Once we had left school (on weekdays) and arrived at the precincts at 3.45 we had a cup of tea and a biscuit before the choir practice (4.30 to 5.20) and then we went and sang Evensong at 5.30 for 45 minutes. In fact we had to pay for the refreshments ourselves!

 

I do not recall anybody saying that Peterborough Choir was very good, but could have been so much better but for the want of bottles of water for the choir members; they hadn't been thought of. Now that we live in an age when, as consumers, we buy what big businesses tell us to buy, bottles of water are the 'must have' item in all sorts of contexts. It's all part of the instant gratification culture in which we live; I want water now and by golly I'm going to have some. While I am on my soap box, it is the same with mobile phones. The thinking is "I cannot wait to speak to my friend so I'll do it whilst I am driving". I have never seen a choir in which ALL the singers have a bottle of water - it is usually only a few; the ones who think "I am special, the rules do to apply to me". By 'rules' I mean the notion that a choir is a team which has often put on robes for the occasion, yet a few want to lower the tone by showing that they have no regard for previously accepted modes of behaviour in the choir stalls. It would be interesting to know whether or not any Directors of Music have actually said "Do feel free to take water into the service with you" as I have seen in one Cambridge college chapel - do they do it at King's? I doubt it; and if not, then why not? It's a no-brainer really.

 

Yes, I am an old fuddy-duddy and grew up in an age when the shops shut on Sunday. Society moves on - usually for the better - but I don't see why liturgical behaviour should reflect secular attitudes.

 

My question was 'inspired' by having been to an Evensong in a Northern cathedral last week when the organist was handed a mug of tea 10 minutes before the service. Why is it that divine service has to take place in a cafe? What is wrong with the world?

 

I'm off to burn my soap box - then I'll have a cuppa. <_<

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That's right, except that the pub was actually called the Black Swan.

Gah! Of course, and to think I used to walk past it on most days, on the way to the church and its rather fine Harrison.

 

 

Apologies for the delay in replying - have been in France with a choir for the last few days.

Envy!!!

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I remeber years ago, when visiting friens in Germany, my dad and I wandered into a church in a small town, and the organ was on ground level, similar to Kingston upon Thames. Anyhow, the organist was smoking a small cigar, and said he worked there full time, and as such, smoked at work, was 1988.

Then was in "the loft" with Gordon Philips, and he was smoking a cigar up there to, 45 mins prior to one of his lunchtime recitals

Peter

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I am, frankly, quite appauled by the thought of anyone smoking in church. It's something only a thurifer does!!!

 

I used to be a heavy smoker and can remember the days when I 'nipped outside' for a quick smoke during a long sermon or a a convenient point in a wedding ceremony. The thought of lighting up inside is quite abhorrent and, truthfully, never entered my head.

 

I knew a priest who was also a heavy smoker. His house was attached to the church and, while we were talking, he was having a smoke. He nipped into church to get something and tucked his cigarette inside his hand. When I commented he looked at me blankly and said "God knows I smoke!"

 

Sorry - can't cope with it!

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I am, frankly, quite appauled by the thought of anyone smoking in church. It's something only a thurifer does!!!

 

I used to be a heavy smoker and can remember the days when I 'nipped outside' for a quick smoke during a long sermon or a a convenient point in a wedding ceremony. The thought of lighting up inside is quite abhorrent and, truthfully, never entered my head.

 

I knew a priest who was also a heavy smoker. His house was attached to the church and, while we were talking, he was having a smoke. He nipped into church to get something and tucked his cigarette inside his hand. When I commented he looked at me blankly and said "God knows I smoke!"

 

Sorry - can't cope with it!

 

 

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Throughout the late 70's, 80's and 90's, I used to see people smoking in churches in the Netherlands all the time; possibly because a church is merely regarded as a building like any other. I've mentioned before the thick plumes of smoke which used to waft around St.Laurent's, Alkmaar. Very much a museum/concert hall and gallery all rolled into one, there is even a cafe in the nave.

 

Actually, if one digs back far enough, the idea of a church as a sacred place is relatively modern.

 

Lest we forget, churches (and cathedrals), have been used as stables and political meeting places; whilst the Prince Bishops of Durham would often ride into the cathedral on horseback.

 

I suspect that anti-smoking legislation has now affected Holland, so I expect it's probably now illegal on health & safety grounds.

 

As for children and water, why not "dry baptisms?"

 

That would set them off on the ascetic path of self-denial.

 

MM

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I agree. In all my years as one of Dr. Vann's choristers [40+ years ago] none of the choir had water and certainly not the ley clerks.

