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Service Disasters


Graham Powell
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I played for a funeral yesterday at a small church in Surrey. On turning up, I was shown the 2 manual electronic substitute, and was informed that I would not be required to play the funeral party out, as a CD was to be provided by the family of the deceased. "Anything nice?" I enquired. "Oh yes", came the reply, "Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to say goodbye". Very apt..........

 

The service went without a flaw, and at the appropriate moment, the priest signalled to the verger (at the back of the church by now) to press the "play" button. I sat back and waited, and then realised (along with the congregation) that there was a serious problem with the CD or the player. It kept skipping forwards every few seconds, and the resulting maelstrom bore no resemblance to what was expected. But worse was to come - the verger didn't try to stop it, which would have at least given me the chance to play something else. It was toe-curlingly embarrassing to sit through.

 

And so it came to pass that the funeral party exited the church to a CD in meltdown. The close relatives were seen nudging each other in an effort to stifle laughter, and were heard to say that their dear departed mother/grandmother was "having the last laugh".

 

It would be interesting to hear of other similar disasters!

 

Graham

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I had to play a wedding mass some ten years ago, where a (woman) friend of the bride would sing Ave Maria - the Bach/Gounod one (sure ...). We sang it through before mass and it was ok (for an amateur singer), but so incredibly loud - like a high pressure soprano mirabilis ... ("Or should I sing a little more in your direction", nonono, it's ok ....)

 

Well, at the end of the mass the Ave Maria should be sung and I started the 'Bach' prelude waiting for the soprano to join. Which she did, but a third too low. Funny, I thought. In doubt whether to transpose or not - she didn't seem to notice (question is if could be heard at that volume) - so I didn't transpose.

Nor did she. I kept on playing the piece, which writtendown was in D-major, she kept singing in B-flat major - it's difficult not to laugh then, that jazzchord at the end ...

 

The priest asked me later "you know, I have no musical knowledge, but what kind of Ave Maria arrangement was that? I sounded somehow ................different............

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Guest Lee Blick

On Sunday, I lost my rag. I was playing Andriessen - Thema met Variates as the final voluntary. The organ I play, is very temperamental during the winter months. I lose two stops because the heating in the church is kept on too high and it tightens the slides and the most annoying thing is sometimes the stop tab action becomes unreliable, You try a press a tab down and won't stay down and it pops back up, or you press it down and it wont engage the stop. During the middle of the voluntary both the Trumpet on the swell kept doing it, and then the Great Octave started doing it. It got so bad I stopped in the middle of the piece and shouted at it (sorry) and slammed the rolltop shut. :)

 

Sorry this wasn't very amusing. :(

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Weddings usually seem to provide a higher than average disaster quotient. I’ve heard some very interesting variations on Widor 5. Personally I’ll admit my shortcomings –I can’t play it, I get cramp in my fingers after a couple of pages (if only I’d practised my scales and arpeggios more diligently).

 

Rings and veils seem equally disaster prone. One hapless bride managing to loose her veil in the wind along with two other hastily concocted replacements – I must have played for 45 minutes before she finally graced us with her presence. And of course, the old faithful of the rings disappearing down the heating gratings!

 

Disasters with personnel at wedding can also a source of great amusement. Incontinent pageboys and brides and bridesmaids having problems with there attire stick vividly in my mind.

 

I recall one blushing bride (oh boy was she blushing), that popped out of her dress, much to the delight of the choirboys. One of whom was heard to exclaim “ Cor!!! Look at those t***”. Sadly the mirrors just couldn’t pick up the spectacle, but I was reliably informed by several gentlemen of the choir that the incident has brightened up their afternoon considerably.

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This is an after dinner story told by a former assistant organist of a certain cathedral on the coast of Lancashire*. It relates to a wedding at which he conducted the choir whilst the Director of Music played the organ.

 

The bride had chosen to come in to "I was Glad". The organist swears to this day that he saw the light flashing, which is why he launched into the Parry. The choir dutifully stood up and sang it. But towards the end of the piece, my source thought it was a bit odd that he hadn't noticed the bride passing, and when he stopped conducting he looked up and down the building and no bride was to be seen. Meanwhile the organist had noticed the difficulty that had arisen. Unperturbed, the closing chord of the introit turned seamlessly into more improvisation. My informant sat the choir down again. In due course the bride did arrive, and processed in - to the second performance of her chosen piece to have taken place in that building within ten minutes!

 

 

* Pre 1974 boundaries

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This is an after dinner story told by a former assistant organist of a certain cathedral on the coast of Lancashire.......

