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My favourite story concerns a Roman Catholic priest of strongly Irish disposition, who always seemed to be in a bad-temper as he admonished his flock on a regular basis; all glaring eyes and wagging forefinger in the old tradition.

 

On the occasion of "Palm Sunday," the old priest gave out palm-crosses; angrily blessing each recipient in his strongly Irish brogue.

 

Mass came and went without major incident, save for a piece of white wafer which fell on the altar-cloth; thus causing a major ecclesiastcal moment, when the priest had to dig out his reading-glasses to recuse the remains of Jesus from a potentially grizzly end.

 

Then finally stepping forward to give his benediction, the old Irish priest launched into his agitated announcement that there would be a second-collection, furiously wagging his forefinger and saying, "Now to-day is Palm Sunday, as yas all knows, and we've given yas all palms to take home with yas. Now were only a small parish, and we can't afford to just give yas all palms; so in order to cover the cost of dese t'ings, were going to 'ave a second-collection, because I don't want yers to t'ink that dese t'ings just grow on trees! In nomine patre, et filio sancte etc"

 

MM

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Doh - I was trying to keep your name out of it! Bloody annoying when people fiddle with your pistons...

 

 

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

 

 

This reminds me of yet another story; this time concerning pistons.

 

It was said that Sir George Thalben-Ball had only the thinnest veil behind which he hid his complete contempt for Eric Thiman; then organist of "The City Temple", where there was (still is?) a very large J W Walker organ.

 

The story goes that Sir George Thalben-Ball was invited to play for wedding at "The City Temple," but Eric Thiman , as incumbent organist, insisted on accompanying the choir and playing the wedding marches and hymns. Sir George was therefore relegated to the role of assistant organist; playing just the voluntaries.

 

With a malicious grin, Sir George Thalben-Ball hatched a plot, and when the signal came that the bride had duly arrived, Eric Thiman hurriedly slipped onto the organ-bench and blindly stabbed at the thumb-pistons as he looked towards the entrance-door. The bride entered, less than impressively, to an opening fanfare played on the 8ft Great Flute with Swell Celestes coupled.

 

Sir George had reversed all the thumb-pistons!

 

MM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
=======================

This reminds me of yet another story; this time concerning pistons.

 

It was said that Sir George Thalben-Ball had only the thinnest veil behind which he hid his complete contempt for Eric Thiman; then organist of "The City Temple", where there was (still is?) a very large J W Walker organ.

 

The story goes that Sir George Thalben-Ball was invited to play for wedding at "The City Temple," but Eric Thiman , as incumbent organist, insisted on accompanying the choir and playing the wedding marches and hymns. Sir George was therefore relegated to the role of assistant organist; playing just the voluntaries.

 

With a malicious grin, Sir George Thalben-Ball hatched a plot, and when the signal came that the bride had duly arrived, Eric Thiman hurriedly slipped onto the organ-bench and blindly stabbed at the thumb-pistons as he looked towards the entrance-door. The bride entered, less than impressively, to an opening fanfare played on the 8ft Great Flute with Swell Celestes coupled.

 

Sir George had reversed all the thumb-pistons!

 

MM

 

 

 

Dear Colin,

that's the stuff!

Please keep 'em coming.

 

P.

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Then there is the celebrated story of St.John's, Cambridge, in the days when Sir Geroge Guest was Director of Music.

 

Having obtained the south-facing chamades in the chancel organ-case, a fellow of the college was visibly seen to move from his usual seat on the northern side of the chancel, and move across to the south-side.

 

Obviously there is, or was, some sort of academic pecking-order, for this caused great consternation and confusion among the assembled academics, who angrily milled around for a while, like sheep trying to keep warm in a blizzard; bumping into each other and sitting one atop the other in their partial sightedness.

 

After the morning service, the mobile academic who had begun the confusion was taken to task, and asked very pointedly why he had foresaken his usual seat.

 

He pointed upwards and said, "Those infernal things!"

 

His finger pointed upwards towards the chamades.

 

"You mean the trumpets?" Another enquired.

 

"Yes....those," he replied angrily,"I'm not going to sit underneath them and be dripped upon!"

 

:)

 

MM

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How true the following is, I cannot vouch for, but it's a good story anyway.

 

It is said of Sir David Wilcocks, that he never failed to be polite and gracious under the most trying circumstances; never losing his temper and raging at people, as many tend to do.