 

Again, interesting to hear different views. I feel that we have learned a very great deal about vocal health in the past 10 years, let alone 25, and both adults and children are pushed a very great deal harder than they were, but usually for shorter 'careers' - the days of boys going on until they're 15 whether their voices have held up or not are long gone. There may be some validity in the belief that standards generally have improved across the parts. (For an example, you only have to look at the choral writing of people like Heathcote Statham to realise that he couldn't rely on his altos to have a decent sound above middle G, so he used to miss them out when everyone else was in unison.) Routine repertoire by Kelly, Tippett, Britten, Chilcott et al is, frankly, harder to sing well than Walmisley in B minor. More cathedrals employ singing specialists like Hilary Jones and Jenevora Williams to get more out of the people they've got. A lay clerk is less likely to be the bloke who runs the post office and more likely to be someone straight out of the RCM. Recordings and broadcasts bring yet more pressure. Lives generally are busier, there is more pollution, churches are more frequently heated and dry in the winter, people generally drink less and spend much more time indoors. I think it's time to accept that discreet hydration is a necessity, but that's just me.

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Again, interesting to hear different views. I feel that we have learned a very great deal about vocal health in the past 10 years, let alone 25, and both adults and children are pushed a very great deal harder than they were, but usually for shorter 'careers' - the days of boys going on until they're 15 whether their voices have held up or not are long gone. There may be some validity in the belief that standards generally have improved across the parts. (For an example, you only have to look at the choral writing of people like Heathcote Statham to realise that he couldn't rely on his altos to have a decent sound above middle G, so he used to miss them out when everyone else was in unison.) Routine repertoire by Kelly, Tippett, Britten, Chilcott et al is, frankly, harder to sing well than Walmisley in B minor. More cathedrals employ singing specialists like Hilary Jones and Jenevora Williams to get more out of the people they've got. A lay clerk is less likely to be the bloke who runs the post office and more likely to be someone straight out of the RCM. Recordings and broadcasts bring yet more pressure. Lives generally are busier, there is more pollution, churches are more frequently heated and dry in the winter, people generally drink less and spend much more time indoors. I think it's time to accept that discreet hydration is a necessity, but that's just me.

 

I've always put the tendency for boys' voices to change earlier down to increasingly better general health since the end of World War II. I think also that in some cases there's a preference for a different type of treble tone, which doesn't last as long, or doesn't have the scope for a sort of Indian Summer falsetto. And there's peer pressure. I would still regard it as unusual if a boy lost his treble voice before his fifteenth year.

 

Repertoire is better these days - you don't see run-of-the-mill stuff like Arnold in A or Nares in G around very much - and the standard of performance is higher. Some of the music sung today is more demanding than the repertoire of thirty or fifty years ago, but not all of it.

 

Fifty years ago, many foundations were singing daily Matins as well as Evensong, and it was rare for less than the full choir to sing at any service.

 

Overall, I don't think demands are any heavier. I do think that some singers have a prissy attitude instilled in them - after all, singing is a natural activity and all it needs is reasonable care and attention.

 

So I'm still of the opinion that there's no excuse for carrying a water bottle into a service which at most will last for an hour and a half. Neither would I look with favour on someone who habitually swigged out of a bottle during rehearsal.

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Personally I take the view that just as cars need oil, voices need water - especially untrained or partially trained voices

Do they really, or do they just think they do? I once had a choir where a not insignificant proportion of the treble line came to think it was entitled to nip out for a cigarette during the sermon! (Don't ask - it was stamped on!!)

 

I have to say I agree totally with Mr Drinkell. Aren't we in danger of molly-coddling people? Surely the average human physique is robust enough to survive for an hour or two without water?

 

That said, and at the risk of appearing hypocritical, I also have to plead that in my advancing decrepitude I have developed a regular habit of getting a very uncomfortably dry mouth during concerts, partly due to medication (probably), so I do like to have some water handy. I can generally manage church services without, however.

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

 

Actually, if one digs back far enough, the idea of a church as a sacred place is relatively modern.

 

Lest we forget, churches (and cathedrals), have been used as stables and political meeting places; whilst the Prince Bishops of Durham would often ride into the cathedral on horseback.

 

MM

 

 

I don't particularly need a history lesson from MM!

 

............................... and I'm not sure what relevance history plays in my contention that smoking in church, as far as I'm concerned, is wrong!

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I don't feel particularly comfortable with it either but your post got me thinking. In what way is it irreverent ? If we regard it as an abuse of the human body with the biblical understanding of what that means, then surely all smoking would be irreverent: maybe we should see it that way?

 

It could also fall into the category of hat wearing in church. In some Christian circles it is frowned upon, yet the Jews and Muslems propound its necessity and we worship the same God.

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I am, frankly, quite appauled by the thought of anyone smoking in church. It's something only a thurifer does!!!

 

It reminds me of the prize-winning caption to a photo on "The Ship of Fools" website, "Stoke it up, Father, there's a guy at the back who isn't wheezing yet."

