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Crematorium Organists


Guest Andrew Butler

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Guest Andrew Butler

Hello everyone. This is my first post, having done a lot of enjoyable browsing since joining a few weeks ago.

 

I saw the question of crematorium work mentioned in some topic or other, but I can't remember which, so I hope it's ok to start a new one.

 

There seem to be a number of permutations regarding the employment of crematorium organists.

 

I am regularly engaged at 2 crems: at one of them I am the "Thursday Organist" (there is 1 for each day + a "reserve"). I am told by the crem which services I am required for, and the funeral directors pay me direct on "the day". The fee is £ 25 per service, and use of the organ is currently running at about 19%. At the other, there is a list of organists from whom funeral directors are required to make bookings themselves as required. This means that jobs there are a bit "ad-hoc", although organists can basically charge what they like - I ask for my usual church fee of £60.

 

I would be interested to know what other systems of employment, and indeed fees, are in place "out there".

 

I shall look forward to reading your replies.

 

Andrew

 

Oh yes - I have more than my fair share of funny stories, which I shall share in due course, although I shall refrain from telling the best one, as no-one would believe it!

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Hello everyone. This is my first post, having done a lot of enjoyable browsing since joining a few weeks ago.

 

I saw the question of crematorium work mentioned in some topic or other, but I can't remember which, so I hope it's ok to start a new one.

 

There seem to be a number of permutations regarding the employment of crematorium organists.

 

I am regularly engaged at 2 crems: at one of them I am the "Thursday Organist" (there is 1 for each day + a "reserve").  I am told by the crem which services I am required for, and the funeral directors pay me direct on "the day".  The fee is £ 25 per service, and use of the organ is currently running at about 19%.  At the other, there is a list of organists from whom funeral directors are required to make bookings themselves as required. This means that jobs there are a bit "ad-hoc", although organists can basically charge what they like - I ask for my usual church fee of £60.

 

I would be interested to know what other systems of employment, and indeed fees, are in place "out there".

 

I shall look forward to reading your replies.

 

Andrew

 

Oh yes - I have more than my fair share of funny stories, which I shall share in due course, although I shall refrain from telling the best one, as no-one would believe it!

 

 

 

Lucky u ! I earned 9.69 per service for providing Organ and playing the Tapes CDS in Birmingham Crematoria. In additon to this we have to operate the button for closing and lowering the Coffin on the Catafalque. So try doing that 12 times or 14 times in a day and you will soon see how repetitive this work is. Ive been working in this role for 8 years now. And we don't have proper contracts either we work on a self employed basis we are paid for the number of services we actually play for. So therefore if theres only one serevice for the whole day which does happen in the quieter months then thats the fee. THere are 5 Organists for the Three Crematoria in Birmingham and we are all paid on this same basis. We cannot charge our own fees as the Council is paying us the rate which has been calculated from other Councils up and down the Country.

 

In some Crematoriums a Organist is not employed. In fact some Councils used tape music or a Computer system as used at West London Crematorium. Here the Attendant is expected to select all the Music requested including Hymns and then play them in the correct order for those Mourners attending the said Service. So u see the job itself is not that straight forward. Are hands are tied as the Council basically has this policy of best value and at the same time a high standard of service to the bereaved. It's disgusting when you consider that the 5 of us are professional Organist's and some of us have Degrees. We cannot ask for the ISM rate which is a lot more for more then 6 services. My advice to anyone thinking of doing this work. Think again theres no rich pickings to be gained you stand a better chance of getting your own fees if you do enough Church Funerals which I also have to do when I am not on rota to play at the Crem.

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Guest Lee Blick

I was a crematorium organist for three years working three days a week. I got a decent salary for it, but I had to do chapel attendance work including working the CD machine, cleaning the chapels and the toilets which I found demeaning. The upside of it meant when there were no services (which was often especially in the summer) I could just sit there and do organ practice.

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Guest Andrew Butler

O all right then!

