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Ripon Cathedral Choir School

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Hopefully, it's not entirely sad.

 

There are precedents to Choir Schools being incorporated into other public schools, and as a business model, it enables costs to be shared and reduced. At least the closure of the Ripon Choir School has more to do with finance than it has to do with hostility towards excellence in church music.

 

I'm sure they will come to some sort of suitable arrangement at Ripon.

 

MM

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Bristol Cathedral School is now an Academy - no longer charging fees etc. and by all accounts is thriving.

 

A

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Hopefully, it's not entirely sad.

 

There are precedents to Choir Schools being incorporated into other public schools, and as a business model, it enables costs to be shared and reduced. At least the closure of the Ripon Choir School has more to do with finance than it has to do with hostility towards excellence in church music.

 

I'm sure they will come to some sort of suitable arrangement at Ripon.

 

MM

 

The anthem at the final Evensong of term a couple of weeks ago was Parry's Hear my words, ye people. It raised the roof and drew a spontaneous round of applause from the packed congregation, thereby marking the end of 52 years of the Choir School here in Ripon. An emotional occasion, but, at least at that point, there was every hope of the tradition continuing in the proposed merger with Cundall Manor School. The news that this has now fallen through has left us feeling sadly bereft, as you can imagine.

 

JS

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I'm no educationalist I'm afraid, but I'll have a stab at the problem and probably get everything completely wrong....but here goes.

 

I wonder if the core problem isn't that of "exclusivety", by which I mean the inability to be "inclusive" due to the constitution and funding of traditional choir-schools. I'm old enough to just about remember the famous Wandsworth School choir, under Russell Burgess, and the foundation of that school was the old, well funded, selective Grammar School system. The results were, to say the least, musically spectacular; the Wandsworth choir rapidly achieveing international fame and respect.

 

Forgetting for a moment about bursaries, the Wandsworth model demonstrated that it was possible to run a superb choir within an exisiting school set-up, and certainly, places in the choir were keenly contested and carried great prestige within the school.

 

A cathedral choir school is, of course, a little different, because the pricnipal aim is to encourage and facilitate DAILY choral-wervice music, which was never the case with a choir like Wandsworth. Without a dedicated choir-school in close proximity, that is quite difficult to achieve. However, there are again precedents, and I seem to recall that Liverpool, Bradford, Blackburn (etc) achieved fine music but outside the choir-school system.

 

The whole ethos of the traditional choir-school was to enable a church or cathedral to attract and select the best and most talented musical youngsters, and the most obvious way of achieveing that was to offer an exclusive system with special emphasis upon music-making and music education; the fee paying system and endowments ensuring financial stability.

 

The fact that many have struggled in recent years, suggests to me that the original concept has run its course, even though it continues into the present day with varying levels of stability..

 

With a spectacular voice as a boy treble, I have always been deeply grateful for the opportunity I had of singing in a very fine grammar school-choir, and to expand that into church choirs and events such as RSCM festivals at the local cathedral. That, of curse, was very different to providing daily choral music at a church or cathedral, and in any event, a school choir funded from the public purse cannot be sectarian or exclusive in any way; being open to children of all faiths and none.

 

What did Ripon do before the choir-school was established?

 

If my assumption is right, it must have been established when Dr Philip Marshall was at Ripon, and it was thanks to him and another music teacher by the name of Greenwood, (who I never knew), that my own grammar school choir achieved the heights. I never knew Philip Marshall, even though we were a bit like shadows chasing each other from time to time. What I enjoyed was the legacy he and others left, and which continued under excellent leadership after their departure.

 

The more I think about this, the more I am convnced that the problem revolves around daily choral-music, and almost any alternative to a resident choir-school would make this difficult to achieve, if only from a logistical point of view, with day-school children possibly scattered at various points around the locality.

 

Throwing an idea into the air, what about the academy status set-up?

 

Surely, it would not be impossible to concentrate resources and have "associate status" for boys/girls younger than that normally found in academies. This would circumnavigate the problem of the current three tier system, which was never a problem in my schooldays, when secondary school started age 11.

 

I shan't ramble on any more, but with the appropriate will, I just feel that there has to be an alternative means of achieveing the end result.

 

Discuss!

