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David Rogers

Parish Evensongs

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Sorry, I hadn't realised you'd got there first. I heard it years ago from an unrelated source ... so it must be true!

 

Not at all. Particularly since I did the same with David Drinkell's story about Herbert Brewer.

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The late Herbert Byard used to relate that, as a boy in Gloucester, he would run to the Cathedral on the 15th Evening in order to hear Sir Herbert Brewer smite the enemies of the Lord in the hinder parts during Psalm 78. He found out much later that it was done by means of a swift double jab on the Ophicleide reversible piston.

 

I find the Solo strings with octave and sub are useful for smiting, sin and wroth, the poison of asps, war in their hearts, very swords, coming about me like bees, etc. To these, as occasion demands I may add the Swell Double Trumpet, Vox, Oboe, and so on (I have a Swell to Solo coupler), and emphasise various points with the swell pedals. All this, of course, underpinned by the Pedal 32'.

 

There's no doubt that other people besides myself enjoy this sort of thing. When the organ darkens, the Decanal countenance invariably lightens. I'm looking forward to Psalm 136 and Og the King of Basan on Sunday week.

 

There is some very effective use of a big 16' metal on the Pedal to illustrate taxing of the Divine patience in John Scott's playing on an old St. John's College Psalms recording.

Agree - plus really edgy reeds (eg at Bristol the Solo 16' Cor Anglais and 8' Orch Oboe) - either or both set the teeth nicely on edge!

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Indeed. I believe that it was I who posted that story. To the best of my knowledge, it was true. The verse concerned was 'My lot hath fallen upon a fair ground.' Afterwards, Michael said (apparently) 'Eehh *, ah, please don't do that again.'

 

There are quite a number of stories regarding these two musicians at this time - one involving whiskey, another sherry - and a dead clergyman.

 

 

 

* Which was pronounced gently, with a very wide, tight mouth shape, with the corners slightly turned down.

 

The St. John's recording to which I referred earlier has the cymbelstern in the last verse of Psalm 150 (Stanford chant) i used the Norwich one at the end of Dyson in F Nunc once, but I was very young in those days.....

 

There was a story that Garth Benson, when organ scholar at King's, once played a Bach Trio sonata movement on the Tuba, Great Trombas and 32' reed. Boris Ord is supposed to have said, 'That was a horrible noise, Garth, please don't do it again.'

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The St. John's recording to which I referred earlier has the cymbelstern in the last verse of Psalm 150 (Stanford chant) i used the Norwich one at the end of Dyson in F Nunc once, but I was very young in those days.....

 

This thread is beginning to resemble the hallowed intimacy of the confessional....

 

There was a story that Garth Benson, when organ scholar at King's, once played a Bach Trio sonata movement on the Tuba, Great Trombas and 32' reed. Boris Ord is supposed to have said, 'That was a horrible noise, Garth, please don't do it again.'

 

I am amazed that anyone should have done this. The music of Bach can survive most things but, had I been present during such a performance, I feel sure that I would have wished to become instantly proficient in the use of a crossbow.

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I have a superb recent recording of the Aubertin organ at Clairvaux where Francis Jacob plays the RH part on a Trumpet stop (actually a Cor de Post!) - a marvellous sound and perfect taste!

 

A

 

....perhaps the Wimborne Chamade?

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I have a superb recent recording of the Aubertin organ at Clairvaux where Francis Jacob plays the RH part on a Trumpet stop (actually a Cor de Post!) - a marvellous sound and perfect taste!

 

A

 

....perhaps the Wimborne Chamade?

 

I should like to hear this sound - on the first registration you mention. On the second - um, no. Joking aside, I am convinced that David Blott (or, for once, the voicer) made an error of judgement on this stop. It simply does not work in single notes (for example, to play a melody line in such pieces as Cocker's Tuba Tune). On the other hand, this must have been Blott's intention, since, as far as I know, the lowest twelve notes were omitted, not on grounds of cost, but in order to discourage its use in combination - or in the tutti. To be honest, these last two are the only acceptable uses of this thin stop in this dry acoustic.

 

Arguably, Ralph Downes made a similar (but far greater) error when designing the organ of the RFH. However, the problem was rather more complex, there. For a start, he specified the reeds to be voiced in the style of Cliquot.† If he had to have French reeds, those by Cavaillé-Coll would have been more suitable - at least for the Pedal Organ, G.O., Swell and Solo organs. In any case, he appeared not to realise that the reeds of which he was so fond were, in their natural environment, in a resonant stone-vaulted cathedral. Surely a little exercise of imagination would have at least given him pause to wonder of their effect and usefulness in such a 'dead' acoustic as that originally possessed by the RFH?*

 

Furthermore, classical French reeds require a classical French chorus. Attempting to marry such reeds with North German-Dutch style flue-work was a little like giving a child a considerable sum of money, then putting him in a sweet shop and saying 'buy whatever you want, boy.' The end result was never going to be satisfactory.

