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Mander Organs
D Quentin Bellamy

Royal College Of Organists

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the FRCO was always an alternative to a univeristy qualification

which is fair enough - my point was about the ARCO, which I think I could get on the playing side, would need to work on the tests, but would need to take a very deep breath before deciding whether, as a non aspirant-pro, the paperwork was worth my while starting (never even did O-level music, so it'd be a long slog from G5 theory).

 

The CertRCO is branded (inter alia) as an 'end point' for the amateur, but the syllabus seems to have been written starting with the ARCO and then subtracting bits to get the required standard without worrying too much about whether the end result is a useful skill, rather than starting from a consideration of what might be useful skills for the candidates to learn.

 

EG1: transposition of a 2-part Bach Chorale, (RH+Ped). Useful (perhaps) as an intermediate waypoint en route to somewhere else, but what the hell use is that skill to anybody in itself? ABRSM G7 requires 4-part transposition manuals only and G8 4-part w/pedals, both of which are more useful than 2 part as 'end points', and I'd have thought that most people looking at CertRCO would likely have G8 anyway, so what's the point in testing a skill lower than they've already got? Answer (it seems to me), 4-part with pedal is ARCO, so CertRCO has to have something less demanding. We're organists, so we should have pedals in it. Why not have the G7 requirement instead, of 4 parts manuals only?

 

EG2: to play from an open score in 3 parts, treble, transposing tenor and bass. Now then, the keyboard player only normally encounters the transposing tenor clef in the context of a choir, and in today's world, 3 part music is much more likely to be S+A+Men than ATB. But again, ARCO has the really useful (4 part w/transposing tenor), so Cert gets a cut down version which makes little sense as an end point. Why not have SAB and complex music to make up for not having the transposing tenor clef to worry about?

 

So, coming back to the comment in my previous post, what is the RCO offering to me, and those like me? Why should I be interested in it?

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I think you make very valid points about the CertRCO (which I haven't taken much notice of since it wasn't around in my day). Maybe the answer to these exercises is to keep the standard the same as the ARCO ones, but allow a quarter of an hour's prior preparation. It is a good skill for the competent amateur to be able to transpose and score-read the sort of stuff that crops up in church services (or concerts), but I would not expect one to do it at sight. (Especially transposition. I got high marks at FR for what I think was a completely accurate reading, but I've never been comfortable with it and it still scares the hell out of me.)

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Guest Lee Blick

I think the diploma system works well for those who want it but what about developing a grading examination system for beginners which include organ playing/choral directing and music group leading. I know there are already grading systems by other examining boards but if the RCO want to connect with more people and make a difference to the local organ scene I think it could be a way forward, if it focused on practical development rather than just academic excellence.

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Especially transposition...it still scares the hell out of me.)
Yes and every time I decide to brush up on it and play a few hymns up or down a touch, a very strange thing happens. I suppose it's because it involves forcing the brain to break the reflex links between particular lines/spaces and particular places on the keyboard (links I've been trying to make for the last 30 years), but I then find myself, when playing pieces or hymns at written pitch, worrying about where each note should be, exactly as I do when transposing. This is not a comfortable feeling!

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Forgive me if this seems to be retacing others' sentiments but I have recently received a letter from the College saying that unless my subscription were renewed pdq, I would receive no further correspondence. I joined the RCO some five years ago with inital aspirations subsequently hindered by holding down a full-time job and a basic lack of formal training. I have since scaled down my ambitions and consequently enjoy my music a good deal more. Rather like others, I feel that I receive little in return for my £60 plus but have continued to support as the work that is done by the College particularly in the field of educating younger students is so important. Events such as Oundle, National Get Ahead Day etc are all laudable, but I do feel that as a student with much to learn I am hampered by my age - too old to attend classes with potential organ scholars and with nothing offered to those of a more varied background. I continue with sporadic private lessons with an FRCO (which to my mind remains the gold-standard). Given that the benchmarks set by the College remain exacting, I am on the horns of a dilemma; my £68 for which I get zip versus the contribution to the greater good. It does seem that if one falls off the production line at an early age, then there seems to be no way back. If the RCO actually offered something specific to the vacuum that exists to those above twenty-five, it really would be a no-brainer.

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Forgive me if this seems to be retacing others' sentiments but I have recently received a letter from the College saying that unless my subscription were renewed pdq, I would receive no further correspondence.