 

Best,

 

MM

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I'm sure Ripon will find a suitable solution, as MM suggests. But that solution will have to take into its position as a city of just 16,000 souls in a rural situation, and with the impact of proposed changes in diocesan structure still unclear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

 

JS

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There are other cathedrals whose choristers are educated at schools outwith the foundation. Canterbury closed its choir school years ago, for example. I believe the choristers attend the King's School. The only choristers-only school is Westminster Abbey. It is undoubtedly an advantage to have all the choristers at one school, but it need not be solely or even principally a school for choristers.

 

Lionel Dakers recalled his days at Ripon, before the choir school was opened - there was a lot of chasing-about involved to get the boys to the cathedral on time, or even at all.

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I'm sure Ripon will find a suitable solution, as MM suggests. But that solution will have to take into its position as a city of just 16,000 souls in a rural situation, and with the impact of proposed changes in diocesan structure still unclear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

 

JS

 

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

 

 

I hope John is right because Ripon has always held a special place in my heart. A human size cathedral, nice people generally, a lovely little city and, of course, some fine music over the years.

 

That apart, while musing about it overnight, I realised how easy it once was to establish really good choirs; notwithstanding the hard work and dedication required.

 

"Wen aye wer' a lad", notice the Yorkshire.

 

The Grammar School system was almost perfectly matched to establishing choirs. I know of many very fine church choirs which enjoyed a certain symbiosis with Grammar Schools, where the organist was the music master at the local school. It enabled quite obscure or backwater places to have fine church choirs, and often, a school appointment would be tipped in favour of those who could act as parish organist and choirmaster; sometimes as a dual appointment.

 

How times have changed, and not for the better I suspect.

 

MM

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

 

The Grammar School system was almost perfectly matched to establishing choirs. I know of many very fine church choirs which enjoyed a certain symbiosis with Grammar Schools, where the organist was the music master at the local school. It enabled quite obscure or backwater places to have fine church choirs, and often, a school appointment would be tipped in favour of those who could act as parish organist and choirmaster; sometimes as a dual appointment.

 

How times have changed, and not for the better I suspect.

 

MM

 

The whole paragraph, I'm afraid, rather disturbs me and, perhaps, annoys me because it has a sniff of yearning for a past that is long gone - and,dare I say speaking as an 11 plus failure (with a Ph.D from a rather respectable University, to say the least!), that hopefully isn't coming back! Undoubtedly there is an element of truth in what MM says but, I have to say that, often, huge numbers of youngsters missed out on any kind of musical experiences or music education because of the 'bias' towards the music in the local parish church - and because there are only 24 hours in a day!. My own late wife was educated in a well-known grammar school in the north of England with a head of music who is now an 'international' figure - he was never at school, always away examining or conducting or playing for this service or that in a certain cathedral and when he was his teaching was limited and poor. Exactly the same happened to one of my sons and when I questioned what was actually happening in the music lessons (I have some experience of this) I was politely told by the Head that "we were so lucky to have Mr ................. here" He was surprised when I didn't agree. That music teacher is, again, a very well known name in 'music circles and, I notice, doesn't mention on his CV that he was once a school music teacher!!

 

Times have changed and, for music education, very much for the better. That the subject appeared in the 'National Curriculum' was nothing short of amazing (it very nearly didn't!) and, at least in my experience, whole generations of youngsters are being given opportunities to make exciting music that they were denied in the last century. The fate of the Parish church choir and, in some cases, the Cathedral choir where, interestingly I suspect today, standards have never been higher, is due to other factors!

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I'm sure Ripon will find a suitable solution, as MM suggests. But that solution will have to take into its position as a city of just 16,000 souls in a rural situation, and with the impact of proposed changes in diocesan structure still unclear. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

 

JS

 

The Cathedral website now has an announcement on the launch of a new Choral Foundation at Ripon - a positive and exciting way forward.

