About St Marys' Organist

Originally from Wolverhampton, Adrian now lives in Bury St Edmunds with his wife, Ruth and their 2 children, Benjamin and Abigail. His love of almost all things musical (excluding most forms of rap), helps him through early fatherhood, and a wide experience of teaching has taught him the value of a descant recorder, (it's better off hidden away from a 4 year-old). Needless to say, Benjamin played one for the best part of ten minutes before his mysteriously went missing. When not organ-ing, he can be found teaching music at Stoke College, and avoiding doing the gardening. Also can be found occasionally playing piano, bass guitar, drum-kit, ukulele and kazoo. Cannot play any woodwind or brass instruments.

Why I hate intervals…

 

“There will now be a short interval of twenty minutes….”

No, no…

there really won’t be…

there NEVER is!

 

Firstly, we have to allow for the fact that the audience have been sitting in splendid suspension on cold church pews for a good hour-and-a- bit, possibly inadvertently touching thigh-to-thigh with a complete stranger,  many now need a ‘comfort break’ in the one single convenience, which is found outside the church in a purpose-built but still inadequate Portaloo cubicle – hired in for the occasion. Each private ‘performance’ takes a good minute-and-a-half, so with an audience of even 50, you only need to do the maths.

The interval Tardis..

The choir, of course, have their own convenient conveniences in the nearby church hall, but this being even a two-minute walk from the church adds to the optimistic 20-minute estimate.

But that’s not it…

What I find difficult is trying to remain focussed throughout this interminable period, so that the second half is as good, or as least not-as-bad as the first. I take as my inspiration some of our foremost athletes and sportspeople who can focus in even the most extremes of pressure and produce extraordinary feats of achievement in the second half of a match. Through months and years of at times almost obsessive practice and personal sacrifice, they achieve beyond their expected goals.

Watch as they show supreme moments of concentration and focus achieving acts of sporting prowess that remain forever etched on our memories. David Beckham with THAT free kick against Greece, Jonny Wilkinson kicking for ‘World Cup Glory’ (2003) , Andy Murray winning Wimbledon & many, many more. Examples of extraordinary people working tirelessly and obsessively to achieve the very best they can.

Can I talk to you about your fee?…

For us organists, there really are many similarities. Imagine that you are charged with playing ‘Elijah’ or ‘The Creation’ with a choir in a church, where you alone are the accompaniment. That’s one heck of a lot of notes where you have to beef up the chorus, be sensitive to the soloists’ ever-changing nuances as well as trying to be an orchestra. Try to make the opening of the ‘Sinfonia’ in ‘Elijah’ sound too much like ‘Jaws’ and that’s a good start. Remember that most organists are coping with an instrument they first met that afternoon and were then thrust into a full rehearsal with the choir & soloists.

Too many notes…

 

So, by interval time, your brain is pretty much slightly addled to say the least. If you were in a team sport. you’d probably retire to the changing room, argue about whose fault it was that you’re now losing – maybe have a massage, for your legs if not your ego, a team-talk, and you’re off again for the second half.

In the organ world it is SO different. Occasionally, you may be incredibly lucky, and have your own green room along with little plates of refreshments and drinks exclusively for you. More usual though, is that during the interval, you can either join the choir in their dash for the church hall loo, (“just across the field, over the fence, by the river, or you can join the rest of the audience in their queue for that luxury – the unlit Portaloo-in-a-churchyard.

More often than not, you can spend your interval trying to find a quiet corner in the church where you can collect your sanity, ready for doing battle with those semiquavers in the second half.

How nice to get settled, focused and relaxed, but then you are left stranded in the church, only to be accosted firstly by… the choir treasurer.

“Oh there you are, Adrian. Why are you out here, hiding behind the organ? I’ve been trying to find you – can we discuss your fee?”

 

“Yes, that’s fine. But I was just trying to get a few moment’s peace before the …”

“…Thank you so much for your playing. You know that the choir are big supporters of tonight’s charity –  the ML-HC-BDVS – the Myopic, Left-Handed, Colour-blinded, Dyscalculic, Vegan Society. It’s not a well-known charity but we all support Arnold, who’s a tenor in our choir… actually he’s the only tenor, and he just happens to be myopic, left-handed, colour-blind, dyscalculic and a vegan. The charity is rather locally-based at present, and nobody’s sure of how many members they have, but tonight’s concert could really help to put them on the map. They’re going for a meal together after tonight’s concert, if they can find their way to the restaurant.

However ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE is giving their services totally free today for the charity…

… so what is your fee?”

“err… well. This was rather a lot of work preparing for tonight, requiring a great deal of practice over many weeks. My family are also suffering with malnourishment and I was rather hoping for a hundred and fifty…”

“….pence? Yes that will be fine. One-pound-fifty, excellent. But I’ll have to check with my wife, of course.”

 

So, beaten down by the treasurer you try to find your place of solace, (behind the organ has not worked – so now you have to sit INSIDE the instrument – on the Great windchest. Time to concentrate and focus on the beginning of the second half’s music ).

Blog 1

Please don’t interrupt me…

“Hello. Hello, Mr. Organist?”

(Heart sinks, face is forced to smile…)

Hello? Yes? Here I am…”

 “What are you doing – hiding in there? Anyone would think you were trying to hide away. Are you alright –?”

 “Who, me? Oh Yes, I’m fine – I’m just trying to find a place to get some quiet time, to focus on the tens of thousands of notes that I have to play in the second half, without making too many colossal gaffes”.

 

ade scared

“.. I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m Ernest Lee-Devoted, the music critic for the Local Advertiser, and I have to say I noticed you were having a few difficulties on page 237, second system, bar 3 in the left hand – the 3rd semiquaver should have been a F#, but you played a F natural, and a pedal F#, rather than a LH F# and a pedal F natural. I just thought you’d like to know”.

 “Thank you so much for pointing that out to me”.

  

BUT…..have you ever been in charge of a choir of youngsters during an interval?

 By this, I include angelic church choristers, school choirs, youth choirs but basically…KIDS!

This is by far the worst time to inflict on the adult who is in charge of their second-half performance!

