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pcnd5584

Sermon Occupations For Organists

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Whilst I have no wish to provoke anyone, I was wondering what colleagues do during sermons.

 

It is entirely possible that Rev. Newnham may suggest that one should listen. Believe me, I have tried, but since I normally have to endure three every Sunday, there really is a limit to what I can stand.

 

Many of ours really are not that good. By this I mean that there could be a number of perceived faults:

 

* Too many points

* Drifting from the subject

* Dry, uninteresting delivery

* Self-indulgent waffle (replete with funny stories, in order to 'compensate' for sitting still for twenty minutes).

* Too scholarly

* Too excitable

* Too long

* Using the same sermon three times on the same day (Oh yes he did!)

etc, etc.

 

I find that the worst time is during Choral Evensong. I am sorry, but by 19h10 on a Sunday evening, having already played the best part of three fully-choral services, two rehearsals and possibly practised the odd voluntary or two, I am just not interested in concentrating on some person mumbling away from the pulpt.

 

Anyway, I often use the time to do some marking or other school preparation. I also occasionally do some work for my Russian lessons. Often, though, I just sit and read a book.

 

I do not doubt that there are some amongst us who listen carefully, learn and feel the better for the instruction. Ths is, of course, a good thing.

 

Unfortunately, I am not that good!

 

Any further suggestions?

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My apologies.

 

Perhaps someone could alert the moderator to the triple posting of this topic - I know that it happened during the editing process, but I have no idea exactly how I managed to post it three times.

 

Thank you.

:)

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Guest Lee Blick

When I had an organ in an organ loft I would read the Independent on Sunday.

 

I have never had to endure a sermon in a choral evensong, thankfully.

 

If a sermon is going on too long:

 

I have at times accidently dropped my hymn book on the console

 

Played the very top notes on the Swell Piccolo 2ft very quietly to simulate hearing aid noises

 

I did once drift off to sleep only to be woken by the churchwarden telling me I was snoring - that was vey embarrasing, but she did give me a very knowing look.

 

Fortunately, in my current parish the sermons are engaging and worth listening to, but I do take your point pcnd5584, sometimes the quality is not very high and one would often rather be thinking about other things.

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No - I think that most of the clergy know what my colleagues and I think about long or boring sermons - so I think that I am safe.

 

Anyway, they do not know who I am, here....

 

Bad luck, Vox Humana!

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I like your thoughts, Lee.

 

I have not tried the 'simulating a hearing-aid trick'.... hmmmm.

:)

 

Geoffrey Morgan did once play a chord (accidentally) on the Swell 8p flute at Guildford, during a sermon.

 

He did not intend it to sound. He was bored, and decided to get ready for the next (unaccompanied) piece, by preparing a soft stop on which to give the choir a chord. He had drawn the Swell Unison Off and the Flute. Unfortunately, R&D had recently upgraded the action and it subsequently worked differently. The Swell Unison Off only worked if either the Octave or Sub Octave was drawn as well....

 

He said that afterwards he could not even begin to explain to the clergy why there had been a chord during the sermon.

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Whilst I have no wish to provoke anyone, I was wondering what colleagues do during sermons.

 

 

Any further suggestions?

 

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

 

 

Well I don't want to steal the show, but..............

 

I swear that what I write is absolutely true, it really happened and I was.....the culprit.

 

Story A

 

First of all, when I was about 16, I played a rather grim old organ in a local church; the blower of which was situated in the rafters of the chancel alongside the organ. It made some very interesting sounds when switched on.....very interesting indeed!

 

The usual trick was to wait for the words, "In the name of the Father etc." as the vicar came to the end of the sermon and crossed himself before announcing the next hymn.

 

We didn't get on very well.....he was old, I was a young anarchist....you get the drift.

 

So on the words, "In the name of the Father etc" I would press the "on" button; the blower bursting into life and making a sound which was indistinguishable from the sound of a flushing toilet.

 

I never tired of it.

 

Story B

 

Some years later, and heavily involved in motor-sport, I would take part in overnight rallies driving a variety of very quick machines. (You think the Durufle Tocata is exciting!)

 

On one particular rally I had problems. First of all I lost all the lights, went off the road at frightening speed and rolled upside down fairly gently. This had certain knock on effects once the car was back on its' wheels, and I suffered two punctures, electrical problems and a water-leak from a hairline-crack in the radiator.

 

When I eventually got back, it was 10.26am and Eucharist started at 10.30pm. The choir looked surprised when I dashed in, red-eyed, wearing bright-blue overalls, making a grab for my music and throwing a surplice over the top of the oily-garment!

 

I managed to stagger through the service until the sermon arrived, at which point, I switched off the organ, rested my head in my hands and fell soundly asleep. For some odd reason, the final closing words of the sermon always acted like an alarm-clock, and this particular morning was no exception.

 

"In the name of the Father...." I was wide awake and bushy-tailed, blower on, stops out and playing over "Three in one and one in three."

 

A voice boomed out, "Shut up, I haven't finished yet!"

