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Talking Whilst Playing

Nick Bennett

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Guest Barry Williams
I used to read the Sunday Times supplements whilst 'doodling' through communion.



Len Flay told me that Percy Whitlock used to give him harmony lessons in the orchestra pit in Bournemouth. Apparently PW started the orchestra off then left them to their own devices whilst he taught harmony, with the music of a totally different piece going on around him. The mind boggles!


Barry Williams

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I found that the very best way to deal with people who come up to the console for a full length chat during the voluntary is to appoint a chorister as page turner-overer and console guard. If anyone gets past the chorister, it is he who gets into trouble after the voluntary has finished. IT WORKS A TREAT!!!! One person did get past him, and I heard him pleadingly tell the offender "He doesn't like it when people talk to him during the voluntary...."


That day he didn't get a telling off :angry:

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I, personally, can't talk whilst playing, but on my first visit to Notre-Dame de Paris with my choir a few years ago, I sat at the side of the orgue de choeur (being played that day by Yves Castagnet). At one point, he was accompanying the psalm with one hand and feet and having a telephone conversation with the Titulaire on duty in the tribune! On my second visit there, the same organist, again, whilst accompanying the psalm with one hand, was sending text messages with the other!


Entertaining to say the least!



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I still remember it! 35 years ago, at the conclusion of the Midnight Service on Christmas Eve, in a large church in Vancouver (the 4 manual organ had a fanfare trumpet over the door; it also had a detatched console at ground level). Near the end of the concluding voluntary, Dieu Parmi Nous, someone shouting at the organist- "Use the trumpets Fred!! What about the trumpets???!!"... :angry:

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I remeber one fellow telling the story - I think it was of John Scott Whiteley that "he can play that fiendish French stuff and carry on a full-fledged conversation simultaneously"


Me, I can *sort* of talk, but only if I am improvising.... score reading demands my full attention.


I remember a number of years ago when I was celebrating my last service at the church I was serving... I've never been the world's greatest sight-reader, so I had to pretty much memorize the choir stuff (I was accompanying AND conducting from the console at the same time!). Consequently, I never played much substantial literature for voluntaries or postludes, since I really did not have time for working up those. In honor of several folks who had often requested me to play more "barn-burners", I decided to work up 2 pieces for that day - the Buxtehude P,F + C, and as a postlude, the Widor Toccata from Sym 5...


Here I am, on a 70's-era Phelpsavant with 4 general pistons, 4 divisionals per division, no registrant, no page turner, and as I'm playing the postlude, an old gent comes barging up to the console saying "you've got to get to the parish hall, there's a reception for you!"


Egads..... it was in that modualting section where you daren't flinch or lose concentration, or you might forget what key you are in(!)


I managed to ignore him, but on the recording one can tell where he

comes in - it was all I could do to concentrate on the music :angry:


Fortunately, he left me alone after the 2nd service, so I was able to play it "clean" at least once! :angry:


I think folks simply don NOT understand the amount of coordination and concentration it requires to make our limbs and fingers do so many things at once :angry:


A blessed Christmas to all,


- G

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Guest Roffensis
In another thread, Barry Williams mentioned that he can't talk and play at the same time.


Can you?


Do you know people who can hold a conversation whilst playing?


Are any well-known organists noted for being chatterers or for being mute?



I can, but it depends what I'm playing. If it's fiddly then I'm usually trying to concentrate!



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