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Multimedia Organ


MusingMuso
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I'm not the sort of person who is hostile to instruments affectionately known as "toasters," or to be more polite, electronic-instruments, but I would be first to accept that they are not quite the real thing. The makers would, I believe, be the first to admit this.

 

Of course, the idea of "combination organs" is nothing new; having been around since the 1930's....almost a century of "tradition."

 

John Compton was certainly experimenting with it as early as 1934, if I recall correctly.

 

Of course, when there is a perfectly good and reliable pipe-organ in situ, uinless finances are so stretched that tuning and maintenance has reached a critical point, then there really is no excuse for making such an instrument redunadant: even less, the idea of replacing it with an digital-electronic simulator.

 

If pipe-organ building took a new twist around 1955, with the work of Ralph Downes, Peter Hurford and Francis Jackson (among others), then it would be fair to say that it was a retrospect turn, but certainly not a retrograde one, as the classical roots of the instrument were re-discovered in a wave of enthusiasm for all things "early music," or "classical."

 

On the other hand, the theatre-organ had shown that the genuine pipe-organ could traverse a road towards orchestral synthesis, with some degree of success. Thus, there opened-up an enormous gap between light-hearted indulgence on the one hand, and serious scholarship and retrospective renewal on the other: without any common-ground.

 

With the virtual death of the theatre-organ, it was left to the makers of electronic instruments to carve out a new path, with often dubious musical results. The revolution came with digital-synthesis and digital-sampling as we all know, but even this maintained a certain division between what we would regard as "classical" and that which was merely an effective, if not entirely rewarding synthesis, which alluded to the romantic pipe-organ.

 

Some may delude themselves by pretending that a digital instrument is "almost" the real thing, but I suspect that a "Schintger in the living-room" would fall far short of a trip to Alkmaar!

 

So we now have a situation in which most things can be simulated, and it has to be said, to the point that the simulation is good; but perhaps not good enough. Indeed, short of a total revolution in digital processing and audio technology, one suspects that the digital instrument has reached something of a plateau in terms of on-going development. Meanwhile, the makers of the best pipe-organs, such as our hosts, may happily sit back, safe in the knowledge that there will always be those institutions and individuals who would never compromise, and who would always expect the best and the most authentic.

 

However, further down the food-chain of musical provision, there are those situations in which the organ is no-longer the preferred-option, but nowadays, often a delete-option; many pipe-organs remaining silent as "worship groups" flex whatever musical muscle is to hand; albeit quite badly, in many instances.

 

It would be a brave pundit who might predict a "classical revival" in church-music, but that is not impossible, even though it seems unlikely in this day of "Celebrity Big Brother" and the cult of rubbish entertainment, lightweight theology and the crisis of confidence among the faithful. For the moment, it is sadly a case of "monkey see, monkey do."

 

Organists are involved in this crisis, either by way of redundancy, or in being expected to perform musical miracles with the wrong tools of the trade.

 

Is there a case for the "multimedia" organ?

 

Is there a good "worship" reason for this not being possible, rather than a scholastic reason?

 

The technology exists, whereby an organ could be many things, from pipe-organ to musical synthesiser, and perhaps even "lighting console" and "audio mixer." Absolutely anything is possible!

 

Furthermore, by importing files via the internet, the multimedia-organ could become the workstation of worship, as well as the means of musical accompaniment, and judging by the complexity of the machinery many organists currently wield, they are possibly the most able people to pull that off.

 

So rather than thinking in terms of "combination organs," which will be at least second-best for the forseeable future, why do organists and organ-builders not think in terms of the expanded "multi-media" instruments, utilising classical organ sound, synthesised sound sources and the possibility of being "most things to most men" rather than "all things to all men?"

 

Would that be a new kind of theatre-organ, or something better?

 

At the very least, it would certainly be entertaining.

 

MM

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Hmph! I think the poor old organist has quite enough to do keeping the music from falling apart without setting himself up for criticisms about turning the lights up too brightly or drowning out the sermon by turning up the volume of the background angelic choir too much. On the other hand the ability to fade out the sermon has a certain appeal....

