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Zimbelstern

What is an “International Concert Organist”?

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I notice that many organists these days are describing themselves as “International Concert Organists”. What exactly are the requirements for describing oneself in this way (apart from not being professionally attached to a particular church or other institution)? “Organist” I get, but “international”? Does this require simulaneous citizenship of several countries, or is it simply enough to have played once in a foreign country? As far as “concert” is concerned, I was under the impression that most organists give “recitals” most of the time, unlike pianists who often give piano recitals, but also sometimes take part in “concerts”. either as soloist with an orchestra or as an instrumentalist playing as part of a larger group of musicians. 

 

Is the organ world getting caught up in the mania to give oneself overblown titles, lacking any sort of agreed criteria? Even most conductors are described in concert details as “conductor”. I don’t recall ever seeing “International Concert Conductor”. If a first-rate organist is well-known in the rather close-knit organ world, surely their name followed by either their institution or city or country of work or residence is sufficient (e.g. J.S. Bach, Leipzig) - if they are not, surely “International Concert Organist” is unjustified.

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I think it's fair enough to use the term if someone does a lot of concert-playing in different parts of the world, whether he/she has a permanent position or not.  Peter Hurford was an example.

I have been so-described (I suppose it looks good on posters), but I would not describe myself as such.  It's true that, over the last forty years or so I may have got about a bit, but concertising has always been a side-line to my main occupation as a church or cathedral organist.  I might mention in concert programmes that I have played in various countries.

As an illustration of the difference between the two species, I mentioned on other threads that I had been in the UK recently.  Elspeth and I were sitting in the airport at Toronto waiting for a connection to Gatwick, when a voice said, "Hello, you two!"

It was David Briggs. Ten minutes chat with him defines the sort of schedule an International Concert Organist follows!

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For that matter, when does a festival become an international organ festival? In Leeds' case where they have an English style organ that was built in Germany they could argue that their organ is international. But if your instrument is not international then what qualifies the festival? The organists or the music that they play?

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For what it's worth, my two cents' opinion is that players who earn both reputation and income from travelling around the world rather than being predominantly associated in the public's mind with a particular cathedral or whatever can reasonably describe themselves as international concert organists.  It might be an 'overblown title' as Zimbelstern suggested, but if so, that's accepted as allowable practice in almost any walk of life isn't it?  The term is perhaps no more than 'puffery' at worst, which seems to be part and parcel of the publicity game. 

CEP

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I was surprised a year or two ago to see a local parish church organist billing himself as an 'International Concert Organist', mostly because the event in question was the only time I have ever known this person to give a recital. Perhaps all his others are given abroad, but since he is at his parish console every Sunday, I'm not sure when those could be.

I was once handed a business card on which another local organist (now deceased) described himself as an FRCO, amongst other things. I know for a fact that he had never been even a member of the RCO. A friend who knew this organist described him to me as a complete charlatan, which would seem to have been the case. That was plain dishonesty, but 'puffery' is everywhere, as in that over-used phrase 'one of the most sought-after organists...' As far as the great and good are concerned it's no doubt merited, but in other cases one can only assume that it means that the police haven't caught up with them yet.

Exaggerated claims do tend to get quickly spotted and ridiculed by other organists.

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4 hours ago, Colin Pykett said:

The term is perhaps no more than 'puffery' at worst, which seems to be part and parcel of the publicity game. 

CEP

In my humble opinion I’m afraid it actually does the organ world a disservice. Our little world is like no other, even in the realms of classical music. Whilst a reasonable number of superstar pianists may fill concert halls on a daily basis, here and abroad, I’m afraid the same cannot be said of organists. (The Leeds International Piano Competition may be televised and watched by millions, but does anyone seriously imagine the same will happen anytime soon with the St. Albans Organ Competition?) There are many contradictions and ironies in the organ world. An increasing number of elite churches and concert halls are kitted out with state-of-the-art organs costing millions of pounds, yet the most accomplished organists may play them to an audience of only a handful of people, even when there is no admission charge. Disgracefully, immensely expensive instruments (the Royal Albert Hall comes to mind), unless required for liturgical use, may only be played in public once or twice a year. The vast majority of the population never listen to organ music, know nothing about the instrument, and would be astonished to learn that organists play with their feet.