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I feel that we have learned a very great deal about vocal health in the past 10 years, let alone 25, and both adults and children are pushed a very great deal harder than they were, but usually for shorter 'careers' - the days of boys going on until they're 15 whether their voices have held up or not are long gone. There may be some validity in the belief that standards generally have improved across the parts. (For an example, you only have to look at the choral writing of people like Heathcote Statham to realise that he couldn't rely on his altos to have a decent sound above middle G, so he used to miss them out when everyone else was in unison.) Routine repertoire by Kelly, Tippett, Britten, Chilcott et al is, frankly, harder to sing well than Walmisley in B minor. More cathedrals employ singing specialists like Hilary Jones and Jenevora Williams to get more out of the people they've got. I think it's time to accept that discreet hydration is a necessity, but that's just me.

Mrs. N, who trained as a singer at the RWCMD and TCL (and therefore knows rather more than I about this sort of thing) tells me that water is highly desirable while singing because (1) it lubricates some very delicate tissues which are being worked hard, and (2) the swallowing action helps to relax the muscles. This makes sense to me - it's not essential but shows good custodianship of the voice.

 

Rather than reading all sorts of things about the state of the world into it, I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be water in the stalls during a rehearsal providing that it doesn't interfere with the running of the rehearsal AND providing that every grotty half-empty bottle of dubious provenance is taken away at the end. I would draw the line at allowing water bottles to be brought into the stalls during any service, but for aesthetic and practical reasons rather than a view on the sacredness or otherwise of such a thing. St. Edmundsbury (amongst other places) has a water cooler in the song school, which is a better place for it.

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I don't see any reason why there shouldn't be water in the stalls during a rehearsal providing that it doesn't interfere with the running of the rehearsal AND providing that every grotty half-empty bottle of dubious provenance is taken away at the end. I would draw the line at allowing water bottles to be brought into the stalls during any service, but for aesthetic and practical reasons rather than a view on the sacredness or otherwise of such a thing. St. Edmundsbury (amongst other places) has a water cooler in the song school, which is a better place for it.

 

As the OP I have no issue with water being drunk in rehearsals.

In the first instance I was just expressing surprise that a mug of tea was on display to the congregation [though not touched during the service] and that I have always felt that liquid should be kept away from expensive instruments. I have been interested to read the various posts; the topic has had a good airing. Thanks to all.

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David Drinkell: Some weeks ago you asked on this forum whether I was the same Graham Dukes who fifty years ago wrote a paper on "two manuals, pedals and a budget" in The Organ. I am indeed - because of several weeks work in Kenya I am replying very late. I never put any of my specifications to the text ending up with a 10-stop instrument by Pels and Van Leeuwen of Holland.

Regards,

Graham Dukes, mngdukes@gmail.com

Oslo, Norway

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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David Drinkell: Some weeks ago you asked on this forum whether I was the same Graham Dukes who fifty years ago wrote a paper on "two manuals, pedals and a budget" in The Organ. I am indeed - because of several weeks work in Kenya I am replying very late. I never put any of my specifications to the text ending up with a 10-stop instrument by Pels and Van Leeuwen of Holland.

Regards,

Graham Dukes, mngdukes@gmail.com

Oslo, Norway

 

 

I still find that article to be a model of its kind - and I still covet that beautiful little Dutch organ in one of the illustrations.

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As a student, I made the mistake of deciding to master a Bach Sonata during the summer break. That was in Sydney, Australia, where the temperature could top 40 degrees. The church I was practicing in was the German Lutheran Church where the little Schuke organ was in the gallery close to the ceiling, in other words, where the heat was at its most noticeable. It would get very hot.

 

Next door was a bottle shop and a pub.

 

Now, the delicate art was to have a cold beer at hand, to drink enough to help keep one cool, and not so much that the session was wasted.

 

One of my female colleagues couldn't bring herself to drink alcohol in the church, so her approach was to remove clothing to the bare minimum, safe in the knowledge that she would just have enough time to return to respectability, between hearing the door to the church being unlocked and opened, and anyone reaching the top of the stairs to the gallery. That system would have worked well, if she'd remembered to play softly enough to hear the door open...

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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

 

They didn't have the espresso machine when I used to dep there! I'm miffed!

 

That was the church where I was practicing, early evening, during the first Gulf war when I heard small explosions. We were all a little tense as there had been shots fired from one of the embassies into a crowd outside an embassy just a few days before. The embassies had extra security measures around them, with barricades and extra security very visible, policemen with semiautomatic rifles slung across their chests. Christchurch is opposited the UK embassy and was clearly experiencing heightened security measures. I thought the best thing to do was to hit the floor and lie down.

 

After some time, it occurred to me that I had not heard any sirens as one would expect with an outbreak of shooting. When I had the courage to investigate, I found that, in the nearby castle grounds, fireworks were being let off. That night, I hadn't needed coffee to keep me alert!

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