 

JS

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The whole paragraph, I'm afraid, rather disturbs me and, perhaps, annoys me because it has a sniff of yearning for a past that is long gone - and,dare I say speaking as an 11 plus failure (with a Ph.D from a rather respectable University, to say the least!), that hopefully isn't coming back! Undoubtedly there is an element of truth in what MM says but, I have to say that, often, huge numbers of youngsters missed out on any kind of musical experiences or music education because of the 'bias' towards the music in the local parish church - and because there are only 24 hours in a day!. My own late wife was educated in a well-known grammar school in the north of England with a head of music who is now an 'international' figure - he was never at school, always away examining or conducting or playing for this service or that in a certain cathedral and when he was his teaching was limited and poor. Exactly the same happened to one of my sons and when I questioned what was actually happening in the music lessons (I have some experience of this) I was politely told by the Head that "we were so lucky to have Mr ................. here" He was surprised when I didn't agree. That music teacher is, again, a very well known name in 'music circles and, I notice, doesn't mention on his CV that he was once a school music teacher!!

 

Times have changed and, for music education, very much for the better. That the subject appeared in the 'National Curriculum' was nothing short of amazing (it very nearly didn't!) and, at least in my experience, whole generations of youngsters are being given opportunities to make exciting music that they were denied in the last century. The fate of the Parish church choir and, in some cases, the Cathedral choir where, interestingly I suspect today, standards have never been higher, is due to other factors!

 

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

 

 

Well, I found myself rocking with laughter when I read SL's reply; not at the expense of SL I have to say: more recognition of a kindred spirit.

 

I didn't actually fail the 11-plus, but I probably should have done; so utterly scatter-brained, hyperactive and disinterested was I. Fortunately, my failure at the actual written exam was rectified by an IQ/aptitude special test of some length, and I recall anticipating what the IQ and aptitude test was all about and what was required to get through it. I therefore worked out that 70% of my time should be "academic" in nature, 10% craft and 10% recreation....I passed with flying colours. However, the disaster continued at Grammar School. I was bored, inattentive, failed every exam, almost got booted out and eventually left at the age of 15. In spite of the fact that I was usually bottom of the class or close to it in almost every subject, I was a puzzling and rather consistent 1st in Music, Art and Geography. In retrospect, I was very glad that I left when I did.

 

The interesting.....quite interesting....thing is that my teachers nevertheless inspired me in many ways, and having left school, I never wanted to stop learning. I just wanted to learn the things which interested me, which eventually meant, of course, that I had to learn the things my teachers knew I should have learned in the first place!! :)

 

Oddball and mercurial in equal measure, I was totally self-taught as a musician and organist; the two probably mutually exclusive if Sir Thomas Beecham was right.

 

Having established this curious background, I think I can state with some passion that I do NOT hanker for the educational past, with the exception of music. However, it wasn't just "music" which taught me the most valuable lessons of all. It was the very high standard of music demanded in the school-choir, which of course, I carried with me long after school. That enabled me to know the difference between getting music right and getting music wrong,(above all musical), and it has always been my best teacher.

 

My Junior School had a fairly good choir, we did concert performances, but more importantly, we had visits from a professional symphony orchestra. I recall being enthralled by this. Grammar School was certainly more chorally biased, due to the legacy of Philip Marshall and his successors, but again, I had peripatetic brass lessons from ex-Halle man, Arthur Butterworth. Pianos was another study, but a private one, until my teacher rather inconsiderately died. Thereinafter, entirely self-taught prior to a Uni-organ scholarship!

 

The other benefit of my education were practical engineering and crafts, which have been incredibly useful over the years, and pointed me in the right direction. In fact, I must be the only former uni organ-scholar who is also a class skilled, engineering fitter; though not an apprentice-trained one.

 

From out of this bizarre and rather chaotic background, I somehow ended working in the field of legal and financial work, which must be as curious as an 11-plus failure with a PhD. (My brother got 4-O levels, and he too has a PhD and a string of letters which resemble a game of scrabble).

 

Now please tell me WHY contemporary music teaching and musical education is BETTER than it was, because I can' imagine that the overall standard could ever approach what was required of me as a boy treble. I see lots of talented kids from the special schools like Wells Cathedral School and Cheethams, but not a terrible lot from your average comprehensive. Indeed, as someone who flew quite high in the financial world for 20 years or so, I reckon that a lot of school-leavers are almost unemployable, which tells me that the system is either very, very flawed, or their parents sit watching soaps all day long.

 

As I stated previous, I am not an educationalist, but I certainly don't look backwards. So please EDUCATE me and hopefully prove me wrong.

