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Amusing Stories And Incidents

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There are so many excellent stories of mayhem, disaster, pithy asides and classic double entendres among organists, I thought this would make a good light-hearted topic in the midst of EU troubles.

 

As today is Palm Sunday, I think I will set the ball rolling with a delightful true story concerning Palm Sunday.

 

There was an old Irish priest in my locale, and getting on in years and a little deaf, he tended to shout at people, his dog and his worshippers. Sometimes, he would get rather fraustrated and begin to sound quite angry; especially if he wanted to make a point or couldn't remember what it was that he wanted to say.

 

The fact that he was Irish and of the old-school, makes this particular story all the more amusing; though I cannot think why.

 

One of the traditions in the Roman Catholic church is the giving of palms on Palm Sunday, and as usual, the palms were distributed at the commencement of morning mass as the first hymn was sung.

 

The mass proceeded without hitch, and even the very long gospel reading was read perfectly.

 

However, as is often the case in catholic churches, there would be various announcements made immediately prior to the final blessing; in those days, always in Latin.

 

Our man staggered to his feet to announce things and give the blessing, and after "parish business" was concluded,this is what he said:-

 

"Now this mornin', as yer's all awares, we've b'in celebratin' Palm Sunday, and t'is is why we've given yers all palms. 'cos that's what we do on Palm Sunday.

 

Now as yer is all aware, we're only a small parish, and t'ese t'ings cost a lot of muney, and we can't afford to just give t'ings away for free. So we're goin' to have a second-collection t'is morning' to cover the cost of t'ese palms, 'cos I dont's want yers t'inkin dat t'ese t'ings grow on trees!"

 

:(

 

 

MM

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At my previous Church , Evensong was being taken by an elderly retired priest. Time and events had obviously passed him by, consequently we prayed for the King!

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Guest Lee Blick

Hadn't he realised ye Hamburger Guzzler had left the building? :P

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There is another splendid story concerning a rather straight-laced, lady organist of a methodist-church, who came along to play a fairly subtstantial 4-manual Harrison. She tootled around for half-an-hour and thoroughly enjoyed herself, then as it was time for a small group of us to retire to the "vestry" for a couple of pints, she being a methodist, decided not to join us.

 

As we stood in a small group, she thanked everyone for the opportunity of playing the organ.

 

Now this particular lady not only looked like, but had a voice exactly like that of the late Hilda Baker, which made her parting comment all the more comical.

 

Taking her leave, she said, "Eeee, do you know, my organ's only a llittle one, but it gives me so much pleasure. Oooooh, but yer know, it's grand to get your hands on a big one like yours."

 

The tears of laughter were still rolling when we finally arrived at the "vestry."

 

MM

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Some years ago, on a tuning visit, the elderly organist came in to discuss some aspect of the organ's health - he was having trouble hearing the upper octaves of a Great Fifteenth 2ft.

 

We played an ascending scale on the rank and asked him to stop us when he could no longer hear the notes (which wasn't too far above mid C).

 

He seemed fairly philosophical about his hearing loss and whispered, as a sort of confidential aside, "I suffer from tittyness, y'know..."

 

I think we knew what he meant but it still brings tears to the eyes. How we kept a straight face I know not !

 

H

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In another thread I came across this snippet by MM:

 

Of course, THE WORST is when parts of other people do strange things.

 

I recall playing Bach and grinding to a halt in the belief that I had a cypher on the pedals. The "cypher" wore tiny dungarees, and was crawling across the pedal-board!!

 

MM

Our younger cat is well capable of doing the same thing - the hefty lump. It used regularly to come and play pedal duets on my toaster, asking for food by trying to rub itself against my legs. It learnt its lesson one day when it tried it during the last couple of pages of Bossi's Étude symphonique. It's given the pedal board a wide berth ever since!

 

But surely the parts of other people that do strange things most often belong to page turners. I have a dim and distant memory of something fairly awful happening while I was playing Howells's "Gloucester" Mag & Nunc at St Paul's for a visiting choir. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it quite definitely involved my page turner. Whether it was a portly stomach pushing in the Choir stops as he reached to turn the page, or whether the music ended up on the pedal board, or both, I can't recall - the trauma (or premature senility) has obviously buried the moment irretrievably in my subconscious - but I do recall that the event was promptly followed by a spot of unscripted accompaniment.

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But surely the parts of other people that do strange things most often belong to page turners. I have a dim and distant memory of something fairly awful happening while I was playing Howells's "Gloucester" Mag & Nunc at St Paul's for a visiting choir. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it quite definitely involved my page turner. Whether it was a portly stomach pushing in the Choir stops as he reached to turn the page, or whether the music ended up on the pedal board, or both, I can't recall - the trauma (or premature senility) has obviously buried the moment irretrievably in my subconscious - but I do recall that the event was promptly followed by a spot of unscripted accompaniment.