The first half ends and the youngsters leave the stage.

With the focus and concentration they have shown in the first half of the concert, you are confident that they will maintain this throughout the interval and into the second half.

CAKE…. ..,.let me through…

HOWEVER… the next twenty minutes/ half-an hour you are constantly chasing around the churchyard/play-park/ school-ground/ cemetery, trying to make sure that your angelic choristers are not graffitiing, fighting each other, torching or vandalizing the local area, or as is more often the case, storming the refreshment tables, resulting in each treble gaining a huge plate of locally-baked cakes and home-produced sandwiches.

You try to check each singer off with the choices on their plates against the ‘food intolerance permission form’ list and eventually you give up – as you have to deal with the youngest singer who, according to his form is not intolerant to anything, but has just thrown up all over his music folder!

 

As stated before on my blog https://stmarysorganist.com/2015/11/27/the-messiah-the-interval/, the interval seems to go on interminably with maybe a raffle (with gloriously naff prizes), a talk or some other waffle, and then YOU’RE IN AGAIN! The Organist usually has to GET STRAIGHT IN, often with an impossible introduction to an aria or chorus. This can come as quite a shock – particularly when the choir treasurer suddenly appears at the organ bench with your measly cheque, which nevertheless requires a signature on the receipt, for tax purposes. As you try to sign the invoice, with his biro, one of your digits hits a wrong note. “Whoops!” the treasurer exclaims with great delight as you restrain your left hand from whopping him round his gills.

So, why on earth do we have this interval?

I’m guessing that it’s largely there for our audience, IF there are decent refreshments and ablution facilities available – but alas, for the performers, there may be a more pressing engagement available on a Saturday evening which may be more worthwhile attending rather than the wasted time of the interval. It could be highlights on TV with ‘Match of the Day’ or ‘Test Match Replay’ or ‘Wimbledon Today’, ( to name but three}.

So, please if you are organising a concert which involves young choristers or perhaps slightly-grumpy organists, maybe consider leaving out the interval, and replacing it with an earlier finish, or no interval raffle?

The concert may less rushed and perhaps more balanced?

At least you may get less organists hitting treasurers and singers throwing up over their music?

Perhaps?!

IMG_0021 Adrian Compress

Adrian Marple

 

 

 

 

 

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I know you’re an Organist, but do you have a PROPER job?…

Yes, I have been asked this on far too many occasions. The polite answer has probably been “Well, actually, THIS is my proper job, but the other things I do pay the bills!”

I do have a full time job as a Director of Music in a wonderful school, where I teach music to children from really tiny to much older.

Was this always the case? Did our esteemed organists of old have to earn a decent crust by teaching in schools – or could they just lounge about practicing their Bach all day and turn up on a Sunday ready to show off their skills? One of the interesting things I’ve done recently is to do a bit of research into the fine gentlemen who held the same position as Organist at St Mary’s throughout the centuries, and I tried to find out whether as the centuries passed, the job had changed at all? You bet it has!

As I see some of the images of the organists and choirmasters of old, I see a calm assurance in the photographed faces that everything is fine, and nothing that can happen is beyond their control.

George Boutrell

The gentleman with the impressive moustache in this picture is George Boutrell, who was St Mary’s Organist from 1897–1909. See how the wonderful expression on his face shows that all is well, he is surrounded by a legion of loyal choristers, for whom singing in the choir is the pinnacle of their youthful achievement.

And if we go further back in time at St Mary’s, we find Robert Nunn, Organist from 1822–1863, who had a simply enormous house in Bury St Edmunds. It was so large that he was able to have public concerts in one of the rooms… that’s ONE OF THE ROOMS. It held 300 people and had an organ and a stage and he could regularly hold concerts in it. Now, that is really impressive even by today’s standards. He may have had a concert hall in his home, but his trebles often caused him trouble as apparently the boys used to collect walnuts on the way to church and throw shells at the congregation from the West gallery! However he did a good job of training these walnut-lobbers, and had a decent salary of £31-10s a year – not bad, even by today’s standards!

He is buried so close to our church that he can probably hear me practicing at night!

Robert Nunn Grave St Mary's

My final chap is probably the most impressive, Ralph Guest, who was Organist from 1796 – 1822. As if his long service was not enough, he also managed to write and publish a version of the ‘Psalms of Davis’ arranged for every day of the month in 1816.

Guest Hymnbook-04_preview

One of the best things you could achieve in those days was to be allowed to be buried in the Great Churchyard in Bury St Edmunds, and Ralph was afforded this honour. Maybe his choirboys were not so good at flicking walnuts in those days – perhaps they concentrated on singing well,  because he was well and truly honoured after he popped his clogs. His headstone faces the opposite way to all the other gravestones, (including his wife). This honour was usually saved for the clergy (with their feet to the West), so that at the time of their resurrection they would arise facing their flock, rather than facing East. Although Ralph was not actually a member of the Clergy, possibly being the organist and choir master would qualify him for this rite. So he was laid to rest in the shadow of his beloved church. That was the highest honour that could be given to an organist and choirmaster.

Blog Ralph

 

Now, moving on to the 21st century. How have things changed?

Well, I can safely say that in my house I do not have a room big enough for a concert with 300 in the audience. We’d probably struggle to fit a string quartet in our lounge! I also doubt whether I shall be afforded the honour of a burial in the Great Churchyard. So what has changed?

The previous Organist of the Parish Church would have held his head up high in local society, assured of social status and a stonkingly large house to boot. Nowadays, your humble organist is happy to tootle around on whatever organ they can find, and will accept the tuppence ha’penny that goes with the joy of weekly access to a real pipe organ.

Of course, it is necessary for organists to take a ‘proper job’ in order for them to survive and provide some food and warmth for their loved ones, and surely the improvement in technology makes this so much easier?..

Well maybe – but the wonderful improvements in technology also mean that we as church organists have no respite from the problems that rise up on your iPad or iPhone during your average week.