 

Some may delude themselves by pretending that a digital instrument is "almost" the real thing, but I suspect that a "Schintger in the living-room" would fall far short of a trip to Alkmaar!
Presumably it would. Similarly, I am sure that listening to a CD of a Alkmaar falls far short of attending a recital there. However I don't propose to let that stop me thinking my CDs sound to some degree like the real thing. And, were the instrument available via Hauptwerk, there is no reason why the ability to produce my own performance using the same CD-quality sound should not be just as enjoyable. It might even teach me something about the way I should approach the music on the pipe organs I play.
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It would be a brave pundit who might predict a "classical revival" in church-music, but that is not impossible, even though it seems unlikely in this day of "Celebrity Big Brother" and the cult of rubbish entertainment, lightweight theology and the crisis of confidence among the faithful. For the moment, it is sadly a case of "monkey see, monkey do."

 

Organists are involved in this crisis, either by way of redundancy, or in being expected to perform musical miracles with the wrong tools of the trade.

 

Is there a case for the "multimedia" organ?

 

Is there a good "worship" reason for this not being possible, rather than a scholastic reason?

 

The technology exists, whereby an organ could be many things, from pipe-organ to musical synthesiser, and perhaps even "lighting console" and "audio mixer." Absolutely anything is possible!

 

 

MM

 

Hi

 

1) There is, believe it or not, a revival of interest in older forms of worship in some of the "new churches" and the "Emerging Church" stream - so a revival of classical church music - probably alongside more modern material - is quite possible.

 

2) Compton organ console technology has been used for theatre lighting control - see http://www.strandarchive.co.uk/control/man...ghtconsole.html

Introducing other technologies into an organ console would, technically, be possible. The problem comes with the person controling it - and the position in the building. I have some involvement in using audio-visual in worship - the sound control (and possibly lighting control) and control for any projections, etc. is far better towards the back and centre of the room - whilst the organist needs to be near other musicians - this could - and I think often should - be at the back, so there's less chance of the music group becoming too performance orientated. The bigger issue is the degree of concentration needed to operate technical roles effectively (and that includes playing the music!). I'm responsible for the Audio-Visual aspects of the annual Yorkshire Baptist Association Assembly - we have, so far, managed with a crew of 3, plus some help at odd times from a couple of others - but at last year's event, the sound engineer (from the church) went off after the morning session and didn't come back - and trying to run the projection, lighting and sound with just 2 people was rather fraught! And that's without doing the music as well.

 

3) Organ "simulators" - such as MidiTizer (on the theatre organ side) and Hauptwerke have exactly the same issues as digitals - the major limitation being loudspeaker technology. I often use organ-sounds that I've programmed into a synthesiser layered (coupled in organ terminology) to a digital piano in contemporary worship songs - sometimes string sounds layered with the piano - I find most digital pianos sound sterile with just the piano sound. Also, I often use our pipe organ with the (somewhat rudimentary) music group that we have at church. (Where I also have to prepare the technology - we use a data projector most weeks) and sort it out if it goes wrong.

 

4) Worship is far more effective when it's a team effort rather than a "one-man-band".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

(former radio producer and audio-visual technician)

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Organ "simulators" - such as MidiTizer (on the theatre organ side) and Hauptwerke have exactly the same issues as digitals - the major limitation being loudspeaker technology.

 

 

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

 

 

I don't think that this is entirely true.

 

Why do digital organs often sound inferior to CD recordings, using the same loudspeakers?

 

I suspect the problem has more to do with the sampling and synthesis, whilst admitting that loudspeakers obviously do have limitations.

 

Of course, the answer to the problem could possibly come from your dentist and a powerful transmitter!

 

If you specifically request two different types of metallic fillings in your teeth, and then stand close to a radio source, you can hear music without loudpseakers. (This is not a joke by the way)

 

It puts a new slant on "that organ set my teeth on edge" or "I'll just tinkle the ivories."

 

The things you learn, right here on the Mander Discussion Board!!!!!

 

:unsure:

 

MM

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4) Worship is far more effective when it's a team effort rather than a "one-man-band".

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

(former radio producer and audio-visual technician)

 

This is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, Tony! It depends largely on the people and resources available. I can think of numerous occasions when worship (of varying styles) has been badly 'led' by a worship group - or instrumental group. At such times, I remain convinced that I for one could have managed the job more effectively on a reasonable piano or pipe organ (both of which were present, in each case).

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

I don't think that this is entirely true.

 

Why do digital organs often sound inferior to CD recordings, using the same loudspeakers?

 

I suspect the problem has more to do with the sampling and synthesis, whilst admitting that loudspeakers obviously do have limitations.