 

'Reminds me of a recital by Geoffrey Tristram (usually worth hearing in those days and able to draw large audiences on the electronic then at Christchurch) at Bath Abbey that I attended in the late '70s - the pedal scale at the start of the Bach P & F in D did not (at all!) go where it should have gone - and it was the opening piece. I don't know about the recitalist but the audience had a collective trauma as to what he would do next. The funny thing is that i can't actually remember what he did do!

 

AJJ

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But surely the parts of other people that do strange things most often belong to page turners. I have a dim and distant memory of something fairly awful happening while I was playing Howells's "Gloucester" Mag & Nunc at St Paul's for a visiting choir. I'm not exactly sure what it was, but it quite definitely involved my page turner. Whether it was a portly stomach pushing in the Choir stops as he reached to turn the page, or whether the music ended up on the pedal board, or both, I can't recall - the trauma (or premature senility) has obviously buried the moment irretrievably in my subconscious - but I do recall that the event was promptly followed by a spot of unscripted accompaniment.

 

It was Saturday 3 January 1981, and I'm fairly sure it was a case of page-turner's stomach pushing stops in. Whether the music fell off as well, I can't say (since I wasn't in the loft). But I do remember very clearly the couple of unscripted bars, brilliantly excuted in the style of HH, just before "as it was..." In fact I still have it on tape, and listen to it from time to time!

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Another hilarious incident comes to mind:

 

Some years ago, the local branch of LEPRA (The Leprosy Association) attended Evensong at Rochester.

 

It was the 14th Evening. Psalm 73, Vs 2(a)...

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Not sure it ever comes around these days, but is anyone brave enough to admit having an appropriately embarrassing moment at Psalm 38 v.16(b )?

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The priest was a bit hurried, so during the Eucharistic prayer he (automagically??) prayed for JPII.

 

Waited for that one to happen for over a year :rolleyes:

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Not sure it ever comes around these days, but is anyone brave enough to admit having an appropriately embarrassing moment at Psalm 38 v.16(b )?

 

At least one of our former Assistant Organists used to do some deliberate "word-painting" in that verse.

 

Another hilarious incident was in Exeter Cathedral recently with a visiting choir from Rochester. The Dean of E (formerly Acting Dean of R), surrounded by a sea of old familiar faces, greeted the congregation "Welcome to Evensong in Rochester Cathedral...", and wondered why everyone started falling about.

 

His 2i/c had been waiting 11 months for him to do that.

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'Reminds me of a recital by Geoffrey Tristram (usually worth hearing in those days and able to draw large audiences on the electronic then at Christchurch) at Bath Abbey that I attended in the late '70s - the pedal scale at the start of the Bach P & F in D did not (at all!) go where it should have gone - and it was the opening piece. I don't know about the recitalist but the audience had a collective trauma as to what he would do next. The funny thing is that i can't actually remember what he did do!

 

AJJ

 

Piet Kee had a similar disaster in the opening flourish of the (big) Bruhns E minor at St Peter's, Eaton Square a few years ago.

 

The final item on his programme was an improvisation in which he took as his theme the same mangled phrase from the beginning of the recital - a delightfully witty and self-deprecating touch much appreciated by the audience.

 

JS

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In fact I still have it on tape, and listen to it from time to time!

There are times when I'm SO glad this forum doesn't allow attachments! :rolleyes:

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'Reminds me of a recital by Geoffrey Tristram (usually worth hearing in those days and able to draw large audiences on the electronic then at Christchurch) at Bath Abbey that I attended in the late '70s - the pedal scale at the start of the Bach P & F in D did not (at all!) go where it should have gone - and it was the opening piece. I don't know about the recitalist but the audience had a collective trauma as to what he would do next. The funny thing is that i can't actually remember what he did do!

 

AJJ

 

======================

 

The usual thing is tread on bottom C for the very last note.

 

Now there are ways to get out of this, and the simple way is to make it into an ornament, by then pressing C# before ending with a double mordent on D.

 

Others take a more spectacular approach, such as Francis Jackson, who improvised a whole new page before getting the second attempt right.

 

My approach is just to smile.....turn slowly....and say, "I bet you've all been hoping that would happen!"

 

One of the best "errors" which really had no resolution, was a 4ft Tromba Clarion pipe at Halifax PC, which decided to go walkabouts tuning-wise, in weather similar to that which we are enjoying at the moment.