 

it will be interesting to see how the completed instrument will sound in its altered acoustic environment, next year.

 

 

 

† In any case, opinions differ as to the quality of the voicing (by Louis-Eugène Rochesson).

 

* Some years later, the acoustician Hope Bagenal admitted that he had made errors in his calculations; consequently, the hall was rather more 'dry' than had been intended.

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Arguably, Ralph Downes made a similar (but far greater) error when designing the organ of the RFH. However, the problem was rather more complex, there. For a start, he specified the reeds to be voiced in the style of Cliquot.† If he had to have French reeds, those by Cavaillé-Coll would have been more suitable - at least for the Pedal Organ, G.O., Swell and Solo organs. In any case, he appeared not to realise that the reeds of which he was so fond were, in their natural environment, in a resonant stone-vaulted cathedral. Surely a little exercise of imagination would have at least given him pause to wonder of their effect and usefulness in such a 'dead' acoustic as that originally possessed by the RFH?*

 

Furthermore, classical French reeds require a classical French chorus. Attempting to marry such reeds with North German-Dutch style flue-work was a little like giving a child a considerable sum of money, then putting him in a sweet shop and saying 'buy whatever you want, boy.' The end result was never going to be satisfactory.

 

 

More to the point, such classical French (manual) reeds were originally designed to sit with the Grand Jeu - with bourdons, prestant, cornets etc. - not mixtures. The manual 'chorus work' was used separately as the Plein Jeu (with ped 8 & 4 reeds for the CF).

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More to the point, such classical French (manual) reeds were originally designed to sit with the Grand Jeu - with bourdons, prestant, cornets etc. - not mixtures. The manual 'chorus work' was used separately as the Plein Jeu (with ped 8 & 4 reeds for the CF).

 

Granted. However, this simply exposes a further inherent weakness, since it would have been impractical to expect performers to limit the instrument to this repertoire.

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We run a deeply appreciated parish choir at Holy Trinity Hereford but people don't want choral evensong in parishes these days. I really don't think that there's much point in flogging a dead horse. The genre is very much alive and kicking in the cathedrals, however, so we keep the repertoire alive by doing lots of cathedral visits. I feel very passionately that I want our choir kids to take this repertoire away with them when they complete their ten or so years with us and they do love singing it in the cathedrals.

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We run a deeply appreciated parish choir at Holy Trinity Hereford but people don't want choral evensong in parishes these days. I really don't think that there's much point in flogging a dead horse. The genre is very much alive and kicking in the cathedrals, however, so we keep the repertoire alive by doing lots of cathedral visits. I feel very passionately that I want our choir kids to take this repertoire away with them when they complete their ten or so years with us and they do love singing it in the cathedrals.

 

i don't think that it's necessarily that the people don't want Choral Evensong - or any other Evensong - but that the clergy are so wedded to the Parish Communion idea that everything else is less than secondary. This is unfortunate. The Eucharist is, by its nature, something for the established congregation. It involves a fair amount of doing things. There are many people around who have spiritual needs but can be frightened off by so much "doing", especially the mateyness of many modern Eucharists. Evensong allows one to absorb the Faith without having to stand up and be counted - or, worse still, shake hands with anyone or watch while everyone else hugs each other. Most of the English Cathedrals do very well at Evensong. It's a pity that more parishes don't recognise that the Eucharist isn't the be all and end all, and that Evensong can be a valuable form of outreach to the uncommitted and a valuable teaching ministry to those that are already in.

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Returning briefly to psalms... The old Contra Fagotto on the Solo organ at St Paul's was much used for special effects - '...because of the noise of the water pipes' comes to mind. The stop disappeared in 1972 - it was splendidly rude to a chorister's ear! With the 32ft Posaune back in the chancel pedal section, new possibilities must have opened up, of course!

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In the 1930s I was told my father's choir often had a problem singing verse 10 of Psalm 147, which often ended up as "neither delighteth he in Annie Mann's legs", the name of one of the sopranos. In her later years my mother would always come to evensong if we were singing Annie Mann's legs.

