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A bit of background from my viewpoint: a cathedral-trained organist turned urban vicar after a 30 year career as a medical academic, now retired.

The choral revival in the Church of England has lasted about 180 years. Together with other developments it’s provoked the evolution of the English organ. It's now waning. Some cathedral choirs are finding life difficult. Many (? most) parish church choirs have folded or are terminally ill. Congregations have been decimated. Hardly anybody under the age of 50, unless they've attended fee-paying schools, knows hymns other than Morning has broken, Sing Hosanna and Lord of all hopefulness (the Lord's Prayer too). 

The liturgy of the Church of England is changing. The need for organs to ‘paint the psalms’ has all but vanished outside (most) cathedrals. Many clergy are not interested in music that uses organs. Many clergy are not interested in the sort of liturgy that organs can enrich. Cathedral evensongs attract, but they’re now just an arm of the heritage industry for the middle classes who can afford to drive to them (fuel prices might have an effect there).

Young people were never particularly keen to take up the organ. I attended state schools in the 1950s and 1960s and there were a few of us, even in Carlisle, but the situation is worse now, young organists coming almost exclusively from fee-paying schools. Any state school boy (I wouldn’t know about girls) interested in the arts is quite likely to have the ordure kicked out of him these days (I speak from personal and pastoral experience). It’s not kool or macho.

Churches can hardly afford to keep the buildings going, let alone what’s in them. The average congregation numbers 27 and falling fast. The average age of a churchgoer is about 67 and rising fast—they’ll be dead soon. Churchgoing is just a hobby like hiking or climbing or knitting.

The English public are not particularly interested in organs. Musicians tend to look down their noses at organs and organ music.

So most organs won’t need to lead hearty congregational singing or paint the psalms. The English organ is, if you like, being freed from its churchy associations. What do you see as its future?

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56 minutes ago, Stanley Monkhouse said:

A bit of background from my viewpoint: a cathedral-trained organist turned urban vicar after a 30 year career as a medical academic, now retired.

The choral revival in the Church of England has lasted about 180 years. Together with other developments it’s provoked the evolution of the English organ. It's now waning. Some cathedral choirs are finding life difficult. Many (? most) parish church choirs have folded or are terminally ill. Congregations have been decimated. Hardly anybody under the age of 50, unless they've attended fee-paying schools, knows hymns other than Morning has broken, Sing Hosanna and Lord of all hopefulness (the Lord's Prayer too). 

The liturgy of the Church of England is changing. The need for organs to ‘paint the psalms’ has all but vanished outside (most) cathedrals. Many clergy are not interested in music that uses organs. Many clergy are not interested in the sort of liturgy that organs can enrich. Cathedral evensongs attract, but they’re now just an arm of the heritage industry for the middle classes who can afford to drive to them (fuel prices might have an effect there).

Young people were never particularly keen to take up the organ. I attended state schools in the 1950s and 1960s and there were a few of us, even in Carlisle, but the situation is worse now, young organists coming almost exclusively from fee-paying schools. Any state school boy (I wouldn’t know about girls) interested in the arts is quite likely to have the ordure kicked out of him these days (I speak from personal and pastoral experience). It’s not kool or macho.

Churches can hardly afford to keep the buildings going, let alone what’s in them. The average congregation numbers 27 and falling fast. The average age of a churchgoer is about 67 and rising fast—they’ll be dead soon. Churchgoing is just a hobby like hiking or climbing or knitting.

The English public are not particularly interested in organs. Musicians tend to look down their noses at organs and organ music.

So most organs won’t need to lead hearty congregational singing or paint the psalms. The English organ is, if you like, being freed from its churchy associations. What do you see as its future?

The broadcast media has not been particularly helpful in giving the organ the profile that it deserves. A few weeks before Christmas, listening to BBC Essential Classics, the presenter sought views from listeners about there being more organ music on the programme. I responded immediately and with enthusiasm and my e-mail was read out within the hour. So far I have not noticed any increase in the programme’s organ music output.

I also believe the steady secularisation of society has led to enormous lack of exposure to the organ and its music. And somehow, the organ is seen by many as being associated with God and church worship and that it is seen as a bit of a turn-off. Gone too is the sight of colourful theatre organs in cinemas, perhaps with the exception of Leicester Square’s Odeon.

