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New Organ Recital Mailing List


Guest Geoff McMahon
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Guest Geoff McMahon

Morwenna Banks the creator of the excellent The Lady Organist website at www.theladyorganist.com is starting a new organ mailings service. It promises to be a splendid modern successor to my own efforts and deserves our full support to make it a resounding success. Please use the links below to subscribe or add your own event………Steve Dunk


Morwenna Banks writes…
I’ve been reading again the hundreds of both sorrowful and grateful messages that Steve Dunk received, when he decided to end his mail-outs about upcoming organ concerts and events – a wonderful service which he maintained for many years. He will be a hard act to follow, but I have offered to take it over, using an approved third party email provider to comply with modern anti-spam regulations. My motives are simple – we need more people attending organ concerts, to show the world what an amazing instrument we play – and what a splendid repertoire it has.
Please subscribe to the list! And it’s only going to be as good as its content – so send in details of your own events for inclusion. Let me have your comments and feedback as it gets going.
Subscribe to organ mailings here: http://www.theladyorganist.com/organ-mailings-subscribe/
Add your event here: http://www.theladyorganist.com/organ-mailings-add-your-event/

 

A few people have experienced problems with the sign-up form. If this
happens to you, email Morwenna direct on theladyorganist@gmail.com and she
will add you to the subscription list.

 

 

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Hello everyone - it's actually Morwenna BRETT - Steve got my name wrong on the original email, much to his chagrin! -well it's not the first time I've been confused with Morwenna Banks the actress.

 

Please let me know about your own recitals to include in the weekly mailings - which will start the week of 23rd June. There's going to be an appropriate form to download from the website by the end of this week, but feel free just to email the details to me, if form filling is not your bag. theladyorganist@gmail.com

 

Best wishes

 

Morwenna

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Organrecitals.com has of course been listed on my own website since I began it! - it's an iconic site as far as organists are concerned. Stephen Smith does an amazing job week after week, and it all works so well! - only when you have spent time developing your own site do you really understand the commitment that takes.

 

I do hope we complement each other. In marketing circles it's often said that people need to hear about something from several different sources before they actually decide to buy/visit/take part etc. So I see the new Organ Mailings, along with London Organ Concerts Guide, organrecitals.com, and other organ listings and websites, as reinforcing each other in building better audiences for organ concerts and recitals.

 

Ultimately what worries me is that we are still preaching to the converted. How many terrific recitals, given by excellent organists, have you been to, with only 3 people and a dog in the audience? I am still scratching my head about how the general public can be encouraged to see an organ concert as an exciting (or even just interesting) option.

 

Would love your comments

 

Morwenna

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Ultimately what worries me is that we are still preaching to the converted. How many terrific recitals, given by excellent organists, have you been to, with only 3 people and a dog in the audience?

 

I agree that this is a not uncommon situation in this country, yet I have been to organ recitals in Germany and Holland where the church has been full to bursting. Having sat down (luckily my wife and I arrived early enough to get a seat!) in Cologne Cathedral a few years ago, people were coming in with camping seats and the like and establishing themselves in the aisles - and it's not as if it's a small building.

 

What are they doing right, and what are we doing wrong? Just a national characteristic, I suppose.

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John Robinson asked (#6) "what are they doing right, and what are we doing wrong?" A fascinating question for which I have no answer, though (like many on this forum I imagine) I've pondered about it for longer than I can recall. Like John, I've been in Dutch churches (e.g. St Laurens, Alkmaar) where exactly the situation he described unfolded itself each time.

 

It probably isn't that our churches are locked most of the time, because so are many of theirs. In any case, even when open, the proportion of time that the organ can be heard informally if one happens to wander in is not large in either country. Nor is it that they make organists particularly welcome - one gets rebuffed after making a polite enquiry just as often on the continent as one does here. I once asked a verger in my best French who was shimmying around if I could just go up to the gallery to look at the console of a Cavaille-Coll organ in France (not, repeat not, play it) . "Non, non, c'est defendu" he replied, unnecessarily aggressively I thought. (Sorry not to have included the accents here but I can't easily find how to do it!).