 

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

 

 

This thread is going downhill rapidly, so here is my contribution to the saga of weddings, which should ensure that we reach the gutter with immediate effect!!

 

I sat dutifully at the organ during a wedding at a Methodist Church, and at which the incumbent minister was a slightly unfortunate and naive sort of man. To make matters worse, his whole demeanour was "churchy" in the extreme, to the extent that his voice not only tremulated like a whole flock of sheep, it even had a built in resonance.

 

Our man wades through the wedding ritual without a hitch....well not quite.....but you know what I mean.

 

Having declared that the couple were man and wife, he then asked everyone to sit-down, whereupon he launched into the following:-

 

"At this point in the proceedings, I would like to be the first to congratulate "M" and "C" upon becoming man and wife, and whilst I don't propose to preach a sermon, I think a few, brief words are in order for the happy-couple.

 

I always think of marriage like I think of a coal-fire. The spark ignites the fuel of love, and this quickly becomes an inferno, burning clear and bright for all to see.

In time, the flames grow less, until eventually, we are left with the mere glowing embers. It is at this point that decisive-action is necessary, and I'm sure that all of you here to-day, who know the trials and tribulations of married life, will agree with me, when I say, that as the flames of love grow dull, it requires a good poke to revive the flames!"

 

 

-------------------

 

I normally don't have any difficulty playing hymns, but after that, it was memory all the way.....I couldn't see for tears, as I sobbed with surpressed laughter.

 

MM

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Hi

 

Yes - weddings do seem to be prone to problems! I've had the presiding minister inadvertantly give me the signal that the bride had arrived 10 minutes before she was ready to come in (photographers) - that was in a small mission-hall type buidling, with the organ very exposed -elevated at centre front - Oh for a console lift to gracefully sink out of sight!

 

I've had the pedals cypher on low D and top C# when playing the Bach "Air on a G string" - 2 brides who have been 45 minutes late - and playing a heavy tracker action for over an hour was no joke - and most recently I played a wedding at a church that rarely uses it's pneumatic action organ. The tuner had been through and got most of it working - although the swell couldn't be played from its own manual - too many missing notes, so I had to couple it to Choir or Great, the Gt Trumpet was unusable - and part way through the opening hymn the texture suddenly got rather light and treble-heavy - the bass ocatves of BOTH great Diapasons (on off-note chests) had gone AWOL - leaving just a quiet Flute. (You could hear water bubbling in the action tubes!)

 

Other services can be just as entertaining - but at least I've not had a Pedal Posaune cypher - and refuse to clear until the reservoir had emptied - I was glad I wasn't playing the organ that day! I could go on - having been playing for over 40 years there's been plenty of opportunities for mishaps!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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My "favourite", if you can call it that, wedding cock up was the first service I played for at my last church, which had a toaster with a transpose switch.

 

There I am, playing the Charpentier tedeum (sigh), when the pedal department decides that it doesn't like D major. It's now going to play in E major. Up a tone. I kind of struggled through a little bit (I've never tried partial transposition before), but gave up with the feet entirely when it popped back down to Bflat...

 

At my own wedding, the vicar asked if Rosie would take me to be her wife, which was mildly amusing...

 

The first wedding I ever played at was in Wolverhampton, with the bride in a pink panther outfit, and all the male members of the wedding party dressed as StarWars stormtroopers....

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My 'disaster' happened when I had only been playing the organ for a few weeks and was about 14 years old. Up in the school chapel's organ loft to turn the pages for the organist, the clock marched towards 9.00 o'clock with no organist in sight. For me, it was like watching a car crash in slow motion as on the dot of 9.00 the school Rev'd stood up and announced the hymn. 600 boys looked expectantly up at the organ loft as I considered my options:

 

1) Hide under the organ stool;

2) Do a runner;

3) Draw the curtains aside and tell the assembled throng the organist was AWOL; or

4) Play the hymn myself.

 

Normally (4) would pose no problems as I love playing hymns, but on this morning, fate or the Rev'd had dealt me a bad hand and it was one of those hymns where the accompaniment is really quite difficult, especially if you are sight reading. However, (1) or (2) seemed a bit gutless and I didn't have the courage to do (3), so the hymn it was.

 

I'd managed to get to the end of the first line when there was an enormous crash (the organist entering the organ loft), the sound of doors being slammed (the organist making his way to the console allegro vivace) followed by a splurge of pedal notes and what sounded like a brief burst of Messiaen (the organist stepping on the pedals and trying to take over from me) and finally a loud thump (me being pushed off the organ stool).