Attendance at cathedrals appears to be holding steady or maybe increasing. I was at Gloucester for choral evensong back in October; it was very well attended and the music from choir and organ was first-rate. I think these occasions do tend to attract quire-filled congregations where there is a strong appreciation of good music, perhaps ex choristers as in my case.

I’m not sure what the uptake of the organ is in schools. At one time many grammar school pupils were familiar with the organ at daily assemblies. Perhaps the nation’s public schools, most having chapels, are now the only schools where there is still a trickle or flow of potential organ scholars. The local Catholic church in my village is fortunate in having a former Winchester pupil play its single-manual organ when he’s down from Cambridge. He’s talented, having been organ scholar at Gloucester and then Toulouse.

But the CofE left me many decades ago, first with the appearance of Series 1 and Series 2, followed by ASB (All Spare Bits) and now Common Worship. What was wrong with the beautiful language of Cranmer? Similarly, the Roman Catholic Church, apart from some cathedrals, abbeys and oratories, have also ditched most of their historical liturgical music, replacing it with dreadful stuff from OCP.

I think I’d better stop before losing any accumulation of plenary indulgences.

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... and before your blood pressure blows a gasket.

Barry, you write "Perhaps the nation’s public schools, most having chapels, are now the only schools where there is still a trickle or flow of potential organ scholars. " People who attend church even just a little don't believe me when I tell them that at funerals, weddings and baptisms that I have done over the last 10 years, nobody under the age of 60, roughly, knows the Lord's prayer or any hymns other than the ones I mentioned. and possibly, if they are rugby supporters, Cwm Rhondda. My last parish was inner urban, partly UPA, increasingly Moslem. The potential Christians, if they have any desire for Church attachment, tended towards the free churches: Pentecostal, Elim, unattached evangelical churches. They would no more dream of setting foot in the CoE (except for carols with the brass band) which they saw as snooty (not so), judgemental (not so there), hypocritical (yes indeed) and pretentious (absolutely). Although the circumstances are different, the phenomenon is like that of the late 18th and early 19th centuries that saw working people forsake the CoE for Methodism and such like. I've gone off topic. Please forgive. But it's relevant.

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Some years ago I foresaw a precipitous collapse of appreciation of organ music and in common with encouragement of other areas of classical music put on organ recitals at Hammerwood Park, East Grinstead. We have at the house one of the instruments formerly at Addington Palace, although this really wasn't extensive enough to bring the repertoire to life. We also have a one manual chamber organ which has been explored with a degree of interest 

 

But exciting organ repertoire there is and so I put together a 5 manual organ laboratory capable of representing German, French and English repertoire adequately, and a number of wonderful performers came to play. It excited audiences significantly and encouragingly. The electronics died some five years ago and I gave up in despair, focusing on the harpsichord 

 

But since the demise of the organ audience numbers to harpsichord recitals have dropped often below 20 whilst people have repeatedly asked when we're going to be resuming organ recitals. 

Thanks to the generosity of the Sheehan family, the late Peter Sheehan's organ laboratory has come to Hammerwood and with Darcy Trinkwon, hopefully also Nigel Allcoat and others we'll introduce audiences to the splendour of Couperin, Balbastre and Dakin, St Maximin having been the passion for Peter who was once upon a time in his career with Nicholsons.

Introducing secular audiences to the splendour of the repertoire is one way that interest can be reignited, and without resort to electronics at Hammerwood one can do this even on a rather conventional instrument - 

There is real need therefore to get the repertoire into the concert hall.

As for the organ  in the church, it's really not surprising that the church isn't appealing to a population that rejects dogma, Father Christmas and regards all such as hocus pocus with which there's a lot of competition which appeals to fashion rather more than merely the "Jesus Loves You" message which probably annoyed many of us in the days of evangelical youth. Unfortunately many priests have not grown out of such a message, which many, for instance the vast numbers of people suffering as a result of disasters find hard to swallow. People have rejected Christianity in the perception of religions being the source of troubles and wars. In my own experience locally the church was declared redundant, having a congregation of around 20 and a dreadful evangelical priest who dumbed down everything, and the church was shut quite probably seen to be a source of funds upon redevelopment by the Diocese to plug a hole in its finances. They've shut the church and removed the footprint of God from the countryside and few of the former 20 decamp in their cars to a village some 5 miles away.

