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Mander Organs
sbarber49

Llandaff Cathedral

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Of course- occasionally. But, most of the time ?

 

Do we really wish to 'retrogress' one thousand years ?

 

A solution could be to start 'investigating' the hundreds of Mag&Nuncs composed in the Renaissance. The trebles could sing the top line/s, with the organ replacing the lower voices. This is musicologically acceptable and would maintain high musical standards- for both performers and listeners.

 

In fact, it would be a vast expansion of the repertoire usually heard in the Anglican cathedrals.

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There is a book, published by the RSCM edited by David Halls called 'Open thou our lips' which contains a large selection of upper voice only settings of music for evensong. Certainly the situation is certainly different to when I investigated unison settings about five years ago, where Bairstow in Eb, Dyson in c, Wood in Ab, Stanford in D and the Howells services was about the only music of any real quality.

 

Whilst it is a travesty what has happened at Llandaff, with it does come opportunity. Perhaps other composers could be convinced to write settings for upper voices, to support the music at Llandaff?

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If one uses a search engine, variously to include ‘Llandaff’, ‘Richard Moorhouse’, ‘Christopher Gower’ (a bit of a surprise) and ‘Jonathan Bielby’, links appear, which may catalogue a very sad tale of woes, musical and otherwise and which I do not have the will to pursue too far.

 

I am unable to get my (Christian) head around all of this.

 

The long-term future, stability and quality of the music provision at what should be Wales’ premier (as in primus inter pares) cathedral seem far from secure. One description of a major service made this lamentable comparison: “the quality of the singing was school assembly standard.”

 

For parents with prospective choristers, this would hardly be their first choice of establishment. I suspect many have already come to this conclusion and that the choral prospects at the Cathedral for the next generation will be seriously impaired- failing to act as an adequate complement to the splendid organ.

 

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For parents with prospective choristers, this would hardly be their first choice of establishment. I suspect many have already come to this conclusion and that the choral prospects at the Cathedral for the next generation will be seriously impaired- failing to act as an adequate complement to the splendid organ.

 

It never ceases to amaze me that the clergy. who are forever banging on about the need to attract young people into church, so clearly fail to appreciate what all of us organists must realise only too well, viz. that there is no more reliable and effective way of attracting youngsters - and keeping a reasonable number them into adulthood - than by giving them the opportunity to sing high-quality church music in a high-quality choir. Yet somehow they imagine that this is going to happen when the only music on offer is an impoverished and debased experience. I despair. The future of traditional church music lies on the concert platform.

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If one uses a search engine, variously to include ‘Llandaff’, ‘Richard Moorhouse’, ‘Christopher Gower’ (a bit of a surprise) and ‘Jonathan Bielby’, links appear, which may catalogue a very sad tale of woes, musical and otherwise and which I do not have the will to pursue too far.

 

I am unable to get my (Christian) head around all of this.

 

 

 

I think that reading 'blogs' such as firstrees refers to is, often, very dangerous. I read some of it and, like firstrees, I am unable to 'get my (Christian) head around all of this' either.

 

I know, from my own personal experience, that the internet is full of 'blogs' concerning supposed failings in the church. There are pages and pages concerning the church where I used to worship. Most of it is, at best, ill-informed and based on hear-say or gossip, at worst it is malicious. I suspect the 'blogs' I have read concerning Llandaff are in a similar vein.

 

Clearly though there are problems at Llandaff. One hopes that they will be sorted, soon, in a true Christian spirit!

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What on earth has happened at Llandaff? Has Richard Moorhouse resigned? Why? Are they appointing a new DOM? Why the Acting DOM thing?
Perplexed,

C-VV

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That may be very true, but I don't and don't really know what on earth you are talking about!
:unsure: What on earth has gone on at Llandaff in simple terms?

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They ran short of money and decided to reduce the music dept from a 'full' cathedral set up to Weekends only plus children during the week. In the process they made six lay clerks and the Assistant DoM redundant (at Xmas 2013) This term, for reasons that have not been disclosed, Richard Moorhouse, the DoM, is no longer currently listed on the music web pages and an acting DoM (Jonathan Biely) appears to be in charge.

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Thanks mgp, that much I knew from various news items over the past year. But has Richard Moorhouse resigned? Why is there an interim Director of Music?
Still confused.