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i don't think that it's necessarily that the people don't want Choral Evensong - or any other Evensong - but that the clergy are so wedded to the Parish Communion idea that everything else is less than secondary. This is unfortunate. The Eucharist is, by its nature, something for the established congregation. It involves a fair amount of doing things. There are many people around who have spiritual needs but can be frightened off by so much "doing", especially the mateyness of many modern Eucharists. Evensong allows one to absorb the Faith without having to stand up and be counted - or, worse still, shake hands with anyone or watch while everyone else hugs each other. Most of the English Cathedrals do very well at Evensong. It's a pity that more parishes don't recognise that the Eucharist isn't the be all and end all, and that Evensong can be a valuable form of outreach to the uncommitted and a valuable teaching ministry to those that are already in.

 

I think in terms of choral evensong at parish churches there are now so many distractions in modern society that have caused the demise of what was once a regular weekly occasion in even the most modest of village churches. Many sporting occasions now take place on Sundays and the growth of car ownership has provided an opportunity to get out and about at weekends. But as a boy chorister in the late 40’s and early 50’s, choral evensong was always a joy and something to look forward to.

 

It’s unfortunate that Anglicanism has largely forsaken the BCP and the English Missal when it comes to the service of Holy Eucharist. When done correctly they always provided for a spectacle accompanied by sounds, sights and smells as well as a strong spiritual dimension.

 

Whilst modern Eucharistic liturgies have been couched in banal language and over-manipulated scriptures, it has become a farce with mass walkabouts and love-ins during the peace.

 

It’s caused no end of controversy and discontent in the Catholic Church and even the development of factions. But in the case of the old Latin mass, does one really want to sit through the service whilst for the most part the celebrant, deacon and sub-deacon all inaudibly mumble away at the altar with little audible participation by the congregation?

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I'm sure this will be an unpopular sentiment, but I've maintained for 30 years that the time has come to throw away both the BCP, (beautiful though it is), and also the modern liturgy based upon it.

 

They no longer speak to almost anyone, except elderly people and a few choral enthusiasts.

 

Best,

 

MM

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I have a superb recent recording of the Aubertin organ at Clairvaux where Francis Jacob plays the RH part on a Trumpet stop (actually a Cor de Post!) - a marvellous sound and perfect taste!

 

A

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most unexpected and delightful Bach Trio registrations I ever heard, and have on CD, is when the late and great Carlo Curley played the opening movement of the G major Trio Sonata on a Wurlitzer organ, in which the Pedal line was maintained by a keen 8ft Cello, 8ft and 4ft in the LH and, for the right hand, a combination of what I think was an 8ft Kinura, 4ft Flute and the percussion Chrysoglott. It is so sparklingly clear, fresh and perfect, yet completely devoid of the slightest authenticity.

 

I suspect that old Bach would have loved it.

 

Best,

 

MM

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There is a very consistent theme coming out of this thread. It is clear from other posts on this forum that some parish churches still maintain a healthy musical tradition, but I fear the days of choral art-music (what is the term I am searching for here?) is numbered in the parishes. As MM implies, the battle was lost years ago. Last January I finally washed my hands of the whole scene and will be perfectly happy if I never go to another church service until I am carried to it inside a coffin. It's not just the music that has been taken away from us. My whole religion, in which, when I was young, I believed fervently, has been deemed misguided and replaced by something ostensibly similar, but actually very different. I have said before that the late twentieth-century reformation (still ongoing) was every bit as far reaching and disruptive, both theologically and musically, as the sixteenth-century one. I still believe that. I hope most of us would agree that some of the values we held in the 1950s badly needed revision, but, as in the sixteenth century, much that was noble and beautiful has been jettisoned and replaced with things altogether more perfunctory - but this time with much less artistry. And this time we have had no Tallis, Tye, or Sheppard to come to our rescue. I have only recently pinpointed where I think it all went wrong for me. Perhaps it's due to television, consumerism and, above all, the church's general flailing around in all directions at once in an attempt to stop the haemorrhaging of congregations from the pews, but all the parish church services I have attended or listened to in recent years have had one fundamental difference from those I attended as a boy. While the avowed intention of these services has been the worship of God, in actual fact, the focus now seems to be firmly not on God, but on the congregation. Now the congregation needs to be engaged, entertained, made comfortable and happy (-clappy). Songs are imposed "because the congregation will like it" (not that they are ever asked) and the same thinking seems to underpin everything else. When I was a boy, the worship was firmly directed at God. The priest and the musicians put God firmly at the centre of focus (in theory anyway) and it was the congregation's duty to do likewise. If you didn't like it, tough: the worship wasn't for your benefit; it was what you were supposed to offer to God as your duty. We derived our joy in worship vicariously through what we gave; nothing was thrown our way with that intention - until the '60s when it all began to change. I am not necessarily saying it is wrong - after all, I am not in the unenviable position of having to run a parish - but I do most certainly feel alienated. I know I have exaggerated the picture and it may be that it only applied to the area where I grew up. I would be interested to read your thoughts though.

