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Mander Organs
D Quentin Bellamy

Royal College Of Organists

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I had a look at the RCO website.

 

One of the first things to be seen there is a request to support the college - and a request to join up.

 

It costs £68.

 

Living in North Wales, (on a clergy stipend), what does one get for this money?

 

It seems to me that the venue-less RCO is pricing itself way out of the market of its potential membership. How many people join, pass their diplomas, and then leave because they got what they wanted? Wouldn't the RCO be better off charging about £15-£20 for membership and keeping their members rather than upping the cost for apparently.... nothing. (?)

 

But I suppose that you will all disagree with this.... :lol:

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I had a look at the RCO website.

 

One of the first things to be seen there is a request to support the college - and a request to join up.

 

It costs £68.

 

Living in North Wales, (on a clergy stipend), what does one get for this money?

 

It seems to me that the venue-less RCO is pricing itself way out of the market of its potential membership.  How many people join, pass their diplomas, and then leave because they got what they wanted?  Wouldn't the RCO be better off charging about £15-£20 for membership and keeping their members rather than upping the cost for apparently.... nothing. (?)

 

But I suppose that you will all disagree with this....  :)

 

 

Absolutely not - I agree completely.

 

Currently, I pay £68.00 for three or four news-sheets each year. No members' handbook, no directory - and even worse, literally no regional events in my part of the world.

 

I am currently undecided as to whether or not I shall renew my subscription this year.

 

:lol:

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Absolutely not - I agree completely.

 

Currently, I pay £68.00 for three or four news-sheets each year. No members' handbook, no directory - and even worse,  literally no regional events in my part of the world.

 

I am currently undecided as to whether or not I shall renew my subscription this year.

 

:lol:

Sounds like the perfect time to organise a bloodless coup.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Absolutely not - I agree completely.

 

Currently, I pay £68.00 for three or four news-sheets each year. No members' handbook, no directory - and even worse,  literally no regional events in my part of the world.

 

I am currently undecided as to whether or not I shall renew my subscription this year.

 

:lol:

 

 

I think there is a book, eventually.

I have to say that to me £68 represents two months-worth of electricity supply.

I currently pay £10 annually to my local organists association and this gives me more-or-less as much as I get from the RCO. Organists Review (even in its current state) is ten times as good as anything the RCO have ever come up with and that's really cheap by comparison.

 

To be honest, gentlemen, I am seriously considering saving my money next year. I wonder how many of us are all thinking the same?

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Guest drd
To be honest, gentlemen, I am seriously considering saving my money next year. I wonder how many of us are all thinking the same?

 

I agree with the sentiments already expressed.

 

I have here on my desk a request for a subscription renewal, but I have been wondering what I get for it. I am seriously thinking of not renewing.

 

Support is one thing, but it is a two-way process. Though perhaps one should support in general, since the RCO is the only body nowadays with any interest in our profession.

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I agree with the sentiments already expressed.

 

I have here on my desk a request for a subscription renewal, but I have been wondering what I get for it.    I am seriously thinking of not renewing.

 

Support is one thing, but it is a two-way process.    Though perhaps one should support in general, since the RCO is the only body nowadays with any interest in our profession.

Oh???? So what about the IAO, local organists' associations etc, etc.....

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Guest drd
Oh???? So what about the IAO, local organists' associations etc, etc.....

 

The local associations (and I am a member of one) seem more concerned with the presence and nature of the instruments rather than the raising of standards of performance, and representation of the organist as musician. That, at any rate, is a personal view, and I recognise that there is not uniformity amongst local associations.

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The local associations (and I am a member of one) seem more concerned with the presence and nature of the instruments rather than the raising of standards of performance, and representation of the organist as musician.    That, at any rate, is a personal view, and I recognise that there is not uniformity amongst local associations.

It still doesn't get away from the question that £68 is an awful lot of money to pay for nothing.... :lol:

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Guest Barry Oakley
It still doesn't get away from the question that £68 is an awful lot of money to pay for nothing.... :lol:

 

For some time now I have regarded the RCO as an anachronism. Some will argue that they structure examinations and award qualifications. But to pay £68 for the simpleso-called privilege of putting FRCO or ARCO after their name is, I agree, alot of money. From what I can see the RCO does nothing to promote interest in the organ to the general public via the broadcasting media. If it had someone in post wearing a PR hat then things might be different. Is it not now time for a recognised organist qualification to be in the hands of the RCM or RAM?

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Is it not now time for a recognised organist qualification to be in the hands of the RCM or RAM?