 

Perhaps the answer is simple though. If you are brought up in a country where JSB lived, or where the great organs of his day were to be found, then maybe it's somehow etched into your consciousness. We just do not have that backgound here, after all we are supposed to be "The Land Without Music" aren't we? Even with those composers who have made it to the top of the British tree - the likes of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Delius, etc - we still seem to spend far too much time in my opinion navel-gazing and asking whether they were really "great" or not, rather than celebrating them for what they were and are.

 

This is indeed an unfortunate national trait, so maybe John hit the nail on the head when he concluded it is "just a national characteristic".

 

CEP

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Twice recently I have heard tales of local business, one a shop, one a dentist, who have been forced to cease playing classical music by customers threatening to take their business elsewhere if the owner persisted in playing it. THAT is the sort of attitude this country (and, one might add, it's priests) are up against - an attitude that regards classical music as a minority (or even elitist) interest of no importance.

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Twice recently I have heard tales of local business, one a shop, one a dentist, who have been forced to cease playing classical music by customers threatening to take their business elsewhere if the owner persisted in playing it. THAT is the sort of attitude this country (and, one might add, it's priests) are up against - an attitude that regards classical music as a minority (or even elitist) interest of no importance.

 

'Dumbing down'? :unsure:

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'Dumbing down'? :unsure:

 

That's one way of putting it. I can't claim really to understand what really is wrong, but I think the problem is now a deeply rooted one. It seems to me that, except possibly for the theatre, a distaste for traditional high art now pervades society. I am tempted to blame the rise of pop music and media entertainment starting in the '50s. Those older than me tell me that the rot actually started before the war, but I still can't help feeling that ready access to "easy listening" is the most fundamental problem. "It's what the people want" and our governments have done nothing serious to teach them any better. To most people today classical music is just a niche interest of no import - a peripheral irrelevance to the central culture of society. At least in my part of the world peripatetic teachers would likely agree that, in many cases, music exists in schools despite of, rather than because of, the head teachers, who, while generally being quite keen to tick the "music lessons" box, nevertheless show no commitment to the peripatetics or, sometimes, even to their own music staff, all of whom may get pushed around for the sake of "more important" subjects - sport is a common one. My wife's common anthem is, "They're not really interested in music at such-and-such School" and she is far from the only musician saying this. Primary schools seem particularly prone to this, but it is not only those. I would like to think that the problem is just a local one. I have mentioned before that I live undeniably in a quite rabidly philistine corner of the planet. The only classical music for which people down here will turn out in numbers is the Royal Marines Band - and then that's mainly for the uniforms. But I doubt we are alone. To get to the bottom of the problem one would probably need to start with some properly funded research into why people are not engaging with high art and what it would take to change this culture. But that's never going to happen because it would need to be backed by the government and they - all of them - are part of the same culture. Music isn't the economic earner that sport (or science, maths, languages, you name it really) is, you see. If a subject doesn't add significant value to the balance of payments politicians won't consider it worth encouraging.

 

The only hope I can see is that, one day in the dim, distant future, the young generation of the day will come to embrace classical music as being rebelliously "cool". It could happen, but I think pigs will evolve wings first.

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It is indeed horribly sad when people reject classical (for want of a better word) music because they think it's not for them - witness my hairdresser last week who threatened to down tools if they didn't change the classical (ish) muzak for something pop based.

 

However, can we take encouragement from the fact that the BBC Proms sold 109,000 tickets in the first 12 hours of booking, this year? And the Wigmore Hall sold 30,000 tickets in the first day of booking for their Autumn series, when it opened last week?

 

Choirs and choral singing are now trendy - anyone like to volunteer as the Gareth Malone of organ playing? :)

 

Morwenna

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Some things about schools:

 

  • When I was f/t in charge of the musical input to 30+ years of 11 to 18 year olds I had a rule in my department that there was no such thing as 'pop' or 'classical' music, just good and bad music. This was an easy way in for all of us.
  • The curriculum was 'music' based, not 'pop', world music or wholly classically based although at it's roots were the fundamentals of the so called classical tradition. Students were therefore exposed to the 'classics' but not all the time - after all the Western Classical tradition (however important it is) is not the only one.