 

It turned out that the sermon was about the Trinity.............. :)

 

 

MM

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I was also once assistant to a chap who used to smoke during the sermon - in the church; in the North Choir Aisle, near the console, to be precise.

 

If he was not smoking there, he and I used to sit in the Lady Chapel, with the monitor speaker just high enough to hear when the mumbling ceased, and discuss whatever topic came to mind.

 

At my present church, it is the custom (except on Christmas Day and Easter Day) for the choir to leave before the sermon. One organist would then go back in to finish-off (as it were) the rest of the service. This works fairly strictly on a rota basis.

 

There have been two occasions when it did not.

 

Once, years ago; my previous D of M and his assistant were both deep in conversation after letting the choir out. They continued in conversation to the car park and carried on for some minutes, when one of them said, "Shouldn't one of us be in church on the organ bench?!". I cannot remember if he made it back in time.

 

I was once caught out at Evensong. We had both gone out with the choir, since there was something I wished to discuss with my boss. Unfortunately, the Rector decided to preach for about three to four minutes only. As I returned, the whole place was silent and one of the choirmen was making frantic gesticulations and mouthing the words "He's finished - THE HYMN - QUICK!"

 

Obviously the only option was to walk carefully to the centre of the stalls, bow reverently to the High Altar and then proceed to the organ console where, for some unknown reason, I bowed again; then I got on and played the hymn over - with no stops drawn....

 

After a brief panic (I was tired), I realised that the organ was on, but that I had not drawn any stops, so realising this, I quickly pressed a general piston (forgetting that I had previously re-set it for some other item) - and played the quiet evening hymn over on tutti reeds and cornets.

 

At that point, anyone else in church who had been asleep, also woke up....

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

 

A voice boomed out, "Shut up, I haven't finished yet!"

 

 

To bring the tone down to the gutter, I remember an evensong lesson at Ripon, where part way through the Canon leant forward over the lectern, (big brass Eagle thing in the middle of the choir), looked sternly at a certain boy (who shall remain nameless!) and said, rather loudly - "Will you PLEASE stop masturbating during the lesson, young man!".

 

My usual sermon habits are to read, but with the new church and organ loft, I haven't yet managed to work out where to position the mirrors such that I can still see down the church, but so that the congregation can't see me reading.

 

There's an old cabinet in the corner of the organ loft, that's had its doors smashed off. I think I might replace this with an armchair, and possibly a percolator - the smell of fresh coffee might wake some of the old dears up!

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My usual sermon habits are to read, but with the new church and organ loft, I haven't yet managed to work out where to position the mirrors such that I can still see down the church, but so that the congregation can't see me reading.

 

Both Salisbury Cathedral and Sherborne Abbey have cameras, controllable from beside the organ console. When occasionally playing at either building, I find it entertaining to move the cameras around the congregation during the sermon, in order to see if there was any 'hot totty' as it were, in the throng*. Just occasionally, one would be rewarded with the sight of some flaxen-haired beauty, looking as if she had just come from a TV advertisement set, promoting fantastic hair or skin products.

 

More usually, though, there was just a collection of old people looking as if they had just come from a badger-baiting session.

 

The coffee machine is a good idea; though if I get any more services like I had last week (when Mass finished at the time Matins was supposed to start), I think that sleeping-bags and cocoa would be more appropriate....

 

 

 

 

*Or, ideally: in a thong....

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I am reminded of a story told about George Guest in one of the tributes to him written after his death.

 

He used to go up to the organ loft after the anthem and say to the organ scholar "You play them out - I have to get ready for Hall." He would then unrobe and slip across to the Baron of Beef for a couple of pints.

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Guest Barry Oakley
I am reminded of a story told about George Guest in one of the tributes to him written after his death.

 

He used to go up to the organ loft after the anthem and say to the organ scholar "You play them out - I have to get ready for Hall."  He would then unrobe and slip across to the Baron of Beef for a couple of pints.

 

This was not unknown at Holy Trinity, Hull, over 50 years ago when the organist would sometimes quietly come down from the console (it was more conveniently sited then) and slip out of the north door into the Bonny Boat for a swift half.

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At the church where I play now the preaching is excellent and I listen.

 

As a chorister (some 45 years ago) I must also have heard many excellent sermons, but the content was, shall we say, a bit "over our heads". The answer, for those who could see the preacher, was to play cricket.

 

Before the service one agreed with one's neighbour who would be which team, and who would bat first. From the start of the sermon, both players would observe the gestures of the preacher very closely, and interpret each one as one of the standard signals given by cricket umpires to the scorer. e.g. Arms outstreched horizontally - a wide - one run;. both arms raised towards heaven - six runs; hand moving to and fro horizontally - four runs; a hand with a finger pointing forward and waved up and down (admonishing the transgressors) - batsman out. After the service you compared (mental) notes to see if you finished up with the same score. One particular preacher, when talking about nuclear disarmament, would regularly generate a score of both teams all out for no runs - but his sermons were understandable to 11 year olds, so one could listen instead.