 

When at King's College, he had the misfortune to endure a very rare, but almost complete collapse of the anthem, but as always, he remained perfectly calm.

 

As the final strains of this awful rendition faded, and as choristers looked anxiously each at the other, Sir David apparently did the usual thing, by silently mouthing the words, "Thank you gentlemen" at the choir.

 

With that, he apparently bowed his head graciously towards the altar, and then tore the music-copy in half before departing the chancel for the organ-loft.

 

Now that's style!

 

MM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
How true the following is, I cannot vouch for, but it's a good story anyway.

 

It is said of Sir David Wilcocks, that he never failed to be polite and gracious under the most trying circumstances; never losing his temper and raging at people, as many tend to do.

 

When at King's College, he had the misfortune to endure a very rare, but almost complete collapse of the anthem, but as always, he remained perfectly calm.

 

As the final strains of this awful rendition faded, and as choristers looked anxiously each at the other, Sir David apparently did the usual thing, by silently mouthing the words, "Thank you gentlemen" at the choir.

 

With that, he apparently bowed his head graciously towards the altar, and then tore the music-copy in half before departing the chancel for the organ-loft.

 

Now that's style!

 

MM

 

Great story. May I add/correct....(?)

Sir David Willcocks is still alive (tragic cicumstances in the last 24 hours excepted) and shouldn't really appear in the past tense!

 

P.

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Thinking of King's DoMs, I can't remember who told me that "Daddy" Mann would take a daily early morning bath in the nearest college bathroom to his rooms, which was some distance away, walking in some style attired in his dressing gown. During the winter months this perambulation was too cold so the winter routine was to take a weekly bath at the Great Eastern Hotel, by Liverpool Street Station in London.

 

I so hope this story is true.

 

I also heard a story of a collapsing anthem at Windsor during which "Doc" Harris was heard to say "Boys, boys, you're letting me down."

 

Michael

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Guest Andrew Butler

I believe an anthem collapsed at Lincoln in Gordon Slater's time, and he turned to the (I believe it was) Archbishop who was present and said "That's it, you've had your b***** anthem!"

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
What news Paul...is he ok?

 

 

No news at all.

Just that I was chatting with someone yesterday who's hoping to persuade David Willcocks to conduct a major work for an up-coming recording. He'd hardly be in discussions if the great man was no longer with us. The post I originally followed used words like 'had' 'was' etc. A bit previous. Hopefully quite a lot previous!

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With that, he apparently bowed his head graciously towards the altar, and then tore the music-copy in half before departing the chancel for the organ-loft.

 

 

A friend of mine tells the story of when he was singing at Westminster Cathedral under Mawby, doing the Allegri Miserere, with a drone during the plainsong sections to keep the pitch under control. The choir still managed to go flat, so Mawby, apparently, muttered "Oh, ***k it!", screwed up his copy, threw it at the choir, then stormed out.

 

This was told to me after a concert in which the same friend was conducting the same piece, where one of the solo group produced an evil smell just before one of the solo group entries. After much coughing and spluttering, they got going, but settled on a 3rd up! The sop soloist, whilst sounding a little bit thin, still got the top C, err, E!

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Great story. May I add/correct....(?)

Sir David Willcocks is still alive (tragic cicumstances in the last 24 hours excepted) and shouldn't really appear in the past tense!

 

P.

 

 

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

 

I didn't know he was still at King's....good heavens!

 

:lol:

 

MM

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I heard the story of Christmas Carols at Truro, where the tenor soloist, doing the ubiquitous Darke, sang E'nuff for him, whom Angels worship day and night... Then he had to make the rhyme... A breat full of meeeelk and a manager of full of (momentary pause) .... Well, go one, you can guess the rest - it was probably an accurate description of the contents of the manger, but probably not the most liturgically pleasing.

 

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

 

 

Ah! You must await my Christmas gift to you all, when I retell the story of "The ox and ass."

 

:lol:

 

MM

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Guest Lee Blick
====================

Ah!  You must await my Christmas gift to you all, when I retell the story of "The ox and ass."