Iphone

So, for me, as Director of Music of a School, and a Director of Music at a Church, and as a father of a family, my messages usually appear something like this:

11.02am – Office @ St M’s: “Funeral today at 12.30pm – Someone says the Trombone is cyphering on the pedals. Can you ring the organ builder and sort this out?”

11.04am – Office @ School: “Sorry about his – can you cover the GCSE exam invigilation that starts at 11.20am?”

11.06am – Wife: “Can you pick up a pack of nappies on your way home?”

11.07am – My message to Organ builder: “Help, Mr Organ-builder. Are you able to go in to St Mary’s and sort out the cyphering Trombone ASAP. We have a funeral later, and I don’t think it would be dignified having a loud Bb Tombone sounding throughout the service”.

11.08am – Office @ School: “Mr Sproggins has had to go home early. After the GCSE exam invigilation , can you take Yr 3 for Games? Thank you”

11.09am  – Wife: “Can you ring the bank before 12pm to sort out the problem, and also a bride rang me to say she wants you to play some Oasis on Saturday. Can you ring her between 12.30pm and 12.40pm? Could you get some chicken livers on your way home, before you have your organ pupil, and we’re right out of Dog food”.

11.10am –  Office @ St M’s: “Organ builder says can you take out the pipe? He is in Malta and cannot help out”.

11.12am – Office @ School: “ Can you contact Mrs Lazy – she wants to know why her son, Awfully, only got a pass in his Grade 1 Trumpet?”

11.13am  – Wife: “Bride is now confused – as you sent her a message saying you could cover Year 3 games. She wants to know where she should get the dog food from?”

11.14am – Office @ School: “I’ve received a message from an organ builder wondering why he needs to get chicken livers? Can you sort this? Please remember the GCSE exam starts at 11.20am”.

11.15am – Office @ St M’s: “I’ve had an email from a Mrs Lazy wondering why you asked her to go into church to remove a Trombone pipe. She also wants to know why you asked her to play some Oasis at a wedding, and she says she can not get any nappies on her way home. Can you sort this?”

11.16am – Vicar @ St M’s: “Adrian – Why have you asked me to cover Year 3 games? I already have a baptism to do at 12.45pm. I may be able to help with the nappies..”

11.17am – Wife: “Bride says she is fine to cover Year 3 Games, but she can’t remove the trombone pipe…”

11.18am – Bride: “Hi, Adrian. So glad that Awfully Lazy passed his Grade 1. Don’t know who he is, but now have got your dog food. Who is covering the GCSE exam?”

11.19am – Office @ St M’s: “Just received another email from Mrs Lazy. She has now removed the trombone pipe and has bought some nappies. WHAT IS GOING ON?”

11.19 and a half – Office @ School:  “WHAT IS GOING ON…?”

11.19 and a bit more – Office @ St Mary’s: “WHAT IS GOING ON..?”

11.19 and a little bit more – Wife: “WHAT IS GOING ON..?”

Organist at St Mary’s: “ You are now entering a public examination…. You must now follow the regulations of the examination. Please make sure that you do not enter the examination with any materials that are not allowed. Please now hand in your mobile phone if you have not already done so. This is your final chance. Failure to do so may lead to disqualification;

  • Write clearly and in black ink.
  • Remove the Trombone Bb pipe
  • Pick up the nappies
  • Cover Year 3 games
  • Email Mrs Lazy about why her son, Awfully, did not get a better mark in his trumpet exam
  • Write your answers in the designated sections of the answer booklet;
  • Remember to pick up the chicken livers;
  • Do any rough work for multiple-choice papers in the question booklet.
  • Apologise to Funeral Directors for Trombone Bb Solo drone throughout funeral service
  • You may begin….”

 

Ajun fed up!

 

 

Choral Evensong meets ‘Match of the Day’

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As we have had a recent upsurge of interest in Choral Evensong up and down the country, I think it is only a matter of time before it gets noticed and becomes part of mainstream TV and Radio scheduling. A regular Saturday evening prime time spot, perhaps? Can you just imagine?!

( Theme Music: Toccata by Dubois. Opening titles "Choral Evensong of the Day". Footage of featured Cathedrals, Churches, Organists, Choristers, Congregations.. fade to… )

Presenter (Garfield Lineker): Good evening, and welcome to another bumper-packed edition of "Choral Evensong of the Day" featuring some of the very best highlights from the action at today's cathedrals and churches from around the country. With me in the studio tonight to present their expert analysis we have Alan Sheared and alongside him Alan Handsome, who between them have notched up a fair few evensongs over the years.

(Cut to slightly smug shot of the two Alans.)

Garfield: So we start tonight with a visit to Liverchester Cathedral and a local grudge match in the Antiphonal Trophy between Decani and Cantoris as they compete for vocal dominance in Woods "Hail Gladdening Light". Your commentator, Barren Davis.

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BD: You join us for the second set of responses, and you have to say that during the first half of evensong, Cantoris seem to have the upper hand, with a show of real class from the basses, particularly in the Walmisley Nunc Dimittis, Trevor?

Trevor Bloke: Yes, well they certainly have been showing their strength in depth, Barren. The tenors, watching the conductor throughout the 'Mag', came in together beautifully – that's something I'm sure they will have practiced in the choir school – a wonderful 'set piece'. And you have to say, their Director of Music, Adam Shame, will have been encouraged to see the younger trebles and their show of commitment in the opening responses.

BD: This is a real 'shop window' for some of the younger singers, who will want to prove themselves in the big arena. I know that there are many scouts here tonight looking for the younger talent on show – like Toby Scoggins the young Decani tenor. He's a real talent, he's got great pitching and has been noticed by some of the big cathedrals like Gork Minster, Burham Cathedral and even St Ednas.

Trevor: It's a big, big test for the youngsters, who could be offered scholarships if they put in a good performance here tonight.

BD: Yes – the money that these young choristers can make in the modern era is quite astounding – some get as much as £12 per month, money we could only dream of in our day, Trevor. So, now to the action – the anthem is underway and there is some excellent watching from both sides. Textbook intonation there from the Decani altos – the Director of Music really likes that – look at his face – just LOOK AT HIS FACE!