 

It was to be conducted by an RC Deacon, who turned out to be very old and doddery. He got trhe time wrong and we started 10 mins late. He placed The Book Of The Gospels on the coffin, and a small wooden cross which was a family heirloom of the deceased, which he laid flat (you've probably sussed the rest!!)

 

As I am RC myself, he asked me to read the 1st reading - and then remembered that he had produced some printed Orders of Service, which he had left in the car, and he then went and got (talk amongst yourselves!). He returned eventually, and there were 4 A4 sheets stapled together -in the wrong order. After the reading we were due to sing Crimond - he said "anybody here good at starting hymns off?" I said - "I'm playing it on the organ". He said "ooh, what a good idea!"

 

The service proceded in fits and starts, with lots of consultation with me as to what he should do next. Oh, and in his Homily he told the family that he could offer them no hope as to when their nearest and dearest would be in heaven, because he was "lapsed". I don't know where he got it from, but he estimated 64,000 years in purgatory!

 

After the final hymn (Lord of all hopefulness.....!!!!!!!) he announced "I've got a nice surprise for you as X had loved sport.....Mr organist, could you put track 1 of this CD on at the end?" It was the "Match Of The Day" theme. Unfortunately, it later transpired that the deceased hated football, and he meant to say track 2, which was Test Match Special".

 

After everyone had left the chapel, and the attendant and I were shaking our heads about the proceedings, matey comes in and says "Didn't that go well!" Followed by "ooh, I'd better return the cross to the family"....... "Oooh, where's the coffin gone?" I legged it to the commital room, just as the door of the cremator was closing. "All right, mate?" says the operator, "you look worried......................... are you looking for this by any chance?" removing the cross from hos overall pocket!

 

Honest, it happened!

 

Another thing that riles me generally, is when the family provide CDs of things that would work perfectly well on the organ. :huh:

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Honest, it happened!

 

Amazing!  I don't doubt a word of it for a second - I'm an ex-cremmer myself.

 

Crem work is quite good fun. Here at Salisbury we have a lovely bright & airy chapel, extremely well-kept gardens, a brand new 2m Allen, & very nice staff who keep the spirits lifted. The fee is fixed at a daily rate of around £70, which applies whether there is one service or ten. Casual/self employed also of course get holiday and sick pay in lieu which takes it to around £85. There's no cleaning the toilets or anything like that in between, but I often like to sweep up the regular organists' biscuit crumbs from between the pedals. I once had a mouse run over my foot in a little church (he appeared from under the swell pedal) - don't want a repeat of that...

 

The Allen has quite an exciting Midi bolt-on which means you can create and voice your own stops. I recently made a Septieme mixture for the Swell. And then of course you can also change the temperament when playing Crimond in Gb...

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O all right then!

 

It was to be conducted by an RC Deacon, who turned out to be very old and doddery. He got trhe time wrong and we started 10 mins late. He placed The Book Of The Gospels on the coffin, and a small wooden cross which was a family heirloom of the deceased, which he laid flat (you've probably sussed the rest!!)

 

As I am RC myself, he asked me to read the 1st reading - and then remembered that he had produced some printed Orders of Service, which he had left in the car, and he then went and got (talk amongst yourselves!).  He returned eventually, and there were 4 A4 sheets stapled together -in the wrong order.  After the reading we were due to sing Crimond - he said "anybody here good at starting hymns off?"  I said - "I'm playing it on the organ".  He said "ooh, what a good idea!"

 

The service proceded in fits and starts, with lots of consultation with me as to what he should do next. Oh, and in his Homily he told the family that he could offer them no hope as to when their nearest and dearest would be in heaven, because he was "lapsed".  I don't know where he got it from, but he estimated 64,000 years in purgatory!

 

After the final hymn (Lord of all hopefulness.....!!!!!!!) he announced "I've got a nice surprise for you as X had loved sport.....Mr organist, could you put track 1 of this CD on at the end?"  It was the "Match Of The Day" theme.  Unfortunately, it later transpired that the deceased hated football, and he meant to say track 2, which was Test Match Special".