 

Best,

 

MM

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Unfortunately, SL is in the South of France as I write, so he will not be able to reply immediately to my last post. In the meantime, I wonder if we could usefully explore some aspects of music teaching and schools provision, which may or may not benefit organ and choral music in church; presumably our over-riding consideration on this discussion board.

 

Having scanned through the proposals for the national music curriculum, (which I believe come into effect in September), I see a lot of management-speak and what I can only describe as a pyramidic learning and teaching structure, but it’s a bit short on detail to say the least. The other which strikes me, is an absence of community outreach, (for lack of a better term).

I cannot anticipate what reasons SL may have in suggesting that music teaching is better today than it has ever been, or that previous generations missed out in the last century. What I do know, is that 50 years ago, music was everywhere and youth involvement considerable, It was by no means restricted to church choirs, but I would acknowledge that private teaching was often at the core of encouraging children to take up instruments. However, it depends how we see “education”, because 50 years ago there were other avenues quite independent of the school sytem.

 

Obviously, church and chapel choirs featured strongly, but that era was drawing to a close even 50 years ago. Nevertheless, it was from that particular background that many musicians emerged; most notably organists and choral conductors perhaps, but others who having been taught the basics, had branched out into other genres of music-making. It is, I believe, easy to overlook the second-tier of music-making, which included operatic societies, vocal unions, male voice choirs, brass bands, glee clubs and all manner of quality light-music. Of course, the teaching methods were sometimes rudimentary, and would probably have included tonic sol-fa, but the end results were often very professional indeed; especially among the ranks of brass band players.

I think we underestimate the grass-roots level of extended education at our peril, because this is the thing which has almost died out, and no amount of core education could ever fill the gap. In any event, it would be economically unaffordable as a state funded venture.

 

Of course, it would also be foolish to ignore or at least diminish the importance of multi-culturalism, which in the case of music, is particularly marked. Whilst you are likely to hear Bach and Mendelssohn in strongly Jewish communities, you wouldn’t hear the B-minor mass or one of the Passions floating out of the local synagogue. Nevertheless, there would be a certain common-ground, whereby communities of people interact, but what of other, newer ethnic communities, such as Afro-Caribbean, Pakistani, Indian, Eastern European et al?

 

If music is a means of self-expression and part of cultural identity, it occurs to me that state education in non-religious schools must be inclusive of all these ethnic groupings and identities, and more importantly, would probably exclude (or at least fail to include) religious music of any particular ethnic origin. We often hear stories, (true or otherwise), of children who have never learned a Christmas carol, and others who have never sung ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’.

 

So we cannot ignore the fact that there is a political dimension to music-education, and in view of the limitations of funding, I wonder if, in spite of grandiloquent gestures and management-speak, the whole thing will not be very thinly spread, with the “centres of excellence” giving the illusion of unparalleled success and educational triumph.

 

Considering this from a quite different perspective, if I were to attempt a series of music concerts/recitals at our church, situated in an increasingly grim West Yorkshire town, I would be lucky to get fifty people attending an orchestral or choral concert and possibly ten attending a pure organ-recital. Fifty years ago, such events would have an audience of three hundred plus and perhaps fifty respectively. Thirty seven years ago, I organised and performed in an orchestral concert in a town centre church, and I think we an audience of five hundred; making the event economically profitable. Thirty years ago, I tried the same thing and we had an audience of eighty, resulting in a considerable financial loss. Ten years ago, in a quite up-market town, the same sort of thing brought in an audience no larger than eighty; the event losing a modest amount of money. More importantly perhaps, any audience would have an average age of perhaps sixty years, and young listeners would be virtually non-existent.

 

All this corresponds with the total collapse of amateur music-making in the area, with just one increasingly elderly vocal union left. We have no church choirs, no music groups, no concerts, not a single brass band and just a handful of would-be folk-singers who ply their dubious art in various pubs; mainly in the more fashionable and prosperous outskirts.

I just wonder if the new national curriculum will not replace one type of elitism with another, where the best pupils are propelled towards the “hubs” and “centres of excellence”.

 

Without support at grass roots level, what is the chance of music becoming a part of national life as it once was, and merely by the process of education?

 

It’s a curious thing, but whenever we’ve had great music, it’s been because people have had something worth singing about.