 

I think that sampling technology is now extremely good, and that the sounds of individual notes of individual stops can be indistinguishable from real pipes. But I'm also convinced that loudspeakers and number of audio channels are a real limiting factor.

 

With loudspeakers, the main culprit is intermodulation distortion - created from sum and difference frequencies of two or more notes. The way to mitigate this problem is to have as many separate loudspeaker/amplifier channels as possible, so that, for example, the individual notes of a chord are sent to different speakers, and the same (but, at least in good organs, slightly detuned) notes of different stops are also separately reproduced. Each speaker is then doing a simpler job, and distortion will be of the harmonic variety, which is much less noticeable.

 

A multichannel approach also means that the mixing of the different sounds is carried out acoustically in the room, where reflections and reverberation will modify phase of the sounds, and not electronically, where phase cancellations may occur, creating at worst a very artificial sound.

 

This doesn't really explain why CD recordings can sound so good. Is it psychological? Or maybe it is because they are reproducing a real organ in a real building - the mixing of sounds is typically done in the building, before the microphone, so there will be no horrible phase effects. In theory, it should be possible to simulate this, using a reverberation algorithm and applying to the sounds of each digital sample individually before conversion to audio. However, whatever anyone's sales blurb may say, this is not feasible at present due to the phenomenal processing power that would be needed. Maybe in 5 years time?

 

In any case, CD reproduction still suffers from intermodulation distortion through the loudspeakers; I suspect that people are so exposed to canned music these days that it is less noticeable. But whenever I really listen to real instruments in the flesh, I realise that recordings still don't come close.

 

JJK

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I think that sampling technology is now extremely good, and that the sounds of individual notes of individual stops can be indistinguishable from real pipes. But I'm also convinced that loudspeakers and number of audio channels are a real limiting factor.

 

With loudspeakers, the main culprit is intermodulation distortion ............

 

A multichannel approach also means that the mixing of the different sounds is carried out acoustically in the room............

 

This doesn't really explain why CD recordings can sound so good. Is it psychological? Or maybe it is because they are reproducing a real organ in a real building - the mixing of sounds is typically done in the building, before the microphone, so there will be no horrible phase effects. In theory, it should be possible to simulate this, using a reverberation algorithm and applying to the sounds of each digital sample individually before conversion to audio. However, whatever anyone's sales blurb may say, this is not feasible at present due to the phenomenal processing power that would be needed. Maybe in 5 years time?

 

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

 

Well, all this is technically correct, but with one glaring exception to the "sound chain."

 

If we look at individual RANKS of pipes as acoustic processors, then they are immdieately parallel processors, and not just a mush of combined sound.

 

Would it be my guess (an optimistic one perhaps) that whilst individual notes may sound "virtually" perfect,

the fact that mathematics is involved in the sampling process, and then various attack and decay loops added; the end result is exactly a mush of sound which merely approximates to the real thing?

 

A recording of the real instrument, in various combinations of stops, already has at its source, the multiple parallel-processing of individual ranks, and this is critically what we hear, with whatever additions and subtractions may occur in the living room and through loudspeakers. Interestingly, even if one uses fairly rubbish desk-top computer speakers, the organ of (say) the Festival Hall, is quite discernable from (say) the organ of the Albert Hall; so it isn't JUST a speaker problem, but something which goes back to source.

 

Could it be, I wonder, that the use of parallel-processing and multi-channel replication, would have the effect of making a theoretically "perfect" digital-organ at least as expensive as the real thing?

 

If that be the case, isn't the future of the digital organ one in which research and development costs could exceed likely profits and cost effectiveness?

 

If that be the case, then surely, a developmental-plateau will be reached, if it hasn't already?

 

 

MM

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I'm not the sort of person who is hostile to instruments affectionately known as "toasters," or to be more polite, electronic-instruments, but I would be first to accept that they are not quite the real thing. The makers would, I believe, be the first to admit this.

 

The technology exists, whereby an organ could be many things, from pipe-organ to musical synthesiser, and perhaps even "lighting console" and "audio mixer." Absolutely anything is possible!

 

Furthermore, by importing files via the internet, the multimedia-organ could become the workstation of worship, as well as the means of musical accompaniment, and judging by the complexity of the machinery many organists currently wield, they are possibly the most able people to pull that off.

 

At the very least, it would certainly be entertaining.