 

After everyone had left the chapel, and the attendant and I were shaking our heads about the proceedings, matey comes in and says "Didn't that go well!"  Followed by "ooh, I'd better return the cross to the family"....... "Oooh, where's the coffin gone?"  I legged it to the commital room, just as the door of the cremator was closing.  "All right, mate?" says the operator, "you look worried......................... are you looking for this by any chance?" removing the cross from hos overall pocket!

 

Honest, it happened!

 

Another thing that riles me generally, is when the family provide CDs of things that would work perfectly well on the organ. :huh:

 

 

I think you will find that it's the Council that allows tapes and Cds to be played during a service at the Crematorium. U are obliged to carry this out as part of the job. And you cannot refused either or you will find your name in the local papers and possibly dismissed. In my Job ive know the Funeral Director to come on the day and be handed CDs to be played in the service. What makes me laugh is not the job but just how disgusting mourners can be especially if there is a family rift I wont tell you what happen when I was organist of the day when two mistresses started a cat fight over there beloved. So yes it can have it's funny side !

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Guest Andrew Butler

I had hoped to keep this topic serious, but I can't resist the "funnies". Here are a couple:

 

I was standing by the console (floor level, back of chapel) while entry CD played. Place was packed, and thwere is some standing room by the console. The last person to arrive spotted the standing room, and made a bee-line for it - not in front of the console, but across the pedalboard! Yes, stops were set ready for 1st hymn.........!

 

Another time, The coffin had arrived on a horse-drawn hearse. It was standing room only, and the chapel doors were open. A little girl of about 4 was standing with her parents by the organ, looking out at the horses. Immediately after the commital, the silence was broken by "The horsey's just done a poo!" Uproar!!

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I'd like to be able to say it was "Hark, what a sound" but I think it was actually Jerusalem arr Hakim!

 

 

Thats nothing. this one wil make u laugh . I have had a few nasty familes in. On this particular occasion there were two familes that didn't get on and were sneering and hissing at each other all the way during the service. Well I am just about to play Jerusalem when one of the next of kin gets ups and shouts ! Maureen your nothing but a f.... what not ! well all hell broke lose and I had to take for cover as they start fighting hymn books thrown about . It was like something out of East enders ! You couldnt help but laugh at these pathetic people who had no respect for where they were.

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Thats nothing. this one wil make u laugh . I have had a few nasty familes in. On this particular occasion there were two familes that didn't get on and were sneering and hissing at each other all the way during the service.  Well I am just about to play Jerusalem when one of the next of kin gets ups and shouts ! Maureen your nothing but a f.... what not ! well all hell broke lose and I had to take for cover as they start fighting hymn books thrown about .  It was like something out of East enders !  You couldnt help but laugh at these pathetic people who had no respect for where they were.

 

 

There was once a new Crem that had a great state of the art effect built in. As the coffin sunk out of sight there was a very realistic dispaly of flames to look as if the coffin was being lowered into the Crem furnace.

 

Shortly after this system was introduced and a coffin decended in the mock flames, an eldery lady stood up and cried out, "There you are I told you the old B----- would burn in Hell". I don't think it has been used since.

 

Frank Fowler

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  • 2 months later...
Guest Andrew Butler
============================

 

I think Frank, you should tell the story of the tremulant and the funeral.

 

MM

 

We're still waiting...............!

 

Incidentally, yesterday at the Crem I had a new experience - I was asked to play in and out, and they insisted on attempting to sing Abide with me to a choral CD!

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We're still waiting...............!

 

Incidentally, yesterday at the Crem I had a new experience - I was asked to play in and out, and they insisted on attempting to sing Abide with me to a choral CD!

 

Here goes,

 

I used to tune the organ (full day visits) of St James the Greater, Leicester - a very fine organ in a very resonant building. At 10 a.m., while hard at work the Vicar came in and announced that at 11 there was a funeral and please accept his apologies for forgetting to tell me earlier.