 

In my opinion it is almost as irrelevant to have a totally 'classical' diet of music as it is to have a totally 'pop' etc. in a school situation. Furthermore much of the effectiveness of school music is down to the enthusiasm and drive of the teacher/practitioner in spite of the attitude and actions or cost cutting of managers. It takes much energy believe me! I have former students playing in major orchestras, working in music theater, busking in streets, playing in rock bands and even teaching music. I am proud of them all in that they achieved their individual potentials. On the walls of all my teaching spaces was the following - 'can't remember who wrote it:

 

'You are perfectly entitled to dislike any piece of music you wish as long as you do not speak for all of us - we speak for ourselves.'

 

Some things about organists:

 

  • Organists should be first and foremost musicians who happen to play the organ - the music comes first not histrionics etc.- Nathan Laube as opposed to Cameron Carpenter for example. The best of us play good music as well as we can and audiences appreciate this regardless of the mechanical and tonal curiosities of the instruments. We need to educate our audiences just as the students in school are educated and above all shed some of the eccentric 'backwater' image some of us appear to have. We also need to be a bit more broad minded and less entrenched in our views.
  • We church musicians also need to remember that there is more out there than just (some of) our narrow bands of experience and that indeed many youngsters have a broader and perhaps more balanced musical diet and appreciation than we do.
  • Gareth Malone may do fantastic things but many others have done and are doing just as well week in week out without the publicity and the TV exposure.

 

Phew!

 

A

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I think there is some truth in the observation that there are more people exposed to a broader repertoire of classical, or any type of, music than ever before in history. Summer festivals, for example, often sport sold-out recitals and stage performances. A nice setting definitely helps the experience. Subscription concerts and single recitals do not tell the whole story.

 

There are also more young people learning the art, and there are more dedicated teachers, than ever before. Many of the students appreciate the experience that music is a broad experience of interrelated arts, artists, references, and communicative settings, and they seem to enjoy this multi-faceted experience immensely.

 

Almost everyone who are not deprived of the most basic of cultural experience will, at some point in their development, find that good things take their time, and therefore will potentially be able to see what it means to make good music. There is a key phrase: "There is more to it than meets the eye." Any car mechanic or chef or software engineer or home-maker will readily be willing to say this about their professions. With music, and art in general, I believe it helps to make people see that there is indeed, and that entertainment is only one end of the story, and not even the most interesting one.

 

For organists that may mean: Keep an open loft as often as possible, do concert workshops, show how you make your decisions by showing alternatives in registration, articulation, tempo etc.

 

As an afterthought: Spending the last 17 months in the US, I was really frustrated to hear my little son's second grade teacher admit that she never went to a classical concert, and therefore saw no need for her class to go. That really got me thinking. It's not only the children that need exposure to art. The grown-ups often are just as needy! So why not invite the staff of the next-door school one day -- all of them, offering them free lunch-on-the-loft (and including a p.b.a.b. on the invitation)?

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Twice recently I have heard tales of local business, one a shop, one a dentist, who have been forced to cease playing classical music by customers threatening to take their business elsewhere if the owner persisted in playing it. THAT is the sort of attitude this country (and, one might add, it's priests) are up against - an attitude that regards classical music as a minority (or even elitist) interest of no importance.

 

Out of interest, does anyone know what would happen if a similar situation were to occur whilst an organist was practising (legitimately, in pursuit of the fulfillment of his or her duties) in a church which was open to visitors?

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Some things about schools:

 

  • When I was f/t in charge of the musical input to 30+ years of 11 to 18 year olds I had a rule in my department that there was no such thing as 'pop' or 'classical' music, just good and bad music. This was an easy way in for all of us.
  • The curriculum was 'music' based, not 'pop', world music or wholly classically based although at it's roots were the fundamentals of the so called classical tradition. Students were therefore exposed to the 'classics' but not all the time - after all the Western Classical tradition (however important it is) is not the only one.