Trevor: It's really difficult to seperate these two sides at the moment – the discipline, the commitment, the tuning, the bellowing altos… I only hope that this can be settled in normal time.

BD: Yes, Tevor. It always seems unfair when it has to be decided by an extra verse anthem and sudden death sing-off. It needs someone to really take this anthem on, and put the result beyond doubt. But ….here come the Decani trebles with a long run down the right with "therefore in all the world.." followed by Cantoris answering back on the left. But the Decani trebles hit a long soaring top A that sends the congregation into ecstasy. Some people are on their feet – they think it's all over…. it is now.

Trevor: You have to say that Cantoris will find it very difficult getting back into this tie, after that, they only have the final hymn and dismissal to hit back at Decani, and I don't think they have the energy in them.

BD: Yes, their heads are definitely down now, Trevor..

Trevor: That's because they're praying, Barry..

BD: Oh Yes, sorry. It's all over here at Liverchester – so back to the studio.

Garfield: Alan, a great contest there at Liverchester. What do you think, Alan – a real game of men and boys against boys and men where in the end, you have to say the men and boys were stronger than the boys and men.

(The two Alans look bemused.)

Alan 1: Yes – the difference in class can be summed up in this little passage of play, where in the psalm, the Cantoris basses are just casually looking around, not paying attention. Just look at that – terrible diction – they're just asking for trouble.

Alan 2: And that is picked up by the Director, look at him glaring at them. Does he not like that?!

Garfield: I can see them being out on a free transfer at the end of the season – but where can they possibly go from here?

Alan 1: I think Sprouting Parish Church have got no basses at the moment…

Alan 2: ..err..nor altos or tenors…?

Garfield: So let's now visit the other end of the table with an evensong full of incident and controversy from Great Snogging Parish Church in Sproutshire. Your commentator, John Notson and alongside him, Mark Lorryson.

JN: A lovely little church, here in Sproutshire, with a fair sized congregation waiting to see this little choir take on the mighty Stanford in A, and the Mendelssohn 'Hear My Prayer' in one service tonight. I'm guessing they'll be showing a 4-4-2 back line, with only 2 Altos – it's certainly a risky strategy, Mark?"

ML: It's a big, big risk. I hope it doesn't backfire on them in the Mendelssohn, leaving them exposed..?"

JN: It certainly is a big, big risk, Mark. But they do have the help of a youngster on loan for the occasion from Pilchester Cathedral, young Archibald Head – just ten years old, and taking on the solo for the first time.

ML:  And you have to take your hat off to the organist tonight, Ernest Lee Peddling, for working on that tricky introduction to the Stanford 'Mag'.

JN: Yes, if there are any young organists watching, I'm sure they will be inspired by his text-book registration there. Perfect crescendo and rising thirds in the right hand – what a player! And he's so young – a real rising star in the organ world!

Ernest Lee Peddling

ML: A controversial decision though,  by the Conductor, to beat one-in-a-bar though. That seemed to confuse the older basses?

JN: Yes – experience certainly shone through, though, Mark, as they weren't watching anyway!

ML: You have to take your hat off to these smaller choirs taking on the bigger canticles. It's a real team effort, right the way through the church to achieve moments like these.

JN: A proud day for the smaller church choirs – and you have to say that Choral Evensong is the winner here, Mark.

ML: A proud day

JN: A proud, proud day

ML: The Choir Director, Frank Lee Dire, was speaking to me before the Evensong tonight, and he summed it up like this "Some people think Choral Evensong is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that."

(SFX: sobs all round)

JN: And with that – it's back to the studio…

Garfield: Great stuff there, from Snogging. Now it's time for October's 'Final Amen of the Month Competition.' Remember to send in your votes by email, stating your 1st, 2nd & 3rd place choices. The winner who matches our experts' opinion will receive 2 tickets for the 'Choral Evensong Final' at Wembley Stadium in June. You get a chance to meet the Choir Directors before the final, meet some of the choristers, and you will receive a signed surplice from the winning choir.

The nominations for the best 'Amen' are:

Amen 1: Bernard Rose

Amen 2: Richard Ayleward

 Amen 3: Edward Naylor

Amen 4: Darke in F (Communion Service)

Amen 5: William Smith (5-a-side)

Amen 6: William Byrd

Amen 7: George Handel: 'Amen' Chorus (from 'Messiah')

That just about wraps everything up for this evening – remember if you want to see exclusive coverage of a game of football on the BBC, tune in to Sunday at 4pm for a live broadcast of a football match on BBC Radio 3 – repeated on Wednesday.

Next week on 'Choral Evensong of the Day' we feature the local derby from Derby and the knockout stages of the RSCM cup, featuring lower league and non-league choirs battling it out for the right to play the 'big boys' in Round 3.

Goodnight!

( Theme Music Voluntary: Toccata by Boëllmann. Closing titles & footage of various end of service processions.

NO VOICE-OVER, as many people consider the closing music to be part of the programme and wish to listen! )

Ssshh

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Hark! the Herald Angles sing

Advent – that wonderful season of preparation, filled with Christmas Carol Services that strictly shouldn’t be, but without them our Christmas income as organists would be severely depleted!

It has to be the busiest time of the year for a jobbing organist, when many local schools and organisations feel the need to visit their local church, quite often after a hearty lunch or a boozy Christmas office party to lurch or burp their way through a selection of their favourite seasonal ditties.

st-marys-xmas

I always love them – no, seriously, I do! I get to meet people who wouldn’t normally set foot in a church – different choirs, soloists and school music teachers, (that sterling bunch of undervalued workers, who every year have to create choirs of angels out of reluctant squawkers, and instumental ensembles using whichever instument seems to be popular in the school at the time). I kid you not, when I tell you that I once had the joy of playing ‘Silent Night’ with an ensemble of some 15 descant recorders, a violin, 2 saxophones, a harp and… an electric guitar! The recorders won that particular battle for supremacy with a virtuoso display of overblowing, capped only by the giggles of the young players, as the bottom fell off one of the recorders.