 

MM

 

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I found MM's last post very interesting. However, the thought occurred to me that such musical events abroad seem to benefit from a much better attendance, at least in my admittedly limited experience.

 

Why are we different?

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... Having scanned through the proposals for the national music curriculum, (which I believe come into effect in September), I see a lot of management-speak and what I can only describe as a pyramidic learning and teaching structure, but it’s a bit short on detail to say the least. The other which strikes me, is an absence of community outreach, (for lack of a better term).

 

I suspect that if you were to scan any such proposal (in any field), you would come to the same conclusion.

 

As one who has been involved in the teaching of music to children (and adults) for over twenty years, I can assure you that, in this part of the world at any rate, there are few opportunities missed for what you term 'community outreach'.

 

 

 

I cannot anticipate what reasons SL may have in suggesting that music teaching is better today than it has ever been, or that previous generations missed out in the last century. What I do know, is that 50 years ago, music was everywhere and youth involvement considerable, It was by no means restricted to church choirs, but I would acknowledge that private teaching was often at the core of encouraging children to take up instruments. However, it depends how we see “education”, because 50 years ago there were other avenues quite independent of the school sytem. ...

 

MM

 

It may be that SL is also directly involved in the teaching of music in our schools.

 

When you state that '50 years ago, music was everywhere', I am not sure that this is any less applicable today. There are still a multitude of musical societies, ensembles, bands, orchestras and the like (and covering just about every known genre). What is also true now - but was almost certainly not so, fifty years ago - is that there are today many wonderful opportunities for a great number of young people to play to a very high standard in public, in some of the country's top venues. And not just in the field of classical music. I possess a number of recordings of the NYJO, for example, and the standard is quite indistinguishable from any adult ensemble which I have heard; in fact, if anything, it is often better - in the sense that, with the confidence and daring of youth, these musicians push their techniques and creative powers to the limits. Then there are our county youth orchestras. To quote one example - I doubt that, fifty years ago, any such ensemble would have been able even to contemplate undertaking a concert tour of Brazil; yet this was achieved with success by such an orchestra in my own county a few years ago.

 

I can also testify that private teaching is still very much at the core of encouraging children to take up instruments - and, for that matter, encouraging adults to resume their musical instrumental studies - often after many years of abstinence. I doubt that the standards of performance in many of our schools would be as high as it is, without the support and careful teaching of the many private and peripatetic instrumental teachers who work in this country.

 

Clearly standards of teaching music will vary, depending on a host of aspects - not least the personality and competence of the director of music in each school. I suspect that ths was also the case fifty years ago. When I was at school, studying for my public examinations, the music master was excellent and, in addition to being an inspiring - and thorough - teacher, produced regular concerts and musical events of a uniformly good quality, However, I suspect that whilst the playing standards of many professional orchestras has improved over the last fifty years*, so too has that of school orchestras.

 

This is, of course, only the classical side of things. My own school boasted at least two good rock bands (I probably should not state here that I was the drummer for one of these....) - and not simply bands churning out 'cover versions' of chart songs, but performing original material. (And here, we are not talking of long 'concept songs', about pixies on Mars, with endless guitar solos, influenced by the absorption of illegal substances.) The school at which I teach currently has an excellent jazz and 'big' band, both of which are involved regularly in 'community outreach'.

 

No doubt others here will be able to write of their own experiences in the 'front line' of musical education in our schools.

 

 

 

* This may have been partly due to the opening of the Royal Festival Hall, with its particular acoustic properties.

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I suspect that if you were to scan any such proposal (in any field), you would come to the same conclusion.

 

As one who has been involved in the teaching of music to children (and adults) for over twenty years, I can assure you that, in this part of the world at any rate, there are few opportunities missed for what you term 'community outreach'.

 

 

 

 

 

It may be that SL is also directly involved in the teaching of music in our schools.