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Dr Michael Smith who was Cathedral organist at Llandaff for 26 years has just (2014) published his memoirs of his time there. 'At Cross Purposes, A Cathedral Organist's Memoirs' is an interesting read which helped me put into perspective some of the more recent happenings at Llandaff.

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Dr Michael Smith who was Cathedral organist at Llandaff for 26 years has just (2014) published his memoirs of his time there. 'At Cross Purposes, A Cathedral Organist's Memoirs' is an interesting read which helped me put into perspective some of the more recent happenings at Llandaff.

 

I have just got around to reading this book. The most suitably ambiguous adjective I can find for it is "stunning".

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I just finished reading it too Vox..........stunned was I too, and also amazed how he managed to stay in post for all those years, given the negativity and apparent lack of interest shown not just to him, but also to the choral services which took place in the Cathedral during his tenure.

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'Not read mine yet - nobody post too many giveaways please...!

 

A

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To my mind, Michael Smith's experiences during his career are simultaneously compelling yet mundane. To spend a working life spanning several decades in any profession, not just music, means that one will come across much the same spectrum of joy, sorrow, reassurance from kind colleagues but anxiety induced by others. At the same time one has to juggle it all with trying to create a decent life for one's family. These are the mundane aspects, because everyone in any workplace is in much the same boat. The compelling one is that few write it all down and make it public.

 

Thus the difference between Michael and me is that he went into print. Well done, and good for him - I genuinely mean that. I fear that my book, were I to write it, would be so boring it would not attract a single purchaser.

CEP

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Re the book - 'tried to get into it but eventually gave up. I would have probably have given up and moved somewhere more 'in sympathy' in the circumstances too!

 

A

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Re the book - 'tried to get into it but eventually gave up. I would have probably have given up and moved somewhere more 'in sympathy' in the circumstances too!

 

A

 

I have read about three-quarters of the book (which appears to be self-published). I shall finish it, but I only got it yesterday.

 

The first thing which occurs to me is that he may not have done himself any favours by writing it. The second is that, whilst there appear to have been regular instances of either mis-management or non-management by various persons associated with the cathedral, the author is also bluntly candid in his opinions of almost everyone else in the book - occasionally to the point of extreme discourtesy, if not actual rudeness*. On the other hand he does, at many points in the text assure the reader of the high quality of his own organ playing (and, at one instance, his very high Intelligence Quotient). In one such illustration, Dr. Smith informs us that he is the most well-qualified cathedral organist in the country† and so he put himself forward to be considered for a number of recitals in prestigious venues. There is nothing actually wrong with this - clearly he needed to supplement his rather low salary; however, it comes across as self-aggrandisement. Later, we are reminded that he is one of only about four cathedral organists who holds the ADCM . For the record, I note that he failed to include either Roy Massey (then in charge of the music at Hereford Cathedral) or Dr. Arthur Wills (at that time, Organist and Master of the Choristers at Ely cathedral). In any case, there are a few former cathedral assistant organists who also hold this diploma - one such is Paul Morgan (not long retired from Exeter Cathedral, who I believe sat the examination at the same time as Roy Massey). Another is Ian Hare (late of Cartmel Priory, now of Crosthwaite Church, Keswick), who is similarly qualified.

 

It further occurred to me to wonder if he had approached those professional colleagues whom he listed as appearing on various short-lists for prestigious posts (but who failed to gain those positions) if they minded this information being disseminated in book form. I should have thought that the publishing of confidential short-lists at any point was rather bad form - particularly in view of his comments regarding other interviewees and their reasons for applying for various jobs. (My colleague made the same point this morning, during the sermon.)

 

There does seem to be rather a number of instances where Dr. Smith candidly lets us know how good an organist (and choir trainer) he is. There are also many occasions where, in his dealings with the cathedral clergy and other officers, he perhaps comes across as intransigent and somewhat arrogant. Clearly I have not worked at Llandaff, but I also note the comparatively large number of jobs in other cathedrals (and some educational institutions) for which he failed even to be short-listed. I am aware that we are informed that his references were 'excellent' or 'very strong' - but I do wonder whether in fact Dr. Smith had also acquired a less-flattering reputation than the one he attempted to portray in the book.