 

A group of amateur organists is able, by joining the local organists’ association, to play instruments worth ten Steinway grands. Yet the vast majority of young people are prevented from learning the organ by lack of access to an instrument and a lack of teachers (how many local authority music services teach the organ?) - these days, with a few exceptions, it is only those attending independent schools with a chapel who have the opportunity to learn to play the organ. Many of the aforementioned amateur organists are of the last generation of parish choristers whose musical education was delivered by the church. But the world has changed. The churches had one of their periodic attacks on the liturgical and musical traditions which they spent so long building up, and no longer fulfil their role training organists. It’s left to whim, good luck and the services of the dedicated few who still share the old ideals of service to God and their neighbour. 

 

The organ world of fifty years ago, with all its imperfections, was peopled by mostly dedicated musicians, both professional and amateur, who realised they were just doing their duty, without any pretensions that they were going to earn a lot of money and superstar status by playing the instrument they loved. Actually, little has changed in the sense that many professional organists, unless they have a fulltime teaching job in a school, or a partner with a good job, hardly have two pennies to rub together. I know of many extraordinarily talented and well qualified organists who live in what can only be described as modest circumstances. Rather like the clergy, I suppose. Whoever heard of a priest (or even the Pope) being described as an “International Church Vicar”?

 

If the situation is pretty bad in the UK, spare a thought for organists in other countries. Even in Paris I understand that remuneration for a talented organist playing a Cavaillé Coll masterpiece is low. In Spain church organists are rarely paid at all, even in cathedrals. I know of one Spanish cathedral organist, who plays a brand new instrument which cost half a million euros, who not only doesn’t get paid but has to pay for the tuning of the instrument himself. 

 

What the organ world in this country needs is a major initiative of local authority music services, schools and churches to provide young people with opportunities to learn to play the organ. That means providing good teachers and access to instruments. Those at the very top of the organ profession have a duty to support and campaign for such an initiative, mindful of the fact that, as now, the overwhelming majority of organists, however talented and well qualified, whether professional or amateur, will in the future probably live in modest circumstances, doing what they do for the love of it, not for the money or glory. Reputations in the organ world are earned and sustained by respect for immense talent and service to the church or the world of music, not by silly titles.

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5 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

I was once handed a business card on which another local organist (now deceased) described himself as an FRCO, amongst other things. I know for a fact that he had never been even a member of the RCO. A friend who knew this organist described him to me as a complete charlatan, which would seem to have been the case. That was plain dishonesty, but 'puffery' is everywhere, as in that over-used phrase 'one of the most sought-after organists...' As far as the great and good are concerned it's no doubt merited, but in other cases one can only assume that it means that the police haven't caught up with them yet.

Exaggerated claims do tend to get quickly spotted and ridiculed by other organists.

Falsely claiming any qualification is not only dishonest but blatantly fraudulent.  As for the lesser crime of exaggerated claims, one that I find particularly irritating is the frequency with which universities hand out honorary doctorates, which debases the whole currency and meaning of academia.  But this practice as well as everything else mentioned in this thread occurs in all professions, not just music.  It's regrettable, but as Vox Humana said, one can take some comfort from the fact that those who are properly qualified treat the whole business with wry smiles and quiet ridicule.

CEP

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On 07/03/2018 at 16:45, Choir Man said:

For that matter, when does a festival become an international organ festival?

I remember when I was at the BBC long, long ago, that one year the National Brass Band Championship became the International Brass Band Championship on account of a single band from Holland joining in.

I dare say my son who is a pianist would not object to being called an International Concert Pianist - he plays in concerts internationally,after all.  I suppose many do, but I suspect that less get around as widely (as well as the "routine" travel around Europe, he regularly goes to both sides of the US, Australia, Japan, Argentina...).

Paul

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A bit of an " enfant terrible" this one, IMHO and for what it is worth. 

One could say that  " it all depends on what you mean by.... ".

Regarding the term " organ concert " so far as I am aware this is the usual term which Americans give to what us Brits would refer to as  a " recital ".  Nothing particularly wrong with that I don`t think ( IMHO again! )

However, in order to ascend to the dizzy heights of being an " international concert organist " as opposed to a mere " organist "  I would agree that the player/performer has to be free from the normal shackles which confine most organists to their consoles. There are n number of professional organists who undertake  " trans Atlantic"  " or " continental  " tours.   Several of these are formed from the ranks of our divers cathedrals and often take the format of summer tours and include their choirs too. This is usually on an " exchange  " basis.  

