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Just to acknowledge from the start... the idea of this topic comes from a comment on the 'other site' to which I often refer. In a post about Norwich Cathedral organ, one contributor comments that we only get to hear our great organs at services and at half a dozen recitals (if we're lucky) each year. I think this is largely true, though I know that Truro runs an extensive lunch hour recital programme. Why, wonders that same contributor, aren't these instruments played for an hour each day so they can be heard. I am bound to say that I agree, though I don't want to suggest that our cathedral music staff are not busy enough! As we all know, funding for these great places has been severely curtailed because of Covid, so I suspect cathedrals are very keen not to do anything that might affect visitors' enjoyment of their visit, and loud organ playing would make it difficult to hear a tour guide. BUT... isn't there a balance... and that fact that you can barely visit a cathedral outside service time and hear the organ played on more than Swell 1, suggests the balance may be out. (And do read some of the guides for visiting organists available on cathedral websites about guidance for practising at certain times of day. In some places you really cannot go beyond the Lieblich. And, by the way, the instructions about use of the organ for service playing and how certain stops deafen this canon or that virger and can only be heard in the Lady Chapel when the wind is in North-East, etc etc are quite extraordinary! Some organs seem so difficult in terms of balance in the building that they seem hopelessly impractical and almost a complete waste of money! Would you install a pipe organ if you were starting from scratch in some places, one can't help wondering!!) And if the Great and Pedal reeds can only used so sparingly - (and in one cathedral's case, not at all during the first five minutes of any voluntary because the clergy are conversing with the departing congregation) - mightn't they as well be removed altogether at the next rebuild and the instrument re-cast in an altogether more suitable format? (And couldn't the clergy stagger as far as the west end, well away from the organ to say their farewells????!!!) 

The other thing about hearing cathedral organs is that some cathedrals seem to delight in letting people hear the organ even at services. So, during the week, you perhaps get a minute or two of 'Organist's Creep' beforehand and a minimal voluntary at the end. Again, I have seen instructions that suggest the latter is what is desired so that the voluntary doesn't detract in some way from the nature of the service. Mind you, a BBC Choral Evensong a year or two back seemed madly out of kilter in having the huge Willan Passacaglia piece as the voluntary. What is that, 20 minutes' worth? 

Anyway, about hearing more from cathedral organs in non service times, what do forumites feel?

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I would wholeheartedly welcome a different way of doing things. As you say, Martin, the current approach taken by the powers that be in their instructions for visiting organists (and indeed their own) isn't very balanced. Put very simply indeed, I feel that since the great cathedral instruments are expensive and magnificent, we might as well all hear a proper representation of what they can do for an hour or two every day. It seems a waste otherwise.

Whether it's just one short piece, or practice, or a small recital, and whether given by the DoM or an organ scholar I don't particularly care. The main point is that the organ is just as much a part of the cathedral as its architecture and should be appreciable as such by visitors - by being heard.

Interested and able organists from outside a cathedral, suitably 'auditioned' beforehand perhaps, should also be allowed practice time during the day as a matter of course - in return for a small fee maybe, if the powers that be wish to levy one. When I was at university in Aberdeen back in the 1990s - I wasn't studying music, by the way - I was given permission to practice as often as I liked when St Machar's Cathedral was open and nothing else was happening, and no limits were placed on which stops I could use. The cathedral never got a massive number of visitors during term time, but a visiting group of American tourists once sat down to listen as I played, and one of them caught me afterwards and said hearing the instrument had added to their enjoyment of the visit. The same can be said of King's College Chapel in Aberdeen - again, as much practice time as I liked (on the previous instrument, sadly, back then, rather than the Aubertin!) and no limits. And the chapel constantly had students and some tourists and academic visitors popping in and out.

So because of those experiences, the old 'people will be upset by hearing the organ' canard doesn't really wash with me. (I actually think there's a case to be made for tours to include the organ loft if it's at all possible! Organists here might blanch, but aren't members of the public let up to the organ lofts of the French (and other European countries) cathedrals?)

I fully agree also that no registration rules should be laid down for voluntaries - if the clergy don't want to shout, they can certainly move away from the quire area. I mean, I went to St Paul's in London about 10 years ago for the Advent procession, and Cocker's Tuba Tune was being played - very loudly - as we all queued under the dome to leave. People enjoyed it, and the member of the clergy who gave me a smiling valedictory greeting at the south door didn't seem put out by it in the least.