 

What was most remarkable about this episode is how at the time everyone else in the Chapel remained oblivious to what was going on.

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I've also found that church personnel have the ability to enliven proceedings. At my last church in South London in the early 1980's, the vicar was preaching a short sermon despite suffering from a very heavy cold. With a flourish, he pulled what he thought was a handerchief from his pocket, only to find he was about to blow his nose on a pair of ladies knickers. I never found out how they got there :)

 

Graham

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I was booked to play for a wedding. The Vicar was slightly uncertain about the whole thing, as the couple had not been reliable in turning up for their preparation. The fees (which he had requested in advance) had not been paid. He was concerned they might just not turn up at all. Nevertheless, he and I agreed we would both turn up and see what happened.

The church was empty at the appointed time, but about 20 minutes later people started turning up, and after 30 minutes the bride and bridegroom arrived (together!), with the best man and ushers. It was evident that they had all been delayed by being in the pub rather than by traffic problems.

The Vicar had some serious discussions in the porch, the outcome of which was that he agreed to proceed, provided the fees were paid in cash. But they had no cash - it had all been spent in the pub.

He suggested they either had a whip round amongst the congregation, or went back to the pub and borrowed what was needed. He observed that the pub must have done very nicely from their party, and since all involved were "locals" they could surely arrange something.

They chose the return-to-pub option, which was ultimately (after about 45 minutes) successful.

This gave me the opportunity to play every piece of music in my music case, and extemporise extensively on Adeste Fidelis ("Why are we waiting"). But I only got the standard fee.

It was a shame that the organ concerned (now thankfully replaced with a transplanted Lewis) would have been streets ahead of all other candidates in the "worst organ in the world" competition.

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My 'disaster' happened when I had only been playing the organ for a few weeks and was about 14 years old. Up in the school chapel's organ loft to turn the pages for the organist, the clock marched towards 9.00 o'clock with no organist in sight. For me, it was like watching a car crash in slow motion as on the dot of 9.00 the school Rev'd stood up and announced the hymn.  600 boys looked expectantly up at the organ loft as I considered my options:

 

1) Hide under the organ stool;

2) Do a runner;

3) Draw the curtains aside and tell the assembled throng the organist was AWOL; or

4) Play the hymn myself.

 

Normally (4) would pose no problems as I love playing hymns, but on this morning, fate or the Rev'd had dealt me a bad hand and it was one of those hymns where the accompaniment is really quite difficult, especially if you are sight reading. However, (1) or (2) seemed a bit gutless and I didn't have the courage to do (3), so the hymn it was.

 

I'd managed to get to the end of the first line when there was an enormous crash (the organist entering the organ loft), the sound of doors being slammed (the organist making his way to the console allegro vivace) followed by a splurge of pedal notes and what sounded like a brief burst of Messiaen (the organist stepping on the pedals and trying to take over from me) and finally a loud thump (the organist without ceremony pushing me off the organ stool).

 

It's amazing what a bit of traffic can do to an organists schedule, but what was most remarkable about this episode is how at the time no one other than myself and the organist had any idea what was going on.  Afterwards, it became the talking point in the master's common room, where about 50% thought I was a bloody fool, while the other 50% thought I was terribly brave. Well, bravery never came into it, so that leaves.....

Very entertaining affair mate. However, if - as I believe - you are talking back to Clifton here, was the organist Gwillam Isaac? Sounds a bit like him to shove people around a bit because I seem to remember he could be a bit tempremental.

 

Dave

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My slight disaster happened when I was booked in to play Midnight Mass on December 24th 2003. This was at my local church and the organist at the time - who died in December 2005 - was absent and had gone on holiday. One of the choir members had been taught by the regular organist how to play the choir anthem so I mercifully didn't have to do that bit.

 

Anyway, about 11:50pm, when I was in mid-hymn and had just done verse 1, there was a power faliure which cut the organ's electricity supply for about 60 seconds. I first swore (without opening my mouth to any extent) and finished verse 2 (played silently: I knew what keys to press because Candlelight was in use for the service) just as the electricity came back on and allowed music for the rest of the service. What was interesting was that the congregation didn't seem to notice the lack of organ: they carried on singing.

 

Dave

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My slight disaster happened when I was booked in to play Midnight Mass on December 24th 2003. This was at my local church and the organist at the time - who died in December 2005 - was absent and had gone on holiday. One of the choir members had been taught by the regular organist how to play the choir anthem so I mercifully didn't have to do that bit.

