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Holy Trinity Hull


Guest Andrew Butler
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Anyone know what's going on please......? :wacko:

 

Yes. Rather than allow conjecture to fill this page, you can have it from the proverbial horse's mouth.

EMBARRASSING RANT ALERT - you probably want to skip this, unless you're fairly heartless and want a good laugh. If you are of a sympathetic disposition this may depress you, it sure depresses me.

 

Things had been going pretty well, over the last two years - choir up to 30+ including never less than fifteen youngsters. Music Group formed, Youth Choir formed, music lists back to respectable repertoire respectably performed by pretty-well devoted amateurs - musically, the whole show is more-or-less as good as a visitor could realistically expect. From a totally dead start, I ought to be really thrilled with how it's gone.

 

The problem is largely me. I have been over-stretched in the move and the finance/energy cost of it all. I have (of course) a few moans about how things are or are not organised at the church. In particular, I don't like having to second-guess how things are going to go when I'm responsible for a lot of people. I repeat, for most people this wouldn't stop them enjoying things.

 

The organ has been pretty comprehensively patched during my two years - it still leaks like a seive, but we are down to only about six stops off and this had been much more like twenty or so. I planned for a CD recording in early November and this was safely achieved in a pretty short recording session which gives you some idea of how happy I was with the instrument and how I have become comfortable with working around the various problems than cannot be solved pre-rebuild.

 

Since you ask, there were two giddy limits reached both on the same weekend 22-25 December. After a successful big carol service, we had planned an adult choir party on the Friday with just a very brief rehearsal (in my own house). We had one piece to work on - especially for the Midnight Service. I had not allowed for the consumption of alcohol first and I lost my temper when this attempt at a rehearsal got silly.

 

Sunday morning 24th, I was called out from my console unexpectedly to receive a special card that had been made for us in the Sunday School by (mostly) choir kids, I just got back in time to start the (jazzed-up) accompaniment for The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy. Not so hard, you'd think...in fact I was looking forward to it - I like to let my hair down in the interests of a red-hot hymn. However, don't forget, with a detached console and a 1937 action, I always have to anticipate the beat and this one was always going to be a bit unpredictable.

 

Hymn having been announced, I start breathless from running back to the console. Within five seconds, the vicar starts to make an announcement on the tannoy over the play-through. He then starts clapping, perhaps this is on the off-beat, perhaps it isn't, who can tell?!! All I know is that I tried to keep playing and couldn't. I was totally defeated. I got off the console and they sung the rest of the service un-accompanied.

 

I soldiered on over Christmas and played on 31st December when I should have been on holiday.

We should have had a Service of Light on Sunday afternoon 7th Jan, but because of communication problems, the service sheet (when it finally appeared) bore no resemblance to the service the vicar and I had discussed months before. In place of the three or four choir carols that we had rehearsed, I was asked for a Nunc Dimittis as the choir's only contribution. Sensing how things would go, I told the kids not to come and made it an adult-choir-only evening. Just as well. The service turned out to be extremely depressing and (in particular) extremely poorly lit. So poorly lit that I refused to start the accompaniment for Stanford's B flat Nunc until the lights had been put back on for us.

 

On being offered a chance to discuss all this with the vicar and wardens on Thursday, I asked if the meeting could be left until I was feeling better. No, this couldn't happen. OK, then! This is more than I can take so I'm off. [Default setting: I always run off home like a small child. Flight or fight. Immature and stroppy to the end, me.] I've been a solid 35 years in church appointments and some days it feels as if neither I nor the people I'm working for have learned a thing.

 

My wife is Joint Director of Music so (unless someone really stupid decides otherwise) she will be running things. She's good at it. HTH will not be in a hole, choir-wise. They will have to look around for someone to play, of course.

 

 

I hope all readers have had a sufficiently satisfying Christmas to want to stay at their posts.

I am not recommending that any but the totally desperate chuck it all in.

 

Paul Derrett

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I'm not saying it applies to Holy Trinity Hull, but I've come across churches that seem positively to cultivate an atmosphere of bumbling ineptitude as if it is the sine qua non of informality.

 

I deputise at one such occasionally. The curate is a splendid old man - a strong traditionalist, very liturgically minded, believes in good music and generally doing things properly. His vicar is a jovial, informal, happy-clappy type. When I'm playing there the curate goes to the trouble of getting all the music and service details to me a few days beforehand. Invariably by the Sunday the vicar has changed something.

