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Liverpool Cathedral - new organ!


Martin Cooke
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4 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

First of all, how do you get them to listen to reason?

A couple of days ago I was talking to the organist of a remote village church (congregation c.20) which has a II/P organ of 11 stops by Anon. It's a rather lovely thing, thanks to the golden touch of the late Bill Drake, although I'm quite sure this wouldn't stop some organists replacing it with a digital instrument, owing to its lack of a 'proper' Full Swell, Tuba, Open Wood, 32' reed, etc., etc.  It sits at the back of the church, in the north-west corner, its rear against the side wall. Immediately to the left of the organ, a doorway is about to be drilled through the west wall, to provide access to a toilet to be built onto the outside of the church. A kitchen is also envisaged. Inevitably this wall is several feet thick, so a lot of dust will ensue.  Are there plans to cover or dismantle the organ to protect it? No. Also, there is complete disregard for the organist's complaints about the disruption around him that will be caused by stampede of the desperate during his voluntaries. He is trying to insist that the organ is not only dismantled, but turned through 90 degrees to put some space between him and the melée. I wish him luck, but I'm wondering where the church will find the extra money.

I'm surprised there isn't something in the faculty about protecting the organ and indeed other furnishings. Maybe complain to the Archdeacon - they are supposed to take some responsibility for this kind of thing.

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One thing I thing I'd also like to say is that I feel that not everyone understands why people like appreciate the pipe organ, as it's not just about the noises a pipe organ makes.

I have a passion for steam, and not just steam locomotives but also steam power in other forms, such as in pumping stations, and ocean liners. So I took up an interest in the pipe organ because I felt that it was an ideal instrument to express my passion for steam.

And to be honest, if my only interest in the organ was just about the pedals and the ability to create different sounds, I wouldn't be that concerned about playing an instrument that purely sounded like a pipe organ.

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14 hours ago, Martin Cooke said:

...[And let's also remember that, yes, we have all these instruments, but the established church seems to be eating itself alive and in 30 to 50 years time will be gone. What will happen to all these pipe organs then?] 

I'm afraid that is a perfectly possible future.  Churches are closing right left and centre these days as the number of people who still regard themselves as Christians diminishes.
It is quite possible that eventually all we shall be left with will be cathedrals and a few ancient churches of historical interest.
Those people who would find themselves without a local church would probably go to their nearest surviving church or cathedral which, in a way, would at least provide more support for those buildings - and organs of course - which still remain.

Personally, of course I'd much prefer it if more people in this country took more of an interest in organ music, and I often wonder why the instrument benefits from so much more interest and following in places like the Netherlands and Germany than here in the UK.

 

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10 hours ago, John Robinson said:

I'm afraid that is a perfectly possible future.  Churches are closing right left and centre these days as the number of people who still regard themselves as Christians diminishes.
It is quite possible that eventually all we shall be left with will be cathedrals and a few ancient churches of historical interest.
Those people who would find themselves without a local church would probably go to their nearest surviving church or cathedral which, in a way, would at least provide more support for those buildings - and organs of course - which still remain.

Personally, of course I'd much prefer it if more people in this country took more of an interest in organ music, and I often wonder why the instrument benefits from so much more interest and following in places like the Netherlands and Germany than here in the UK.

 

Are churches closing left, right and centre? I'm not so sure that they are! I live in France but the part of the country I come from has churches, and often ancient churches, in almost every village. The livings may be, very often, held in plurality and services may not be every week but the churches aren't closing and most of them, unlike French village churches, have organs in them which are used, frequently by willing amateur players doing their best! I'm told that attendance at the established church has increased, both at Christmas and Easter and also recently. People not normally seen in church are attending more regularly.

As for an interest in organs. I sometimes think that we don't do ourselves any favours. Organ recitals are often dreary affairs with an emphasis on counterpoint. I'd like to see a better mix -  more recitals including those transcriptions of orchestral music that were so popular during the Victorian era!!  Many organists still perpetuate what they see to be 'good music' (whatever that means) in church. Choral Evensong - Stanford in C and the like! Middle-class attitudes - cassocks, surplices and academic hoods - and a rather superior attitude to their craft. (Within the past year i have visited three 'Greater churches' and been treated with a superior attitude and complete indifference by the resident 'titulaire' when I showed interest in the organ - as opposed to  two cathedrals where I was greeted with open arms!!!) The RSCM in one area I know put forward a scheme to learn the organ with no takers - simply because it was 'packaged' wrongly! There is interest out there but learning the organ and practising, and we have been here before, has often insurmountable difficulties. The sexual behaviour, also, of some clergy and some organists, and some high profile publicity, doesn't help our cause!