In an age of cynicism and desire for "scientific" "proof" of everything, and "reason", in my opinion the church will not survive until it starts to look again at the language of the text it preserves and preaches, and finds therein common sense. 

Led Zepellin - Stairway to Heaven - "Words have two meanings"  . . . Wittgenstein commented that the last barrier to humanity is in the overcoming of the limitations of language. And religion suffers that, and has been rejected in that limitation.

What would you say if I said that the Pentecostal church for instance is misconceived? As a youth I looked upon the prospect of people babbling on the floor as crowd hysteria. Is that really what went on at Pentecost? Did those apostles really have tongues of flame upon their heads?

Our traditional image has been that of a supernatural flame quite literally floating above the heads of the apostles. But what other meaning is capable of coming out of the words?

Tongues of flame, of course. Flaming tongues - alive with the enthusiasm of a language that all and any can understand. Common sense.

And for me until the church and preachers start to talk commonsense about the Creator, then the churches and the organs within them will meet demise.

But as a physicist I believe that talking about the Creator as common sense is possible. It was for this reason that I tried to catalyse debate

https://www.organmatters.com/index.php/board,35.0.html

https://www.organmatters.com/index.php/board,21.0.html

https://www.organmatters.com/index.php/board,48.0.html

in the interests of encouraging the health of the symbiotic relationship between the instrument and the ecclesiastical context. If priests can't do it, then we as organ enthusiasts have to, or we cease to exist.

If I remember correctly it was member Musing Muso who put me on a path which has changed my perception entirely, and I think is capable of changing others. From my youth I'd clung on to that anthropological image of God as a person in whose image we are created, rather like a teddy bear in the functionality of my belief. In those discussions something began to dawn and I realised that the text and the language we experience in the ecclesiastical context is rather a riddle, that's nonsense until we can sort it out. As soon as the riddle is solved, then everything we hear about in Church becomes common sense capable of enthusiastic communication with a flaming tongue. 

If anyone's interested, a distillation of that common sense without an ounce of dogma or hocus pocus is encapsulated in a response to a Quora question - https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-scientific-fact-that-proves-God-exists/answer/David-Pinnegar

The bottom line therefore, in rather a wordy post for which I apologise, is that the Church needs a major rethink if it's going to succeed in getting the general population to have a rethink about the religion. And rather than preaching religion, and promoting a hocus pocus of which there is lots of competition, finding Jesus as the teacher of common sense would go a long way.

Best wishes

David P

 

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I agree with your last para, and much else. Jesus preached an essentially Buddhist message. He came to abolish religion. The religious jerks hated him. If you want to know more of what I think, read my blog: https://ramblingrector.me

I deduce that you think the organ's future in this country is grim. So do I. I enjoyed it when I was able to.

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On 02/01/2020 at 15:46, Stanley Monkhouse said:

The English organ is, if you like, being freed from its churchy associations. What do you see as its future?

Response to 1st sentence: long overdue.  And the 2nd:  the pipe organ therefore hasn't got a long term future because it's only churches which have been able to buy and house the things in large numbers.  This is the classic catch-22 of the pipe organ and always has been.

Result: in business-model terminology, the pipe organ is almost certainly approaching a precipice of 'critical mass' in which the trade will suddenly collapse if there is insufficient business to maintain a large enough core of skilled craft practitioners.  Once that happens it will become impossible to replace them because they could not be suddenly pulled off the street whenever somebody wanted a pipe organ.  Offshore firms might survive longer, but there's no long term guarantee.

So the only type of organ which has an indefinitely lengthy future is the digital one.  Even if every single digital organ and organ manufacturer were to be wiped off the face of the planet tonight, it would still be possible for the industry to recover because the instruments are really just synthesisers in a rather posh and old-fashioned box built using synthesiser techniques and industry-standard components such as DSP chips.  It's inconceivable that this huge pop-culture synth business will not survive indefinitely in one form or another.

I've analysed this scenario in more detail and put some numbers into the arguments in an article at:

http://www.pykett.org.uk/statusoforgan.htm

Reading it is not compulsory.  Of those who have, some like it and others don't.   But the nub of the arguments are those summarised above.  Bear in mind it was written 9 years ago.