 

Last time I was there was Advent Sunday. The curate had presented me with a Kyrie, but at the service the vicar chose to launch into another melody entirely. In panic I looked into the mirror above the organ desk to see if any help was likely to be forthcoming, but all I could see was the curate turning eastwards in this stall with gritted teeth, eyes and outstretched palms raised to heaven in a "God give me strength" sort of way.

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Yes. Rather than allow conjecture to fill this page, you can have it from the proverbial horse's mouth.

EMBARRASSING RANT ALERT - you probably want to skip this, unless you're fairly heartless and want a good laugh. If you are of a sympathetic disposition this may depress you, it sure depresses me.

 

(SNIP)

 

 

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

 

 

I've been through all this at various places, including some where one would expect things to be rather better, and without naming names or churches, I've had to put up with last-minute changes to hymn-lists, changes of service, a choral foundation where the anthem/setting could change between Friday practise and Sunday morning Service by pigeon-post, manic-depressive bosses, petulant choir members who can't be bothered to turn up, clergy who have the same hymns month in and month out, clergy who don't care about anything musical......you name it, I've suffered it.

 

I suppose it's called "life," which is seldom predictable and rarely gratifying.

 

Non-musicians can never understand the meticulous preparation required of serious-music (and not so serious-music), and the small details which can de-rail the best efforts.

 

I feel that the biggest change during something slightly less than the past half-century, has been the loss of a disciplined approach to churchmanship. In some ways that is good, but in many respects, the lack of formality and the lack of quidelines has produced a church atmosphere which is not conducive to good church-music. In a nutshell, it is the difference between the discipline and formality of a military age and generation, and a less formal (perhaps even sloppy) world, which many would argue exists to-day.

 

Having spit-out my dummy numerous times, I now know that it was so much wasted ire and energy, and that is exactly the reason why I choose to play a beautiful organ, in a beautiful church, without ANY real responsibilities at all. I turn up, I play and I go. I find that I simply cannot work with people who either don't care, or who wish to wallow in their own amateurishness and indiscipline; which is what I see in ALL church denominations to-day.

 

I think I can identify absolutely with Paul's character-trait of "flight or fight." I am just the same exactly, and I either walk away silently, or explode like a bomb, when I really should be communicating.

 

I think Paul should appoint a diplomat of some sort, because a third-party is often the best way of communicating when feelings and passions get the better of us.

 

I hope, for Paul's sake and for Trinity's, that there may be reconciliation, because my spies tell me that he is valued, and something of a breath of fresh-air among the ranks of normal, poe-faced organists.

 

 

MM

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Guest Andrew Butler

I think it is fair to say that situations similar to those described by Paul, and others above, have happened to all of us. I have almost thrown in the towel on many occasions.

 

Controversial it may be, but my prize for "bumbling ineptitude" goes, after many years experience, to the RC Church. Last Friday, I was asked to play for a funeral at a small "chapel of ease" where the toaster had caught fire some time ago; could I take along a "keyboard" to play the hymns? The "voluntaries" would be on family-supplied tapes. I duly did. What a pity the priest forgot all about the hymns and I got paid £60 for doing nothing apart from a 35 mile round trip and a re-organized teaching schedule!

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I'm sure. like many other readers, I'm sorry that things have not worked out for Paul at HTH.

 

Its a tricky thing this relationship between the DOM and the clergy. For myself, once I've been appointed to a post I expect to be left to get on with it with appropriate interest and feedback welcome but without interferance of any kind. I'm very lucky in my present post to have a vicar who is very musical and takes a keen and informed interest in everything to do with the choir but leaves me free to get on with the job.

 

Like Paul, I suspect, I cannot abide anything that in my judgement is either bad manners or, at best, gross insensitivity. This certainly includes clergy that feel it appropriate to talk over organ playing - for example if they cant wait for an improvisation to come to a closing cadence. Its only fair in such circumstances for the organist to be free to start the next hymn once they feel the sermon has gone on long enough. I also get very frustrated when an officiant is unable to allow that moment for the atmosphere created by a sensitive performance to pass before they barge in with the prayers or whatever.

 

In this respect those of us that hold positions in churches always know that however comfortable and happy we are in our current position every interegnum brings a period of doubt and uncertainty, and every decent choir and musical tradition that has perhaps taken many years, and a great deal of effort to build up, can be destroyed in no time at all. Whilst we remain servants of the church, its clear, and obvious to all but the very foolish, that for most of us its a labour of love and we have to believe in what we're being asked to do otherwise the whole thing becomes a waste of time.

