Jump to content
Mander Organs
Sign in to follow this  
Denis O'Connor

Background noise at recitals

Recommended Posts

Recent mid-day organ recitals at Gloucester cathedral have been spoiled for many people by extraneous noises: noisy visitors to the cathedral(sometimes accompanied by a guide giving an audible commentary to his party as they progress around the building). Most recently, I attended a recital which was ruined by the arrival of a rigging crew who were setting up lighting for some filming that was to take place later in the day.All credit to the recitalists who carried on regardless.

One queries why the cathedral administrators allow such a state of affairs.I imagine that the Dean has received letters of complaint but nothing has been done. Do other churches suffer this phenomenon? Some board members may have firsthand knowledge of the Gloucester experience. It woud be interesting to hear members' opinions. I do feel great sympathy for the musicians on the cathedral staff. On the one hand they seek to make high class organ music available at these free recitals,whilst having to apologise to recitalists for this state of affairs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suspect I'm correct in saying that, to many people, organ music is at best simply background music (as you'd hear in supermarkets!) or at worst nothing more than noise!

 

I find that attitude particularly annoying as other genres of music seem to be more respected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At St. Paul's, they advise against playing too softly because of the ambient noise when there are visitors in. The Head Verger at Canterbury told me that at the height of the season they might have 10,000 visitors in the course of a day. When they got too noisy, he said, they would burn some incense and that quietened them down. Somewhat similar procedure to smoking bees....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For a long time now I've found the presence of an audience increasingly intrusive when trying to listen to music at any form of public concert, not just organ recitals. They fidget, eat sweets, emit gases, rustle their programmes, burrow into their handbags, clear their throats, cough, whisper or even talk, and of course their phones go off despite all the pre-concert announcements exhorting them to switch the darn things off. It's easily possible to hear them vibrate even when in 'silent' mode, and of course the owner just has to look at the screen when that happens. On one occasion someone next to me was singing along to Messiah at the RFH! An even less tolerant person than me who was sitting on the other side told her off during the interval. When at the Last Night at the RAH a few years back, someone near to me played a recorder (badly) during Land Of H&G. Although perhaps excusable on that occasion, it mightily annoyed some members of the audience nevertheless despite the general shenanigans. It's not unknown for a conductor to lay down the baton on the worst occasions, and Carlo Curley once stopped abruptly in the middle of a piece to berate someone who was eating crisps. They just gave him a certain kind of salute and carried on.

 

However ...

 

Although I might well be getting more bad tempered as I get older, I think the problem really is that I'm just getting increasingly spoilt by the ready availability of so much high quality recorded music nowadays which can be listened to in the quiet comfort of my home (with a dram or two in hand, David please note). It's not just CDs as there are so many other media sources in addition. So I feel I have to accept part of the blame for my intolerance.

 

And as for singing along to Messiah, isn't that exactly what used to happen in the 18th century when going to the theatre was mostly about being seen there and having a jolly good gossip under cover of the music?

 

CEP

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not unknown for a conductor to lay down the baton on the worst occasions, and Carlo Curley once stopped abruptly in the middle of a piece to berate someone who was eating crisps. They just gave him a certain kind of salute and carried on.

This kind of bad manners annoys me, and I am of the opinion that it is just one example of how manners have deteriorated generally over the decades.

 

Society is changing for a number of reasons. We can bemoan it, but I doubt we can do anything to change it unfortunately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I often go to lunchtime recitals at Coventry Cathedral where despite the large number of visitors the situation is handled well. The West door is manned for about 20 minutes before the recital starts and one is asked if one is there for the recital. If not you are requested to use the alternative entrance on the North side which gives access to the café and other delights. The area around the choir stalls and organ console is roped off well before the recital and only audience members are allowed into the stalls; although for the sake of a balanced sound I much prefer to sit in the nave.

 

Only on a very small number of occasions have I seen visitors walk down the side aisles during the music and then very quietly, some joining the audience until the end of the recital. I do appreciate though that other establishments do not have such a user-friendly layout as Coventry.

 

It's been a couple of years since I've been to Southwark and any tourists were soon forgotten when enjoying the splendid lunch on offer in the refectory...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem has been solved at the weekly Chester recitals. A charge is made and the many tourists are told about 25 minutes beforehand that the recital is to take place and if they're not wanting to come to it the nave will reopen at 2 o'clock. Vergers are placed at the door to take the tickets issued at the entrance desk. At 1.10 the door is shut and vergers are placed there to prevent anyone creeping in. The whole place is quiet for the whole of the recital, all sitting in the nave, also a tradition that applause is only at the end of the recital. Occasionally some visitors may not be aware of this but if they applaud after the first piece they realise that they're the only ones and the rest of the recital continues in silence. Any workmen have to suspend work for that hour, the only sound being the occasional ambulance or noisy vehicle outside. It has always made attending recitals a pleasure, and the numbers attending remains very acceptable in spite of the charge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It wasn't a recital as such, but a few years ago, I put on a sponsered 24 hour music marathon at my church to raise funds to send a parishioner's son to America for treatment. There was an audience of some sort all the time. One participant was an organist from nearby, who brought his daughters, who played various instruments, and he accompanied on the piano - with a fairly big, attentive audience. Their programme finished early and he announced "I've still got 1/4 of an hour, so I'll go upstairs and play the organ" Whereupon the entire audience started chatting and continued to do so while he played!! He's a fine player too!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think for many people it's as simple as whether they can see the performer. Without sight of the player, organ music is no more engaging to them than Muzak.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...