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I was listening to someone on the radio over Christmas making predictions for the next decade, one of which involved the imminent explosion of virtual reality experiences. Before long, they said, virtual reality in certain areas of life will be better than the actual reality. In this respect, one might argue that the organ world is ahead of the curve.

Using the kind of software of which most readers here will be aware, one can play some of the finest organs in the world from the comfort of the living room (or garden shed, in my case) with absolute ease and convenience. Given that the nearest mechanical action organ of any merit that I have access to is an hour's round trip from home, and with only limited opportunities for me to find time to go to it and for it to be available to me, the virtual reality is certainly a lot more attractive than the achievably actual one.

I know of course that actually playing on Salisbury Cathedral organ (or wherever) is a far superior experience to the one I get in my shed, but the former is realistically unattainable for me, and the latter is more stimulating than anything I can get locally (and I don't suppose the staff at Salisbury would be very happy for me to quaff gin whilst practising, as I do at home).

For those of us who love playing the organ but very much do not love the way the church has gone, as outlined above, or do not have access to top quality instruments, this is going to be the way forward I suspect. It's a very sad state of affairs for the real organ world - not least for the prospects of our hosts and their colleagues - but it's a very tempting option for organists.

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Well, Colin, your article makes my post look a bit silly! Good stuff. I used to think that perhaps there would be another choral revival in another 200 years, but now I see the western version of Xtianity going down the tube completely - it's almost there now. David P's right - Xtianity has to be rethought without the sky pixie magic stuff if its to get traction again here (though having said that there seems no shortage of people who believe anything). I'm learning to laugh at it.

If all this is so, why spend big money restoring/rebuilding/enlarging/rehoming organs that soon won't be used?  As an example, take Willis I's last at St Bees - not pure Willis now. Small village, local economy woeful unless Sellafield thrives (it's not really at present). Let's say 1 million needed. Why bother? lots of other examples.

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If there were a culture in this country that valued the organ, the demise of Christianity would not be an issue. It is worth comparing the situation here with that in the Netherlands. In an increasingly secular society many churches have closed, but the organs (often of huge historical significance) remain in use. The number of organ recitals that take place seems staggering, and they are by and large very well supported.

It seems unlikely to me that the Dutch organ building industry will die out any time soon. 

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2 hours ago, David Surtees said:

If there were a culture in this country that valued the organ, the demise of Christianity would not be an issue. It is worth comparing the situation here with that in the Netherlands. In an increasingly secular society many churches have closed, but the organs (often of huge historical significance) remain in use. The number of organ recitals that take place seems staggering, and they are by and large very well supported.

It seems unlikely to me that the Dutch organ building industry will die out any time soon. 

Our last vestige of hope?

Yes, certainly the Christian church is dying out in this country and some believe that the organ may die out with it.
On the other hand, we still have concert hall organs which appear to attract some sort of audience and, of course, we still have cathedrals and Oxbridge colleges in which organ music is still heard.  In fact, there must be still some support as both Canterbury and York cathedrals are presently having their organs rebuilt (per a thread on this web site!).

To be perfectly honest, as an atheist, churches being closed down doesn't concern me too much, accepting that they are closing because people appear not to want them.  That sort of sounds fair.  Sad, though, that organs are also disappearing locally.

So what is the answer?  I'd like to think that if the Dutch can do what they're doing, perhaps we can.  Unfortunately, I can't think how we'd go about that.  When a primary teacher, I did attempt to instil some sort of early interest in the organ among my charges.  I have no idea how successful or otherwise I was.

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10 hours ago, Stanley Monkhouse said:

...  your article makes my post look a bit silly ...

Not at all Stanley, and thank you for the courtesy of reading it.  Your post has touched a nerve widely here by the looks of it, and the reason might be that it comes from your perspective as a priest - someone who knows what they're talking about from the theological sharp end as well as the musical one.

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15 hours ago, John Robinson said:

To be perfectly honest, as an atheist, churches being closed down doesn't concern me too much, accepting that they are closing because people appear not to want them.  That sort of sounds fair.

Having been through the anguish of facing the closure of my church, we realised that it wasn't that people didn't want the church, they just didn't like what we were doing.  Nor, to be honest, were we as open and welcoming as we thought we were. 