 

:lol:

 

MM

 

Not sure you should be telling us this on a respectable messageboard B)

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Guest Andrew Butler
Hi newbie here but thought i'd contribute

in the 1960's shortly a few years before his death, one of our cathedral organists was at his position during evensong. During the particulary boring sermon (it was a sunday) he was heard audibly to say 'effin bishop why dont he effin shut up' (well you can guess waht was really said) amongst other things. This lead to the dean sending up a choir boy 'The dean asks could you please stop swearing during the Bishops sermon. He understands it isn't a good one, but moan in a spiritual not earthly voice"

Not a very well known one that... but i  heard it from a gentleman who attended evensong that evening, and has moved around cathedral circles there for many years

 

One assumes the organist in question was at the organ.

 

Slight tangent, but lying awake in the small hours with a bad cough, set me thinking, when did the trend for the No.1 to conduct and the No.2 to accompany, start? There were "old-schoolers" around until fairly recently; for example Clifford Harker at Bristol until 1983 continued to do most of the accompanying, only coming down to conduct unaccompanied settings/anthems. And I can remember a tv broadcast on Easter Sunday in the late 70's/early 80's from Lincoln, and Phillip Marshall did the same then. I believe Colin Walsh continued the tradition there to a certain extent. Does it still happen anywhere?

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One assumes the organist in question was at the organ.

 

Slight tangent, but lying awake in the small hours with a bad cough, set me thinking, when did the trend for the No.1 to conduct and the No.2 to accompany, start?  There were "old-schoolers" around until fairly recently; for example Clifford Harker at Bristol until 1983 continued to do most of the accompanying, only coming down to conduct unaccompanied settings/anthems. And I can remember a tv broadcast on Easter Sunday in the late 70's/early 80's from Lincoln, and Phillip Marshall did the same then. I believe Colin Walsh continued the tradition there to a certain extent.  Does it still happen anywhere?

 

Last time I was at evensong at Liverpool, Ian Tracey played and the organ scholar conducted - and I'm told that is not unusual there. Also, I seem to remember that Christopher Dearnley used to play rather than conduct at St Pauls.

 

JJK

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

This reminds me of yet another story; this time concerning pistons.

 

It was said that Sir George Thalben-Ball had only the thinnest veil behind which he hid his complete contempt for Eric Thiman; then organist of "The City Temple", where there was (still is?) a very large J W Walker organ.

 

The story goes that Sir George Thalben-Ball was invited to play for wedding at "The City Temple," but Eric Thiman , as incumbent organist, insisted on accompanying the choir and playing the wedding marches and hymns. Sir George was therefore relegated to the role of assistant organist; playing just the voluntaries.

 

With a malicious grin, Sir George Thalben-Ball hatched a plot, and when the signal came that the bride had duly arrived, Eric Thiman hurriedly slipped onto the organ-bench and blindly stabbed at the thumb-pistons as he looked towards the entrance-door. The bride entered, less than impressively, to an opening fanfare played on the 8ft Great Flute with Swell Celestes coupled.

 

Sir George had reversed all the thumb-pistons!

 

MM

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

This reminds me of yet another story; this time concerning pistons.

 

It was said that Sir George Thalben-Ball had only the thinnest veil behind which he hid his complete contempt for Eric Thiman; then organist of "The City Temple", where there was (still is?) a very large J W Walker organ.

 

The story goes that Sir George Thalben-Ball was invited to play for wedding at "The City Temple," but Eric Thiman , as incumbent organist, insisted on accompanying the choir and playing the wedding marches and hymns. Sir George was therefore relegated to the role of assistant organist; playing just the voluntaries.

 

With a malicious grin, Sir George Thalben-Ball hatched a plot, and when the signal came that the bride had duly arrived, Eric Thiman hurriedly slipped onto the organ-bench and blindly stabbed at the thumb-pistons as he looked towards the entrance-door. The bride entered, less than impressively, to an opening fanfare played on the 8ft Great Flute with Swell Celestes coupled.

 

Sir George had reversed all the thumb-pistons!

 

MM

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The story about GTB and Thiman reminds me of Sir Henry Wood's acquaintance H.C Tonking. Wood had organ lessons with him and thought very highly

of him. Tonking was organist at Westminster Chapel,Buckingham Gate.However he was dismissed and before the first Sunday his successor was to play,he got into the organ and made certain alterations. He took Wood with him to the Sunday service and was delighted when the unfortunate organist selected soft stops for his prelude and was rewarded with 16ft and 8ft reeds plus 8 ranks of mixtures! Tonking thought it hilarious but Wood told him waht he thought of such a low trick and never saw him again.

