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Who did you study with...re-visited

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That's the point I have been making since post #6, but I suspect that Headcase never meant any of it to be taken too seriously.

 

Haha! I've been rumbled. Well done, Vox, you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT but it's been fun observing the subsequent posts!

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Haha! I've been rumbled. Well done, Vox, you are ABSOLUTELY CORRECT but it's been fun observing the subsequent posts!

 

Damn - and there I was, about to confess that I had actually studied (albeit briefly) with Ethel Merman and klaus Wunderlich....

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Why does Malcolm Kemp come out so strongly against local organist associations? I can only speak of one of which I have personal experience. Admittedly the number of young members over the last decade or two has been very low. When we have had young members,they have been encouraged to play when on organ crawls and at least one has been generously subsidised in attending an Oundle course. To the best of my knowledge,no member has attempted to influence their organ playing;indeed, if any member attempted to act thus,they would be told to desist by other members. Such young members as we have had have generally got on well with their studies. Some have become professional musicians. Have any forum members any contrary evidence to present?

It would be interesting to know!

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Malcolm - you're generalisation about youngsters & organists' associations is far from applying to all!

 

The Bradford Association goes out of its way to encourage youngsters - free introductory lessons, an annual junior members recital - and certainly when I was President, I made sure any who joined us for our annual trip not only got to play, but that they got to play early on at each venue.

 

A few years ago we had a couple of youngsters get interested - within a year,both had passed grade 5 with Distinction - one went on to become the youngest cathedral organ scholar in the UK. Most of our other Juniors are still playing the organ.

 

It needs a bit of work, but it can be done.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The Bristol & District Organists Association is very inclusive and encouraging in its activities for student members etc. as well as having a full, varied and lively programme of events for all.

 

A

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I agree with the value which can be got from local OAs. Having been a member of countless ones during my peregrinations through life, I have always found them to be useful and interesting at a number of levels. It is also heartening to find so many professional musicians, often including local cathedral organists, who give of their time to support and encourage us lesser mortals. Often they will take a turn as President. And at the very least, it's good fun! What can be better than a sunny day out visiting organs in the company of like-minded folk?

 

CEP

 

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I find it difficult to imagine anything less enjoyable or more boring and pointless than going on an organ crawl, especially with people who do enjoy such things. My local association doesn't do anything else. Fun? I'd rather watch paint dry!

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But Stanford taught Howells composition, not organ. Howells's organ teachers were Herbert Brewer (at Gloucester Cathedral) and Walter Parratt (at the RCM). I'm not sure Howells had any organ pupils.

 

I think an erstwhile contributor to this forum, "Cynic," received organ tuition from Howells.

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I think an erstwhile contributor to this forum, "Cynic," received organ tuition from Howells.

 

No, I'm sure Cynic had Howells for composition. Howells never taught the organ at the RCM. Cynic's website mentions tuition from Nicholas Danby and Richard Popplewell and I think one or both of those was his organ tutor - I have a feeling he specifically mentioned Popplewell on this forum at some point.

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A few years ago we had a couple of youngsters get interested - one went on to become the youngest cathedral organ scholar in the UK.

Might one ask how old he was?

One of ours went straight to the Organ Scholar position on retiring as a Chorister at age 12 (and remained in that position until after A-Levels).

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That's the one Malcolm. It was a couple of years ago when he became organ scholar - not previously having been in the Cathedral Choir AFAIK. Even quite early on he was taking a turn in the regular recital series, as well as service playing etc.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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It's really nice to hear of a young person being able to pursue an interest in the instrument, and for the resources being made available to enable lessons to happen. If an organ association doesn't encourage their participation, then it must indeed be a very strange one.

 

For the older aspirant, although courses are available through the RSCM etc, they do rather stretch the budget and take up several days. I appreciate they can only occur in a place where there is a tutor (or tutors) available but in all the years I have been trying to raise my game, I haven't managed to justify the outlay required for an intensive short course. Had I been a lot younger, there would have been bursaries galore. I did take advantage of one through the RSCM where they paid about half the cost of a limited number of lessons and this was most useful.

 

It is important to catch people when they are ready to learn, whatever their age, as long as they are serious about it.

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Guest Organconvert

Absolutely...........and aim as high as you possibly can - even "older aspirants" - don't set yourself limitations!!

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One potential problem with youngsters (and their tutor) not belonging to their local organists' association is that they may never get to play an organ other than the one on which they have lessons. I know a teacher who does belong to his association, but seemingly only for networking purposes insofar as the association will routinely channel expressions of interest in lessons his way. He takes no active part in it and his pupils never attend meetings except on the rare occasions when the association asks his pupils to play for them. (Agreement to this is quite rightly dependent on the tutor considering them fit to appear.) Since the tutor never takes them to see other instruments they have little or no experience of the variety of organs available. Playing only one organ week in, week out, does not seem to me the best way to fire a real enthusiasm for the instrument or of confronting the problems individual organs may present.

 

One question: how do child protection issues impact on OAs taking teenage pupils on organ field trips?