The appointment of a young Mission Leader, who has introduced a contemporary worship style, has more than doubled the congregation in a few months and more than halved the average age.  The music may not be in the style that I have enjoyed in my 75 years, but the fact that we have a vibrant and growing place of Christian Worship is much more important. 

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Quite so, John Carter. I know this is supposed to be about the future of organs, but because of the intertwined history, it's also about the future of the liturgical style that organs have been used for. By and large, there isn't one IMHO. The worship styles that attract (not me particularly) don't need them. They pay no heed to denominational boundaries - evangelical CoE feels much like any other nonliturgical church. Here's a view of the future. The no-women catholics will go to Rome eventually. The liberal catholics will die out -  nobody including themselves knows what they stand for. The no-women evos will continue, funded by US bible bashers (as some are now), in their own exclusive sect. Rural churches wil be shut except perhaps for the most important festival - Harvest. Choral/floral might survive here and there, depending on money and personnel, but very few. The rest, inc civic, will be vanilla evangelical, people dipping in and out, and two or three rimes a year clergy will have to scrabble about in vestry cupboards looking for surplice and scarf (Harvest, Remembrance, civic dos). Nobody will know any traditional hymns. I've been accompanist for a choral society and none of the (mature adult) members, other than the few who were church attenders, knew how to cope with "Love divine", "Now my tongue", "Praise to the holiest" when they came to sing Byrd's 4 part mass at Corpus Christi. I'm not exaggerating.

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Stanley - upon reading your ramblings perhaps more than just I might suggest that you come out of retirement. Your perceptions are spot on. For me the magic of Christianity is the book that was thrown away - the Gospel of Thomas. It's so incomprehensible that I've suspected Buddhist origins, and in its incomprehensibility are golden nuggets. Your writings about the mirror suggest familiarity with the torture of Dionysus and perhaps there's reason in your emergence from retirement to do something new.

"What did the Master tell you?" asked the others. "Well if I told you", answered Thomas, "you'd throw stones at me. And those stones will set you on fire." With admonition or enthusiasm?

It's for these reasons that I believe there to be a lot of room for waking people up with the Working Together that gives all the Divine Breath of Life - and after chatting with anyone for just 10 minutes it's really impossible for anyone to be able to be atheist.

As a result there's a lot of room for churches to be woken up, for congregations to increase by the help that understanding Jesus' teachings de-obfuscated can bring, and for organ music to be appreciated in its ability to reach transcendence and the sublime.

What was the raising of Lazarus?  Not in my view a supernatural miracle but an outside uninitiated view of an initiation derived from the Egyptian heritage. What was the turning of water into wine? Getting people to do the right thing, and providing a way out that didn't disgrace the old miser. Understanding this turns the water of character into the best of old wine, of course, and one of the traditional pedagogical interpretations of the story. In my view there's room for the churches to break the bounds and find the common sense teacher at their heart.

And with that common sense one can find transcendence.

Tierce en Taille - in meantone the Tierce is the sweetest sound with pure thirds. En Taille - within the body. The music is symbolic of sweetness in the body. 

and achieves transcendence, peace that the world cannot give.

So with focus on such music and with priests who are minded towards the Buddhist perhaps there is hope.

A friend came to lunch today with focus on the sublime in landscape. He asked me whether the sublime could be reached in music. I mentioned Mahler 5 and beyond that, organ repertoire such as the Couperin. But I think that Guilmant, Franck, Widor, Boelleman were reaching towards the sublime too. Can anyone point to any specific examples? 

Perhaps in organ recitals reaching to the sublime we can invigorate the instrument, its repertoire, and possibly understanding by priests that the organ can bring back people into the churches.

Best wishes

David P

 

 

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2 hours ago, David Pinnegar said:

A friend came to lunch today with focus on the sublime in landscape. He asked me whether the sublime could be reached in music. I mentioned Mahler 5 and beyond that, organ repertoire such as the Couperin. But I think that Guilmant, Franck, Widor, Boelleman were reaching towards the sublime too. Can anyone point to any specific examples? 

Franck’s 3rd Choral in A minor.  His musical final testament.  I recall Bernard Lagacé saying that it must always be accorded reverence. Felix Aprahamian likened the final page to the soul winging its way to heaven.  