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Slight tangent, but lying awake in the small hours with a bad cough, set me thinking, when did the trend for the No.1 to conduct and the No.2 to accompany, start?

Don't know, but possibly with Christopher Robinson? I have the impression that this was how he operated at Windsor and a faint recollection that he may have done likewise at Worcester before that.

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Apologies for this being another theatre organ related story, but the guts of it could apply to any organ really. It is perhaps unusual in that there were no witnesses to the original event. I'd forgotten about it until yesterday when I met up again with the tuner concerned. For the sake of reputations I won't name him, the venue, or the name or even gender of the 'organist' concerned.

 

The inverted commas are deliberate because the performer in question is one of a worryingly prevalent breed on the theatre organ circuit who cut their teeth on - and are mainly known for playing - what Robin Richmond used to delight in referring to as a "home plug-in" and known in these parts as a toaster. Whilst apparently an accomplished pianist and well known for toaster work, the said performer is obviously less than knowledgeable on what to expect from a pipe organ, of indeed how to approach playing thereon.

 

Having arrived at the venue in plenty of time, this very keen performer decided to go right through every stop of the organ to see if there was anything not working, and then to write the results of this careful research in the tuning book - presumably thinking that this was a way to be taken seriously on the organ circuit.

 

Cut ahead a few weeks and our heroic tuner arrived to give the instrument its regular once-over. As always he started by checking the tuning book. The recent note from the hero of the story began thus....

 

"Accompaniment Vox Humana 16' tc - no notes working in bottom octave.

"Accompaniment Contra-Viole 16' tc - no notes working in bottom octave.

 

etc. etc. throughout the whole organ!

 

I must confess to having had some personal fun at the expense of this same performer who has a reputation for arriving at a venue and asking who was playing last month, then trying that organists's pistons (remember we're talking about oldish organs, most of which have setter boards not multi-channel capture systems) and saying "I'll use those - they'll be fine." One day, whilst awaiting the arrival of this person I decided I'd had enough of this, so - along similar lines to GTB and Thieman - set to work on the setter board.

 

In due course the great person arrived and, true to form, the first question was "Who was here last month?" I replied to the effect that it had been one of the former Blackpool luminaries, which produced a smile and "That's fine." The great one then sat at the console and started jabbing at pistons before looking at me and saying "The pistons aren't working!" I said, "No, they're fine but I've set everything to OFF because it'll be much easier to put your settings on if we start with a clean sheet! Now, let's start with No. 1 on the Solo - what do you want?"

 

The look of panic was a delight.... said person eventually managed to suggest three similar sounding registrations for one manual, then - having the look of someone drowning - gave up and said "Oh, it's alright - I'll hand register."

 

Better still I was working that afternoon, so had a genuine and valid excuse not to stay for the concert ;)

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Guest Andrew Butler
Cut ahead a few weeks and our heroic tuner arrived to give the instrument its regular once-over. As always he started by checking the tuning book. The recent note from the hero of the story began thus....

 

"Accompaniment Vox Humana 16' tc - no notes working in bottom octave.

"Accompaniment Contra-Viole 16' tc - no notes working in bottom octave.

 

I've seen this twice on local organs for a TC celeste.

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There is a well known story of the Precentor of Lincoln announcing the anthem at Evensong one day.................................

 

"The Anthem is "Ave Verum Corpus" with music by William Byrd, one-time organist of this Cathedral" to which a muttering was heard from the organ loft

 

Poor B*****d!!

 

 

NS

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Slight tangent, but lying awake in the small hours with a bad cough, set me thinking, when did the trend for the No.1 to conduct and the No.2 to accompany, start?  There were "old-schoolers" around until fairly recently; I believe Colin Walsh continued the tradition [at Lincoln] to a certain extent.  Does it still happen anywhere?

 

I think Colin Walsh does prefer playing to directing; I think this system is in place at Lincoln currently: Colin Walsh plays for the boys choir, which the sub-organist Charles Harrison directs, while for the girls choir Charles Harrison plays and Aric Prentice (choirmaster) directs. As for recitals Colin Walsh plans all of them, and plays a fair number as well. I think he gave up being director of music at Lincoln due to the number of recitals he plays in faraway places

 

As for Christopher Robinson doing all the playing at Windsor, this seems less likely as he tends to be seen more as a choir director than an organist

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