Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

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oopsorganist
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by oopsorganist » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:35 pm

Sorry for being confusing, it was very badly written - I mean if people are in a church and hear something they can identify with then that will encourage them to become more interested in church things generally like the treasury of Sacred Music. I was trying to suggest that pipe organ music and traditional hymns are not everyone's cup of tea. Maybe like, most people don't go to Mass to hear some nice classical music and some traditional hymns. Maybe they do. Maybe they don't.

I guess fiddles and wind instruments were used in the past and so on. I just read somewhere that wind instruments were very prestigious around the C16th - there is certainly a time before pipe organs to link to - chant and all that too. I was googling to find information on certain symbols re musical instruments. Like er, well, you know. Like the time I arrived on Christmas Eve to find our organ had been painted coral pink and the lid painted shut. Since then well. Symbolism. You know.

There were female church organists. I am related to two. One was in Egton Bridge circa 1890 and t'other was a sister of Notre Dame a little later, and for sure played the pipe organ around the place. The latter also had a fiddle but I am not sure how much she could play that. She was a music teacher and could probably bash out a tune on the banjo if she cared to. ( There are probably many women in the Anglican church who were church organists too). That is beside the point.

It was the association of the pipe organ with Western Patriachy etc that was thrown in the pot to perhaps explain why not all pipe organs have been preserved and treasured ( in addition to falling pew numbers and lack of money), and also that this association/position is one of the reasons that the "preference" given to this instrument by the Catholic Church guidances continues to this day - and is perhaps one of the reasons I feel ambivalent about the dominance of the pipe organ.

Leeds is putting loads money into training organists and has 25 in the pipe line as per their website news feature. something like that anyway. I will finish here before I get all vexed again about how I was treated.
uh oh!

JW
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by JW » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:01 pm

In response to alan29, I'm going to our local Baptist church tomorrow to give some free advice to someone who's learning to play. Please also see the Kent County Organists 2017 competition, details here http://www.kcoa.co.uk/

Even the cathedral choir schools have very few organists in training. There's a dire lack of future organists but I don't see that as a reason not to persevere. Should we close all our churches because the congregation will all be dead in 30 years time? Of course not! We have to trust that the Spirit is providing for the the Church and we must provide the facilities for future generations.
JW

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Gwyn
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by Gwyn » Tue Nov 22, 2016 10:24 pm

JW mentioned
In response to alan29, I'm going to our local Baptist church tomorrow to give some free advice to someone who's learning to play.

Fantastic!

The alternative to organ accompanied choral music and hymnody seems to be the poor man's version of Radio 2's Sing Something Simple. We all rushed home every Sunday evening to listen to the Sing Something Simple with the Mike Sammes Singers, didn't we? No, we most definitely did not. Yet many churches that I've visited in the past year seem to have a folk group remnant churning out the semi-liturgical equivalent of Sing Something Simple on a weekly basis. Dire doesn't adequately describe it. When challenged, parishioners will often seek to justify this lowest common factor dross by saying "Ah, but the children like it." I think not.

Give us organs to lift and hearten the soul, you can pick one up a decent pre-owned organ on eBay for less than £2K.

Just the musings of a back-door catholic. :)

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by alan29 » Wed Nov 23, 2016 11:06 am

Whatever it is, whether organ and choir or instrumental band, or piano, my only wish is that it should be so well done as to always be a worthy part of the liturgy. If it intrudes negatively it shouldn't happen. For me that applies as much to a choir singing badly as to an out of tune guitar or flute.
All else is down to personal taste and preference.

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keitha
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by keitha » Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:41 pm

Let me first declare an interest - I am an organist! I also serve as a member of the Organ Advisory Panel for my Diocese. We provide help and advice to parishes looking for new organs, carrying out maintenance, repairs and restorations and advising as to whether organ are worth preserving. We advise on pipe and digital organs. We have, on occasions, assisted outside the diocese. Our services are given free. If a parish seeks permission from the Diocesan Treasurer to spend significant money on an organ it will be referred to the Diocesan Art & Architecture Commission, which must approve the project before the spend will be authorised. The Commission will not approve unless there is support from one of the the organ advisers. Occasionally 'rogue' projects go through without approval, but generally the system works reasonably well, and parishes generally value our input. We are usually able to get work done more cost-effectively than might otherwise be the case.