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1 hour ago, Stanley Monkhouse said:

Not at all. Copy and paste if you like. stan

Many thanks - but as you are in the group I would rather it came from you first hand! I will link this discussion to it though as there have been interesting replies.

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Interesting topic and especially relevant in relation to contemporary times and attitudes regarding organs, their locations, their players, and the organ repertoire as it stands.

The organ is a most unfortunate creature in that it will forever be associated as a machine for merely accompanying the human voice; a historical allusion which goes back to the days of " The Great Winchester Organ " and its players ( " thumpers " ?  )

As a result of this historical association the organ has never really been able to escape from these limiting shackles as to developing its full potential.

Despite this the organ WILL survive. Haven`t we read recently in the public prints that attendance for Evensong and other services is now enjoying a resurgence albeit in our larger establishments?

This can only be towards the general good.  True, some of us may attend because we enjoy the architecture or the music and not necessarily the divine office being offered but it is still glutes on seats which leads to income.

Standing alone as a solo or accompanying feature though the organ needs to move on a bit and this I feel is the stumbling block.  

It needs to undergo a bit of revamping,  being presented in a different light; and mentioning light ;something quite artistic in its own way could include the use of lighting. One spectacular use of such a means has been employed at Leeds Town  Hall.  Another example would be the recently restored Grand Central Hall in Liverpool.   ( see Google images )  In this building the organ has been conserved AND will be used.  I believe this idea has been adopted In Auckland Town Hall.

One glorious opportunity which is completely out of the question on cost grounds alone , would be the relocation of a unique CC instrument which is currently mothballed, to the restored St. Francis Church at Gorton  ( look at the website and you may see what I mean )

At least this will go some way in order to make people  notice that there is even an organ there.  Let`s not forget the famous one about WTB at SGH and " the organ will play"!

I can hear the splutterings already about " Reg at the Tower "   etc.  and the performances of some of our colonial cousins  and all that hangs off that so I am not going there; just saying.

AS regards our "  lesser  churches "   there is no quick fix on cost grounds alone .    One gets what one pays for i;e; craftsmanship.  Someone has already dared to mention  " The "D " Word ". I am not going to invite parts of my anatomy to be slowly removed with red hot pincers on that one!

Education has been mentioned and that is a very valid point. If the kids are not being at least presented with the opportunity to learn the organ, or any other instrument , unless they attend a fee paying school, then the future is bleak.    There are a fair number of young players out there but their access to instruments is very limited ( cost raises its ugly but unavoidable head again )

Finally,( I`m even starting to get bored myself now) we need to re-educate, stimulate, call it what you will,  The Great General Public into attending more live events.  We attend a fair number of " rock " type concerts, even at our  age, and these events are always nearly full to capacity.    Why not the same for other musical events?     All these armchair supporters who bang on endlessly but hardly ever attend a concert or recital .

Finally ( honest! ) I was delighted to hear at the conclusion of the voluntaries after a certain carol service on the radio -   the audience broke into applause.  Great - they noticed the organ!

 

Please forgive these mad ramblings, have to go; my nurse has just appeared with some worrying looking equipment in her hand!

 

 

 

 

 

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Interesting responses. Thanks very much.

The popularity of Evensong is mentioned several times, held up as a sign of renewal by some, and securing of the organ’s future by most. I doubt both these. In these remarks, I’m not talking of tourist traps like York or Canterbury, but of “ordinary” cathedrals like Lichfield or Peterborough, to name but two.

The popularity of Evensong is a middle class manifestation of the pull of heritage, the nostalgia of past days, the reminder of a time of security or childhood before life got messy, and of course the pull of beauty. I don’t think it has much to do with doctrinal Christianity.

People that attend have made a special trip, probably by car. Who knows what eco-demands and fuel prices will do to car use (fuel prices are decidedly iffy as I write). I doubt people will trek miles for Stanford in C.

The maintenance of the tradition is expensive and work-intensive. Choir schools close or become day schools: Ripon, Southwell, Lichfield in recent years, and more to come. Lay clerks, organists, organs ...

Recruitment of choristers demands huge work. I am in awe of people like Cathy Lamb who runs the recruitment programme at Lichfield. It’s not a job for the weary and faint-hearted,

Where will organists of the future come from? Some of you are hopeful. Well, given who you are and where you come from, you would say that, wouldn’t you! I’m less sanguine that the attraction of cathedral life will draw musicians from a self-employed career. And remember that in music degrees these days, classical music, harmony, counterpoint etc have been displaced to a variable extent by electronic and computer work, so you can’t assume students will be exposed to much classical choral stuff, if any.