It can be a particularly stressful time for the beleagured school music teacher, and it’s no wonder that they often look haggared and careworn at this time of year! They have to conjure up a musical feast which has to be better than last years, at a time when their colleagues are tidying their own classrooms and hanging up their decorations, whilst poor Mrs Muggins still has to rehearse the flu-ridden depleted choir, with the recent news that her prize soloists won’t be there at the service due to a family holiday. I feel your pain, Mrs Muggins – I have been there! How many of us have pleaded with our young choirs to ‘SMILE’ as they sing in a sub-zero church about the joy of Christmas but with faces like thunder?!

One school teacher I played for used threats and sheer fear with his boys’ choir – I have never been so scared of playing wrong notes as with this character – let’s call him Dr Death. He was straight out of Dickens, and had the power to reduce his boys to a line of wobbling, quivering wrecks with just a raised eyebrow and a flared nostril. We rehearsed EVERYTHING, right down to which word of the readings the boys would need to look at him, ready to stand together for each carol. The ‘standing-ups and sitting-downs’ were a military exercise and woe betide anyone who was not ascending or descending precisely alongside his choirmates.

Yikes – one boy even had the audacity to drop a pencil during the service, and I thought he was going to have another personal accident shortly afterwards, as all the boys looked straight at Dr Death and held their breath waiting for the wrathful glare. I, too was in fear and trepidation of using different stops from the rehearsal and even wrote metronome markings on my music. At the end of the voluntary, I bravely ran away without saying ‘goodbye’ or  “sorry, I messed up the fourteenth semiquaver in bar 48 of page 39, second line down, second system”.

There is such variety within what we expect as a ‘Carol Service’, these days. Good old Kings College, Cambridge of course are the benchmark against which we all spectacularly fail, but each year aspire to reach! One very fond memory was of playing for a Carol Concert in my beloved birthplace town of Wolverhampton, where they were intent on recreating the magical moment at the beginning of the Kings’ Nine Lessons. Here, as you all know, the sound of a single boy treble singing the ‘Once in Royal’ solo, glides effortlessly and celestially through the chapel, hanging beatifully in the perfect acoustics –  music, liturgy, architecture and occasion in perfect synthesis. The Wulfrunian experience of this tradition differed from the Cambridge one in several key ways. Firstly, not all the audience had the same version of the programme, which said “Verse 1 Solo” in them, and as a result, promptly launched into the first verse in full-throated glory alongside poor old Brenda, who had her big-moment solo smothered. She had practiced hard for this, a fact which was voiced by her friends in the procession, and so they tried to hush the offending congregation with hushings and shushings in a thick Wolverhampton accent:

“Shurrup, will yer’ –  it’s suppowsed ter be a sowlow”.

roof

But what of getting words wrong and typing errors in the Order of Service?

Well, I’ve seen a “Hark the Herald Angles Sing”, “While shepherds watched their folks by night”, “Not in that poor lowly stale”, “Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this hippy morning” and my personal favourite, “Lo! he abbhors not the Virgin’s wob”!

And my final little tale, recalls a nervous but wonderful tenor, in a very large and important service I played for at All Soul’s, Langham Place in London. It was a huge gig and so in addition to the enormous organ we had a full symphony orchestra, brass band, fanfare trumpeters, a choral society, and some celebrities doing readings. I was really excited about accompanying this particular fantastic tenor on this equally gorgeous organ, with the choral society acting as the ‘backing chorus’. The tenor arose from his seat, and I gently purred the opening rippling bars of “O Holy Night”.

The audience were hushed and the atmosphere was expectant of something quite superb and memorable. They were not to be disappointed – his singing was beautiful and his diction measured and clear..

” O Holy Night! The stars are shitely brining..”

A Very Merry Christmas to all

especially Organists and School Music teachers!

Now, there’s a turnout for the book…

A very significant moment for me last week, when I committed my blog thoughts into an ebook, and a few moments later was a bona fide published author! Now, this is something that I would never have believed to be possible 5 months ago, when I sat down at my computer to tentatively tap out some thoughts about life on the ‘slippery stool’.

In fact, going further back to my poor teachers at school, I am sure they would be somewhat flabbergasted by the notion that the scrawny, nerdy (before nerds were cool), organ-obsessed youth that they had to try and haul through the examination system had anything worthy of interest in his life, beyond piping up a few tunes.

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Of course, it is a sign of the changes in our lifetimes that in foregone years a hopeful writer would have sent away countless copies of his book, and waited for the inevitable rejections to come back. In the enlightened twenty-first century, you don’t have to undergo that process, and now we can tap away at our machines and deliver the fruits of our fingertips straight into the ether that is the internet, and within a few hours, people across the globe can be guffawing through your pages!

I have been really encouraged, staggered and bewildered at the wonderful comments I have received on this blog – and the popularity of it overwhelmed me at first.

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It was after reading so many comments urging me to publish the blog as a book, that I decided maybe it was possible after all. A very steep, almost vertical learning curve has been scaled, if you can have such a thing, and… there it is – the fruits of my labour next to a biography of Cilla Black in the Amazon Charts!

There has been so much positive feedback as well as discussions raised by this blog, that I shall continue to post more tales and thoughts here. But in the meantime, for those of you who would like to download it, it is currently available via the link below. A print version may be issued later, if there is enough demand.

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Buy it now, and help an Organist buy his wife a new wheelbarrow…!

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Singing the Lord’s song… in a strange land.

It has always been one of the most exciting and interesting parts of being an organist to discover new organs in buildings hitherto unknown to me. I’ve enjoyed the enviable privilege of having played some incredible instruments in some awe-inspiring venues.

Also, it is good to experience different forms of worship, where there may be things you recognise, but at other times you are dramatically shoved out of your comfort zone and you have to fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants!

With St Mary’s Choir, I have experienced many life-changing experiences, retold in previous and possibly future tales on this blogsite.

Recently, we had a superb tour of Belgium and France and this thrust me into another experience where my rather poor language skills and an ‘Act of God’ conspired against me – once again!