Those organists who have managed to gain the status  of " international concert organist " are musical creations of another dimension altogether.    They have all undergone the usual rites of passage , tutelage etc. but have been fortunate to develop a completely independent career path to their conventional colleagues.

I am not going to " name names " as such for that is too controversial, but I think on the English scene I will not  have to duck from too many brickbats if I should mention as an example JPS.  She would fit the bill on the basis of her musical training, extensive touring abroad on " more than one occasion ",  has a good recording history, lectures whilst on tour ,adjudicates  , and finally , employs a management/ PR agency.

Good topic for more debate this one methinks.

 

 

 

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Regarding "Concert" versus "recital, Carlo Curley (possibly following on from Virgil Fox) always said that the term "organ recital" would frighten off prospective audiences, apart from die-hard organ nuts, whereas "organ concert" would not.  I think there's a lot of sense to that and I always use the term "concert".

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On ‎08‎/‎03‎/‎2018 at 14:51, Colin Pykett said:

As for the lesser crime of exaggerated claims, one that I find particularly irritating is the frequency with which universities hand out honorary doctorates, which debases the whole currency and meaning of academia.  But this practice as well as everything else mentioned in this thread occurs in all professions, not just music.  It's regrettable, but as Vox Humana said, one can take some comfort from the fact that those who are properly qualified treat the whole business with wry smiles and quiet ridicule.

CEP

 

Well, Dr. Pykett, that statement will make you popular here! There are quite a number of 'Cathedral' musicians, who style themselves 'Dr', who have never studied to Doctorate level and who have been given an Honorary Doctorate from a local University to the Cathedral in which they have worked for years.

Some would argue that it is deserved. I agree that it does debase the whole currency and meaning of academia - but it happens and this profession loves it!!!

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In some countries, Germany for example, any titles are part of your name and have to be used formally. Those who have honourary doctorates have as their title Dr. h.c, for "honoris causa". That's clear, and allows people to draw their own conclusions.

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13 hours ago, Damian Beasley-Suffolk said:

In some countries, Germany for example, any titles are part of your name and have to be used formally. Those who have honourary doctorates have as their title Dr. h.c, for "honoris causa". That's clear, and allows people to draw their own conclusions.

Yes, and interestingly (in this country anyway) more doctorates awarded h.c. have the right to wear a nice, bright predominantly scarlet robe, whereas those who have earned their doctorate by academic means (eg, PhD, EdD, etc) have rather less 'showy' robes!  Fair?  Well, it really doesn't bother me, my having neither!

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Whenever I read comments such as those preceding, I am reminded of the opening words of the Preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer: “There was never anything by the wit of man so well devised, or so surely established, which (in continuance of time) hath not been corrupted.” Or in the words of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” I understand that in the higher echelons of a German company these days, a doctorate, earned or honorary, is no longer sufficient. One must now have the title of “Professor”. When I was at university, I was in awe of professors. Yet today, it seems, we are adopting the American usage of the term - anyone teaching in an institution of higher education is a “professor”, even if delivering only the occasional lecture or class on a casual basis (in which case one is a “visiting professor”). Spare a thought for poor old J.S. Bach who was keenly aware of his lack of academic title. Perhaps if he’d had a doctorate he’d have written better music.

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23 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

Yet today, it seems, we are adopting the American usage of the term - anyone teaching in an institution of higher education is a “professor”, even if delivering only the occasional lecture or class on a casual basis (in which case one is a “visiting professor”).

I believe that some British universities have now adopted the title of 'Associate Professor' in place of the traditional 'Reader' appointment, perhaps because it sounds more important!  I think that British adoption of American terms and language is increasing, no doubt because of the influence of American TV programmes and films and, of course, the Internet.

How long before our honours classifications are replaced by 'Cum Laude', 'Magna Cum Laude' and 'Summa Cum Laude', I wonder?

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St. Alphage’s advert for its organ recital series in the current issue of Organists’ Review has two “International Recitalists”, one “Organ Recitalist and Concert Pianist”, one “Organ Recitalist and recording artist” (I don’t understand the logic of the capital letters for one title and not the other), two “Organists” (of their respective churches) and one performer who is modest enough to just state where he lives. One of the recitalists actually takes up five lines listing his various posts. Are we in the future to expect that adverts for organ recitals will give full length CVs for performers? Surely the fact that someone is giving an organ recital is sufficient for us to conclude that he or she is very probably an organist.

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