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Before the combination of old-age and Covid isolation set in, I regularly attended Evensong (as a Southerner) in our Northern cathedrals: Chester, Liverpool, Lincoln and York and, further south, Norwich already mentioned.  At all of these there was a voluntary, finely played, at weekday services and something more major on Sundays.  All of these also have recital series, the best organised of all, possibly, at Chester.  But, and so often at Evensong, I found myself left entirely on my own sitting in the quire by the end of a great performance, and at the start there would be animated conversation, even laughter, by congregation members before drifting out - totally oblivious to the music and skill and artistry of the performance.  I commented on this to a member of the clergy once - sad to say this was at York Minster - who merely shrugged their shoulders.  The reality is that the majority of our fellow citizens are indifferent to organ music - I almost said classical music.  So, how do we ‘educate’ or persuade them differently?  

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I don't know a great deal of what happens in CofE cathedrals - most of my visits are as a tourist (when I do enjoy hearing the organ - as most tour guides that I have experienced have closed circuit radio links with their posse of tourists, if I want to listen to the organ, I simply walk out of range!) or as a member of a concert/recital audience.

However, I do admire the French (and sometimes German and Austrian) practice of having a recital either before or after Sunday Mass (in addition to the sortie and improvisations). For example, St Sulpice, Paris when you usually get a 15 minute session before Mass and a 45 minute recital afterwards and St Eustache, where you get a 40 minute recital before Mass, then a 10 minute improvisation before and a big sortie after Mass.  Maybe something to think about...

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There is usually a Sunday afternoon recital of around 30 minutes (the scheduled time) following Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, also at Westminster Cathedral presumably after Vespers.  I don’t know whether anything similar happens regularly elsewhere.  But, I suggest, there will be a major organ work as the voluntary on Sundays in most, probably all, C of E cathedrals.  That has been my experience for as long as I can remember.

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16 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

The reality is that the majority of our fellow citizens are indifferent to organ music - I almost said classical music.  So, how do we ‘educate’ or persuade them differently?  

I would certainly include classical music in that statement, always allowing that there are plenty of individuals who do love it, but also, sadly, that the pipe organ has even fewer fans. But, as a general rule, serious classical music lovers are very much a minority in the Britain of today. As to how we set about changing this, it can only be done by educating and enthusing people.  As I have suggested before, my view is that this absolutely has to begin with the education of children from a very young age. They need exposure to classical music and opportunities to engage with it, preferably by learning instruments. When you consider that, in a majority of households, even those with no objection to classical music, they are likely to be bombarded regularly, even constantly, with popular musics—and if their parents and siblings don't do it, the aural media certainly will—these are what will be indoctrinated. You simply cannot escape from this in today's world, so it's no surprise that classical music gets pushed into the margins, or altogether into oblivion.  I am not suggesting that the young don't get exposure to classical music, but is it enough and is it of sufficient quality?  With absolutely no disrespect to music teachers, who do all that they can within the limitations imposed on them, classical music must be made a more important part of the curriculum and be treated as a serious subject, properly resourced and properly funded. It is far, far more than simply a recreation.

I should just add that I am very aware that the enjoyment of light organ music doesn't necessarily require a sophisticated appreciation of classical music, but my point is that the young need weaning off a diet of guitars and—above all else—drums. We should be enabling them to expand their horizons and appreciation.

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13 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

Before the combination of old-age and Covid isolation set in, I regularly attended Evensong (as a Southerner) in our Northern cathedrals: Chester, Liverpool, Lincoln and York and, further south, Norwich already mentioned.  At all of these there was a voluntary, finely played, at weekday services and something more major on Sundays.  All of these also have recital series, the best organised of all, possibly, at Chester.  But, and so often at Evensong, I found myself left entirely on my own sitting in the quire by the end of a great performance, and at the start there would be animated conversation, even laughter, by congregation members before drifting out - totally oblivious to the music and skill and artistry of the performance.  I commented on this to a member of the clergy once - sad to say this was at York Minster - who merely shrugged their shoulders.  The reality is that the majority of our fellow citizens are indifferent to organ music - I almost said classical music.  So, how do we ‘educate’ or persuade them differently?  

As an atheist, I rarely attend services and even then only if there is a recital at the end.  Sorry!
However, I have found exactly the same thing and mentioned here such 'animated conversation of congregation members' at York Minster's Nine Lessons and Carols in December last year.

It is very true that the majority of Brits seem to be indifferent to organ music which is why, no doubt, so many organs in this country are either being ditched or, if they are lucky, sold on to locations in Europe.  In fact, it has often puzzled me: why only us and not other European countries?

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There is of course an opposite viewpoint to consider when thinking about priests indifferent to organ voluntaries. How many organists listen to a sermon? I know several places where it's possible and normal to sneak out for a cuppa (or stronger) unnoticed. 