We were due to take part in a Mass at a Catholic Church. I did my studying beforehand and thought that I would be OK. Musically, there was no real problem – the choir had learnt the usual Mass setting and, after all, it couldn’t be THAT different from our usual Communion Service, could it?

The Organ, it has to be said, was magnificent. Positioned high in the Nave, with a position that was to DIE for – the only trouble was, access to it could easily arrange that event.

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L’Eglise Saint Pierre à Caen

We reached the instrument by climbing a never-ending spiral staircase, and then via a little door taking us outside onto the roof of the Nave, and then an undignified clamber back into the triforium and along an extremely narrow passage.

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It was then that I met the Organist, and thanks to the valiant translations of our Organ Scholar, we found out that the PA system had been struck by lightning the previous night, and our only link with the service that was taking place 100 metres below, and was about to start, would be filtered through him!

It was at this point I realised that my rather poor pigeon-French was not going to help too much, as I strained to hear the announcements.

From a considerable echoey distance, it sounded to me something like this:

Bonjour Mesdames et messieurs, et le petit boulangerie….avec le stylo est dans le pupitre, parce que le voiture est sur le plage. C’est comme si les droits de la personne ne faisaient pas partie de leur écran radar….. C’est comme si les animaux demandaient la température qu’ils aimeraient avoir. …..Aujourd’hui, nous accueillons Le Chœur de l’église St Marys, Bury St Edmunds avec le chef de choeur Peter Tryon…..ET L’ORGANISTE ADRIAN MARPLE…”

..AT LAST, some words I recognised… but that was about it for the next hour-or-so!

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At various times during the service, I launched with trepidation into what I thought was the right piece to play at the right time. As we could not hear the choir from this elevated position, (without the thunder-struck PA system), my success or failure was judged by looking at the face of the Organist, who at one stage grabbed my hand off the keyboards as I was about to launch into a rather timid ‘Sanctus’!

At one time, I looked up to see him with his face in his hands, and I’m sure I heard a French whimpering sound, followed by a Gallic shrug.

Later in the Service, he kindly, but firmly entreated me to vacate the stool (ie shoved me off), as he gave an inspired improvisation at the moment of the ‘élévation’– something which I had read about, but never experienced.

 Later, during what I gather was the Sermon/ Homily / Exposant / Oration, or it could have been the weekly notices or football scores,  as far as I knew, we swapped stories in a whisper, about Anglo-Franco organs we had played and I found out that he had been taught by none other than Maurice Duruflé himself!

As the Mass drew to a close, I felt that maybe Anglo-Franco and Protestant-Catholic bridges had been built until a slightly horrified look came on this Organists’ brow – I was going to play a PREPARED voluntary and not an IMPROVISATION!

So Prelude & Fugue in A minor by J S Bach (BWV 543) got an airing instead! The choir processed out, the congregation left very swiftly, but I had a great time, until it was time to descend (via the roof), from my eyrie and rejoin my fellow tourists before finding our coach and heading back to the hotel.

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It was then, and only then, that I realised that I had completely played the wrong communion motet!

The loneliness of the long-distance Organist….!

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And tonight’s Psalm will be.. Maggie’s Den.. number TEN!

( Another story, based on real experiences – Warning: it may contain many additives to preserve the quality for your enjoyment) ie it’s somewhat exagerrated – but could happen..!

Think of the words “Choral Evensong” and a clear picture is built in your mind’s eye. A summer’s evening in a cathedral quire, the choir chanting impeccably  in beatifully starched robes, the organ’s ethereal sounds wafting down from on high – effortless, serene, beautiful and dignified.

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St Mary’s West Window

Most of us have had experiences of that sublime act of worship, many of us have the privelige of trying to achieve it regularly in our churches, chapels and cathedrals, holding on to the value that it has as part of our rich cultural heritage.

I have had many wonderful times taking a choir to sing Choral Evensong in a place that has never experienced one before. Often the church weren’t quite sure what to expect, but were alyays really grateful!

In my student days, I travelled with a choir to an extremely remote church, which was a fair distance from any recognisable town, village, hamlet or even a house. On arrival, I was not surprised that the church had not had a choir for centuries, and it was a feat that they had managed any worshippers or indeed visitors at all!

The vicar welcomed me and our singers like long-lost friends. He was a powerhouse of energy, and full of genuine, trembling excitement at the prospect of a visiting choir.

“Oh WOW! This is soooooo fantastic, that you’ve come here tonight. We’ve been looking forward to this for months. The ladies from the surrounding villages have prepared a spread for you and the choir. We’ve hired in some ‘portaloos’, the Army Cadets are supervising the car-parking, the St John’s Ambulance aren’t here yet. But the PA system is all set up.. Do you want to do the press conference now or afterwards..”

Yes, I’m sorry, I made that last bit up, but this vicar was really determined to enjoy tonight’s show!

He was sporting a delightful combination of a white frilly dress-shirt, huge bow-tie and white- jacket that cried out “Bingo-caller”. His introduction to the service, use of microphone and tone of voice, also called out “Bingo-caller”!

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Here’s how it went:

Organ plays: “Rhosymedre” – (or at least, a version of it without pedals, as befitted the one manual nightmare box described in previous blogs).

SFX Microphone Click

Vicar: ” Wellllll – GOOD EVENING, LADIES ANNNND…….GENTLEMEN “

Congregation all respond “GOOD EVENING, VICAR”

“And have we got a real show for you tonight, Ladies and gentlemen? Yes, sirrreee, we sure have, all the way from ‘up North’ in Durham…. Pink Panther land…Durr-um, Durr-um, Durr-um,Durr-um,Durr-um…” Gedditt?”

SFX Drum Kit: Boom-tish!!

Congregation respond “GROAN”

“Anyway – on with the show. Please give a lovely warm welcome to none other than the choir of… wait for it, wait for it…. HATFIELD COLLEGE”

Congregation respond with over-enthusiastic cheers, wolf-whistles, and tear-stained faces.

( I swear I see one lady carried out by the St Johns’ Ambulancemen…)

” And on the organ for you tonight, their organ scholar, please raise the roof –

HEEEEERE’S… Adrian Marple…”

(Amidst equally excited noises, from behind an old curtain comes a rather embarassed, apprehensive organ scholar, not used to facing an audience, about to be interviewed by Mr Showbiz himself..

