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"OBBS"


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An acquaintance has asked me to throw out a rather mischievous little idea to see what kind of reactions it might get from this esteemed community.

 

There are some who think that the organ has little or no long-term future, and that church organists are a dying breed.

Others would strongly disagree with those gloomy predictions.

 

Most church organists are talented and dedicated. Many can be very creative in their liturgical playing (e.g. "Happy Birthday" to the Dean, woven into the Gospel procession, or a 5-part fugue on "Men of Harlech" when a Welsh regiment visits to celebrate an important anniversary - you know the kind of thing I mean).

But many are also too often taken for granted, under-valued and under-appreciated.

 

It has been suggested that, on a particular Sunday in the not-too-distant future, following a certain event, organists might be "let off the leash", as it were, and allowed the freedom to be a little more "creative" than usual :D and congregations be given the opportunity to show their appreciation more than they might normally do. This would be given extensive media coverage.

 

"Organists Behaving Badly Sunday". What do you think? Too irreverent, or a great opportunity?

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I had to check to see when this was posted and expected it to be two days ago. Sadly not.

 

Organists Behaving Badly ... the liturgical equivalent of Dads Disco Dancing. No. No. Please, no.

 

J.

 

Absolutely.

 

I would suggest that this could upset clergy (never a wise idea) and possibly damage relationships between organists and their choir - and congregations.

 

It is often the case that organists are more highly regarded than they might realise - often people (rightly or wrongly) simply do not say so, these days. In fact, only a couple of weeks ago, I had just this type of experience at my own church.

 

Frankly I think that to act upon this suggestion may cause irreparable harm. Leading the worship at a service is a serious responsibility and not to be taken lightly. Personally, I should never squander the gift of improvisation on any light-hearted musical 'comment' - whoever may be present. Not in a service.

 

I have no wish to come across as dogmatic or unduly censorious - but I regard this suggestion as having the potential to cause both offence and lasting damage. Perhaps some here play for churches in which such things may give rise to gentle amusement. However, one never knows how things may be taken. Surely, we as organists are primarily there to assist others in their worship of God and to seek to offer of our best - every time.

 

I am aware that this is probably sounding pompous - this is not my intention. However, I find it difficult accurately to express my concern over this matter. I trust that board members will perceive that which I am trying to say - and doing so quite inadequately.

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I tend to agree more with PCND. Yes, there are churches where OBBD might work - but many I suspect where it will not - or will be out of tune with the rest of the service and hence detract from the worship.

 

Encouraging clergy to appreciate their musicians (and others who keep the church running) is probably more important.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I am fortunate in that I am appreciated by my vicar and congregation and am always thanked for my contribution to the services. I wouldn't want to jeopardise this by overtly messing around.

 

My improvisational skills are limited but anyway, surely part of the skill is hiding a "dodgy" theme, maybe on a birthday, so that no-one quite picks up on it? It's a bit like using a chicken OXO cube in a supposedly vegetarian risotto for that not-especially-liked sister-in-law. The cook knows and that's good enough...

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Guest Hector5

How utterly irresponsible to suggest such an action as this, I agree with comments from PCND and others regarding the inadvisability of such a silly suggestion.

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I suppose the only way it could work without attracting opprobrium on organists in particular would be as part of a general Boy Bishop, Twelfth Night, Lord-of-Misrule, upside-down, topsy-turvy type of day. There might be some advantages to an occasional irreligious act of worship. I think "hidden melodies" are best unsignposted.

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It's not without good precedent, however. There are plenty of parody masses in which secular melodies are incorporated - sometimes not too subtly.

 

I remember being in the congregation for a Church of Ireland General Synod service in St. Pat's, Dublin. The pre-service improvisation had a great deal of "Happy Birthday to you" in it (and it wasn't Smart's Postlude in D) and I've often wondered if it was intentional. The Assistant Organist at the time is now O&MC at a very prestigious English cathedral, so I'd better not say who it was.

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There is a precedent for "organbuilders behaving badly". The monks at Weingarten rescinded on the agreed contract price with Joseph Gabler and so in addition to the many other remarkable mechanical complexities of this amazing organ, he installed a secret valve which essentially shut off most of the wind supply. After no-one else could find the cause of the organ's sudden asthmatic attack, he investigated - for a fee that made up for the shortfall he had been promised - and brought the organ back to full working order again.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Many thanks to all who contributed to this discussion.

The collective wisdom of this Board prevailed, and the idea as originally conceived was not pursued.

However, in advance of the upcoming Christian Resources Exhibition, a survey was undertaken, the results of which are reported here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10034068/Beware-the-wrath-of-the-church-organist-musical-revenge-is-sweet.html.

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Many thanks to all who contributed to this discussion.

The collective wisdom of this Board prevailed, and the idea as originally conceived was not pursued.

However, in advance of the upcoming Christian Resources Exhibition, a survey was undertaken, the results of which are reported here:

http://www.telegraph...e-is-sweet.html.

 

Whilst perhaps one could appreciate those who were frustrated, there are still better ways of dealing with such a situation.

 

I suggest that this type of behaviour can only do harm - and weaken the moral strength of those who are trying to persevere against difficult circumstances. However, I am glad to hear that you did not succumb.

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