 

Of course, you do not need a priest or licensed reader for Evensong, I believe.

Indeed you don't. At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, my last church in Bristol survived exceedingly happily singing choral Evensongs without a priest. We used to import a retired one once a month for a Communion service. He was usually well tanked up on sherry and he preached at arm-gnawing length (he was a dear old chap really), but that was a very small price to lay for the freedom we enjoyed the rest of the time.

 

I really regret the loss of the "Psalms of the Day" in so any places: either the portion is curtailed, or alternative lectionaries are introduced.

There seems to be a feeling that the clergy and/or congregation can't be doing with all this psalmody

I could be wrong, but I thought that one important reason for discontinuing the daily psalms was that, with the demise of Matins everywhere, the ancient tradition of the continual reading (or singing) the complete psalter once a month had been well and truly rogered and the time had come for a radical rethink. To which I can only answer, "So what?" Isn't Matins said even privately in cathedrals any more? Have we totally lost the concept of Opus Dei?

 

Psalms of the day - absolutely! We have, in addition to the re-emerging regular Evensong (psalms, canticle setting, hymn, anthem) - which have lectionary psalms according to the preferences of this place, also been setting up 'cluster' Evensongs where choirs of various churches get together to rehearse and sing the service in each others' establishments. I always insist on the psalms of the day for these - not only do people come to hear them, but they are also a learning process for choristers who do not normally do much psalm singing. Hopefully it will rub off in the future in various places.

That is very heartening to read.

 

Out of interest, with which stop(s) do the respective organists 'smite the enemies in the hinder parts'?

Well, it would depend, but I fancy it would certainly include at the very least a Swell Contra Fagotto and as much roughness above it as would balance.

 

I'm not entirely sure I believe it, but I was once told that when Robert Joyce was organist of Llandaff Cathedral he adorned Ps.55 v.19 - and it must have been the Revised Psalter version which reads “ He shall redeem my life in peace: for many archers are come about me” - very discreetly with Barwick Green on a solo stop.

 

On the other hand I do agree with the implications of this old advice, which I have posted before, that word-painting ought to avoid the corny:

 

“While dealing with the expression of the words in the Psalms, a timely warning must be given against exaggeration in the direction of ‘word painting’. No doubt many of those who read this little book may have heard organists attempt to portray ‘birds singing among the branches’ (generally depicted by means of the shrillest flute in the organ), and the author has a vivid recollection of attempts to represent ‘the Heavens dropping’ and the ‘word running very swiftly,’ the former by a startling staccato chord on the lowest octave of the great organ, while the right hand sustained the harmony on the swell, and the latter by a run up the keyboard of surprising rapidity. Ideas such as these would not, it is believed, occur to an organist of refined taste.” (J. Frederick Bridge, Organ Accompaniment of the Choral Service, London & New York [c.1885], p.11)

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Vox raises some very interesting points about worship glorifying God. What follows is not entirely in the spirit of this thread (its not Evensong and its from a Cathedral!), but still...

 

I happened to be in Glasgow last weekend and attended the Sung Eucharist at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral on Sunday morning (as my friend who lives in Glasgow calls it, the church for the 'repressed English people!'). What I found was an incredibly well ordered act of worship which to me drew you wonderfully into God's presence. Unsurprisingly, the music played no small part in this; the choir were excellent and sang Darke in E (perhaps not 'great' music in the wider sense of the word, but a fine setting in the Anglican tradition) and Gorecki's 'Totus tuus' which was new to me and really showed what they were capable of in terms of control and ensemble. We had the 'Dorian' Toccata to finish. The entire service was printed in one booklet (including the full harmony of the hymns, although regrettably the readings weren't printed) - this enabled the service to flow without unnecessary interruption. They were celebrating the Visitation of Mary (transferred to the Sunday) which meant there were some great Marian hymns ('Tell out my soul', 'Ye who own the faith of Jesus', 'Sing we of the blessed Mother' and a new John Bell hymn which I quite enjoyed - he was in the congregation so I guess they had to!). The organist really let the leash off in the last verses and you felt compelled to raise your voice, including planting a mighty 32' reed underneath the last line for two of the hymns (and the last chord of the Darke Gloria), which made the inner child in me happy!

 

Of course, much of this is personal preference and taste, but my overriding impression from start to finish was of a truly uplifting act of worship in which word, music and sacrament were linked together beautifully and combined to the glory of God. I trust that worship here is always this good, and I have no reason to doubt it. I do value many aspects of Parish Church worship, as messy and imperfect as it can be at times, but this was a really refreshing reminder of just how good worship can be. Were that more churches offered an experience like this on a Sunday morning.