 

Certainly the recent developments at Llandaff Cathedral do not inspire confidence; however, it appears that the incumbent clergy (particularly successive deans) have for decades regarded Llandaff primarily as a parish church, with themselves as the parish priest. I wonder if the situation is in reality rather more complicated than the notion of 'musically un-appreciative' clergy dispensing with an expensive item of annual running costs [the choir]. In any case, in a small, easy to miss reference, Dr. Smith does hint that after the opening of the M4, Llandaff became something of a backwater, having previously received around twelve thousand visitors annually.

 

One further point - in this current climate, I think that he was rather unwise to include the paragraph in which he expressed a desire to see young African girls in a state of undress, with them clothed in nothing but coloured beads.Charity leads me to ascribe a certain naïveté to his narrative at this point.

 

Whilst it is true to say that Dr. Smith and his family did appear to have several quite genuine grievances (such as the failure of the cathedral authorities either to remunerate him satisfactorily as the years progressed, or their extreme reluctance to carry out essential maintenance on his accommodation). there are also several occasions where the author comes across to me as perhaps a less attractive personality than might have been perceived.

 

 

 

† 'Aware that my qualifications as an organist were higher than those of anyone else in the country'. p.63; At Cross Purposes; Michael Smith. Self-published (through Amazon); 2014. (In any case, I doubt that he was correct; take just one example: Paul Morgan, MA (Oxon), BMus (Lond.), FRCO(CHM), ADCM, ARCM, LRAM, who was at that time the Sub Organist of Exeter Cathedral.)

 

* Perhaps the most obvious instance is his assessment of the organ playing of his one-time assistant, Anthony Burns-Cox, which I thought was unnecessarily discourteous. He goes on to suggest that that Mr. Burns-Cox lasted barely any longer in his subsequent appointment at Romsey Abbey than he had at Llandaff. For the record, I note that Mr. Burns-Cox held the post at Romsey from 1980-90.

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I have been reading Alan Mould's marvellous book "The English Chorister. A History" (2007) and found some interesting information regarding the fate of the Llandaff choir in past centuries. In 1691 "funds became so short that in desperation the dean and chapter....disbanded the entire choral foundation, including their statutory four choristers" (p.140). "No steps were taken throughout the Georgian period to resume choral services" (p.150). Only in 1880 was there a "recovery of a full choral establishment with a choir school opened in Llandaff" (p.193).

 

Plus ça change.

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“During the 19th century, when the Bishop of Llandaff began, for the first time for centuries, to reside in Llandaff” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llandaff_Cathedral) might give one clue to how some clerics viewed the Cathedral’s perceived importance and to its prior and subsequent neglect.

 

Another can be seen in the engraving of the ruinous state of the edifice, dating from ‘before 1734’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llandaff_Cathedral#mediaviewer/File:Llandaff_Cathedral_Nave.jpg

 

(There was an 18th century ‘Italian Temple’ which, perhaps fortunately, does not survive.)

 

Another is that the List of Organists shows none before 1861. Can this be true ?

 

Finally, and from a nationalistic point of view, I can’t see why this place should feature in a book on English music.

 

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... the List of Organists shows none before 1861. Can this be true ?

 

Watkins Shaw, The Succession of Organists of the Chapel Royal and the Cathedrals of England and Wales from c.1538 (Oxford, 1991) cites a few records before this date:

 

On 30 June 1608 a minute was passed giving "Rese the organist" a stipend of £7 per annum as organist, but the chapter did not consent to this act.

 

On 3 Sep 1629 George Carr was admitted "to be their organist in the said cathedral Church as probationer for one year and afterwards for so long a time as the said Bishop and Chapter shall think fit." There is no further mention of an organist before the Chapter Acts break off in 1645.

 

On 9 July 1672 it was ordered that "Mr Wrench the organist shall have four pounds quarterly." He was still present a year later.

 

Accounts for 1682/3 and 1683/4 show payments of £12 p.a. to an organist, but no name is given.

 

Shaw mentions the standing down of the choir in 1691 and further states: "At the enthronement of Bishop Ollivant on 13 March 1850 'the national Schoolmaster ... gave out a Psalm, which was sung by about a dozen of his scholars, a bass viol being the only instrument then in possession of the cathedral', as the bishop himself recalled in his visitation charge of 1869. Under his leadership the Cathedral was restored, and in 1861 a newly built organ was opened."

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