” So, tell us a bit about yourself – what’s your name and where d’you come from?”
“Hello everyone, my name’s Adrian and I’m from Durham..”

Congregation: “Oooooooh!”

“So tell, me, now – Organs… are all organs the same, or are some different?”

” err, well… I suppose.. actually…”

” enough of that – what we all want to know is – have you got a girlfriend?”

“WHAT? err…No, not at the moment..”

” There you go, Brenda – you may be in luck tonight..!”

Congregation: Cheers all round, ( and a slightly dirty laugh from one or two ladies..)

” So, anyway. Back you go to the organ, Adrian and get yourself comfortable – Give him a big hand, ladies and gentlemen…. We have a lovely little service for you tonight, folks – a CHORDAL EVENSONG with tunes by Ayleward The canticles are going to be sung by Brewer in D…”

Congregation: “Oooh!”

“..and someone called John is going to sing that beautiful hit-song from Ireland “Greater Love” – I love that one, don’t you?”

Congregation: “Oooh Yes!”

Bingo caller

“Tonight’s Psalm will be that old favourite… Maggies’ Den, number TEN!

And the hymns will be… ( let’s have a bit of hush now, eyes down everybody, .. the best of order…..here it comes… TWO and EIGHT, twenty-eight. ….AND…..TWO little ducks…”

Congregation:”Quack, quack!”

“twenty-two… Followed by…….Clickety Click, Sixty-six….and the last one, a bit of hush everyone – this could make someone’s night….two fat ladies – eighty-eight”

Churchwarden:”HOUSE..!”

“OK, we’ll get someone over to check your ticket, Hilda. In the meantime – let’s start tonight’s show with some responses sung by our lovely visitors, ladies and gentlemen, with a solo – making his debut for you HERE TONIGHT – please will you welcome, Hatfield College and their soloist – MISTER PREE…..SENTER”

Congregation: (Wild cheers..)

PREE SENTER: “O Lord open thou our lips..”

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Rupert would love to sing in your church choir…… but we can’t do Sundays

( All conversations and illustrations are, as ever, based on the sad truth but are somewhat exagerrated in order to help my therapy! )

SFX – Phone rings

‘stmarysorganist’ wrestles the ‘phone out of the hands of ‘stmarysorganist-five-year-old-boy’ (who has already answered and told the caller that “Daddy is on the toilet…”) and I attempt a professional answer…

“Hello, Good evening – how may I help you?”

“My boy, Rupert has come home from school today saying he would love to join your church choir”

“Oh that is GREAT news, you see we’ve been doing a large recruiting campaign throughout all the local schools and..”

“..the trouble is – we can’t do Sundays”

“Oh, I see”

” Rupert does scuba-diving every 3rd Sunday of the month, and on the others he alternates between yachting and kick-boxing. But he’s really keen on the idea of being in the choir – you couldn’t change the day for him, could you?”

“Not really, you see – being a church choir we have a tendency to sing on the Sabbath”

” Only Rupert’s friend, Fergus goes to the “Stars-in-the-making” Stage Academy, and they do Saturdays, which would suit us better…”

“I’m afraid we really can’t change the Service times to a Saturday – there are profound reasons why not – it’s not something that I could possibly change without a fundamental shift in the entire liturgical doctrines of the Church of England – it’s more than my job’s worth…”

SFX – Phone dialling tone…

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St Mary’s Choir in 1906 – with 26 boy choristers…

So HOW in this age of children having at least 12 different ‘extra-curricular’ hobbies, can we hope to continue with the glorious tradition of the English Church Choir?

It doesn’t seem that long ago since I first visited St Peter’s Church in Wolverhampton – and from that moment my life took a massive detour! I guess it doesn’t matter that the reason I went, was that my elder sister fancied one of the boys in the choir, but from the moment I saw the choir process in – I knew I was HOOKED!

So, amidst much sisterly pleadings to my slightly reluctant parents – I was allowed to join (aged 7), provided my sister was there to look after me! It was a win-win situation for us both!

Yes, times have radically changed – the only legitimate nocturnal activity for boys of my age in Wolverhampton at that time was the Cubs, the Sea Scouts, Football, mugging – or the Church Choir.

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St Peter’s Choir, Wolverhampton (early 1970’s) – there is a prize for spotting ‘stmarysorganist’…

It was with this bunch of people that my musical future was begun!

So with these legions of boy choristers evident in 1970 – how do we convince the youngsters of 2016 that the Church choir is for them, both now and in the future?

Many potential recruits (as highlighted by young Rupert, above), have incredibly diverse and valid interests. Many of them are communal and involve regular committment, so I am not harping on about ‘computer games’!

Parents now are expected to shunt their children to stage school, football, rugby, martial arts, model airplanes, swimming, scuba diving, stage choirs, dancing, orchestras, bands, cubs, guides, beavers, brownies, scouts, air cadets, sea scouts, army cadets, girl guides … need I go on?

We have a very proud history of maintaining a boys’ and gentlemens’ choir at St Mary’s, with claims going back as early as the 15th century. We have started a girls’ choir too – but that is not enough for a 21st century child.

Our main recruitment drive has been through school visits, where 2 of our gentlemen basses (retired teachers), have developed a ‘roadshow’ to introduce our boys & girls choirs to the local schools.

It is difficult, though, to convey the enormous benefit of regular choral singing to a 7-year-old, so we are also looking at new ways of speaking purely to the parents, and highlighting the educational benefits of regular group music-making that is being starved in so many of our schools.

So – here is my plan for a successful recruiting campaign to attract children to sing in our church choirs…(!)