 

MM

 

I agree, the best electronic substitutes sound rather good, though still not the real deal - indeed, I doubt if they will ever be as good as the real thing. But I have to ask - why would you want to have an instrument that 'could be many things'? What's the point? The technology exists, of course it does, as it does for many other things, but why would you want to in the first place?

The instrument I play each week is a small one, and the service relatively simple, but I would very unwilling to take on the tasks of lighting and audio mixer as well - I've got quite enough to do, thank you! I may be the guy providing the music, but I'm there to worship, to pray, to hear God's word, and to learn, as well. And as for a 'workstation of worship' - I shudder at the very thought! Imported internet files, fancy presentations - this is not what worship is about.

We as a world seem to be obsessed with the idea that if a computer can do it, it should, and will do it better. Hence the popularity of digital cameras, MP3 players and the rest. Not improvements on what went before, but who cares? They all use the almighty PC, so have to be the right way forward!

Please, let's maintain a sense of proportion, and not get carried away with the technical possibilties of the 21st century. Few if any will prove to be of much value in churches for worship purposes, for worship comes from the heart, not via a computer.

 

Regards to all

 

JOhn

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A few fairly random thoughts:-

 

In terms of the musical versality of an electronic organ, there is of course no reason why a single console could not house both a modern digital "classsical" organ and other electronics more suited to fitting in with a "music group". If I understand the technology properly (which is doubtful!) full MIDI provision would make this unncessary, or already available, depending upon how you want to look at it. I guess the same would apply to a pipe organ with an electric action, it could have MIDI or other electronics to provide a different range of sounds on different occasions. Whether this would be in any way desirable is, of course, a different issue, I'm just discussing the technical possibilities.

 

On the issue of whether the entire sound & lighting system of the church could or should be controlled from the organ console I would agree with other respondents that the organist, particularly if already simultaneously directing the choir from the console, has enough to do. However, where my experience slightly differs, there are certainly occasions in my own church, the Advent and Christmas Carol Services come readily to mind, where the coordination of lighting changes in particular would be considerably better if the lighting circuits were controlled from the console....

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This is not necessarily a foregone conclusion, Tony! It depends largely on the people and resources available. I can think of numerous occasions when worship (of varying styles) has been badly 'led' by a worship group - or instrumental group. At such times, I remain convinced that I for one could have managed the job more effectively on a reasonable piano or pipe organ (both of which were present, in each case).

 

Hi

 

I was thinking of a team effort more in sharing other jobs (lighting, sound, etc.) - but also a GOOD music group or choir (depending on context) is also effective.

 

I may be the guy providing the music, but I'm there to worship, to pray, to hear God's word, and to learn, as well. And as for a 'workstation of worship' - I shudder at the very thought! Imported internet files, fancy presentations - this is not what worship is about.

We as a world seem to be obsessed with the idea that if a computer can do it, it should, and will do it better.

Regards to all

 

JOhn

 

Hi

 

Two very good points John

 

All participants in a service should be worshipping - and that can be difficult enough with one contribution to think about. And regarding computers, projecion, etc. (and the organ and other musical instruments as well)- they are tools to use in our worship, not a means to an end - if what we do fails to point to God, then we have failed.

 

Tony

 

On the issue of whether the entire sound & lighting system of the church could or should be controlled from the organ console I would agree with other respondents that the organist, particularly if already simultaneously directing the choir from the console, has enough to do. However, where my experience slightly differs, there are certainly occasions in my own church, the Advent and Christmas Carol Services come readily to mind, where the coordination of lighting changes in particular would be considerably better if the lighting circuits were controlled from the console....

 

Me again!

 

One solution to this is to learn from the theatre world have a "stage manager" who gives cues to relevant people and makes sure everything is running smoothly.

 

Please note, I am NOT advocating this for normal services, but it's worth thinking about for specials.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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

Well, all this is technically correct, but with one glaring exception to the "sound chain."

 

If we look at individual RANKS of pipes as acoustic processors, then they are immdieately parallel processors, and not just a mush of combined sound.

 

Would it be my guess (an optimistic one perhaps) that whilst individual notes may sound "virtually" perfect,

the fact that mathematics is involved in the sampling process, and then various attack and decay loops added; the end result is exactly a mush of sound which merely approximates to the real thing?