I think there's a root cause analysis waiting to be done here of the motivations of all the characters involved and why there is sometimes a clash. Perhaps a sequel to "Under Milkwood" would word this better than me. I guess we have at least priest, director of music / organist and verger. Making some presumptions and stereotypes... The priest is looking to spread the message of God and to do their best to retain and increase interested people's attendance, though I've known some who appear workshy and do the minimum. The director of music believes that their style of music enhances the service and would defend that forthrightly against other ideas and styles. The verger ought to be out for smooth running of the establishment but is more often out for work minimisation and power assertion.

In smaller churches the vicar and congregation is usually encouraging of anyone offering a visiting choir, recital, concert, flower festival, organist association visit or any other event that will bring people in and brighten the parish. In larger establishments they are sometimes spoilt by the quality of their home team and see it as more a disruption and nuisance.

My own two worst experiences of unnecessarily limited organ practice time in my early 20s were at the high handed power control of directors of music who were not my teacher. When I made known those situations I had support from clergy before in one case the DOM moved on (pushed for other reasons) and in the other I went elsewhere where I was appreciated. Of course there's always the occasional verger assertion incident over their control of the key ring, lighting or mains box. 

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I have listened to countless sermons - good and bad - and even remember some details from the good ones decades later!  There was no escape route at any of the churches where I played!

I wasn’t suggesting that my experience at York Minster indicated indifference by the clergy.  The shrug of the shoulders might, on reflection, have been resigned agreement about the departing congregation.  But my comments about the congregation and the sheer racket they made still stand.  Incidentally, I am in no way singling out York!  I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences elsewhere.

 

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Organ Voluntaries!!

I play occasionally and on great days at a large monastery in the Dordogne. The first time I played the sister in charge of the music asked if I would play a sortie at the end of the Mass. I chose a piece of music that I knew reasonably well and expected that, sometime after the first page, the sisters and members of the congregation would start to depart as seems to be the custom others, in the UK, have experienced. Not so. The sisters sat there and listened as did the congregation which was slightly worrying as, having dug the music out only an hour or so before Mass, I hadn't had a huge amount of time to look much past the first couple of pages. I made it to the end without becoming a composer and learnt my lesson very quickly. 

On Wednesday we have the installation of a new Abbess. The event is by invitation only and the place will be packed. The local Bishop, together with the Head of the Cistercians in France and a Cardinal from Rome are to be present. Mother Abbess will be installed, given her crozier and give her Abbatiale Blessing. There is a huge amount of music, all in French, to get through and the sister responsible for the music asked me "et le sortie?" I've looked at all of it - carefully - I won't be caught out again!!!

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12 hours ago, S_L said:

Organ Voluntaries!!

I play occasionally and on great days at a large monastery in the Dordogne. The first time I played the sister in charge of the music asked if I would play a sortie at the end of the Mass. I chose a piece of music that I knew reasonably well and expected that, sometime after the first page, the sisters and members of the congregation would start to depart as seems to be the custom others, in the UK, have experienced. Not so. The sisters sat there and listened as did the congregation which was slightly worrying as, having dug the music out only an hour or so before Mass, I hadn't had a huge amount of time to look much past the first couple of pages. I made it to the end without becoming a composer and learnt my lesson very quickly. 

On Wednesday we have the installation of a new Abbess. The event is by invitation only and the place will be packed. The local Bishop, together with the Head of the Cistercians in France and a Cardinal from Rome are to be present. Mother Abbess will be installed, given her crozier and give her Abbatiale Blessing. There is a huge amount of music, all in French, to get through and the sister responsible for the music asked me "et le sortie?" I've looked at all of it - carefully - I won't be caught out again!!!

Wouldn't it be nice if we had congregations like that in the UK.  It isn't just good manners; it's a genuine interest in the music, or I assume it is.

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On 27/01/2022 at 23:02, John Robinson said:

As an atheist, I rarely attend services and even then only if there is a recital at the end.  Sorry!
However, I have found exactly the same thing and mentioned here such 'animated conversation of congregation members' at York Minster's Nine Lessons and Carols in December last year.

It is very true that the majority of Brits seem to be indifferent to organ music which is why, no doubt, so many organs in this country are either being ditched or, if they are lucky, sold on to locations in Europe.  In fact, it has often puzzled me: why only us and not other European countries?

We seem to have touched upon aspects of this topic before methinks.   Bottom line is  organ music and everything attached to it is regarded by the majority to be niche and geeky. About 0.1 o/0 of the entire nation is even remotely interested in this specialised genre.    Incumbents do not in the main like these wretched noisy,expensive machines, and even less the individuals who play them.