 

In my opinion it is almost as irrelevant to have a totally 'classical' diet of music as it is to have a totally 'pop' etc. in a school situation. Furthermore much of the effectiveness of school music is down to the enthusiasm and drive of the teacher/practitioner in spite of the attitude and actions or cost cutting of managers. It takes much energy believe me! I have former students playing in major orchestras, working in music theater, busking in streets, playing in rock bands and even teaching music. I am proud of them all in that they achieved their individual potentials. On the walls of all my teaching spaces was the following - 'can't remember who wrote it:

 

'You are perfectly entitled to dislike any piece of music you wish as long as you do not speak for all of us - we speak for ourselves.'

 

Some things about organists:

 

  • Organists should be first and foremost musicians who happen to play the organ - the music comes first not histrionics etc.- Nathan Laube as opposed to Cameron Carpenter for example. The best of us play good music as well as we can and audiences appreciate this regardless of the mechanical and tonal curiosities of the instruments. We need to educate our audiences just as the students in school are educated and above all shed some of the eccentric 'backwater' image some of us appear to have. We also need to be a bit more broad minded and less entrenched in our views.
  • We church musicians also need to remember that there is more out there than just (some of) our narrow bands of experience and that indeed many youngsters have a broader and perhaps more balanced musical diet and appreciation than we do.
  • Gareth Malone may do fantastic things but many others have done and are doing just as well week in week out without the publicity and the TV exposure.

 

Phew!

 

A

 

 

Some good points, well-made, here, Alastair. (Speaking for myself....)

 

Which is why there are currently no organ CDs in my car. However, there is Nickelback, Dire Straits, Clapton, Dylan, Bryan Adams, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson.

 

I suppose that I should put some Brahms or Schumann in the car as well, sometime....

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Aren't we in danger of confusing the issue? This thread started by bemoaning the current state of what might be called 'organ-awareness' among the general population, but now it seems to have broadened to include all 'classical' music as though the two are the same. But they are not, as some posts above confirm - the Proms sells out rapidly every year, whereas organ concerts rarely do.

 

Nor is it a new problem, at least in my experience. I was at a selective grammar school in the 1950s and 60s when the art of educating youngsters as then practised was very different. Yet I cannot recall much difference between the low level of musical awareness both within that school and the population at large as it was then compared to that today. Looking at some of my school reports reminds me of (non-music) teachers who loftily dismissed my interest in the subject, and particularly the organ, as "ploughing a lonely furrow" or "he dances to a different drum". How's that for encouraging a child then?! The same applies to the generally low level of literacy in other areas such as science, the subject in which I later went on to earn a living. The level was just as low then as it is today for those outside the ranks of its practitioners. In both subjects one only has to look at Wikipedia to fully appreciate the true awfulness of the situation on a global scale. But none of this explains why people do not go to organ recitals in Britain, unless I have missed something.

 

So the question as posed by John Robinson (#6) remains unanswered - why is the organ in Britain relegated to such a small dark cultural corner, whereas it is not in some other countries?

 

CEP

 

PS For what it is worth, my love of 'classical' music began well before I went to school at the age of five because there was a large collection of mainly classical 78 rpm records in the house, which I was allowed to play to myself. To this day I know not whence they came, because neither of my parents was particularly musical. We also had a piano, and I still retain perfect pitch for just one or two notes such as tenor C - a strange phenomenon. Then I came across articles on the organ in 'The New Musical Educator' on our bookshelves, and gobbled these up as well. But all this must have been innate in my head for some reason. In my case it obviously has nothing to do with the ethos of the times nor with formal education. So maybe one has to be born with a liking for the organ, and maybe there are more such people beyond our shores than within them?

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So the question as posed by John Robinson (#6) remains unanswered - why is the organ in Britain relegated to such a small dark cultural corner, whereas it is not in some other countries?

 

CEP

It maybe depends on the mind set of the performer to enthuse prospective listeners through the music and through a regard that the organ and whatever is played is not some niche medium but something on a par with any other musical experience. There can be a tendency to play somewhat dull and obscure repertoire and then berate prospective audiences for not attending blaming them for a lack of appreciation of 'high art' music etc.