What I am seeing is, oddly enough, an increase in the use of the organ in parishes. Nearly all funerals now have music, usually the organ - even though weddings have declined. I have also noticed a newer phenomenon - the disappearance of music groups or in increasing reluctance for their members to be committed as they get older, have families, greater work responsibilities and the like, which makes it very difficult for them to be around week in, week out. Again, I often see the organ being used again to fill the gap.

What I am not seeing, however, is much done to encourage people (particularly youngsters) to play the organ (with the honourable exception of Leeds Diocese). When I was a youngster, my PP gave me a small bit of cash to help me buy music and pay my bus fares. Later, when I went away to study, he paid my (student) rail fare so that I could come back and play most weekends. This kept me involved in my parish at a time when lots of my contemporaries drifted off. I played the organ in that parish for 26 years! In my own parish, over the last 10 years, we have had three youngsters play the organ (with financial help from the parish towards music and organ lessons). One is now married and supporting parish music in Singapore, the other has qualified as a doctor and still helps out by playing the organ (and sometimes covers for me). Our final youngster (a girl Oops!), played in the parish for 3 years before going to Oxford as a choral scholar to read music. She is studying the organ at Oxford, plays in a local parish, and plays for us when she is home in the vacations. I am now looking for the next youngster. Because they have been helped by their parish, and kept involved through their student days, I do not think that any of 'our' youngsters will be lost to the Church - so it can be done. However, it's fair to say that most people who play in our deanery are not Catholics and generally play at weddings and funerals where a fee is paid, but will help out at other services if asked.

I am hoping, eventually, when our organ is completed (we have been given the funds for the final work), to set up an organ scholarship in the parish which will enable us to continue developing youngsters.

So I'm not seeing organs (including pipe organs) dying out - but I am worried about our lack of young musicians (and particularly organists).

If you would like to see about our organ project - google "allsoulsorgan.com". We now have a decent 2 manual and pedal organ, and next year the third manual division will be completed.
Keith Ainsworth

oopsorganist
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by oopsorganist » Thu Nov 24, 2016 8:33 am

That is good Keitha.
Here is our organ project
www.holyfamilyls12.org.uk/christianheritageOH.html

the nattering about women organists above was in connection with the idea, that pipe organs are a emblems of Patriarchal Society - it is a confusion on this thread and should be ingored.
uh oh!

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by dmu3tem » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:47 am

Several off hand reactions to all these posts:

[1] If you live in Lancashire and enjoy Pipe Organs why not join the Preston and District Organ Society (PDOA)?

[2] Blackburn Cathedral has an excellent series of Organ recitals on most Wednesday lunchtimes on their enormous instrument.

[3] Yes, I agree about the remarks concerning cost. Organ maintenance is expensive - especially for parishes with limited resources. No wonder they look for cheaper musical alternatives.

[4] I notice that Pipe Organ enthusiasts are like Plainchant followers. They cannot see the defective sides of the objects of their enthusiasm! They tend to assume that Pipe Organs are the best form of church music. On top of that they often have a pig-headed reluctance to consider ways and means of combining Pipe Organs with other instruments.

[5] There is a marked reluctance among church music performers, arrangers and composers to consider how to make optimum use of electronic/digital keyboards. How many people, for example, use the harpsichord stop to play Baroque keyboard music as voluntaries or to accompany choirs in a classic Continuo keyboard and Cello combination? How many arrange pieces so that different electronic stops can be used for 'colouristic' effect. All too often the attitude seems to be to treat such instruments as inferior equivalents of a Pipe Organ and Piano instead of regarding them as distinct instruments in their own right - after all their means of sound production are quite different.

[6] Similarly how much attention do players of electronic instruments pay to the precise use of speakers - including reverb, echo and vibrato effects.
T.E.Muir

alan29
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by alan29 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:56 am

On point 5 ........ Having that variety of sounds is a distinct bonus on a decent digital piano. I quite often use the harp sound when quietly playing during communion at funerals. Its very effective. Electric piano too. That's excellent at accompanying solo instruments for an instrumental verse or interlude.
Its about realising that they are a distinct instrument in their own right, with the pluses and minuses of all instruments when used for worship.