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One potential problem with youngsters (and their tutor) not belonging to their local organists' association is that they may never get to play an organ other than the one on which they have lessons. I know a teacher who does belong to his association, but seemingly only for networking purposes insofar as the association will routinely channel expressions of interest in lessons his way. He takes no active part in it and his pupils never attend meetings except on the rare occasions when the association asks his pupils to play for them. (Agreement to this is quite rightly dependent on the tutor considering them fit to appear.) Since the tutor never takes them to see other instruments they have little or no experience of the variety of organs available. Playing only one organ week in, week out, does not seem to me the best way to fire a real enthusiasm for the instrument or of confronting the problems individual organs may present.

 

 

This is so true.

 

When I was first learning the organ, from the age of 11, my teacher arranged for me to play virtually every instrument in the immediate area. This had several benefits ranging from the sheer fun of playing instruments with many different sound pallettes, the ability to play more music requiring different sound pallettes, through to the occasional request (when I was considered good enough) to play for a service when another organist was away. The highlight was a couple of hours on a cathedral organ with the then organist who was kind enough to take me through the whole instrument culminating in his suggestion that I should play my prepared piece, Karg-Elert's "Nun Danket", about which he magically knew and for which he said, "You play the notes and I'll do the rest", meaning the registration, ending in a wonderful wall of sound tutti complete with 32' reed. I have never forgotten that experience. I doubt that I would have done even what little I have had I had to stick exclusively with the rather dull village octopod upon which my regular lessons and practice took place. It's a pity that my innate lack of talent prevented much progression but the opportunities that I was given nurtured my life-long love of the organ.

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Although not wanting to trigger a repetition of the weird polemic which followed my support for OAs yesterday, I can confirm the remarks just posted (# 42 and 43). My experiences have been almost identical to the letter.

 

As to the rich variety of organs, I once went on a crawl (oh dear, that c-word again) in Berkshire which took in a number of small to medium sized instruments in village churches and ended at St George's chapel, Windsor. Such outings are typical. The exposure to a wide range of pipe instruments is all the more important today in view of the number of organ teachers who teach solely on an electronic organ in their home. Some of these do not even have proper physical stop controls, relying instead on touch screens. And some also have those ghastly plastic moulded keyboards as well ...

 

As to "you play the notes and I'll do the rest", exactly that, complete down to the same sentence, once accompanied my rendition of a movement from Elgar's Sonata in G at Salisbury cathedral during which the organist drew the stops! At the end he murmured "very good". What a thrill for it would be for a youngster to get that sort of experience and encouragement today.

 

It's difficult to identify another route whereby youngsters, and anyone else for that matter whether they be amateur or professional, are enabled to sample the delights of the organ world at such minimal cost. And all they have to do is turn up and get on the coach - all the logistics will have been taken care of.

 

And as to the following delicate question:

 

 

 

One question: how do child protection issues impact on OAs taking teenage pupils on organ field trips?

 

 

Firstly I would thank the questioner for having the courage to raise it in the current somewhat febrile climate. Secondly I speak as a parent and grandparent. Thirdly, I don't know the legalistic or 'correct' answer, but surely the issue would go away if a parent or relative accompanied them, would it not? And fourthly, is it any different in kind to what happens at a choir practice these days, a situation in which the problem has been solved as far as I am aware?

 

CEP

 

 

 

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I joined the Bristol Association as a student and, later, the Ulster Association. I learned a lot, met some good company and made many friends.

 

It's not all organ-crawling. I remember some splendid talks, among them some from organ builders such as Dennis Thurlow and Kenneth Jones. The Ulster Association's Belfast Organ Day introduced a number of young people (and others) to the organ, facilitated open console sessions throughout the city and finished with a celebrity concert at the Ulster Hall. The event has been repeated on a regular basis and has done a good deal to bring the organ to a wider public.

 

I can't see that anything but good can come of organ-crawling. We have to come to terms with the fact that no organ is the same as any other organ (Malcolm will probably know, in his neck of the woods, the HN&B organs at Hambledon and Waterlooville - identical on paper but so different in effect). I am so grateful that, as a young teenager, I got to know so many different styles of instrument and how they should (and shouldn't) be played. At that time (seventies), we young folk were beginning to question the accepted wisdom that North German was the thing and anything between Bach and Messiaen wasn't worth playing. Exposure to all sorts and conditions of instruments and players helped me tremendously.

 

I get rather impatient sometimes with patronising comments that organists are more interested in the instrument than in the music played on it. While there may be a number of anoraks around with hobby-horses that seem to blind them to anything else (aliquot mutations, any tuning but equal temperament, shallot design, stop-key shapes,action types, etc), an interest in the instrument is not necessarily an impediment to musical interpretation of its repertoire - rather the reverse. On the other hand, I have come across those who, while being technically gifted, have lived their lives in such rarified atmospheres that a change of period, action or console leaves them gasping. Strange how they then blame the instrument....

 

Another thing - organ-crawling brings one into contact with some fabulous history. I was born in England's most historic town (Colchester was a city when London was a few huts in a swamp, where did we go wrong???!) and within easy driving distance of the finest collection of medieval parish churches in the world. An inspiration in its own way. (Change-ringing is a good way of getting round, too, but tends to involve more beer).