 

I was asked to play a number of organ items in a choral concert at one of my churches recently. The choir was one that Mr Malone would have been proud to have had a part in its genesis and the church was packed. I had to think long and hard as to what might work in this context and in the end they got some Bach/Vivaldi, some early French and a couple of more recent pieces by Craig Armstrong and Yann Tiersen with origins outside the organ repertoire but nevertheless effective sounding - I though at least. The audience seemed to like the music and many came chatted at the end and the choir are interested in future collaborations - all a pleasant surprise for me. I have to admit however that I decided not to go to a recent lunchtime organ concert near here that consisted of music by Tunder, Howells, Vierne and some 'lollipops' - the publicity wording not mine. I felt some guilt at this decision - even more so when it turned out that only ten people had attended!

 

A

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It maybe depends on the mind set of the performer to enthuse prospective listeners through the music and through a regard that the organ and whatever is played is not some niche medium but something on a par with any other musical experience. There can be a tendency to play somewhat dull and obscure repertoire and then berate prospective audiences for not attending blaming them for a lack of appreciation of 'high art' music etc.

 

Carlo Curley used to pack them in, didn't he? Would it be true to say that people went to hear him rather than his music? I know he made a point of playing readily accessible music - that was a fundamental part of the package - but were the composers listed on the advertising posters ever a factor in drawing in the crowds? I doubt it. It was Carlo and his phenomenal technique that people went to hear: enjoyable music was taken as a given. It was the whole "product" that was the attraction. Similarly, I suspect, with Cameron Carpenter. I have known organists who have followed this model and who will not play anything that isn't, if not a lollipop, at least a crown-pleaser, though they might allow one "serious" piece per programme. If you do this and compère the music as you go with charm and personality you will probably end up with a loyal local following - or even not so local if you get around. Anyone hoping to make a living out of giving recitals probably has to adopt this approach. I'm not knocking it, but why should this be the only option? Colin cites the Proms as evidence that support of classical music is keen and alive, but London is an almost uniquely vibrant cultural centre (Birmingham might rival it) and cannot be regarded as typical of the general state of the nation. Where I live the once regular visits from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra ceased long ago because of lack of support. Our university used to sponsor a lively annual series of chamber music concerts featuring leading ensembles. The diminishing audience for these has led to the series being scaled back to virtually nothing. The audience at the last one I went to was truly pathetic. Some years ago another university up the road actually closed its internationally respected music department in order to help fund another campus (one that, needless to say, doesn't feature music). I am afraid I will take a lot of convincing that classical music isn't slowly on the way out.

 

So turning yourself into a "package" featuring easy listening might be one way of promoting organ music. Perhaps we might call this the "Town Hall" approach, since it is basically what the old town hall organists used to do (but look what happened to them - 100 years ago ours used to pack them in with two recitals per week).

 

However, not every organist wants to dumb down his or her programmes to mass taste and I don't see anything wrong with that either. Would we want to restrict opera to Gilbert and Sullivan? Or piano recitals to Scott Joplin rags? There ought - in theory - to be room for organ recitals that are the equivalent of serious chamber music concerts, but there blatantly isn't and there is no hope of there being any so long as there is only the current, decreasing level of interest in classical music in the population at large.

 

I agree with Colin that there are supporters of classical music who are not engaging with organ music and I am all for finding a solution for that. However, I think we would do well to recognise that this is just tinkering at the edges of the more fundamental problem affecting our whole musical culture and that needs addressing as well. Realistically, I cannot see any way in which a concert of string quartets by Schubert and Brahms is ever going to attract as big an audience as Mantovani's Christmas favourites. Nor is a recital of serious organ repertoire ever going to attract the sort of audiences that Carlo did, but I would like to see some strategic effort being put in to foster and promote the sound cultural bedrock on which interest in such things could flourish. Classical music has a poor image. It needs better PR. And of course this is relevant to the classical pipe organ.

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