So far as suggestions for making  " light organ music " more available; probably " Classic FM for Organs " ,   well, send in your suggestions on the back of a postage stamp.

I will also reiterate what I have previously thought on this issue, namely the worst location for an organ is in an ecclesiastical pile , but for historic reasons this is the way it has always been done, something going back to images of virtuous looking ladies wearing pointy hats and white gowns playing an " organ ".

To the average church audience an organ is merely a hymn accompanying machine.   They would be just as happy to an accompaniment of  penny whistles and pan lids.

So far as voluntaries go  the average audience just prefer a chat.   There is no escape from this prevailing attitude but since we live in a supposedly free country we can all do what we like , where we like, and as loudly as it necessitates so one just buttons ones lip and carries on smiling!

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On 27/01/2022 at 23:02, John Robinson said:

As an atheist, I rarely attend services and even then only if there is a recital at the end.  Sorry!

Why apologise? You are as entitled to your views as anyone else. 

............................ and organs are not for the exclusive use of the worship of God 

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2 hours ago, S_L said:

Why apologise? You are as entitled to your views as anyone else. 

............................ and organs are not for the exclusive use of the worship of God ................. but of egos`, perhaps?

 

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On 30/01/2022 at 15:13, S_L said:

Why apologise? You are as entitled to your views as anyone else. 

............................ and organs are not for the exclusive use of the worship of God 

Please note that the above are my words.

Further down adnosad has added

....................... but of egos`, perhaps?

I asked adnosad to correct, modify or change his addition in a private message, so that it didn't look as if the 'egos' were a part of my quote, but he refused - I do so now! 

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It depends on one’s definition of practise.  For me, much practise time is taken up repeating the same few bars over and over at increasing tempo until they’re perfect, before moving onto the next chunk.  I don’t imagine this would be particularly edifying to listen to, and probably wouldn’t be successful in a busy building.  
 

Of course, listening to someone play already well-practised pieces would be a joy, but that’s essentially a concert/recital, which would need preparation time with little or no audience… No easy solution, I suspect.  

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2 hours ago, S_L said:

I asked adnosad to correct, modify or change his addition in a private message, so that it didn't look as if the 'egos' were a part of my quote, but he refused - I do so now! 

It ought not be possible for others to ‘edit’ and change the meaning of what a contributor has written.  A matter for the editors to take steps to modify the website to prevent this happening?  

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36 minutes ago, Brizzle said:

It depends on one’s definition of practise.  For me, much practise time is taken up repeating the same few bars over and over at increasing tempo until they’re perfect, before moving onto the next chunk.  I don’t imagine this would be particularly edifying to listen to, and probably wouldn’t be successful in a busy building.  
 

Of course, listening to someone play already well-practised pieces would be a joy, but that’s essentially a concert/recital, which would need preparation time with little or no audience… No easy solution, I suspect.  

This is the problem, isn't it?  Serious practice isn't just playing pieces through.  As an organ scholar I was incredibly blessed.  The console was only a stone's throw away and I  used to nip over to it most evenings for two or three hours. The organist and sub-organist hardly ever muscled in and, amazingly, no one ever complained. I do appreciate how incredibly lucky I was. But practice during the day was totally out of the question because of the tourists. And, quite honestly, whoever wants to go into a cathedral and hear the same few bars repeated endlessly over and over? I don't. But quiet organ music can be a delight. Salisbury proved this recently, entertaining daily long queues of people waiting for their Covid jabs.  From the news reports I saw, it seemed to be very well received.

I have just reminded myself of an occasion some years ago. One of our illustrious Hele Huggers sadly died - and it was especially sad because he used to arrange and finance the Foghorn recitals here, which are, alas, no more. I was asked to play BWV 565 at his funeral, so I arranged with the DoM to go and practise in the morning - just for registration and ambience purposes, of course. No sooner had I started than a woman came up from the bookstall at the back of the church, complaining, "If you play that loudly, I shall have to shut up shop!"  I hope my reply was as polite as it was firm: I did try. But I do know what she meant and I sympathise.

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12 hours ago, Rowland Wateridge said:

It ought not be possible for others to ‘edit’ and change the meaning of what a contributor has written.  A matter for the editors to take steps to modify the website to prevent this happening?  

Quite !

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I must say that I've always been surprised, well, appalled is a better word, that this is possible.  Not only possible but so easy to do unless you are super-careful or not concentrating.  Not even a warning message appears.  So although genuine mistakes can be made, it's not really on when people decline to put things right.

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