I’ve recently stepped down as the accompanist of a local (adults) choral society that had a varied repertoire: Mozart, Faure, Byrd, Rutter, Ireland, Parry, Gjeilo, Whitacre, Beatles, spirituals, jazz and more. Two things made me think about the future. First, most singers are unenthusiastic about "churchy" stuff, and second, all but a handful, who are themselves churchgoers, were completely flummoxed by hymns when they came to my Corpus Christi mass to sing Byrd and Bairstow – they’d NEVER encountered hymns before.

I've said my piece. I may be wrong, I hope I'm wrong

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This is an interesting and in parts, a sobering thread, and Colin's observations from several years ago were prescient and well grounded. A few thoughts of my own.

1. I recall some while back someone theorising on the reaction, if electronic organs had been invented first, on someone trying to market a pipe organ. I think the response as rather along the lines of, why on earth would you invent such a complex invention when electronic sound generation can do all that so much more simply.

2. I have commented previously on these fora that a major challenge facing organbuilders is the craftsmanship element - the cost of training and employing small numbers of specialists forces organ building to be a niche occupation. Meanwhile the affordability of repairing organs is becoming more and more difficult. If you think churches are struggling to maintain their organs spare a thought for local authorities (the comment above that maybe there was a future for concert hall organs). With few exceptions, I expect most councils that have a pipe organ in the civic hall are so cash strapped under the burden of social care to consider even tuning them. When major repairs or rebuilding next looms there is no prospect of funding their repair other than external means such as Lottery funding or philanthropy. If only organs weren't so ruinously expensive to keep going - finding several hundred thousand pounds to restore an instrument is simply impossible for many.

3. Many people have no idea what is involved in maintaining an organ and don't notice when it has been maintained. Case in point, I was asked to play for a few services at a local church that I haven't played at before this Christmas. It has a small two manual, no name plate, probably not been turned on once in the past decade and noone at the church could recall it having been played in living memory. They usually sing to recordings. The request for me to play was to bring a portable keyboard but I suggested at least turning the organ on and seeing if anything happened. Impressive wind leaks aside, it actually sprang to life albeit appallingly out of tune and most of the notes worked. So at my expense I arranged for it to be tuned and spent several hours keyholding for the tuner. Not one person complimented me after the services on the fact that I'd striven to get the thing going again and attempted to play it for the services rather than the usual canned music source, and presumably noone knew how much effort it had taken.

4. Digital sound generation is here to stay and the pipe organ is an illustrious predecessor of the ability to shrink a performance to a single player, whether it be the orchestral transcriptions of Lemare or the ability of theater organs to accompany film. The theater organ had an even bleaker history than the history of liturgical organ music, since the former lasted at most four decades before "talkies" eliminated the need to accompany films to organ music, while liturgical organ kmusic has been a part of Western history for four centuries.

5. Learning the organ shouldn't be the increasingly rare preserve of the small numbers of pupils privileged enough to attend a public school with a chapel and Oxbridge expectations. We need to think creatively about how the organ and its music can become more accessible to more "mainstream" pupils, something the RCO has certainly recognised. My own recent experience as an organ teacher includes a state-school education pupil from a minority ethnic group and no church history who approached me with a school challenge to learn BVW565 for a Duke of Edinburgh award. Progress was slow at first as he lacked access to any church organs, but a bit of online research was sufficient for him to build his own three manual virtual organ console (refurbished pedalboard and MIDI keyboards) at home. Since then his technique has come on massively and he is now looking to study the organ at university. Whilst digital organs are understandably beyond the scope of any extensive discussion on a pipe organ forum I would maintain that now we are at a point where for a few hundred pounds a teenager can buy the kit to build an RCO-spec organ console it's actually never been easier to practice the organ at home and therefore one of the biggest traditional blockages tpo practising - namely the need to have ready access to a decent church instrument - is no longer present.