 

When you state that '50 years ago, music was everywhere', I am not sure that this is any less applicable today. There are still a multitude of musical societies, ensembles, bands, orchestras and the like (and covering just about every known genre). What is also true now - but was almost certainly not so, fifty years ago - is that there are today many wonderful opportunities for a great number of young people to play to a very high standard in public, in some of the country's top venues. And not just in the field of classical music. I possess a number of recordings of the NYJO, for example, and the standard is quite indistinguishable from any adult ensemble which I have heard; in fact, if anything, it is often better - in the sense that, with the confidence and daring of youth, these musicians push their techniques and creative powers to the limits. Then there are our county youth orchestras. To quote one example - I doubt that, fifty years ago, any such ensemble would have been able even to contemplate undertaking a concert tour of Brazil; yet this was achieved with success by such an orchestra in my own county a few years ago.

 

I can also testify that private teaching is still very much at the core of encouraging children to take up instruments - and, for that matter, encouraging adults to resume their musical instrumental studies - often after many years of abstinence. I doubt that the standards of performance in many of our schools would be as high as it is, without the support and careful teaching of the many private and peripatetic instrumental teachers who work in this country.

 

Clearly standards of teaching music will vary, depending on a host of aspects - not least the personality and competence of the director of music in each school. I suspect that ths was also the case fifty years ago. When I was at school, studying for my public examinations, the music master was excellent and, in addition to being an inspiring - and thorough - teacher, produced regular concerts and musical events of a uniformly good quality, However, I suspect that whilst the playing standards of many professional orchestras has improved over the last fifty years*, so too has that of school orchestras.

 

This is, of course, only the classical side of things. My own school boasted at least two good rock bands (I probably should not state here that I was the drummer for one of these....) - and not simply bands churning out 'cover versions' of chart songs, but performing original material. (And here, we are not talking of long 'concept songs', about pixies on Mars, with endless guitar solos, influenced by the absorption of illegal substances.) The school at which I teach currently has an excellent jazz and 'big' band, both of which are involved regularly in 'community outreach'.

 

No doubt others here will be able to write of their own experiences in the 'front line' of musical education in our schools.

 

 

 

* This may have been partly due to the opening of the Royal Festival Hall, with its particular acoustic properties.

 

 

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

 

 

If you re-read my last reply, I think you will read of the exact opposite to “music being everywhere.”

 

While I welcome any initiative or innovative approach to music-teaching, such as the Leeds RC Diocesan drive to re-establish choirs, it is but one initiative with finite resources. The point I am trying to make, is that 50 years ago, music education and musical experience was enhanced by a ground-up movement: much of it amateur or at best semi-professional, but extremely worthy nonetheless.

 

The further question I raise, is whether the top-down approach is actually effective, if at the grass roots level, there is little or no support?

Permit me to pose a rhetorical question.

 

Could the singing genius of the late Whitney Houston ever have been taught top-down, or was it a style of singing which grew out of her childhood involvement with black gospel music?

 

 

 

What of the grass-roots brass-band movement, which with help from a few professional, (but mainly semi-professional or amateur), leaders/conductors, produced some of the finest playing talent of all time?

 

www.davechilds.com

 

Here he is playing “The flight of the bumble bee” on YouTube. He follows in the tradition of John Clough, (“Cloughie”) of Black Dyke Mills Band fame....some amateur he was! (He is also an organ-builder).

 

 

I didn’t actually spend my childhood and youth during the peak years of amateur and semi-professional choral-music making, but I did experience the tail-end of it, after which it went into rapid terminal decline. This was the same process as that shared with Whitney Houston: amateur choirs striving for the highest standards. To hear an amateur Methodist choir sing Messiah, (even in quite ordinary industrial towns), was to hear something very special, and academic music apart, I think this was the background which inspired me more than anything else, notwithstanding the very fine school choir in which I sang. To put it simply, I soo learned that standards and achievements mattered, and to get there meant a lot of hard graft and dedication.

 

I think I would be able to propose a compelling argument that the systematic destruction of church choirs and the withdrawal of public funding for the arts at local level, were probably two of the biggest attacks on nationhood of all time, with a thinly disguised political motive.

 

My concern is that there may well be a political element in the application of the new national music curriculum, whereby people want to see spectacular results as if they were the same thing as getting Olympic medals. If that happened, it would be elitism of a new and different kind, but not necessarily one which would best serve the people or the communities in which they live.

 

Of course, it could be that I am being unnecessarily alarmist, but outside the field of formal education, I see little hope of encouraging music at a local level, which was always an amateur, grass-roots movement; often of great brilliance.

