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Choir Man

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Did anyone else watch the BBC 4 programme on Wells Cathedral on Tuesday night? Sadly I didn't find the first programme in the series (Wakefield) very inspiring however Tuesday's offering was much better. Amongst other things were many long contemplative shots of the organ through the scissor arches before the camera was invited up to the console for a discussion with the organist. Later in the film there was some footage of the choir singing.

 

It's not often that organists get to speak in public so it was interesting to hear his views on music and worship. I don't know the organist and he doesn't seem to be one of the cathedral's current residents (according to the cathedral website). Also I don't know the piece the choir were singing, if anyone can shed some light on this I would be grateful.

 

I have fond memories of Wells, having sung there with a visiting choir on a number of occasions when I was still a treble. The programme is still available on BBC iPlayer until next Tuesday.

 

Best wishes.

 

 

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Did anyone else watch the BBC 4 programme on Wells Cathedral on Tuesday night? Sadly I didn't find the first programme in the series (Wakefield) very inspiring ...

 

 

Indeed - in fact, I found it to be quite depressing in several ways.

 

Regarding the Wells edition, I have not seen it yet. I might watch it tonight. However, apparently at one point an interviewee states that the cathedral staff were very friendly - which I found odd. I found the vergers (on the two occasions that I had to play for visiting choirs) to be the least friendly and helpful I have ever encountered.

 

The last time I played there was at short notice. No-one had tried to book me any practice - and if they had, they would have been thwarted, since there was an evening concert and the building was in use for another rehearsal for most of the afternoon. When I got there, I was met by the organist for the evening event who said rather brusquely: 'You can't have any channels, I've used the last spare one.' Okay, I thought, you have a concert to play for. However, this was not particularly helpful. At this point, the choir was filling the stalls, and the director was about to begin the rehearsal. I had time to try the Swell pistons, then simply had to get on with it, hoping that the resident assistant's settings were 1) in crescendo order and 2) conventional for a four-clavier Harrison with some upper-work grafted on. No, I realise that this was not the vergers' fault - but they were still both unhelpful and unconcerned. Since we were providing the cathedral and its visitors with a free Choral Evensong, with good quality music sung well, I found this attitude to be rather unfortunate.

 

On the previous occasion, I had more practice time - but apparently only if I played at an almost inaudible volume. At one point (within a few minutes of the start of the full practice), I simply had to get some idea of balance, at least on the Swell, so I tried a few chords; almost instantly a verger bounded up the stairs and said loudly 'I told you yo play QUIETLY!'. Since he and his colleague had apparently been throwing pews around the Nave all afternoon, creating a huge din, I found this to be objectionable,. However, since I was a visitor, I held my peace, and merely wished that the wheels of his car would simultaneously work loose at an inconvenient moment (when no-one else was on the road, naturally).

 

This was quite a contrast to the resident staff of Chester Cathedral this summer - who could not have been more welcoming and helpful if I had announced my intention to donate a six-figure sum to the cathedral's coffers. For the record, I still did all my practice quietly there - on the Swell Stopped Diapason with the box closed, coupled to everything apart from the Solo clavier.

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I was interested in the Wakefield programme because I have met the Dean a few times and we have many mutual friends. He is an enormously popular man wherever he goes - one Brighton congregation applauds whenever he enters their church - and with the support of his wife, who is a musician, he has encouraged the music at Wakefield to improve from the standard he found when he arrived there.

 

What impressed me particularly about the Wells programme - apart from Owain Park's very mature and eloquent reflections in the organ loft on music and worship - was a delightful lady lay reader who featured a lot in the programme. If only theological colleges taught their students to say sensible things in a sensible way like she does perhaps more people would go to church. I loved the way she explained that she rarely mentions God because the very concept of God can't be expressed in words. Wonderful lady. Owain Park has passed the FRCO in the past year; my understanding is that he was senior organ scholar at Wells but i'm open to correction on that.

 

In fairness, each programme so far has tried to make a very different point, and each point, to me, was made rather well. I think there's one more programme to go.

 

Malcolm

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Regarding the Wells edition, I have not seen it yet. I might watch it tonight. However, apparently at one point an interviewee states that the cathedral staff were very friendly - which I found odd. I found the vergers (on the two occasions that I had to play for visiting choirs) to be the least friendly and helpful I have ever encountered.

How unfortunate. Surely, if this is typical of the 'welcome' visiting choirs and organists receive, I can see Wells becoming a musical desert in time.

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