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So what's the issue here? I don't understand why one would refuse to play the organ in a service because one hymn didn't go right? Seems like an overreaction to me. Perhaps I missed something when I read the chapter-and-verse. Sorry.

I suspect the rather larger last straw was:

We should have had a Service of Light on Sunday afternoon 7th Jan, but because of communication problems, the service sheet (when it finally appeared) bore no resemblance to the service the vicar and I had discussed months before. In place of the three or four choir carols that we had rehearsed, I was asked for a Nunc Dimittis as the choir's only contribution.

Paul

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Strange as it may seem, there are some of us clergy who long for a church with a decent musical tradition, and to revel in music played on a first class organ by a tip-top organist....

 

:rolleyes:

 

But somehow those jobs seem to be being filled by clergy who don't.

 

How do we explain this?

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Strange as it may seem, there are some of us clergy who long for a church with a decent musical tradition, and to revel in music played on a first class organ by a tip-top organist....

 

:rolleyes:

 

But somehow those jobs seem to be being filled by clergy who don't.

 

How do we explain this?

Perhaps because the parish people (in the shape of the PCC) choose the vicar and, on the whole, the great unwashed have no interest in art music? Or is that too simplistic?

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Guest Andrew Butler
So what's the issue here? I don't understand why one would refuse to play the organ in a service because one hymn didn't go right? Seems like an overreaction to me. Perhaps I missed something when I read the chapter-and-verse. Sorry.

 

 

If a hymn goes wrong, the majority blame the organist. For an accomplished liturgical musician, to "appear" to be at fault when one is not, can easily be the last straw. I know. I've been there!

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If a hymn goes wrong, the majority blame the organist. For an accomplished liturgical musician, to "appear" to be at fault when one is not, can easily be the last straw. I know. I've been there!

 

I know exactly what you mean. My worst experience of this kind occurred when I accompanied a carol service for pre-school children and their parents/carers. The woman leading the service announced the first carol, then immediately launched into singing it without giving me a chance to play an intro. The congregation (presumably used to this) joined in. My first reaction was to get up from the piano and take my leave. However, I decided that to do so would make me look stroppy (slightly bothered about this) or incompetent (very bothered about this). I ended up working out the key in which the carol was being sung and joining in (very ‘positively’) at the beginning of v2. The same thing happened in the second carol. In the third and fourth, I came in immediately after ‘We will now sing’ before the tile had even been given. The following year, the request for me to play was answered with, ‘Oh, I’m ever so sorry, I’ve already got a booking on that day’.

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I know exactly what you mean. My worst experience of this kind occurred when I accompanied a carol service for pre-school children and their parents/carers. The woman leading the service announced the first carol, then immediately launched into singing it without giving me a chance to play an intro. The congregation (presumably used to this) joined in. My first reaction was to get up from the piano and take my leave. However, I decided that to do so would make me look stroppy (slightly bothered about this) or incompetent (very bothered about this). I ended up working out the key in which the carol was being sung and joining in (very ‘positively’) at the beginning of v2. The same thing happened in the second carol. In the third and fourth, I came in immediately after ‘We will now sing’ before the tile had even been given. The following year, the request for me to play was answered with, ‘Oh, I’m ever so sorry, I’ve already got a booking on that day’.

It would be good if someone could have a word with the over-enthusiastic service leader to explain how things should work. Otherwise she'll carry on alienating musicians until there are none left.

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Guest Lee Blick
No, I appreciate why he's thrown the towel in given everything else that happened, I just found it surprising on that earlier incident that a hymn went wrong and he felt it necessary to leave the organ stool for the rest of the service.

I agree. You just have to keep going. Even when things have broken down badly. You have to cut youself off to what has happened and focus what is coming next.

 

Christmas and Easter can be very stressful times for church musicians and something I learnt from the years of doing it is to try and lessen the burden and perhaps delegate minor duties to other people particularly administrative or pastoral/person management issues. If you have a heavy playing schedule with lots of rehearsals, you have to make it clear to the clergy that late substitutions are not on, and stand your ground if visiting clergy try to foister things on you just before a service (one of my pet peeves). Often it takes some months or even a couple years for organists new to a post to get truly in tune with the church's routines and indiosynchrosies. This period is also the time to establish firmly what you are willing or not willing to do, particularly with clergy. A lot of them probably will not be aware the amount of time and effort and manposwer it takes to rehearse the music. Make them aware, invite the incumbent to your rehearsal, arrange your next music meeting in church so he sees you doing your organ practice.