 

I owe an enormous debt, too, to The Organ Club. I joined when I was thirteen, and was able to play a vast range of different instruments which would not otherwise have come my way. There were, among others, organs which seemed to point the way to a modern type of instrument, historically informed but not clinical imitations - St. John's Islington and St. Giles, Cripplegate spring to mind from those days. The older members were always very encouraging and it was instructive to me to hear and see others. I went to Paris with the Organ Club in the days when Cavaille-Coll was not too fashionable and local organs were being rebuilt in the style of Cliquot. I came back, having had a crash course in how to play Couperin, Grigny, Nivers, etc. At that time, few people seemed to have any idea about notes inegales, registration or the actual sound these composers had in mind (an FRCO, for example, who didn't know how to register a Cornet). I also heard Langlais at St. Clothilde, Fleury at St. Eustache, Grunenwald at St. Sulpice, etc, and the instruments at the Madeleine, Rouen, Chartres, etc. But the indelible memory was the sound of the instruments at Houdan, Andely, St. Gervais, etc, playing the repertoire appropriate to them. I was in South Germany with the Organ Club, too. Some of the modern instruments felt a bit suspect (the then new Walcker at Ulm, for example), and in retrospect I think I know why, but I also remember seeing tears in the eyes of hardened campaigners at the sound of Weingarten (let no one imagine that this is a stunt organ).

 

I would encourage all student organists to join their local association and to take advantage of every opportunity it offers. They should also investigate the Organ Club's new initiative to encourage young organists.

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I have never met David Drinkell, something which I am coming to regret because in the few months I've been a member of this forum I don't think I've ever come across anyone who has such an encyclopaedic personal knowledge of organs. And he invariably posts in such a readable and pleasant manner, regardless of whether he agrees with one or not. And a connoisseur of whiskies to boot. What a pity we've lost him to the colonies ...

 

Above, he said:

 


... the HN&B organs at Hambledon and Waterlooville - identical on paper but so different in effect ...

 

That is very true, and confirmed by John Norman himself who I think worked personally on both instruments. He said of the Waterlooville one "It was requested that this organ should be 'just like Hambledon', seven miles up the road. The stop-list is the same but the church acoustics, west gallery position and shallow layout makes this the more successful organ" ('The Organs of Britain', John Norman, David & Charles, 1984. ISBN 0 7153 8313 2. A highly recommended book if you don't have it).

 

But don't all rush to Hambledon just yet - the village is permanently closed to traffic while the disastrous flooding problems of last winter are being sorted out. However the delightful Bat and Ball pub on the top of the hill above is still accessible, opposite the cricket ground at Broadhalfpenny Down which is known worldwide as The Cradle of Cricket. Which brings me back to colonials again - it's always full of Aussies. There can't, of course, be any connection, can there?

 

Reverting to organs, you could try the Waterlooville one, though you've just missed their annual and excellent summer music festival held in June.

 

CEP

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I find it difficult to imagine anything less enjoyable or more boring and pointless than going on an organ crawl, especially with people who do enjoy such things. My local association doesn't do anything else. Fun? I'd rather watch paint dry!

I tend to agree with this. In my experience the organists that support the local association days are those that would never otherwise get to play away from home, ie. the less capable. I'm not sure that's the best experience for a promising student.

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I find it difficult to imagine anything less enjoyable or more boring and pointless than going on an organ crawl, especially with people who do enjoy such things. My local association doesn't do anything else. Fun? I'd rather watch paint dry!

 

I am with Malcolm on this one.

 

Around here, apparently (so a colleague informs me), organ crawls almost always consist of the same people playing the same (generally loud) pieces (generally quite badly).

 

I think that I should almost prefer to be stuck in a lift with a dead horse.

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Around here, apparently (so a colleague informs me), organ crawls almost always consist of the same people playing the same (generally loud) pieces (generally quite badly).

 

I have to admit that the Hele Huggers are largely the same. When I was a member I had to endure The Prince of Denmark's Tuba Voluntary more times than I could possibly recall. Yet if youngsters have any ability they will shine against such players and be greatly encouraged by that. Conversely, they may actually be intimidated by those who demonstrate that they can play to a high standard, rather than be inspired by them.

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Speaking for my own experience as a young player (some time ago!), I was certainly inspired by the good players. I probably learned a thing or two from the bad ones too (e.g. when playing a Binns organ, make sure you know which octave couplers are on. They are often controlled by a line of draw-stops above the top manual, and some duffers would have them all out at an early stage and forget about them). Any intelligent student will spot the difference between a decent performance of something modest and a hopeless gallop through something beyond the player's ability.

 

Over-use of the loud stuff can be tiresome, but I tend to be indulgent. Not everyone has trumpets also and shawms and it's only human to enjoy making a racket when the opportunity arises. It helps if there's not a whole lot of other folk in the church upon their lawful occasions, though.

 

Gordon Reynolds (of blessed memory): " Whatever you've done with the job now you've got it, you were once the boy whose toes curled up in their shoes when the Full Swell came shining through the diapasons."

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