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Jeremy Jones

Musical Chairs

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Well now, what with vacancies impending at St Paul's, Worcester, Liverpool Met, St John's Cambridge, and seemingly York, we live in interesting times. The problem, as I see it, is that we had a round of musical chairs only a few years ago when David Hill went up to Cambridge from Winchester and Malcolm Archer to St Paul's.

 

What I'm getting it, really, is whether we have a sufficient abundance of talent available to fill these vacancies without, shall we say, scraping the bottom of the barrel. The danger could be that individuals will be promoted before they are really ready. When you look around, we already have some very young faces already in situ in their first top jobs in cathedrals across the country, e.g. Aric Prentice (Lincoln), Andrew Reid (Peterborough), Robert Sharpe (Truro), Simon Nieminski (Edinburgh). In these cases, having heard 3 out of the 4 choirs under their stewardship, I can vouch that these cathedral choirs are in very safe hands.

 

The worry is not so much what will happen at York, St Paul's, St John's - they are such prestigious posts that they will attract the cream of the crop - no, the concern is further down the road as the game of musical chairs plays itself out and who replaces those who move on to the posts in London, Cambridge, York.

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.....And maybe the worst side-effect could lie with the fact any human being needs to leave

some deeds behind him, some "achievements"; an updated organ for instance (read: spoiled)

 

Pierre

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.....And maybe the worst side-effect could lie with the fact any human being needs to leave

some deeds behind him, some "achievements"; an updated organ for instance (read: spoiled)

 

Pierre

 

Exactly, Pierre!

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To paraphrase Pele: "If they are good enough, they are old enough." Since these cathedral musicians are far better exponents of the art than the majority hereon, who are we to judge who lacks quality? Those who can, do etc.

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Guest Barry Oakley

The worry is not so much what will happen at York, St Paul's, St John's - they are such prestigious posts that they will attract the cream of the crop - no, the concern is further down the road as the game of musical chairs plays itself out and who replaces those who move on to the posts in London, Cambridge, York.

 

I have a feeling that for the time being there is sufficient talent out there to fill cathedral vacancies that arise. When he was the sub-organist at Southwell Minster I was always impressed by the talents of Philip Rushforth, both as an accomplished organist and a choir trainer. When Paul Hale was convalescing from a hip operation, Philip took over the reins at Southwell for several months to excellent effect and Paul paid well justified glowing tribute to him.

 

And as for those just starting out as organ scholars, I cannot speak too highly of the talents of young James Norrey (ex Chets) who is presently organ scholar at Canterbury.

 

There will still be some standing when the music stops.

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The worry is not so much what will happen at York, St Paul's, St John's - they are such prestigious posts that they will attract the cream of the crop - no, the concern is further down the road as the game of musical chairs plays itself out and who replaces those who move on to the posts in London, Cambridge, York.

I have a feeling that for the time being there is sufficient talent out there to fill cathedral vacancies that arise. When he was the sub-organist at Southwell Minster I was always impressed by the talents of Philip Rushforth, both as an accomplished organist and a choir trainer. When Paul Hale was convalescing from a hip operation, Philip took over the reins at Southwell for several months to excellent effect and Paul paid well justified glowing tribute to him.

 

And as for those just starting out as organ scholars, I cannot speak too highly of the talents of young James Norrey (ex Chets) who is presently organ scholar at Canterbury.

 

There will still be some standing when the music stops.

 

Gosh! People are up early this morning.

York surely will be vacant when Philip retires in late 2008. A while off yet.

However,

I don't think the problem is the scraping of the barrel but that there are too many musicians and organists chasing too few jobs. There are a lot of good musicians around but not enough orchestras, opera houses choral foundations etc

In continental Europe there are local schools of music in every sizeable town and local orchestras and opera houses to work in. With 77 or more opera houses in germany(population 80 million) and salaried organists posts there are many opportunities for well trained players and conductors.

In UK (60 million) there are very limited opportunities, just 50 or so full time organ posts(paying mostly below the average graduate teacher rate), nothing much that pays at parish level, and only 4 full time opera houses.

It's hardly suprising that MA is going to Winchester Coll as they'll probably pay him 48K,give him a house and he'll have decent holidays.

Many cathedrals find it difficult to offer more than 25K and limited holidays. For a young man this is ok but for older organists past 40 with children to support the salary goes nowhere. A major cathedral north of Watford pays its organist 22K for 8 services a week and two choirs.

 

My point is that opportunities are limited and will diminish as the church downsizes whilst there are more students than ever emerging from university. Something needs to be done, and in a society where serious music is under threat there's gonna be a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Apologies the post above went in before I'd corrected it for typos, punctuation....but you get the jist.

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With 77 or more opera houses in germany(population 80 million) and salaried organists posts there are many opportunities for well trained players and conductors.

Indeed. My son (a pianist specialising in contemporary music) and his wife (a singer with a foot in both baroque and contemporary camps) have moved to Germany for just this reason. Even while living in the UK, they were getting more work in Germany than here.

 

Paul

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Fascinating possible moves ahead. Maybe it was a big ask for MA to move from Britain's smallest city to its largest. I can't imagine that Amen Court is an ideal place to bring up a young family especially at the weekends when the city is empty. St Paul's is a souless institution. The Sung Eucharist on Sundays is overblown. Perhaps, MA is a teacher at heart?

 

I can't imagine that JO will wish to move from the Abbey. How abt Martin Baker who was assistant at St Pauls some years ago? Most WC organists move on to an Anglican post. If Lumsden were to move to St Paul's might Stephen Farr succeed him at Winchester?

 

I know assistants rarely get the top job at their cathedral but after 30 years it would be good for JSW to succeed Moore at York.

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To paraphrase Pele: "If they are good enough, they are old enough." Since these cathedral musicians are far better exponents of the art than the majority hereon, who are we to judge who lacks quality? Those who can, do etc.

Hear, hear. Jeremy queries "abundance of talent", but I am tempted to ask "talent at what"? There are plenty of brilliant players out there and some great choirtrainers too, but having these skills doesn't necessarily cut you out to be a cathedral organist.

 

Do cathedrals draw up proper job and person specifications for these posts these days? Do Deans and Chapters ever sit down and tabulate the essential skills and desirable skills they are seeking? The last one I saw - not so long ago (and, no, I wasn't applying!) - was, by modern management standards, somewhat lacking in this respect.

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Fascinating possible moves ahead. Maybe it was a big ask for MA to move from Britain's smallest city to its largest. I can't imagine that Amen Court is an ideal place to bring up a young family especially at the weekends when the city is empty. St Paul's is a souless institution. The Sung Eucharist on Sundays is overblown. Perhaps, MA is a teacher at heart?

 

I can't imagine that JO will wish to move from the Abbey. How abt Martin Baker who was assistant at St Pauls some years ago? Most WC organists move on to an Anglican post. If Lumsden were to move to St Paul's might Stephen Farr succeed him at Winchester?

 

I know assistants rarely get the top job at their cathedral but after 30 years it would be good for JSW to succeed Moore at York.

 

I suggest that we leave Malcolm Archer's motivations for moving out of the public domain (I'm not criticizing parsfan here - just suggesting that this particular aspect of the discussion stops here) - his reasons were personal, and we shouldn't hint or speculate about them in a public forum.

 

I can't see JSW moving to a number one post - if he were that way inclined, surely he'd have done it before?

 

One thing's for certain in this new set of shuffles ... I won't be getting a cathedral job :( Although, I've just had an invitation to take my chamber choir to do Ash Wednesday at Winchester, as Ash Wednesday falls in half term next year...

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