Well I reckon that, if for a moment we ignore the acoustic into which the organ sounds and consider the case of a digital organ in a real building, with no simulated reverb, then there is not much approximation involved in representing the electronic signals of each rank, at least for a sampled instrument. It would be reasonably accurate, provided that each sounding pipe is sent to a separate audio channel and loudspeaker - and there lies the problem - it would involve an unreasonably large amount of audio equipment.

 

Sampling can give a good representation - if long samples are recorded per pipe, along with the starting and finishing transients. Hence I still think that channels/speakers are the limiting factor in this case. Synthesis may be a different matter - but I guess that would take us further off topic.......

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

A recording of the real instrument, in various combinations of stops, already has at its source, the multiple parallel-processing of individual ranks, and this is critically what we hear, with whatever additions and subtractions may occur in the living room and through loudspeakers. Interestingly, even if one uses fairly rubbish desk-top computer speakers, the organ of (say) the Festival Hall, is quite discernable from (say) the organ of the Albert Hall; so it isn't JUST a speaker problem, but something which goes back to source.

I am sure that good digital organs sampled from these two instruments, if coupled with accurate representations of the acoustics of these two buildings, would also be distinguishable from each other. However, I think this is where the parallel processing involved becomes unfeasible - to do it properly you'd have to separately convolve each pipe's sample with the response of the room. If this were possible then I reckon through two speakers you could get a result comparable to a stereo CD. And maybe better, with more channels, but I haven't got my head around what's involved there!

 

Such a "stereo CD" organ simulator would be for use in a dry room - the acoustic as well as the organ is simulated. For a real building (ie where the organ is sized to suit the actual building), then no artificial reverb is needed - but multiple channels would be needed to reduce the worst of the distortion.

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

Could it be, I wonder, that the use of parallel-processing and multi-channel replication, would have the effect of making a theoretically "perfect" digital-organ at least as expensive as the real thing?

 

If that be the case, isn't the future of the digital organ one in which research and development costs could exceed likely profits and cost effectiveness?

 

If that be the case, then surely, a developmental-plateau will be reached, if it hasn't already?

MM

Yes I agree. For home organs, I think the issue is the processing involved in the simulation of the pipes/acoustic combination - it can't really be done properly yet, but it may be soluble in a few years time.

 

For churches/larger buildings I think there is a more fundamental limit. You really need a lot of independent sound sources speaking into the building - which will always be expensive. I can't see any technological change coming to change this - so I'd agree that pipe organs will have the edge for the forseeable future. As most decent digital organ makers would acknowledge.

 

Sorry to go on a bit, and a bit off topic, but it's something that's been exercising my mind as I try to persuade my church of the right decision for a new organ!

 

JJK

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I was thinking of a team effort more in sharing other jobs (lighting, sound, etc.) - but also a GOOD music group or choir (depending on context) is also effective.

 

Tony

 

This was not readily apparent to me from your original quote:

 

'Worship is far more effective when it's a team effort rather than a "one-man-band".'

 

I must confess that I have never thought of someone who is either operating a lighting rig or managing a sound desk as leading the worship. I should have thought that this description is quite reasonably reserved for those who either play instruments or sing - in whatever style.

 

Clearly our two churches are poles apart.

 

The instrument I play each week is a small one, and the service relatively simple, but I would very unwilling to take on the tasks of lighting and audio mixer as well - I've got quite enough to do, thank you! I may be the guy providing the music, but I'm there to worship, to pray, to hear God's word, and to learn, as well. And as for a 'workstation of worship' - I shudder at the very thought! Imported internet files, fancy presentations - this is not what worship is about. (My emphasis.)

 

... We as a world seem to be obsessed with the idea that if a computer can do it, it should, and will do it better. ... Please, let's maintain a sense of proportion, and not get carried away with the technical possibilties of the 21st century. Few if any will prove to be of much value in churches for worship purposes, for worship comes from the heart, not via a computer.

 

Regards to all

 

John

 

I agree with your points, John. I confess that I am not remotely attracted to the type of church in which speaker stacks, a small rock band, lighting rigs, mixer desks, t.v. monitors and overhead projectors form a regular part of the chancel equipment.

 

Aside form the visual distraction and irritation, I am not remotely convinced that this is necessary in order either to worship God or to attract large congregations.

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This was not readily apparent to me from your original quote:

 

'Worship is far more effective when it's a team effort rather than a "one-man-band".'

