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Assitant organists devalueing oxbridge organ scholarships?


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I recently bought a CD recording entitled "The gate of heaven" by the choir of New College Oxford, given the quirkiness of the organ its pretty good, the choir are excellent but none of the tracks are accompanied by organ scholars.

I was aware that Kings, Cambridge have an assistant Director of Music although, given that Christopher Robinson stepped in to help out after Stephen Cleobury's unfortunate accident its very unclear what their responsibilities are, but for one of the major Oxford colleges to make a recording without allowing their organ scholar or scholars anywhere near the instrument I find shocking.

Having done a little research it appears that is is now common practice for the leading choral oxbridge colleges to have an assistant organist above the organ scholars. When and why did this become considered as necessary? Surely it undermines and devalues the position of the organ scholar.

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Others will please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the ADoM at Kings is primarily responsible for Kings Voices (the mixed-voice voluntary choir that sings on Mondays).

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Christ Church, Oxford differs from the other Oxbridge choral foundations by being a full-blown cathedral as well as a college chapel but they have had Assistant Organists working side by side with organ scholars certainly since the mid 1970s with Nick Cleobury being Assistant Organist at Christ Church whilst still, I think, being organ scholar at Worcester College and Cathy Ennis after (or whilst) being organ scholar at St Hugh’s.

 

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New College and Magdalen have had Assistant Organists for many years as well as Organ Scholars. New offers an insight into their respective roles in their Service List booklet where the respective organists initials are placed next to the organ voluntaries and preludes that are included in each service. I assume that's they way the foundation see using the resources at their disposal. I'm sure the Organ Scholar's position in both places isn't diminished as several incumbents  have developed their careers in many of our Cathedrals and other Oxbridge Colleges.

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5 hours ago, DHM said:

Others will please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the ADoM at Kings is primarily responsible for Kings Voices (the mixed-voice voluntary choir that sings on Mondays).

That's certainly my understanding as well. As an aside to the matter of Oxbridge Assistant Directors of Music, more Oxbridge colleges should build on the pioneering work done at Downing College between 2015-18 by Christopher Robinson who acted as Mentor to the Organ Scholars. Downing's first Director of College and Chapel Music, David Lowe, is continuing this arrangement.

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The ADoM at King's is indeed only responsible for King's Voices, and typically spends more time doing other outside work than conducting in the chapel or playing the organ there.

As KCC have two organ scholars, they are normally responsible not just for playing the organ but for conducting services and taking rehearsals when the DoM is absent. Likewise at St John's down the road.

The NCO arrangement mirrors their back row, only half of whom are choral scholars with the others being employed clerks, an arrangement which reduces turnover and provides greater experience.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

"The NCO arrangement mirrors their back row, only half of whom are choral scholars with the others being employed clerks, an arrangement which reduces turnover and provides greater experience."

This term it looks as if Robert Quinney is on sabbatical from New College this term and they have recruited the services of Dr James Lancelot. There is no mention of the Assistant in the Chapel Booklet but an acting assistant (who was last year's Senior Organ Scholar) and the Current Organ Scholar.

Not wishing to undermine the abilities of Dr. Lancelot and Mr. Maxtone-Smith who will do an admirable job but this seems to contradict their vision. 

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On 16/01/2020 at 09:15, David Cynan Jones said:

"The NCO arrangement mirrors their back row, only half of whom are choral scholars with the others being employed clerks, an arrangement which reduces turnover and provides greater experience."

This term it looks as if Robert Quinney is on sabbatical from New College this term and they have recruited the services of Dr James Lancelot. There is no mention of the Assistant in the Chapel Booklet but an acting assistant (who was last year's Senior Organ Scholar) and the Current Organ Scholar.

Not wishing to undermine the abilities of Dr. Lancelot and Mr. Maxtone-Smith who will do an admirable job but this seems to contradict their vision. 

In addition to Robert Quinney's sabbatical, their Assistant Organist departed at the end of last term, so I'm not sure you can infer anything about their vision by this term's temporary arrangements.

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