 

What SHOULD have been a fanfare for "the trumpet call obey" in "Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!" turned out to be an atonal flourish which included a note an octave and 7/12th higher than it should have been.

 

Philip Tordoff immediately set to and wrote his infamous, and seldom performed "Clarion cry".

 

I think my most embarassing moment was when I dropped a heavy hymn-book, which bounced down four manuals already prepared for the final hymn. That was bad enough, but trying to retrieve it from the pedals, I slipped, banged my head and went cassock over surplice; landing on all fours on something approaching full-pedal.

 

Thank God for a decent acoustic, which masked the blue words; the first of which started on F and the second of which began with the German for B natural.

 

The choristers had to be peeled off the floor!

 

MM

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My crowning moment of infamy occurred during my third year as Organ Scholar of St George’s, Windsor.

 

The Dean and Chapter had decided it would be a good idea to have a couple of minutes silence after each of the canticles at Matins to enable the community to reflect quietly on the lessons. This had been going on for some time when the annual big event, the service for the Order of the Garter, loomed.

 

Sidney Campbell spelled out the battle plan. He would do most of the playing. This was a foregone conclusion as he always liked to play for the big services himself – and rightly so since he had an unparalleled sense of occasion. Muggins was detailed to conduct the choir – which suited me just fine since it meant I would escape the semi-circle of fanfare trumpeters in the organ loft all unavoidably pointing their bells at the organ bench. (If you’ve never had to stand mere inches away from a band of fanfare trumpets at full blast, believe me it hurts!)

 

Normally we conducted from mid-choir just inside the choir door, but there was no way Campbell was having this on Garter Day. For one thing it would mean that Muggins would have his back to the Queen, which of course is not protocol. For another, I would be inconveniently in the line of sight between Her Majesty and the BBC cameras that would be televising the event. So I was ordered to sit at the western end of the cantoris boys and conduct from the choir stalls. On the menu were Britten’s Te Deum in E and Bainton’s And I saw a new heaven.

 

Campbell didn’t believe in taking risks so, as usual, he put the music down for a dry run on a weekday Matins a few days beforehand. It was just as well he did.

 

The day of the trial Matins arrived and we found ourselves performing to a near-empty house - which was also just as well. The Britten began superbly. The choir were on top form, the atmosphere was quite magical. Then came the forte explosion at “Thou art of the King of Glory, O Christ”. Now to this day I have never mastered the art of conducting with my finger-tips. Vernon Handley’s classes at the RCM just didn’t deal with this. The most tactful description of my conducting would probably be “demonstrative”. At the word “Christ” my hand connected very forcibly with the choir-stall light in front of me. I had never realised before that the shades on these little lights are not fixed, but merely balanced on top of the bulb. The one I hit took off like a firework. Up it went, fifteen feet into the air to greet the colourful banners that hang above the choir. Then down it parachuted, very slowly and gracefully, landing in mid choir with a couple of bounces.

 

The head verger, who liked nothing better than a good dose of pomp and circumstance, rose imperially from his stall, marched solemnly to the offending object and with much ceremony picked it up and replaced it on top of the indecently exposed bulb.

 

How we got to the end of the piece I’ll never know. To say that the choir's tone became somewhat uneven is an understatement. But the worst bit was then having to sit through two minutes “contemplation”. I looked down the row of cantoris boys, then across to the decani stalls. Without exception the boys' shoulders were heaving uncontrollably as they tried hopelessly to keep straight faces. The men were hardly more composed.

 

Not long after this the Dean and Chapter decided that the periods of contemplation were not such a good idea after all.

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Thankyou for the story Vox Humana, but this is very frustrating as it makes me want to know who you are. I've commented before on the use of aliases on this notice board which, quite frankly, I wish were not allowed!

 

Incidentally, talking of St. George's, Windsor, and of no relevance whatsoever, one of my daughter's godmothers is Hylton-Stewart's daughter.

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Yes, a good story. Campbell was obviously a great figure and I really enjoy hearing his anthem 'Sing We Merrily'. I wonder if it sounded ahead of its time when it was first composed? I am less keen on his 'Litany of Peace' which blights the Sunday Sung Eucharist. I rather have said interessions. I find that worship at SGW is a rather underwhelming experience. Hymns are feebly played. Its as if it can't make up its mind whether it should be a parish Church or a Cathedral equivalent.