 

It was a bit of a rush to get the organ back into a playing situation in 30 minutes and there were still some outstanding faults that had to wait until later, including the fact that the Swell Tremulant knocked if drawn.

 

A very doddery old `guest' organist turned up to play and I told him under no circumstance must he use the Swell Tremulant. He did not during his playing, but during the prayers he pulled out the stop out of curiosity. It gave four knocks that echoed round the church and he then pushed it back in. He obviously wanted to make sure that it was faulty and after a little pause, when he had considered the matter, pulled it out for another three knocks. He pushed it back in and did not try it again.

 

Regretably he was totally oblivious to the consternation he was causing among the family, to say nothing of the undertaker. Fortunately the then Vicar, The Rev Lawrence Jackson, who some you you might have known, realised where the knocks were coming from and did not panic but many of the congregation were decidedly disturbed.

 

FF

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Here goes,

 

I used to tune the organ (full day visits) of St James the Greater, Leicester - a very fine organ in a very resonant building. At 10 a.m., while hard at work the Vicar came in and announced that at 11 there was a funeral and please accept his apologies for forgetting to tell me earlier.

 

It was a bit of a rush to get the organ back into a playing situation in 30 minutes and there were still some outstanding faults that had to wait until later, including the fact that the Swell Tremulant knocked if drawn.

 

A very doddery old `guest' organist turned up to play and I told him under no circumstance must he use the Swell Tremulant. He did not during his playing, but during the prayers he pulled out the stop out of curiosity. It gave four knocks that echoed round the church and he then pushed it back in. He obviously wanted to make sure that it was faulty and after a little pause, when he had considered the matter, pulled it out for another three knocks. He pushed it back in and did not try it again.

 

Regretably he was totally oblivious to the consternation he was causing among the family, to say nothing of the undertaker. Fortunately the then Vicar, The Rev Lawrence Jackson, who some you you might have known, realised where the knocks were coming from and did not panic but many of the congregation were decidedly disturbed.

 

FF

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  • 2 weeks later...

Further update on the Allen midi unit at Salisbury Crem. Further investigations have proved it also to be able to create very realistic thunderclaps, seashores, helicopters, gunshots, birds tweeting and phones ringing, amongst much else. Didn't need the latter as the funeral director's phone went off mid-way through a service being taken by himself. Not the sort of chap to require a microphone, so was able to dip the volume and minimise embarrassment. Advice is not to read back issues of organists' review though - I stumbled across some of those funnies that Kevin Bowyer did a few years ago - isn't it amazing how things always seem ten times funnier when you can't laugh?

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  • 2 years later...
Guest Echo Gamba
Further update on the Allen midi unit at Salisbury Crem. Further investigations have proved it also to be able to create very realistic thunderclaps, seashores, helicopters, gunshots, birds tweeting......

 

I recently discovered that the toaster at church has this capability and have already used the tweeting birds in Ps 104 v.12! (A few people noticed!)

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I recently discovered that the toaster at church has this capability and have already used the tweeting birds in Ps 104 v.12! (A few people noticed!)

 

What I may have failed to confess is that this was the last time I played at the crem. I had the midi sound effects set up for after the family had gone, for the amusement of the funeral directors. To my unending shame, I failed to switch the midi off and the coffin was gently lowered into the ground with assorted sound effects helping it on its way. Far from my finest hour.

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Guest Echo Gamba
Not really, it has to be said, though I did find my way into the voicing controls and make the reeds and mixtures a good deal more useable.

 

Are we at cross-purposes here? I took it that the question about pipe-organ sounds was a wry comment directed at my church toaster rather than the Salisbury Crem MIDI.... If the former, the answer is "yes"!

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Very amusing tales!

 

I'd be interested to know if anyone here has ever played at Beckenham Crematorium - when I attended a funeral there about ten years ago there was a pipe organ in situ, but when I recently returned to play for a funeral last year, it had been removed and replaced by a toaster. I was never able to find any details of the organ or its eventual fate.

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