Yes. I too received what appeared to be an incredibly rude letter demanding my subs! That was the point when RCO and DQB parted company. The letter was (apparently) from Simon Lindley who was El Presidento at the time. If they are going to send letters of that nature out then I guess it won't take too long to close the organisation down. Seems that a PR officer would do well to look at the correspondence that goes out from the RCO office (wherever it is!) :unsure:

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Yes. I too received what appeared to be an incredibly rude letter demanding my subs! That was the point when RCO and DQB parted company. The letter was (apparently) from Simon Lindley who was El Presidento at the time. If they are going to send letters of that nature out then I guess it won't take too long to close the organisation down. Seems that a PR officer would do well to look at the correspondence that goes out from the RCO office (wherever it is!) :o

 

.... And another. Mine arrived last week and was pretty much a 'Final Demand' - save that it was not printed in red.

 

The letter commenced: "Our records show that we have not yet received your annual subscription ..." etc, etc. I think I shall pen a reply which begins "My records show that I have received nothing (save for a few newsletters) in return for my annual subscription, for several years."

 

I agree with your sentiments - a few more letters like this and they will have rendered themselves extinct before the end of the decade.

 

I have to wonder whether or not anyone in charge actually has a grip on reality. For years now, the RCO has been extremely willing to collect my subscription, lay-on a few events (mostly in London - or possibly Birmingham), often only concerned with those who wish to sit one of the examinations - and then sit back and do precious little else.

 

I remember some years ago representing my college in an improvisation workshop run by Dr. Arthur Wills. The event took place in the evening and there were a goodly number of souls who had braved the winter weather. It was a most enjoyable and encouraging time.

 

I cannot recall the last time that the RCO organised anything of this nature. If they are currently conducting business from a downstairs apartment in Balham* ("Gateway to the South"), then I doubt that anything much will be happening in the future.

 

 

 

* Apparently it is Rotherhithe - or Surrey Docks.

 

Now that is not very salubrious, is it?

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* Apparently it is Rotherhithe - or Surrey Docks.

 

Now that is not very salubrious, is it?

 

 

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

 

Do you mind? I used to live there!

 

My next door neighbour was Jason Connery (the actor), and near neighbours included Sir Terence Conran, two consultant heart surgeons at Guy's/Harley Street, one international banking consultant who had a private jet, one minor member of the Danish Royal family (who had a black Volvo with bodyguards), Deliah Smith (of cookbook fame) and....erm...Peter Tatchell. (The late Peter Cook once crashed out on my living-room floor after I found him slumped in a doorway, poor man).

 

I think you need to revise your knowledge of Greater London, even though I would be the first to recognise that not everyone can afford to live close to Hampstead Heath, like George Michael.

 

Of course, if the RCO has an office at Surrey Quays, that MAY be the reason they need YOUR money YESTERDAY!

 

:o

 

MM

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

 

Do you mind?  I used to live there!

 

My next door neighbour was Jason Connery (the actor), and near neighbours included Sir Terence Conran, two consultant heart surgeons at Guy's/Harley Street, one international banking consultant who had a private jet, one minor member of the Danish Royal family (who had a black Volvo with bodyguards), Deliah Smith (of cookbook fame) and....erm...Peter Tatchell. (The late Peter Cook once crashed out on my living-room floor after I found him slumped in a doorway, poor man).

 

I think you need to revise your knowledge of Greater London, even though I would be the first to recognise that not everyone can afford to live close to Hampstead Heath, like George Michael.

 

Of course, if the RCO has an office at Surrey Quays, that MAY be the reason they need YOUR money YESTERDAY!

 

:o

 

MM

 

 

Have you lived everywhere, MM?

 

Since I used to live in Forest Hill (SE23), I have some knowledge of the area - although I must say that I was impressed to learn that Peter Cook once 'crashed-out' on your living room floor. However, I was less impressed by the Delia Smith part....

 

I was also slightly surprised to learn that the RCO actually has an office - or is this an euphemism for 'suitcase'?

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Have you lived everywhere, MM?

 

Since I used to live in Forest Hill (SE23), I have some knowledge of the area - although I must say that  I was impressed to learn that Peter Cook once 'crashed-out' on your living room floor. However, I was less impressed by the Delia Smith part....

 

I was also slightly surprised to learn that the RCO actually has an office - or is this an euphemism for 'suitcase'?

 

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

 

 

I haven't lived everywhere........largely Yorkshire and London, with a brief sortie to Luton (yuk!)