 

I must confess that I have never thought of someone who is either operating a lighting rig or managing a sound desk as leading the worship. I should have thought that this description is quite reasonably reserved for those who either play instruments or sing - in whatever style.

 

Clearly our two churches are poles apart.

I agree with your points, John. I confess that I am not remotely attracted to the type of church in which speaker stacks, a small rock band, lighting rigs, mixer desks, t.v. monitors and overhead projectors form a regular part of the chancel equipment.

 

Aside form the visual distraction and irritation, I am not remotely convinced that this is necessary in order either to worship God or to attract large congregations.

I know a number of churches (and it is growing) that match this description - and it amazes me that in all these places there has never been a problem finding the money to pay for this "essential" equipment. In most of these places the pipe organ has been kept and is used for one hymn as a token gesture "to keep the old traditionalists happy". These churches now actually pride themselves on this gadgetry in a way that perhaps only a few decades ago they might have been proud of the organ, carving, stained glass etc that had been passed down to them. Finally, woe betide anything goes wrong with the organ as there is "miraculously" no money to do anything about it.

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All participants in a service should be worshipping - and that can be difficult enough with one contribution to think about. And regarding computers, projecion, etc. (and the organ and other musical instruments as well)- they are tools to use in our worship, not a means to an end - if what we do fails to point to God, then we have failed.

 

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

 

It never ceases to amaze me that people who worship think that everyone in church should be doing the same thing.

 

I don't recall that Jesus was preaching to the converted.

 

Insofar as church music is concerned, the higher up the musical food-chain, the more difficult worship becomes. As someone who has been involved at something approaching the top-end, I put before Tony the following:-

 

1) Pre-service voluntaries

2) Improvisation

3) Opening Hymn

4) Psalms of the day with often complex pointing etc

5) Service setting accompaniment

6) Notes for responses/conducting same

7? Anthem

8) Other hymns

9) Interludes as required at communion services

10) Other bits of improvisation

11)Final voluntary

 

In addition, there are the vital cues, the silent nods and other forms of communication; all of which require concentration. In other words, it is hard work.

 

The last thing on my mind in that particular situation, was any sense of worship, which was left to others.

 

I simply cannot understand why an organist/choir-master/ leader, is expected to be devout at the same time as being professional; though there are many who could possibly combine the two.

 

I'm quite sure that a lot of church-musicians, including organists, have little interest in religion, and the same goes for a good many clergy, who discover that they have taken on the wrong job, but are not in a position to change tac.

 

MM

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

 

It never ceases to amaze me that people who worship think that everyone in church should be doing the same thing.

 

I don't recall that Jesus was preaching to the converted.

 

Insofar as church music is concerned, the higher up the musical food-chain, the more difficult worship becomes. As someone who has been involved at something approaching the top-end, I put before Tony the following:-

 

1) Pre-service voluntaries

2) Improvisation

3) Opening Hymn

4) Psalms of the day with often complex pointing etc

5) Service setting accompaniment

6) Notes for responses/conducting same

7? Anthem

8) Other hymns

9) Interludes as required at communion services

10) Other bits of improvisation

11)Final voluntary

 

In addition, there are the vital cues, the silent nods and other forms of communication; all of which require concentration. In other words, it is hard work.

 

The last thing on my mind in that particular situation, was any sense of worship, which was left to others.

 

I simply cannot understand why an organist/choir-master/ leader, is expected to be devout at the same time as being professional; though there are many who could possibly combine the two.

 

I'm quite sure that a lot of church-musicians, including organists, have little interest in religion, and the same goes for a good many clergy, who discover that they have taken on the wrong job, but are not in a position to change tac.

 

MM

 

MM makes some interesting and pertinent points in the above post, although I do happen to have some interest in God. I would agree that it is difficult to concentrate on being devout (for want of a better description) when playing the organ - particularly in the type of service which MM describes, which is roughly what I play for three times each Sunday. Partly as a result of this (and partly because I happen to prefer the 1662 service format and have done since I was seventeen) I do not partake of the elements during a Sunday Mass. Since I prefer not to take communion unless I have consciously prepared myself, I therefore limit my active participation to once or twice a year, when I attend a said Mass.