 

Still, I suppose an improvement in formal music education is no bad thing, especially if it spares me having to listen to kids imitate the “Gangsta Rap” of “What goes on in the back of my car? I took off her knickers and took off her bra.”

 

MM

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Guest Salamine

There is much to mull over here, both historically and educashionally (sic!). As a product of the grammar school system and someone who currently teaches in a state selective school I can attest that I would consider playing standards are higher - but aren't all standards higher anyway - which has been said here). Were things better then (i'm now talking about late 60s / 70s - in my case we had an excellent school choir which sang wonderful christmas carol concerts and much more besides (I can still remember my solo Baritone line from the Pearsall 'In Dulci Jubilo' from memory). BUT - that really was it. No bands / orchestras and, more importantly, almost no money in those days for the arts. Whilst the arts in general fared better school music was certainly a very varied and unpredictable diet - my own music teacher was an organist and ran an excellent choir in Derby). There may have been more opportunities but somehow methinks that the diet was limited (saxophones were unseen in state schools then, for instance.

 

Cue to the last 10 years or so and what strikes me is the explosion of jazz and big bands (I hold my own hand up for blame here too - like PNCD I run two big bands (and a Light Orchestra which mops up strings and sundries and does great things with Leroy Anderson for instance). When I joined the school I inherited a very large choir which was expected to perform Standford's Tedium in B flat every year at Founders' Day. Needless to say that went over a decade ago (I did try - we had Stanford turning in his grave each year as I dropped the key further and further to accomodate squeaky trebles and the fact that it was simply too hard for 30 minutes grabbed at lunch each week.

 

The expansion of jazz has been exponential and has now got to the point where we are sending at least one pupil per year to some institution for a jazz degree (this latter I have my doubts about but that's for another day - does it really have to be 'graduated' to make it worthwhile? , As well as that we have achieved much success at conservatoires and universities and I / we are justly proud of our achievements and our students.

MM is right with his point about the decline of music-making (and the way in which, as he says, the brass band movement has imploded - once played with Cloughie by the way on a quick trip wi' Brighouse and Raistrick in the 70s, flipping good player). Coming to a town not a million miles from MM I also played with the local town band for 4 years or so before it self-destructed. Our local PC has some vestige of a choir but nothing of any repute or note and, yes, my predecessor held a post at both local grammar and local church as was quite frequently the case.

Nice to see the old grammar / comp argument simmering in the background as well but let's leave that well alone! Interesting thread.....

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As the risk of repeating something I wrote on another page relating to Ripon Cathedral, would forum members kindly have the courtesy to start a new thread if they wish to take the debate off at a tangent like this.

 

As a member of the congregation I object to views being aired under the heading of Ripon Cathedral which clearly have little if anything to do with the Cathedral, its worship and its music, and this entirely as a result of laziness and thoughtfulness on the part of contributors - and, predominately, regular contributors who ought to know better.

 

Is it too much to ask for consideration and good manners in such matters? It's questionable, in any case, whether such discussion is appropriate in a specifically organ-related forum hosted by a leading UK organ builder. However, that is a matter I leave to the Moderator.

 

As for the proper subject of this thread, members may be interested to know that the future of choral music at Ripon looks brighter than it did a couple of months ago. A new choir term has just started and the boys' and girls' choirs will be singing six services a week from now on. Full details can be found on the Music List on the Cathedral website. Everyone is working hard towards the new vision for the music in this holy place.

 

JS

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As the risk of repeating something I wrote on another page relating to Ripon Cathedral, would forum members kindly have the courtesy to start a new thread if they wish to take the debate off at a tangent like this.

 

As a member of the congregation I object to views being aired under the heading of Ripon Cathedral which clearly have little if anything to do with the Cathedral, its worship and its music, and this entirely as a result of laziness and thoughtfulness on the part of contributors - and, predominately, regular contributors who ought to know better.

 

Is it too much to ask for consideration and good manners in such matters? It's questionable, in any case, whether such discussion is appropriate in a specifically organ-related forum hosted by a leading UK organ builder. However, that is a matter I leave to the Moderator.

 

As for the proper subject of this thread, members may be interested to know that the future of choral music at Ripon looks brighter than it did a couple of months ago. A new choir term has just started and the boys' and girls' choirs will be singing six services a week from now on. Full details can be found on the Music List on the Cathedral website. Everyone is working hard towards the new vision for the music in this holy place.