What is different about Germany, the Netherlands (and France!)? I don't know. Village churches in France tend not to have organs but recitals in Cathedrals etc. are often very well attended and French audiences will happily listen to reams of Messiaen and the like! I have, recently, written a Mass setting, to be sung in French and sung 'by the people'. Playing it to a friend of mine in the UK, last week, he commented that he couldn't imagine the music being used in a church in the UK - it was 'too modern'! He could imagine the grumbles! And yet, the French congregation it was written for enjoy singing it!

We've been here before. I don't know the answer but I do know that 'doom and gloom' and constant 'moaning' about how bad it is doesn't help! We need to be more positive, get up and get out there, and be more alive to the 21st century rather than living in the past!

I'll now put my soap box away - and take cover!!!!

Amazing - post number 800 - I didn't realise I'd been here that long!!!

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Over a decade ago I was in Prague during the Christmas period. There was an organ recital I attended in one of the city's churches and it was packed with people. Yet the place was icy cold, breath was visible and the recitalist played in his overcoat and bobble hat. He was warmly applauded after every piece.

Is there much "twang and bang" used in French churches?

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On 19/08/2021 at 10:13, Barry Oakley said:

Is there much "twang and bang" used in French churches?

I'm not sure what you mean, although I have some idea, and what you are referring to!

But if you are referring to the Mass setting I have written for the French church then I can assure you that it isn't 'twang and bang' in the slightest. The melodies are are in a sort of modal  'Plainsong' with an organ accompaniment based on chords often with missing 3rds or with 7ths and 9ths - and often in 'streams' - perhaps reminiscent of Debussy. 

Tomorrow the music will be sung in a Cistercian Abbey by an Order of Enclosed Nuns, together with Nuns from a local Benedictine Abbey to celebrate St. Bernard of Clairvaux!

Definitely not 'twang and bang'!! 

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I don’t know how many times I have said this before, but the recitals and recitalists with varied programmes are there. Very often small audiences are due to lack of publicity - hopeless mistakes made like flyers omitting the date and time or even the venue, or the event being announced the day before it is to happen - all true stories from a reliable source!   S_L would enjoy Thomas Trotter’s offerings at Birmingham Town Hall for the type of mixed programmes which he advocates - see the current series advertised on http://www.organrecitals.com.  At today’s date that site offers 140 recitals around the country and lists 313 organists playing these and later ones.  What possible excuse for these grumbles from organists!

I think John Robinson raises a separate point about lack of interest or active indifference to our instrument by non-organists, and that is less easy to answer.  There has to be some way of changing things.  Some local organists’ associations are making gallant efforts at grass-roots level to involve both the young and not so young.  Courses like Oundle and the RCO and conservatoires are more aimed at future performers.  Somehow audiences need to be attracted.  Some years ago I persuaded two work colleagues to come with me to a lunchtime recital (not sure whether they were called concerts) in Winchester Cathedral, something which would never have occurred to them to do before.  Afterwards one of them said “I had no idea an organ could sound like that”, and they both became regular members of the audience.

Something which organists must tackle is their recital (should it be concert?) programmes being published in advance.  Of course, it could be a two-edged sword: one consisting solely of Messiaen or Leighton (I have experienced both!) is highly likely to deter some, probably many, prospective audience members.  Those composers have to be worked into wider programmes: ‘educating’ an audience may sound pompous, but that is what it is. Thomas Trotter is a past-master at doing this.  Others include Ian Tracey, Gordon Stewart and Darius Battiwalla, to name just three.

 

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Thanks for all these interesting thoughts and contributions. S_L I do fear for the future of the church as we know it, put it like that. I haven't kept up with the saga but there is a lot of talk over here about 10,000 new churches being established without the expense of clergy to run them and all being done in people's homes - and as far as I can tell, this is coming from the top! There is an incredible shortage of money in many (all) dioceses with talk of clergy redundancies - Chelmsford seems to be particularly badly hit, but they are far from alone. A fifth church is just joining four others in a benefice I know in Cornwall... though there are two clergy + two retired clergy and at least 2 LLMs (lay readers) but I imagine it will only be one service per church n most Sundays. And, at what I would regard as the principal church in the benefice, the splendid organ hasn't been tuned for several years, when it used to be done quarterly - but, again, it's not alone in that!

I agree that organists don't always do themselves favours. I watched a film recently of a splendid organist introducing his large instrument - it was probably intended for organ enthusiasts only. But he drew some diapasons and played some very dull chords and described it as a 'glorious sound.' Well, we all know what diapasons sound like and, honestly, anyone who thinks three of four together is a 'glorious sound' needs to get out more! And it doesn't need to be like that - just read the account of the tonal work that has been undertaken at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Organists' Review this quarter - it all comes over as really quite exciting.