 

I find that I spend much time and energy concentrating on the music and ensuring that I get things correct and play to the best of my ability; this includes playing solo organ repertoire and/or improvising up to nine times on a Sunday. This alone takes a considerable amount of concentration and I find that I am not really able effectively to think about the more religious aspect of the service, in the sense that I am actively worshipping - however that may be defined. Sometimes the organ accompaniments alone take much concentration and careful preparation; for example, if I am accurately and effectively to accompany Stanford's setting of the evening canticles in the key of A major (at a brisk pace - my boss does not like to hang about) then I find it difficult to think about God at the same time.

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I'm down for Stanford in A in Bath Abbey in 2 weeks time, having not played them for perhaps 20 years. If I can get as far as the opening choir entry intact I shall feel I'm onto a winner.

 

What strikes me coming back to this setting again, and also particularly strikes me about the G major setting too, is that, whilst its not easy (for a player of my ability) even to play all of notes accurately, these canticles are very demanding to register. Whilst I can see how this can be managed, whilst still requiring skill and concentration from the player, with a modern piston stepper/sequencer, it would be a quite extraordinary feat to meet the composers detailed requirements, without the aid of probably a couple of registrants, as laid down in the vocal score. Given the state of playing aids then, as opposed to now, Stanford's clear instructions must have represented a very considerable challenge!

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I'm down for Stanford in A in Bath Abbey in 2 weeks time, having not played them for perhaps 20 years. If I can get as far as the opening choir entry intact I shall feel I'm onto a winner.

 

What strikes me coming back to this setting again, and also particularly strikes me about the G major setting too, is that, whilst its not easy (for a player of my ability) even to play all of notes accurately, these canticles are very demanding to register. Whilst I can see how this can be managed, whilst still requiring skill and concentration from the player, with a modern piston stepper/sequencer, it would be a quite extraordinary feat to meet the composers detailed requirements, without the aid of probably a couple of registrants, as laid down in the vocal score. Given the state of playing aids then, as opposed to now, Stanford's clear instructions must have represented a very considerable challenge!

 

Well, what you have to remember is that Stanford in A and G were both written for 3 choirs plus orchestra, AFAIK. I believe the organ parts came afterwards.

 

Stanford in A is my favourite of the Stanfords, particularly the Nunc.

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Well, what you have to remember is that Stanford in A and G were both written for 3 choirs plus orchestra, AFAIK. I believe the organ parts came afterwards.

 

Stanford in A is my favourite of the Stanfords, particularly the Nunc.

I agree the A major is a great setting. The opening of the Nunc is, IMHO, pretty demanding on the choir, but the moment when the solo trumpet sounds is surely one of the most thrilling in any setting of the N.D. Its difficult to think of many instances before or since of a solo reed being used so effectively in a setting of the evening canticles. Perhaps Howells St. Paul's and Jackson in G are rivals?

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'Worship is far more effective when it's a team effort rather than a "one-man-band".'

 

I must confess that I have never thought of someone who is either operating a lighting rig or managing a sound desk as leading the worship. I should have thought that this description is quite reasonably reserved for those who either play instruments or sing - in whatever style.

 

Clearly our two churches are poles apart.

 

I agree with your points, John. I confess that I am not remotely attracted to the type of church in which speaker stacks, a small rock band, lighting rigs, mixer desks, t.v. monitors and overhead projectors form a regular part of the chancel equipment.

 

Aside form the visual distraction and irritation, I am not remotely convinced that this is necessary in order either to worship God or to attract large congregations.

 

Hi

 

Lighting (where used) and sound are important aspects of worship, and where such equipment is needed, the operators should be as much part of the lighting team as the musicians and singers - it's not leading worship, but it is facilitating worship for others.

 

I don't like this sort of thing making the place cluttered. Most Baptist churches don't have a chancel, so it's easier to integrate screens, etc. I dislike having music groups (or choirs) "up front" - sometimes it's the only place - but even then I would prefer them to be off to one side, away from the main sight-lines - a service is not a performance. In my current church, most weeks the music group operate from the back, where the inevitable clutter is out of sight - and it works well acoustically - the same principal as a west-end organ getting sound into the building.

 

As I think I said before, the technology is one possible tool that can be used in worship. It doesn't suit everyone, and I don't expect it to, but it does help many people to draw closer to God. I have real probvlems with the sloppy way that technology is handled in many churches - ignoring the basics of good presentations - but that's another issue, and not really relevant to this forum.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

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

 

 

The last thing on my mind in that particular situation, was any sense of worship, which was left to others.