 

You wouldn't have been too impressed by what Peter Cook asked when he finally regained consciousness, and snarled, "Who the **** are you?"

 

I don't know what poor Delia ever did wrong, but then, I did have a fondness for the "Two fat ladies," so I can't claim to be a Gordon Bluey cook.

 

Anyone know where one can get one of those robots, with a rifle stuck on the end of a mechanical arm?

 

:o

 

MM

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Further investigations have led me to find that it is being run out of a lock-up garage in Bermondsey

possibly the only one anywhere to contain a brand new, four manual, tracker instrument of mid-European origin

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Guest drd

Interesting, and I'm not objecting to it, that we're having this dicussion here. The RCO, whilst having a stylish website (and presumably having paid for it) has no forum for its members to discuss anything connected with the college.

 

Forums are easy to set up, and require only a modicum of monitoring. Access can be controlled, limiting it to members only. (Of course, an RCO-owned forum would presumably by now have removed access from those of us who are voting with our feet, and not renewing our subscriptions despite their invitations to do so.)

 

 

Perhaps its indicative of a general attitude that, once we've collected their subscriptions, we'll just give a them a newsletter a few times a year.

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Interesting, and I'm not objecting to it, that we're having this dicussion here.    The RCO, whilst having a stylish website (and presumably having paid for it) has no forum for its members to discuss anything connected with the college.

 

Forums are easy to set up, and require only a modicum of monitoring.    Access can be controlled, limiting it to members only.  (Of course, an RCO-owned forum would presumably by now have removed access from those of us who are voting with our feet, and not renewing our subscriptions despite their invitations to do so.)

Perhaps its indicative of a general attitude that, once we've collected their subscriptions, we'll just give a them a newsletter a few times a year.

The RCO did set one up about five years ago and then canned it without explanation (despite several nags to the then Chief executive). As far as I recall everyone treated the site and host with respect just as we do our generous host, Mr Mander.

 

On the RCO location front I was given to understand that the postal address is a front for a redirection service (as are the phone numbers) and the material goes to the home of an RCO employee - which is where (s)he works from.

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On the RCO location front I was given to understand that the postal address is a front for a redirection service (as are the phone numbers) and the material goes to the home of an RCO employee - which is where (s)he works from.

 

So the suitcase idea is not far wrong, then....

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Ladies and gentlemen

 

It was suggested to me that, as a trustee of the RCO, I should read this forum and, having done so, let me add a few thoughts.

First of all, it is no secret that the RCO no longer operates from bespoke premises. I refer members to the Presidential Address given by Peter Wright at the conferment last March, subsequently printed in the May RCO News, in which he says that the decision had been taken “to move out of Millenium Point within the next few months” because maintaining an office had become “the chief drain on our resources”. Those who worked in that office did not consider it to provide any material advantage for the delivery of services to members and the premises were vacated on June 30th.

 

Of course physical headquarters would be ‘reassuring’, but the RCO is not about buildings. Buildings are expensive, and in these days of health-and-safety and disability legislation they require a complex staffing infrastructure before the front door can even be opened. It is also worth bearing in mind that maintaining a building reduces the potential for work in other places for obvious reasons.

 

So, like the IAO, AGO, GCM and countless other charities, the RCO does not have a front door. Maintaining a building has never been one of the objectives of the RCO’s Charter and in no way does the absence of one hamper its work as a body of colleagues. In fact, this has proved to be a remarkable effective way of working.

 

The corollary of all this is that the RCO is now run by a small team of dedicated people who give much more than their contract requires and who do so from their homes. I am extremely grateful to paul@trinity for making the point that these people are not responsible for where the College currently is; rather, they are the ones who are working their socks off to secure its future by making it a relevant and responsive body. However, his words have had but scant acknowledgement.

Whilst the debate contains some genuinely thoughtful views, there are also postings which question the location of office space (someone’s home) and suggest violence. No doubt tongue-in-cheek, but actually rather personal in the context and in my view sufficient to warrant the closure of this forum and referring this to the police.

I hope we all share the mutual aim of strengthening both the College and the overall community of organists for the future. If so, please (i) give the RCO a break and allow it to move forward, (ii) think beyond what it “is offering to me” just now and remember it is a charity not a club and (iii) stand as candidates in the next governance election.

 

Or resign.