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In reply to Wolsey's note of 10th April :

 

Sorry to be rather 'en retard' with this response but I've been away and have only recently managed to prise an answer out of Lucasorg.

 

The 'moth fretting a garment' effect was realised by drawing all the tremulants on a general piston without any notes being played.

 

Now ya know.

 

I enquired further of Lucasorg as to whether there were any other 'effects' and whether they were suitable for sharing; there were and they weren't.

 

David Harrison

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In the 'Parish Evensong' debate.

 

Our Parish Mass was a real mixture - of old and new - in English and in Latin - using polyphony and plainsong as well as settings by composers working today but always trying to make sure we remembered what Vatican II was about! We tried really hard to make sure that the congregation felt part of it and not just spectators at a musical event!

 

But we used to sing Vespers, once a month, on a Sunday evening. It was,essentially, a choral service followed by Benediction. There would be an introit, sung opening sentences and a hymn. The choir would sing the Psalms antiphonally between men unaccompanied and women accompanied by organ followed by a choral Magnificat from the 'Anglican' tradition! Into Benediction with an alternating choral and hymn tune 'O Salutaris' and 'Tantum Ergo', followed by a hymn, either choral or congregational, to Our Lady. Usually there were 35/40 in choir and the congregation sometimes made double figures - in a Parish with a Mass attendance of 3000!

 

The Parish Priest thought it was important, and that numbers were unimportant, and so did we! Sometimes in the quiet of the Abbey I would look at the reredos at the High Altar, carved by a German brother who couldn't speak English, and think of those generations who had worshiped God in that place.

 

........................ and then we got a new Parish Priest!

 

I'll leave you to work out what happened - but it didn't take him long!

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"...by drawing all the tremulants on a general piston without any notes being played..."

Here endeth the pipes-vs-digital debate.

Maybe not possible on most digital organs, but definitely *would* be possible with another well-known system. :D

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I really regret the loss of the "Psalms of the Day" in so any places: either the portion is curtailed, or alternative lectionaries are introduced.

There seems to be a feeling that the clergy and/or congregation can't be doing with all this psalmody - it puts people off coming to evensong.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that some people come to evensong *because* of it!

 

I could be wrong, but I thought that one important reason for discontinuing the daily psalms was that, with the demise of Matins everywhere, the ancient tradition of the continual reading (or singing) the complete psalter once a month had been well and truly rogered and the time had come for a radical rethink. To which I can only answer, "So what?" Isn't Matins said even privately in cathedrals any more? Have we totally lost the concept of Opus Dei?

 

One would like to think that the reason were as logical and as carefully thought-through as that.

It might indeed make some sense if it were true. But I'm sure it isn't.

And I fear that in some places the answer to Vox's last question is, unfortunately, Yes.

One (probably unintended) consequence of the new order is that choristers lose the familiarity.

Even though the allotted portion(s) of psalmody may be shorter every day, they have to learn (or re-learn) them anew almost every day - thereby using up *more* valuable rehearsal time than if the PotD were used regularly.

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Some foundations - St. John's College, Cambridge and Norwich Cathedral, for example, sing the evening psalms one month and the morning psalms the next, thus getting through the whole psalter in two months of Evensongs. I've thought about applying this to Sunday Evensongs here, but I haven't discussed it with the Dean or really thought it through yet. Matins is said every Sunday at 7:30am anyway, so at least the psalms are recited, even though it's a small congregation.

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Some foundations - St. John's College, Cambridge and Norwich Cathedral, for example, sing the evening psalms one month and the morning psalms the next, thus getting through the whole psalter in two months of Evensongs. I've thought about applying this to Sunday Evensongs here, but I haven't discussed it with the Dean or really thought it through yet. Matins is said every Sunday at 7:30am anyway, so at least the psalms are recited, even though it's a small congregation.

 

I think that used to be done at St Paul's many years ago. Don't know if it still is.

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... I enquired further of Lucasorg as to whether there were any other 'effects' and whether they were suitable for sharing; there were and they weren't. ...

 

 

 

Gah - this is a bit like a stripper finally discarding her last piece of clothing - only for you to realise that she is still sporting an entirely opaque body-stocking.

 

If you are unable to share further juicy stories regarding this (or any other) organist - please - don't allude to them.

 

 

Or at least offer the possibility of the entire active board membership drowning you in a deluge of PMs, by which means you COULD spill the goods....

 

...privately.

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