 

Dave

 

Christmas before last, we got to 11.25 for an 11.30 start for "midnight" mass. No vicar. Church wardens flapping in the vestry, 400 people in the church....

 

Guess who took the service?

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Very entertaining affair mate. However, if - as I believe - you are talking back to Clifton here, was the organist Gwillam Isaac? Sounds a bit like him to shove people around a bit because I seem to remember he could be a bit tempremental.

 

Dave

No names, but no it wasn't who you suggested. I actually found him to be a true gent. It was, in fact, someone else acting totally out of character. Enough said.

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I played for a funeral yesterday at a small church in Surrey. On turning up, I was shown the 2 manual electronic substitute, and was informed that I would not be required to play the funeral party out, as a CD was to be provided by the family of the deceased. "Anything nice?" I enquired. "Oh yes", came the reply, "Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli singing "Time to say goodbye". Very apt..........

 

The service went without a flaw, and at the appropriate moment, the priest signalled to the verger (at the back of the church by now) to press the "play" button. I sat back and waited, and then realised (along with the congregation) that there was a serious problem with the CD or the player. It kept skipping forwards every few seconds, and the resulting maelstrom bore no resemblance to what was expected. But worse was to come - the verger didn't try to stop it, which would have at least given me the chance to play something else. It was toe-curlingly embarrassing to sit through.

 

And so it came to pass that the funeral party exited the church to a CD in meltdown. The close relatives were seen nudging each other in an effort to stifle laughter, and were heard to say that their dear departed mother/grandmother was "having the last laugh".

 

It would be interesting to hear of other similar disasters!

 

Graham

 

 

Well that's no surprise CD's not playing . Being a Crematorium Orgainst we get a lot of CDs. The ones to watch out for and in any case should not be accepted are the ones made as copies form the original which may not be compatible with the equipment being used. I have been known to come out to mourners off the Organ and tell them in a exasperated voice. SORRY YOUR CD DOES NOT WORK !

 

Other major disasters for me have been a ORGAN BLOWER NOT WORKING AT THE START OF A Wedding. And being handed a mini Casio Keyboard to play the Widor's Toccata on which I refuse to do. Not being able to get into the Organ Loft because some idiot had the locks changed and is on holiday so the alternative was to climb up a ladder and risk breaking my neck to be at those ivory keys. Weddings do have there funny side. I play for a Couple on what was the Hottest afternoon in the year. And just as the Priest was about to marry them the bride's dress top part comes off needless to say the congregation were in fits of hysterics I Resisted the temptation to look beyond my mirror in case I lost concentration.

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This last Sunday my ancient (and much abused) AMNS decided it was time to fall into into its component sheets of paper during the dismissal. It went something like this

 

"Peace be ...."

 

massive full frontal attack of Messiaen-esque chord as hymnbook falls on great keys with nearly full organ from final verse of last hymn

 

.... with you"

 

Organist (sotto voce) "Christ Almighty"

 

Vicar suitably amused, amongst laughs "well that was appropriate"

Congregation: "and ...

 

Entrance of pedal (with reeds) as part of hymnbook falls further

 

.....with you"

 

<Embarrased silence by organist picking bits of hymnbook from the pedal keys, even more mirth from Vicar (a saint, really) and congregation. Choir and clergy start to process out to silence>

 

<finally voluntary follows (leighton fanfare)>

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A few years ago I played for an Easter Vigil service, late Saturday evening.

The vicar was keen that the service should commence in complete darkness...till I pointed out that accompanying two psalms in darkness and from memory would be stretching things a little. He acquiesced and I was 'allowed' to switch my miserly 25w console lamp on at the appropriate time, on the strict understanding that I switch off between accompanied items - which I did, only to have the bulb blow for the second psalm...

 

which reminds me of an old chestnut...

 

Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb ?

 

 

 

A. 40. One to change the bulb and 39 to say that they preferred the old one as it was anyway.

 

H

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Some year's ago i played for a Nine lessons and carols service at my local church at the

the time and the lights were turned off and i finished my improvisation and gave the note for once in royal. the first verse went ok (just a treble singing on his own)

but I when i came in for the second verse no body in the choir was singing!

I kept going but then the choir mistress panic'd and started to sing from the start of

the verse ! I kept going and finished the verse and waited till the choir mistress finished then came in with verse three.

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Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb ?

A. 40.  One to change the bulb and 39 to say that they preferred the old one as it was anyway.

Nah, that's the Roman Catholics. This one's nearer:

 

Q. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb ?

A. Change? What do you mean, change?

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