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by nazard » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:04 am

Our organ and keyboard are connected to the same speakers through a mixer, so we can use the keyboard in trumpet voice for descants, with a second player, of course. That turns a few heads... If you are playing from a real trumpet part don't forget to set the keyboard down a tone or you will turn most heads.

pdsfd
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by pdsfd » Sun Dec 25, 2016 7:33 pm

We have a good 2-manual Makin digital organ in our church, installed in 1997 and with three decent sized exterior speakers (I think one is for the pedal board), it can sound pretty awesome when full organ and is probably slightly too powerful for an average-sized 1920s church building. It is fairly versatile and has barely given us any problems over 20 years. It sounds much better than the small old Jardine instrument in a neighbouring parish.

My parish is in the Cathedral Deanery of the Diocese and the Cathedral itself has also had a Makin digital organ (of somewhat bigger proportions) in situ for the last 15 years. This too is considered by many as far superior to the pipe organ it replaced, not just in terms of what the organ can 'do', but also in the way the sound is distributed so well cross the church, because of where the speakers are placed.

My local parish and the Cathedral both have excellent organists. An unfortunate problem in my local parish is that some members of the congregation and even the parish priest don't like it played too loud - not talking intrusively loud either. The PP has recently asked the organist to turn the volume down and so right now the organ sounds a bit dull and vague, the sharpness of the organ just isn't there and so the sound quality and ultimately the effect is reduced.

JW
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by JW » Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:26 pm

There is a strong strand of musical sentiment in the Catholic Church which believes that loud music has no place in the liturgy. This stems from the tradition of liturgy as prayerful adoration. However, we are also supposed to be joyful and, especially at Christmas and Easter, loud organ accompamniment and voluntaries can be very appropriate. Westminster Cathedral has no hesitation in accompanying quite loudly, where appropriate, even on Good Friday.

Personally, I would find it very difficult to keep playing in a parish if I was told not to play loudly:. I'd find that quite insulting to my musical training and competence. But perhaps some parishes are happy to drive away good musicians, thus contributing to the shortage of Catholic musicians.
JW

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by organist » Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:36 pm

JW you are right. The elderly in particular find loud sounds hard to bear. It is interesting that many funerals now do have music where before silence was golden! Unfortunately too often inappropriate recordings. I think one should celebrate as well as have times of quiet and indeed silence. :D

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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by markyboy2000 » Fri Jul 28, 2017 1:35 am

I feel very lucky, following this thread, that my parish has, over the past few years, paid out and restored the pipe organ; thanks to the efforts of our present and immediate past PPs.

Sadly, no-one else has come forward to even try the pipe organ, some saying they would but are afraid of its power.
We have developed a small but proficient instrumental group of mostly young people, and I get a regular monthly morning off after 35 years - but the choir sing on.

Picking up on points from other posts:
Here in Whitby they also had women organists, almost continually from mid 19thC to mid 50s.
Someone commented about a reader at Whitby smiling - thanks for the compliment. We try our best.
I recently played for a funeral on a Johannus connected to the sound system - it played havoc with my hearing aids.

And finally, I too would find it difficult to stay if I was told I was too loud. I tried once to quieten and my then PP (now gone before) said it sounded as if I'd broken the organ! He said in his experience timid playing led to even more timid singing.

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keitha
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by keitha » Fri Jul 28, 2017 11:07 am

All is not entirely lost - one of our local teenagers is now working on his audition pieces for Oxbridge organ scholar applications.
Keith Ainsworth

JW
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Re: Pipe Organs and Organists - Dying out?

Post by JW » Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:34 pm

I don't know if members of this group are aware but Martin Cross, the East London organ builder, passed away unexpectedly a month ago. May he rest in peace.

Martin was going to restore our organ.

For fundraising we have a Hundred Club in place and a series of organ recitals. Individual donations are also coming in.
JW

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