6. The church's primary obligation is to bear witness to Jesus Christ, not to glorify and worship the organ. Where the organ and its music supports its primary  function it must be embraced; if or where the church's witness is hindered by its reliance on the organ then the church must move on and other means of supporting the continuation of the organ must be found to keep our music tradition going. Having recently directed a Christmas lessons and carols service that included orchestral instruments, choir, organ and rock group and music that ranged from Bach to a Freddie Mercury pastiche, I am personally very comfortable promoting the organ alongside other musical styles in the service of God. I recognise not all will be so comfortable, but in my experience the organ can thrive in its own right and in combination with other instruments both "traditional" and "contemporary" if it's allowed to. However, the Christian church cannot allow the organ to become worshipped in its own right and must part company if that particular idolatry creeps in.

7. From a purely practical perspective I think it's vital not to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak and lose all connection with the past. The first year I led a totally traditional Nine Lessons and Carols at my (evangelical CoE) church I realised with horror that most people under about 30 didn't actually know how any of the Christmas carols went and I realised it was because you simply never hear them any more when out and about shopping in the run up to Christmas - everything now is all about Santa and his reindeer. So I've been very clear about the need to include as many carols as possible and rotate them at most every couple of years so that they remain familiar to people as it might be the one night of the year that they get to sing O come all ye faithful! I absolutely get the concern that even secular choir singers probably don't know many hymns now. Whilst cathedral congregations might be increasing, that might simply represents people haemorrhaging from parish church Choral Evensong who might have previously attended their local church choral evening service until such became unsustainable. Eventually if we're not careful only the larger cathedrals will be able to continue to justify choral services and people will have to travel even further.

In summary, firstly I think we have barely scratched the surface of exploring the role virtual organs have as a teaching and learning aide and if we embrace and indeed encourage them for home use then the number of new organists coming along and the interest in the genre of organ music can only increase. I don't think that in itself should be a terminal threat to organ builders - after all how many people can afford the cost or the space required to commission their own newly built home practice pipe organ? If a resurgence of organists then puts pressure on institutions to commission digital organs in preference to pipe organs because they are cheaper that would obviously hurt the organ building trade (unless organ builders move into supplying practice consoles for virtual organs). Secondly, the greatest challenge is the cost effectiveness (or lack of) in terms of the cost of building or repairing large pipe organs (including the space they take up) relative to the number of people who are willing to pay for them in some way (whether by donations to the organ repair fund or ticket sales to recitals). It's that cost that needs to fall if pipe organs are to be as cost effective as they were say 100 years ago when one would be a standard fitting in any newly built church. The relative cost of an organ compared to the total building cost is huge compared to the relative cost of a digital organ (or worse, a CD player and speakers) in a new building. I've suggested  before on these fora and will ask again - for the organ to survive in the long term the cost of building and of repairs/restoration needs to fall dramatically. To what extent can we use modern technology to help contain costs - for instance computer aided design to make maintenance access easier, more robust materials or 3D printing of parts most likely to wear out etc. Finally, there is a complex relationship between the organ, its music and its  role in the church that we as organists and organ lovers need to recognise and not necessarily take for granted.

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A very interesting and stimulating discussion so far, covering a wide range of opinions on several (more or less) related topics.
So, if I might be permitted to digress a little further.....

Choral Evensong is alive and well in Mainland Europe - particularly in Germany and Holland.
Many board members will probably already be aware of the increasing interest in, and enthusiasm for, English choral music over there.
This led to an unusual invitation last year: I was asked to lead an "Evensong Project Week" in a large Cistercian Abbey church in Germany where the monastic community had recently been dissolved. The Titular Organist of the Abbey (an ardent Anglophile) had been taught by his predecessor - an Anglican priest who had once been Assistant Organist at Exeter. What they wanted - and what an ad hoc bunch of experienced English cathedral musicians gave them - was a whole week of unadulterated Anglican Choral Evensong; except for the readings and intercessions every thing was auf Englisch. They loved it, and want it repeated this summer. They were incredibly hospitable - not least at Sunday Mass on our last day, when the Guestmaster (the one remaining monk, now 86)  offered us Communion in both kinds. We felt very privileged to be allowed to, as it were, deputise for the now-absent community of monks at their daily Offices (though thankful that it wasn't every 3 hours through the night). An added bonus (which made life so much easier) was that the organ isn't half a mile away on the west end gallery, but in the chancel, behind the south quire stalls. https://klais.de/m.php?sid=94

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