 

JS

 

So sorry - I meant, thoughtLESSness, of course. Seriously though chaps, can we not behave a little more responsibly in such things? If not, I'm afraid, I do not wish to be a member for much longer.

 

JS

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A thread on a forum is like a conversation, but on-line. Like a spoken conversation, it can ebb and flow, and be carried in different directions; but unlike speech it carries its original label with it as it goes.

 

Forums vary in how they view this tendency, from allowing it freely, to being very strict about keeping to one subject and deleting messages with break the rule - and whichever approach is taken, there are nearly always people who would like it to be otherwise. Ultimately, one can either tolerate the way a forum works, or leave.

 

I think about this a lot, as I administer a forum that's considerably busier than this (nothing musical) - and I allow thread drift, as it's called, to happen freely; however, when a thread has clearly become different, or contains two distinct conversations, I will step in and split it into two so that the different conversations, each with their own value, can be seen and continue separately without interfering. My intention is to allow any appropriate conversation to flow freely, while avoiding undesirable confusion; however, I believe that I am quite unusual in acting in such an interventionist manner, and I would not assume that the moderators of any particular forum have either the time of the inclination to do the same as I do.

 

Paul

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My views must seem hopelessly old-fashioned. There's no harm in thread drift on Facebook or Twitter, but on a specialist forum like this, where a certain standard of conduct is expected from contributors, then they should not abuse the privilege provided, as a matter of courtesy. (In the case to the two recent threads on Ripon Cathedral, some would say there is also the matter of courtesy toward the Dean & Chapter).

 

I'm sorry to say the standard of discussion has deteriorated sadly over the last couple of years. It is surely no coincidence that the number of regular contributors (and postings, too) has declined over that same period. Reading the same verbose opinions of the same small group of mega-posters is, frankly, a bore. Other forums - orgue-l, to name but one - handle this so much better.

 

With that - and with a further plea for serious discussion on this topic to move to a new thread - I bid forum members farewell.

 

JS

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My views must seem hopelessly old-fashioned. There's no harm in thread drift on Facebook or Twitter, but on a specialist forum like this, where a certain standard of conduct is expected from contributors, then they should not abuse the privilege provided, as a matter of courtesy. (In the case to the two recent threads on Ripon Cathedral, some would say there is also the matter of courtesy toward the Dean & Chapter). I'm sorry to say the standard of discussion has deteriorated sadly over the last couple of years. It is surely no coincidence that the number of regular contributors (and postings, too) has declined over that same period. Reading the same verbose opinions of the same small group of mega-posters is, frankly, a bore. Other forums - orgue-l, to name but one - handle this so much better. With that - and with a further plea for serious discussion on this topic to move to a new thread - I bid forum members farewell. JS

 

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

 

 

With all respect, what has a cathedral choir school or choral foundation got to do with organs, beyond the fact that they are used to accompany choirs? One could argue that it was an inappropriate subject in the first instance. Why should we show deep respect for the Dean and Chapter if we have no dealings with them? They're only a management structure like any other.

 

As someone who has only ever taught in a school for six miserable months, the wider issue of exatly how Ripon Cathedral gets around the problem is of interest to me, and one which requires a fairly wide understanding of the educational context.

 

There is the saying that stupid people talk about other people, mediocre people talk about events amd intelligent people talk in concepts. Concepts require a broad, multi-disciplinary approach of course, and this is precisely the reason why intelligent discussion moves away from and then returns to the original subject matter and context.

 

It has a name, and the name is "academic freedom"; a concept in which most respectable universities and academies find agreement.

 

Sorry to be a bore.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I'm a latecomer to this thread, but rather despondent to hear that my old prep school has bitten the dust. It was never a large school, but it was a friendly little place (about 100 pupils in the 80s when I was there) and it's such a shame that it's gone. How is the choral foundation managing now? Where are the choristers being educated?

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I'm a latecomer to this thread, but rather despondent to hear that my old prep school has bitten the dust. [...] How is the choral foundation managing now? Where are the choristers being educated?

 

Sadly, the person who was well placed to provide the answers has left this forum.

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