 

I feel sad that Mr Derrett has resigned. To get 'bedded down' can take a while, both for the organist and the church adjusting to what the organist is expecting of them. I am sure a few months down the line things would have improved.

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It would be good if someone could have a word with the over-enthusiastic service leader to explain how things should work. Otherwise she'll carry on alienating musicians until there are none left.

 

I suppose that you could try. However, you may be wasting your time - she probably also thinks that the presenter of Ray Mears' Bushcraft is a Brazilian.

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If a hymn goes wrong, the majority blame the organist. For an accomplished liturgical musician, to "appear" to be at fault when one is not, can easily be the last straw. I know. I've been there!

"blame" is a strong word, and after all it's only a hymn, it's not like you crashed a car, killing half a dozen people.

 

I guess it comes down to one's relationship with the parish and the faithful and clergy therein. If you feel like you're amongst friends, cocking up a hymn can be taken with an embarrassed laugh and a shrug of the shoulders.

 

I should know. We had the bishop turn up for Midnight Mass, and I somehow in my slumbered state managed to kick off Hark the herald by playing O come all ye faithful. Another time, the hymn list had been misprinted, and subsequently the pewslip, so when the gradual hymn was announced (from that horrible 'Theme Songs' booklet) it was one that no-one knew the tune for (subsequently I found out it went to 'Irby' of all things). I had to dismount, and apologise to all and sundry that we were not going to sing it, and it was straight into the Gospel.

 

Now in a parish where I wasn't absolutely comfortable with the congregation, the priest and everyone else, I can see that might have invoked the 'flight' reaction, rather than a wry smile and a joke or two over coffee after the service...

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" and I somehow in my slumbered state managed to kick off Hark the herald by playing O come all ye faithful".

 

Funny that - at one of the carol services I played for last year, I managed to introduce "O come all ye faithful" by playing "Hark the Herald"............. :rolleyes: And yet the Rutter given to me at short notice was fine - a case of relaxing too much I think.

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Strange as it may seem, there are some of us clergy who long for a church with a decent musical tradition, and to revel in music played on a first class organ by a tip-top organist....

 

:rolleyes:

 

But somehow those jobs seem to be being filled by clergy who don't.

 

How do we explain this?

 

Hi

 

You tell me - I can't answer that one either.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Barry Oakley
Strange as it may seem, there are some of us clergy who long for a church with a decent musical tradition, and to revel in music played on a first class organ by a tip-top organist....

 

:rolleyes:

 

But somehow those jobs seem to be being filled by clergy who don't.

 

How do we explain this?

 

You have got it in one!! I rejoiced at the appointment of Paul Derrett at Holy Trinity, Hull, because I felt it heralded the return to high musical standards, standards that gradually disappeared after Peter Goodman left in the mid 1950's because of a succession of interfering clerical cretins. Paul and his wife were working successfully to restore those high standards and through Paul's gifts as an organist/organ builder the magnificent organ was being gradually brought back to life before a long-overdue restoration.

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Guest Andrew Butler

I agree that a misprinted pew sheet is not the organist's fault, and a joke can be made about it.

 

However, what I was alluding to was the sort of thing that happened to Paul. Let me give a couple of examples of my own experience.

 

1) I provide a music list for the priest in my RC parish. One Sunday, I started the Gloria I had on my list, and he intoned another. In the middle of the Mass, he said "I am singing what's on my list - yours must be wrong" (His was an exact copy from the same print-run!) I could only think that somehow last week's had got put on the altar, and said "I am truly sorry. I don't know how this has happened" and commenced "his" Gloria. After Mass I looked at his list and he had misread it - it was the same as mine. I suggested that over coffee he might like to tell people "oops, my mistake after all". But he said "Oh I think we'll just let it blow over" I exagerate not when I say that there are still people in the parish ignoring me 3 years later "for embarassing poor Monsignor by playing the wrong Gloria that time"!

 

2) 2 weeks ago, the Offertory hymn was "What child is this" to "Greensleeves".. At the Saturday vigil mass there is no choir, and there is a lady with a very strident voice, who sings lustily and gives the impression she knows what she is doing. On this occasion, she sang one syllable to a note, where there should have been several notes to a syllable, taking everyone with her, which meant the congregation finished v.1 before me and went onto the words of v.2 while I was still playing v.1. Afterwards, someone was heard saying to her "Thank goodness you knew it and could keep us going against the unequal odds from the organ"

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The point about all this is that it is a relationship issue.

 

We do not know the character of the relationships, and I would not presume to judge - merely to sympathise from the point of view of a fellow church musician struggling now and in the past with similar problems.

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