All very interesting - I'm currently wondering whether to go for ARCO or the Assoc. Board diplomas, which focus much more on performance (which is, strangely, what I like to do) and don't require an annual subscription. The syllabus content of the RCO diplomas is kind of straying onto another topic so I won't go there - except to say I have no intention ever of attempting to learn to score read 3 C clefs - but as a keen and serious, but very much "non"-professional organist, I can't see that the RCO is offering me anything, except, as Barry says, the 'recognition' of the brand.

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Wouldn't the RCO be better off charging about £15-£20 for membership and keeping their members rather than upping the cost for apparently.... nothing. (?)

I believe that some years ago the council did consider making its qualifications dependent on current membership, so that if your membership lapsed, so would your FRCO or whatever. Many professional organisations in other fields do this. The RCO backed away from the idea, but maybe if they did make this a condition (at the same time reducing the annual fees) it might bring quite a few organists back into the fold.

 

Or - perish the thought! - perhaps the qualifications should be subject to re-examination every ten years. How many people who have gained a diploma still play to the same standard 20 years later?

 

The RCO have plans, apparently, to re-launch their journal. I welcome this since the articles the RCO have published in the past - first in their journal and latterly in the yearbook - have been mostly scholarly and of high quality. The only other UK organ journal of a similar standard (better, actually) is the BIOS one.

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All very interesting - I'm currently wondering whether to go for ARCO or the Assoc. Board diplomas, which focus much more on performance (which is, strangely, what I like to do) and don't require an annual subscription. The syllabus content of the RCO diplomas is kind of straying onto another topic so I won't go there - except to say I have no intention ever of attempting to learn to score read 3 C clefs - but as a keen and serious, but very much "non"-professional organist, I can't see that the RCO is offering me anything, except, as Barry says, the 'recognition' of the brand.

What is a professional organist these days? How many exist who make their living solely from the organ? Perhaps there is more money to be made playing a Yamaha than a pipe organ....

 

I too would much rather play the organ and work on repertoire and technique instead of struggling for endless hours over sight-reading tests and score-reading. The whole thing is ridiculous and pretentious in the extreme. Not all of us who play the organ (wish to) direct choirs (which I presume is what the score reading thing is for). If they want the score reading, then why not keep it for those who wish to do the CHM thing (or whatever it's called these days)?

 

Recent events at the RCO, combined with the continuing drop in membership and an embarrassing climb-down on the subject of the Goll organ, reveal that the wheel has fallen off this thoroughly discredited organisation. I heard that they even gave honorary Fellowships to distinguished organists who did/could not pass their Associate exams!

 

So what's it all about? :blink:

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Guest drd

I think the score reading is probably most closely related to the concept of organist as "musical general practitioner" - a terminology used by the RCO in years gone by.

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I believe that some years ago the council did consider making its qualifications dependent on current membership, so that if your membership lapsed, so would your FRCO or whatever. Many professional organisations in other fields do this. The RCO backed away from the idea...

I thought this was already the case. I definitely read this in an RCO document when joining initially, or applying for the exam, or getting the result, or something. Can't quite put my hand on the evidence at the moment though....

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All very interesting - I'm currently wondering whether to go for ARCO or the Assoc. Board diplomas, which focus much more on performance (which is, strangely, what I like to do) and don't require an annual subscription. The syllabus content of the RCO diplomas is kind of straying onto another topic so I won't go there - except to say I have no intention ever of attempting to learn to score read 3 C clefs - but as a keen and serious, but very much "non"-professional organist, I can't see that the RCO is offering me anything, except, as Barry says, the 'recognition' of the brand.

Quite right CB. I'm in your boat and have done ABRSM dips and the ARCO. They have different emphases of course, but it did strike me as as strange that for ARCO, you are playing real organ music for perhaps 15 minutes of a practical exam which lasts 25-30 mins, then you have 30 mins of Aural and 360 mins of written papers. In other words, playing real organ repertoire is only 3.5% of their qualification in terms of effort, if not overall score... I find that particularly bizarre...

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I believe that some years ago the council did consider making its qualifications dependent on current membership, so that if your membership lapsed, so would your FRCO or whatever. Many professional organisations in other fields do this. The RCO backed away from the idea, but maybe if they did make this a condition (at the same time reducing the annual fees) it might bring quite a few organists back into the fold.

 

 

I would be interested to know which, Vox.

 

Personally, I think that this would be a retrograde step - it could be seen as an endorsment their present apparent policies of

 

1) wasting money,

2) not bothering to give value for money and

3) moving around the country after dark - their whereabouts a closely-guarded secret.

 

:blink:

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I would be interested to know which, Vox.