 

David Saint

RCO Trustee

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Ladies and gentlemen

 

<long apologia snipped>

 

Whilst the debate contains some genuinely thoughtful views, there are also postings which question the location of office space (someone’s home) and suggest violence. No doubt tongue-in-cheek, but actually rather personal in the context and in my view sufficient to warrant the closure of this forum and referring this to the police.

I hope we all share the mutual aim of strengthening both the College and the overall community of organists for the future. If so, please (i) give the RCO a break and allow it to move forward, (ii) think beyond what it “is offering to me” just now and remember it is a charity not a club and (iii) stand as candidates in the next governance election.

 

Or resign.

 

David Saint

RCO Trustee

 

The suggestion of violence you refer to can't be both tongue-in-cheek and sufficient to warrant the closure of this forum.

 

Don't assume that all the readers of this thread are currently members of the RCO.

 

And why should we "give the RCO a break"?

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Ladies and gentlemen

 

It was suggested to me that, as a trustee of the RCO, I should read this forum and, having done so, let me add a few thoughts.

First of all, it is no secret that the RCO no longer operates from bespoke premises. I refer members to the Presidential Address given by Peter Wright at the conferment last March, subsequently printed in the May RCO News, in which he says that the decision had been taken “to move out of Millenium Point within the next few months” because maintaining an office had become “the chief drain on our resources”. Those who worked in that office did not consider it to provide any material advantage for the delivery of services to members and the premises were vacated on June 30th.

 

Of course physical headquarters would be ‘reassuring’, but the RCO is not about buildings. Buildings are expensive, and in these days of health-and-safety and disability legislation they require a complex staffing infrastructure before the front door can even be opened. It is also worth bearing in mind that maintaining a building reduces the potential for work in other places for obvious reasons.

 

So, like the IAO, AGO, GCM and countless other charities, the RCO does not have a front door. Maintaining a building has never been one of the objectives of the RCO’s Charter and in no way does the absence of one hamper its work as a body of colleagues. In fact, this has proved to be a remarkable effective way of working.

 

The corollary of all this is that the RCO is now run by a small team of dedicated people who give much more than their contract requires and who do so from their homes. I am extremely grateful to paul@trinity for making the point that these people are not responsible for where the College currently is; rather, they are the ones who are working their socks off to secure its future by making it a relevant and responsive body. However, his words have had but scant acknowledgement.

Whilst the debate contains some genuinely thoughtful views, there are also postings which question the location of office space (someone’s home) and suggest violence. No doubt tongue-in-cheek, but actually rather personal in the context and in my view sufficient to warrant the closure of this forum and referring this to the police.

I hope we all share the mutual aim of strengthening both the College and the overall community of organists for the future. If so, please (i) give the RCO a break and allow it to move forward, (ii) think beyond what it “is offering to me” just now and remember it is a charity not a club and (iii) stand as candidates in the next governance election.

 

Or resign.

 

David Saint

RCO Trustee

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Or resign.

 

David Saint

RCO Trustee

 

Well really! I think this reply is rather reflects the arrogance and out-of-touch behaviour to which many on this board have referred. As a current member, paying what I regard as a very high subscription, I find this very insulting. Perhaps, as a "trustee", you could have considered answering some of the other points that have been raised - a lot of people seem to have genuine and heartfelt concerns about what is going on at the RCO.

 

Meanwhile, I shall follow your suggestion about resignation.

 

JJK

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please (i) give the RCO a break and allow it to move forward, (ii) think beyond what it “is offering to me” just now and remember it is a charity not a club and (iii) stand as candidates in the next governance election.

 

Or resign.

Mr Saint

 

I have been an RCO member for very many years. For the last quarter of a century I have not received any practical benefit from my subscription because the college's outreach work has not stretched far enough afield to make it practical for me to do so. Yet I have not begrudged my subscription since I have believed in the college's aims and objectives. To that extent my membership has been entirely altruistic. For this very reason, whilst my stance on this forum has been basically supportive of the RCO, I can at the same time understand the concerns of those who have raised the issue of benefits here.

 

I would have hoped that the RCO would at least have shown some signs of taking note of these concerns as a valid issue for consideration. How can the college hope to expand its membership if it does not listen to what they want? Yet you appear here, all guns blazing, making no attempt to engage with the real subject of this thread and with nothing practical to offer other than an ultimatum.

 

Do you think this "take it or leave it" approach is the best way to win the college new friends? I am afraid you have just lost this one.