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Thankyou for the story Vox Humana, but this is very frustrating as it makes me want to know who you are. I've commented before on the use of aliases on this notice board which, quite frankly, I wish were not allowed!
Aw, shucks. :unsure:

 

It’s all very embarrassing really since alongside many who preceded or succeeded me – Graham Elliott, John Porter (later assistant at Windsor and a tragic loss to the organ world), Francis Grier, Colin Walsh, Wayne Marshall to name but a few – I pale into insignificance. Maybe if I’d decided to pursue an organ loft career... Alas, nowadays an RSI problem in my shoulders which limits the amount of practice I can do, plus having given up the organ altogether on a couple of occasions, not to mention the gradual aging process, all conspire to keep me well in my place.

 

Nevertheless I don't want to be discourteous to those who are interested, so just this once (and I know I'm going to regret doing this) here is an article I wrote for our local organists’ association's magazine and which DHM generously thought was worth posting on his choir’s website.

http://www.gundulf.org.uk/html/jay_s_report.html

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Yes, a good story. Campbell was obviously a great figure and I really enjoy hearing his anthem 'Sing We Merrily'. I wonder if it sounded ahead of its time when it was first composed? I am less keen on his 'Litany of Peace' which blights the Sunday Sung Eucharist. I rather have said interessions. I find that worship at SGW is a rather underwhelming experience. Hymns are feebly played. Its as if it can't make up its mind whether it should be a parish Church or a Cathedral equivalent.

Goodness, do they still sing his Litany of Peace? I think Campbell only ever thought of this as purely functional music - he wrote is because he was asked to. The piece of his that I think is really superb is his Te Deum in B flat - a powerful setting full of interesting harmonic colour (the inspiration for which is actually French chromaticism though you wouldn't think it) and with a real sense of occasion. It was written for the enthronement of an archbishop of Canterbury and must have sounded tremendous there. I don't know whether anyone does it these days. If not, it's a great pity. There's a Jubilate in the same key too, though that was written at Windsor and is a rather different kettle of fish, though it goes well enough with the Te Deum (it has an important part for Windsor's Orchestral Trumpet stop). It has more in common with 'Sing we merrily'. In fact, on one occasion when the choir were singing the anthem, they had just reached their final two B flat chords when, quite without warning Campbell abandoned the published organ part and launched into the organ coda from the Jubilate. Then he turned round and smirked, "It fits!" It did indeed.

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Guest Andrew Butler
Aw, shucks.  :unsure:

 

It’s all very embarrassing really since alongside many who preceded or succeeded me – Graham Elliott, John Porter (later assistant at Windsor and a tragic loss to the organ world), Francis Grier, Colin Walsh, Wayne Marshall to name but a few – I pale into insignificance. Maybe if I’d decided to pursue an organ loft career... Alas, nowadays an RSI problem in my shoulders which limits the amount of practice I can do, plus having given up the organ altogether on a couple of occasions, not to mention the gradual aging process, all conspire to keep me well in my place.

 

Nevertheless I don't want to be discourteous to those who are interested, so just this once (and I know I'm going to regret doing this) here is an article I wrote for our local organists’ association's magazine and which DHM generously thought was worth posting on his choir’s website.

http://www.gundulf.org.uk/html/jay_s_report.html

 

:unsure: And I thought, being a past-master of puns, and see-er through of disguises, that I'd given the game away in my post of Mar 4 2006, 03:57 PM in the "Courcelina" thread (in Nuts & Bolts)

 

PS - Can you do a "quote" from another topic, and if so how?

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:unsure: And I thought, being a past-master of puns, and see-er through of disguises, that I'd given the game away in my post of Mar 4 2006, 03:57 PM in the "Courcelina" thread (in Nuts & Bolts)

 

PS - Can you do a "quote" from another topic, and if so how?

 

Yes but with all due respect to VH we would only have 'got it' if we had known of the gent in question in the first place. The Windsor connection was an interesting one though - I know someone who was also an organ scholar there - I believe he inherited Campbell's clavichord - he also talks of Campbell with great affection etc.

 

AJJ

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PS - Can you do a "quote" from another topic, and if so how?

On the message you want to link to, click the message number (top right) and save the link displayed (e.g. Ctrl-C to copy it to the clipboard). Then when composing a messge, click the button labelled "http://" and paste the saved URL into the box that opens (e.g. Ctrl-V), and in the next box put the text you want to appear for the link (e.g. "this message").

 

Paul

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Aw, shucks.  :unsure:

 

Nevertheless I don't want to be discourteous to those who are interested, so just this once (and I know I'm going to regret doing this) here is an article I wrote for our local organists’ association's magazine and which DHM generously thought was worth posting on his choir’s website.

http://www.gundulf.org.uk/html/jay_s_report.html

 

 

=====================

 

Never heard of him!

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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There you are, you see. What did I tell you? :unsure: :unsure:

 

I imagine Andrew only twigged because of his former Bristol connections.

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