If I am really honest, I am not sure that all these improvisations that many seem to specialise in do the instrument and its players any huge favours. Many, to my humble ears, come over as a mad, discordant and over-long cacophony and I avoid them now. I am showing my ignorance in saying this, I know, but I would much rather listen to a short improvised 'choir in' voluntary by a master of the art, than a long improvised symphony of sorts. And are transcriptions of massive symphonies popular? And if so, who with? 

And to back up Rowland's thoughts about the good work going on at Oundle and other places - there are some really good people doing some fantastic work with organ and church music with young people. The whole Diocese of Leeds music scheme sounds brilliant, and then there is Anna Lapwood in Cambridge (but, actually 'everywhere') and Tom Daggett (based at St Paul's) who do outstanding work with organ and choral music, inspiring lots of young people. And I sense that this is a movement that is growing as more and more people are caught up in what is already happening. [The contribution from trusts and charities to organ rebuild schemes is often predicated upon the 'new' organ being used to inspire new young organists.]

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Martin, The 10,000 house-church planting proposal wasn’t very well announced, and planning for it seemed non-existent.  There has been some back-tracking in the face of considerable and understandable indignation by parish clergy.  That the C of E has major problems isn’t in doubt, but this particular issue is very far from settled.

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1 hour ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Martin, The 10,000 house-church planting proposal wasn’t very well announced, and planning for it seemed non-existent.  There has been some back-tracking in the face of considerable and understandable indignation by parish clergy.  That the C of E has major problems isn’t in doubt, but this particular issue is very far from settled.

Good to hear, Rowland, and thanks for that.

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11 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Some years ago I persuaded two work colleagues to come with me to a lunchtime recital (not sure whether they were called concerts) in Winchester Cathedral, something which would never have occurred to them to do before.  Afterwards one of them said “I had no idea an organ could sound like that”, and they both became regular members of the audience.

Excellent!
I believe that is the problem with the lack of public interest in the organ in this country.  I have spoken to friends who describe organ music as 'dirges' and 'all the same notes all the way through'!
Yes, I think it would be great if more people could hear recitals such as you describe and by organists such as those you name. Jonathan Scott is another one who I think could certainly convert people to the organ.  I think in many cases it just needs some 'non organ lovers' to be persuaded to hear the right music by the right people.

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21 hours ago, S_L said:

I'm not sure what you mean, although I have some idea, and what you are referring to!

But if you are referring to the Mass setting I have written for the French church then I can assure you that it isn't 'twang and bang' in the slightest. The melodies are are in a sort of 'Plainsong' using, in some cases, some of the Messiaen modes of limited transposition, with an organ accompaniment based on chords with missing 3rds or with 7ths and 9ths - often in 'streams' - perhaps reminiscent of Debussy. 

Tomorrow the music will be sung in a Cistercian Abbey by an Order of Enclosed Nuns, together with Nuns from a local Benedictine Abbey to celebrate St. Bernard of Clairvaux!

Definitely not 'twang and bang'!! 

"Twang and Bang" is simply drum kit and over-amplified electric guitars.

Good to hear, Stephen, that your Mass setting does not use the above.

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On 19/08/2021 at 10:13, Barry Oakley said:
On 20/08/2021 at 08:56, Barry Oakley said:

"Twang and Bang" is simply drum kit and over-amplified electric guitars.

Is there much "twang and bang" used in French churches?

 

I don't know to be honest but let me tell you of an experience I did have!

It was Good Friday, about five years ago and I went to the Liturgy in my local church. The celebration was in the evening which meant that people working, Good Friday is not a holiday in France, were able to attend. As always, I arrived very early. At the front there were a host of young people with guitars and other instruments - I don't remember a  drum kit! They were practising and it wasn't very good. I nearly walked out and came home but thought better of it. About ten minutes before the liturgy commenced the rehearsal stopped, the teenagers settled down in the pews at the front and the church became silent. The priest entered, in silence, prostrated, got up and read the collect and we heard the first reading. The Responsorial Psalm was accompanied by guitars and other instruments. The Response was sung in unison accompanied but the verse was chanted, SSAA - four parts, unaccompanied by the teenagers - and done very well indeed! The rest of the liturgy followed a similar pattern and a similar vein and, after a couple of hours, I came home with a sense of admiration and pleased with the liturgy that had unfolded.

It occurred to me that the rehearsal I witnessed was exactly what a rehearsal was for - sorting out the bits that weren't very good to make them better. The music wouldn't have been what i would have chosen, it was, unashamedly, in a popular vein  but it was well done.

In contrast I remember going to a Good Friday liturgy before I came to France. We were to be treated to Lotti Crucifixus, John of Portugal, Casals, Bruckner etc. - all the 'Good Friday classics' The music list looked very impressive, had been printed in a booklet for the Holy Week Liturgies, but was too difficult for the singers, was badly performed and I sat on edge all the way through!

I'd rather have the 'twangies' - any day!!!

 

 

 

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