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Ladies and gentlemen

 

<shortened>

So, like the IAO, AGO, GCM and countless other charities, the RCO does not have a front door.

<another edit>

I hope we all share the mutual aim of strengthening both the College and the overall community of organists for the future. If so, please (i) give the RCO a break and allow it to move forward, (ii) think beyond what it “is offering to me” just now and remember it is a charity not a club and (iii) stand as candidates in the next governance election.

 

Or resign.

 

David Saint

RCO Trustee

 

David, Its good that you are willing to stand up and be counted; much of what you say makes sense but it seems rather one sided and defensive - I'm not sure why as you weren't part of the establishment that slept walk into the current situation. Most people here care enough about the RCO to be bothered to give an opinion rather than just quietly walk away. I spent nearly 30 years working with customer service organisations and they would (and should) pay handsomely for the honest opinions expressed here - both from members (approx 3000) and non-members (rough estimate of UK organists 20,000 - RCO figure)

 

Harsh reality is that, rightly or wrongly, the RCO repositioned itself as a 'members services organisation' some years ago (remember all those snazzy articles, flyers, booklets, multipart brochures offering discounts etc) and then found itself increasing its annual charge by 50% and closing all its facilities within three months - and communicating all this by a post hoc postcard. I'm afraid I have used this as a text book example of 'what not to do' as a services organisation in major change.

 

Since then the College has retreated further into its shell apart from regular trumpeting of 'great things in the future building' most of this reiterating (on lengthened timescales) previously promised benefits. This despite many urgings to get on the front foot, cut out the waffle and explain the benefits of what it is doing. I ran a £250 million/annum project from virtual offices so I have no problem with the concept - but it needs much clearer, more frequent and more 'member oriented' communication to win people over. However unfair, the College ends up seeming to take a rather old fashioned 'nanny knows best' stance in its communications and that's what is reflected here. Its not true but, clearly, it is a wide perception and therefore up to the college to change it rather than moan about its ungrateful members. Your final comment seems very close to the old joke 'life would be fine if it weren't for the customers.'

 

As a teacher it is clear to me that the IAO/OR does provide much more in the way of support for adult amateur organists - and I don't blame Simon Williams for this - he's done wonders with a ridiculously small budget.

 

The publication policy doesn't help; for example we are still awaiting a yearbook that will be towards a year out of data when it arrives. A personal issue is that for wahtever reason my FRCO (and those of everyone in January 2002) did not appear in either the yearbook or a quarterly magazine and no addendum was ever published. Trivial in the grand scheme of things but synptomatic of a lack of care/concern for the fee-paying membership.

 

So I challange you to get the council to face up to the world it is now in - and to seriously engage with, deploy the talents of and harness the huge goodwill of the membership whilst it is still there.

 

Of course you can reject all this, but since you mention it I did stand a couple of years ago. I got a very nice letter telling me I hadn't been successful but that the college were very keen to use my skills; since then nothing - not even the courtesy of a statement of votes cast - and I did gently ask for it a couple of times. If that's how the college, for whatever reason, treats its 'friends and supporters' ....

 

Martin Penny MA MCIM FRCO

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk

Not wanting to return to this specific fray....feeling pretty sympathetic to all parties but incapable of doing anything.......

 

Seeing that things seem pretty firmly fruit-shaped at the RCO, I wonder if there is any mileage in persuading The Guild of Church Musicians (who already administer the Archbishop's Certificate in Church Music, amongst several qualifications that they offer) that they might like to consider setting and marking some practical organ examinations.

 

I think there is probably a need for a fresh move and they might just be the people to do it. What do others think?

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Whilst lawyers, accountants, civil engineers etc, HAVE to be members of their respective professional bodies in order to practice their profession.

The difference is, that the above are required to undertake ongoing professional development to keep their knowledge. Laws, building materials, medical science etc constantly change. Practitioners need to be kept up to date with these, for obvious reasons, and the quid pro quo is that they pay their subs and their professional bodies keep them updated.

 

As a non-member I don't have first hand experience, but it sounds from others here as though the quids would be easier to pay over if there were a little more pro quo.

 

And also, David Saint still hasn't given me as an adult, amateur organist, a reason to join. Maybe there isn't one - maybe the RCO is, and should be, mainly concerned with professionals. That's fine by me - I'm interested in canals and railways but have no intention of joining the Institute of Civil Engineers (railways, not trains) - but that's not really how the website portrays the RCO.

 

Paul Hodgetts

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