 

I don't think its possible to play cricket nowadays. Reliable sound reinforcement systems have done away with that more physical declamatory style of preaching.

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At the church where I play now the preaching is excellent and I listen...

 

Then you are most fortunate, sir!

 

...Reliable sound reinforcement systems have done away with that more physical declamatory style of preaching.

 

Oh no they have not!

 

We have at least two who are known for a variety of wild gestures, semi-hysterical laughter and shouting suddenly....

 

To be fair though, our comparatively new sound system is somewhat under-whelming; but even so....

 

:D

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It has to be said that the sermon at yesterday's Mass, given by one of our Curates, was excellent. Quite apart from the fact that it lasted for approximately eight and-a-half minutes, it was clear, concise and relevant.

 

The evening was even better, though.... no sermon! :P

 

Seriously, we had a Sequence and Procession for Candlemass - the choir were on top form and, in addition to some plainsong and hymns, gave excellent renditions of There is a Flower (Rutter), Hail, Gladdening Light (Wood) and Bring us, O Lord (Harris). The later piece is quite wonderful and, as the last notes died away (quite quickly, in our church!) there was an incredible atmosphere.

 

Although not particularly well-attended, those who did turn up were most appreciative. It is nice when things go to plan!

 

This was surely one of those occasions when music spoke more eloquently than words.

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Oh for organ loft in which to hide! Sadly my console is in full view of the congregation, it’s located half way down the church on the liturgical south side.

 

I have popped out for a breath of air once or twice. On one occasion discovering the preachers wife had slipped out for a smoke!

 

My father has often told the story of the cathedral organist who liked to slip out for a pint, apparently this was such a regular occurrence that the pint would be waiting for him on the bar! This arrangement worked perfectly until the minister was taken ill – and a member of the choir was despatched to recover the organist. No names, no locations, other than to say the 1960’s and a south of England location.

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Oh for organ loft in which to hide! Sadly my console is in full view of the congregation, it’s located half way down the church on the liturgical south side.

 

I am fortunate - I can exit the church with very few people realising - especially at Matins and Evensong!

 

I have popped out for a breath of air once or twice. On one occasion discovering the preachers wife had slipped out for a smoke!

 

 

Mmmm.... so who was more embarrassed?!

 

My father has often told the story of the cathedral organist who liked to slip out for a pint, apparently this was such a regular occurrence that the pint would be waiting for him on the bar! This arrangement worked perfectly until the minister was taken ill – and a member of the choir was despatched to recover the organist. No names, no locations, other than to say the 1960’s and a south of England location.

 

OK - that leaves Exeter: probably unlikely - it does not sound like the sort of thing that Lionel Dakers would have done - and the organ loft is too visible. Salisbury: possible - the door to the organ loft is in the South Choir Aisle - but the nearest pub is a brisk walk away. That leaves Winchester (assuming that Rochester is 'South East, not 'South') - the pub is close and the organ loft door is in the South Transept. Providing that the gentleman in question could crawl along the floor of the organ loft, once he had reached the stairs, it was easy!

 

OK, I will settle for Winchester.

 

Surely not Mr. Reginald Alwyn Surplice?

 

....Or was it his assistant - since he may well have been in the Quire conducting....?

:P

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My father has often told the story of the cathedral organist who liked to slip out for a pint, apparently this was such a regular occurrence that the pint would be waiting for him on the bar! This arrangement worked perfectly until the minister was taken ill – and a member of the choir was despatched to recover the organist. No names, no locations, other than to say the 1960’s and a south of England location.

 

My last place had the organ in full view, right smack in the middle of the choir stalls, but I still crept out. I also had a well trained chorister who I could despatch to the local tea rooms to order me a bacon sandwich (before the service), so I could get out at the start of the sermon, get a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie, then be back in time for the end of the intercessions. Particularly handy the morning after a few pints!

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At my last but one church I used to slip out for a smoke on the vestry step, but the vicar eventually put a stop to that. I'm not convinced he needed to do it in the middle of the service though! But you could say I got my just deserts!

 

At my last church (20 years ago now) the problem simply didn't exist. No priest, no sermons! We only had a weekly choral evensong so it was simple for one of the choir to do the honours. And this in a church that had hefty income from city centre rents and really only the music to spend it on. Eat your hearts out, folks!

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St Mary the Virgin (University Church), Oxford - easy to slide down the stairs, grab a coffee from the refectory and sit outside in the sunny churchyard. Very nice.

 

A cathedral also in the south of England has a marvellous development - alongside the organ tuning book, there's a choir tuning book - full of comments like "Precentor tenor G tuning please" and "Dec altos, revoicing, urgent please".

 

A fairly large parish church nearby has a sort of voluntary book where the resident and various visitors have whiled away the sermons drawing little cartoons and making trenchant observations about life in general. Most amusing...

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While inventoring huge piles of music sheets from about 1870

to 1950 in a Brussels organ loft, I found just that: cartoons,

apparently drawn by childs.

The kind of which would provoke a fast reaction from

the police today, not to mention the tabloïds!

 

Pierre

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