 

I simply cannot understand why an organist/choir-master/ leader, is expected to be devout at the same time as being professional; though there are many who could possibly combine the two.

 

I'm quite sure that a lot of church-musicians, including organists, have little interest in religion, and the same goes for a good many clergy, who discover that they have taken on the wrong job, but are not in a position to change tac.

 

MM

 

Hi

 

Church music is more than just a job (or it should be) there is a spiritual dimension to it - and I would say that it was essential for the organist/choir-master etc. to be a practicing believer - that does not prevent doing a "professional" job, and it should at least go some way towards preventing the attitude that I've heard from some organists (perhaps unconsciously) that the music is the only important thing in the service - it's part of the whole, just as prayer and preaching should be (and yes, I know some of my colleagues think that the sermon is the only important thing - and I don't agree with them either!).

 

I would find it very difficult to work with church musicians who have little or no interest in the Christian faith.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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a service is not a performance.

 

Church music is more than just a job (or it should be) there is a spiritual dimension to it - and I would say that it was essential for the organist/choir-master etc. to be a practicing believer - that does not prevent doing a "professional" job, and it should at least go some way towards preventing the attitude that I've heard from some organists (perhaps unconsciously) that the music is the only important thing in the service - it's part of the whole, just as prayer and preaching should be (and yes, I know some of my colleagues think that the sermon is the only important thing - and I don't agree with them either!).

 

I would find it very difficult to work with church musicians who have little or no interest in the Christian faith.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

I think I’d prefer “a service is not just performance”. Any music (sung/organ/music group) should be done to the best ability of the musicians and should provide a strong, positive lead to all. No one aspect of a service should be more important than another.

 

:)

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I agree that the music is just one aspect of a service. It is not its job to lead the worship - that falls to the ministers - but to contribute meaningfully and spiritually to the whole. However, I do agree with M. Cochereau that it is impractical to concentrate on doing this and worship at the same time, at least while performing. Even in the spoken bits there is the problem of making sure you have the right music for the next item, that you can remember which registrations you are going to use, that the choirboys are not punching each other...

 

If all you have to do is to play hymns it is not so much of a problem of course, but sometimes an organist has to accept that he is there to serve others and his own spiritual communion may have to take place at other times.

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I would say that it was essential for the organist/choir-master etc. to be a practicing believer
I can understand this point of view, but is there not a danger that the church may appear to be only interested in preaching to the converted?

 

Lest my previous post appear hypocritical, I should own up that I lost my faith some years ago. Some days I am aetheist, but mostly I would describe myself as a Christian agnostic. Either way, I continue to value the spiritual dimension I find in church and remain 100% committed in my musical ministry to serving the people of whichever church I find myself playing in and enhancing their worship as meaningfully I can.

 

To me music is the most important thing in the service. It has to be. I am a musician; it's my job. That is very far from saying that it is the most important thing about the service: as I have said, it is merely one element of a whole - but if it were not for the music I doubt I would ever set foot inside a church. One day I may find my faith again: I remain open to the possibility. Should the spiritual benefits I am able to offer and the possibility of my reconversion be spurned because I am not currently a practising believer?

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Church music is more than just a job (or it should be) there is a spiritual dimension to it - and I would say that it was essential for the organist/choir-master etc. to be a practicing believer -

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

I can understand this point of view, but is there not a danger that the church may appear to be only interested in preaching to the converted?

 

Lest my previous post appear hypocritical, I should own up that I lost my faith some years ago. Some days I am aetheist, but mostly I would describe myself as a Christian agnostic. Either way, I continue to value the spiritual dimension I find in church and remain 100% committed in my musical ministry to serving the people of whichever church I find myself playing in and enhancing their worship as meaningfully I can.

 

To me music is the most important thing in the service. It has to be. I am a musician; it's my job. That is very far from saying that it is the most important thing about the service: as I have said, it is merely one element of a whole - but if it were not for the music I doubt I would ever set foot inside a church. One day I may find my faith again: I remain open to the possibility. Should the spiritual benefits I am able to offer and the possibility of my reconversion be spurned because I am not currently a practising believer?

 

At a parish level I’m with Tony on this one, although anyone who is prepared to find the time to run a choir and provide music should be welcomed with opened arms. At a cathedral level then the person’s musical ability should be the main thing that counts. As has been mentioned on another thread, Howells was an atheist, yet you can’t doubt his contribution to church music.

 

:)

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