 

If I may jump in, I can cite the Engineering Council, British Computer Society and IEE (or whatever they call themselves these days).. I guess most Engineering institutions which award professional qualifications act in this way...

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I can remember, many years ago, when Dame Gillian first came to this country she was refused permission to practice on an organ in London by the vicar because she had no RCO qualifications. The fact that she had recently given a Festival Hall recital cut no ice as far as he was concerned - she was "unqualified" and not safe to let play.

 

FF

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Guest Barry Oakley
I can remember, many years ago, when Dame Gillian first came to this country she was refused permission to practice on an organ in London by the vicar because she had no RCO qualifications. The fact that she had recently given a Festival Hall recital cut no ice as far as he was concerned - she was "unqualified" and not safe to let play.

 

FF

 

As I've always believed, Frank, when you have talent you don't really need what are deemed recognised qualifications.

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As I've always believed, Frank, when you have talent you don't really need what are deemed recognised qualifications.

 

Indeed.

 

Am I correct in believing that Simon Preston actually refused to take either of the RCO diploma examinations? Furthermore, that an honorary diploma was eventually bestowed upon him, when someone had the wit to reach the same conclusion?

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I believe that some years ago the council did consider making its qualifications dependent on current membership, so that if your membership lapsed, so would your FRCO or whatever. Many professional organisations in other fields do this. The RCO backed away from the idea, but maybe if they did make this a condition (at the same time reducing the annual fees) it might bring quite a few organists back into the fold.

 

On the other hand VH, it may well drive some people away. Whilst lawyers, accountants, civil engineers etc, HAVE to be members of their respective professional bodies in order to practice their profession, this is not true of organists. Although I can't find it at the moment, I'm sure the wording was something along the lines of "successful diploma candidates are requested to maintain their membership....." And I'm not sure if this request was retrospective - the wording seemed to imply that they were only referring to newly successful candidates.

 

At the moment it's my choice to be a member of the RCO, but to compel me to do so to keep my letters - especially as I principally earn my living outside the world of music - would be a step too far I think.

 

I'm told that the original idea came from an employee of the RCO - not an organist, I might add - who no longer works for the organisation.

 

Graham

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As I've always believed, Frank, when you have talent you don't really need what are deemed recognised qualifications.

 

I really wish that was the case... but the first thing people look for is letters. Unfortunately for someone who has left it fairly late before trying to get onto the greasy cathedral pole, the lack of RCO letters on page 1 of the CV puts the application firmly in the dustbin. Much as I don't want to do it and can't even afford the membership fee, let alone the exam fee, I've got no choice as far as I can tell.

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I really wish that was the case... but the first thing people look for is letters.  Unfortunately for someone who has left it fairly late before trying to get onto the greasy cathedral pole, the lack of RCO letters on page 1 of the CV puts the application firmly in the dustbin.  Much as I don't want to do it and can't even afford the membership fee, let alone the exam fee, I've got no choice as far as I can tell.

 

 

This is not always the case, these days.

 

For example, Simon Morley (formerly Truro Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral and Ripon Cathedral), David Price (Ely Cathedral; currently Portsmouth Cathedral). There are also one or two others, whose names I presently cannot recall.

 

Personally, I think that you are better-off out of it! Having seen a few sets of job details in the last two or three years, the pay is often not very good (yet the job is usually considered to be virtually 'full-time'), accommodation is by no means guaranteed and one is sometimes expected to carry-out obscure, unrelated tasks. For instance, Jeremy Filsell left Ely Cathedral after only one year because, in addition to his work as Assistant Organist, he was required to assist in the running of the cathedral bookshop. (Excuse me?)

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I really wish that was the case... but the first thing people look for is letters.  Unfortunately for someone who has left it fairly late before trying to get onto the greasy cathedral pole, the lack of RCO letters on page 1 of the CV puts the application firmly in the dustbin.  Much as I don't want to do it and can't even afford the membership fee, let alone the exam fee, I've got no choice as far as I can tell.

There's a lot in what you say, David, but I'm not entirely sure it's the whole story. When I was a student it was generally rumoured that the then organist at Chichester would not consider an assistant who was not an FRCO. I doubt he was unique in that. But not all cathedrals are that picky. I can think of assistants who only have an ARCO and M. Cochereau has cited a couple who do not. There used to be something of a grapevine by which cathedral organists got to know who were the best Oxbridge organ scholars and when they were "entering the market", as it were. Being now well out of it, I can only guess, but I imagine the same sort of thing happens and that what gets on a short list is a mixture of word of mouth, qualifications and prior experience.

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