  1. We have ‘flexi-time’ services, not necessarily on a Sunday – as that is too restricting for a ‘modern family’, (you might need to check this with your Vicar, Bishop or ArchBishop first).
  2. The Choir Director absails into church before the introit.
  3. The organist regularly plays a ‘mash-up’ of pop tunes to keep the ‘yougsters’ interested.
  4. We serve McD’s and ‘Red Bull’ during services and practices.
  5. We offer GCSE coursework-help.
  6. The anthem is occasionally a scriptural verse set to a well-known ‘Adele’ song.
  7. Regular scuba-diving classes (should be popular with Baptists?)
  8. Regular ‘mash-ups’ of Stanford with ‘One Direction’.
  9. New Choir robes – maybe in glittery lycra?

In the meantime though, let us rejoice in the Cathedral, College and Church choirs that we do have.

We are all having the same difficulties with sustaining our rich choral heritage – but if one reader can present me with a boy or girl for one of our choirs at St Mary’s – you can claim a prize from me….

… a signed picture of St Peter’s Choir Wolverhampton…(from the 1970’s)!!

 

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Are all organs the same…. or are some different?

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If ‘being an organist’ was all about just playing an organ, it would be fairly predictable, safe and uneventful! But, as most people who choose to follow this noble profession will know – uneventful it ain’t!

You get to meet people at important times of their lives, births, marriages and deaths, and that alone is a real privelige. As told before, our job on one level is just to advise on choices of suitable music for a special occasion usually a wedding, and you develop a certain rapport with the excited couple, (and, of course, the bride’s mother!)

Sometimes, I even get invited to the wedding reception. Many years ago a younger, slimmer and slightly gaunt version of stmarysorganist naïvely accepted the invitiation – in retrospect, I think the couple felt sorry for me and probably thought I needed a good meal!! So there was I, at a rather well-heeled ‘do’, sitting at an enormous circular table which was brimming with farmers and their families, who all knew each other, understood each other’s sustainable agricultural techniques, use of crop waste and animal manure, and conversations were flowing aplenty around the table.

I don’t know about you, but after spending minutes trying to pick out a thread of conversation I understood, I resorted to concentrating on my own feeding trough. I avoided extraneous eye-contact with any other fellow diners – a technique which worked for most of the meal, until a silence fell around the table. I realised I was being sympathetically scutinised by dozens of pairs of eyes, and after introducing myself as “just the organist”, a pregnant pause was waiting to be filled with some memorable or witty anecdote…

It was then that one guest, being extremely polite asked in all bumbling seriousness ” So – the organist, heh? Well now, tell me – are all organs the same…. or are some different?”

My chance to introduce the assembled bunch into my world had finally come. But at the crucial moment, images of the Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ became merged with the Thomas electronic I had learnt on at home – how could I begin to explain the glorious variety that we encounter with every instrument?

So my answer, which still baffles me to this day, came out meekly –

“Yes, many organs are the same…. but some are different….”

I had blown it, there was no possible recovery. I had let down the ‘King of Instruments’ and this assembled group continued with “Anyway, Ned – where do you buy your horse-sh*t from?”

To experience the wide variety of organs around, you need to go on a choir tour! This will inevitably throw up all sorts of instruments and places, one worth naming is St Bartholemew in Sitges – a venue of romantic beauty with an instrument to match.

St Bartholomew Church in the dark

This organ was a totally unexpected gem (G Grenzing 1985), and I enjoyed this experience from rehearsal to the end of the concert! The only negatve was the abject pain I had when playing the ‘Trompetta en Chamade’ which were a row of horizontal trumpets perched within a foot of my head, and there was no means of protecting my ears from the head-shattering scream that came out of those pipes!

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( I did manage to get a recording of ‘Danses et Estampes’ by Jan de Lublin from this concert – Listen to it here).

One moment when the instument completely underwhelmed my overblown epectations was on a visit to a Cypriot convent, where with great excitement I discussed with our organ scholar, which great pillars of the organ repertoire we would play on this anticipated ‘tour de force’ of the organ world. There was no internet back then, so prior research had been limited to some fruitless letters requesting specifications.

We had pretty much decided on a mixture of Bach before the service, and Vierne as a voluntary. So imagine our incredulity at being introduced to this beauty:

Organ

Once again, as with other tours, rehearsal time was almost non-existant, and the choir processed in as I found the ‘on’ button and selected with care a ‘churchy’ registration. What ensued was a variety of different buzzes at different pitches, all bound together with a constant droning hum of electrical interference of some kind. I managed to find a selection of noises on the Upper manual that were usable, so I played on them for most of the service.

At a moment that I was to later regret, I bravely plunged my hands onto the Lower manual for some much-needed variety. And variety was certainly in evidence, as the third verse of ‘Let all mortal flesh’ was now accompanied by a ‘Bossa Nova’ rhythm section with automatic chords!

It could be that some of the people attending that service could have been moved by this particular addition to a well-loved hymn, and if you were to visit the same convent now, you may find it a regular feature. But judging by the looks of imminent disfigurement that were being darted at me by the assembled throng – I very much doubt it. My voluntary was sensibly short, the organ scholar held the door open for me, as we both made an undignified dash for the coach after the service!

So, nowadays, if I ever find myself as the only organist at a wedding feast again, I shall proudly announce that “There are no two organs the same…anywhere!”

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He said “Whatever you do, don’t…” but I couldn’t understand the rest…

I often find myself regretting the fact that I spent a good percentage of my early school days longing for the weekend, dreaming of organs, impersonating the teachers, but not really engaged in the act of learning too much. (Nowadays, as a teacher, there are many who would say that nothing has changed!). But one of my main regrets is that I failed to pick up any traces of a useful foreign language.

My ability to speak French is pretty much limited to facts about my name, address, colour of my eyes, what day it is, the weather, (as long as it’s raining), and asking the way to a launderette. So during Choir tours abroad, my linguistic shortcomings have come back to haunt, amuse…and embarass me in equal measure.

As a teenager, I spent too much time reading about the fine organs on the continent, and would pore over organ photographs and specifications with exotic stop names like ‘Clarin Sordino’, ‘Hautbois d’Amore’, ‘Bauerpfeife’ – names that if you saw them on a menu would have you salivating at the very sound – perhaps not so with ‘Grobemixtur Unterchormass’!

But when the opportunity to play on some of these fine instruments arises, no amount of listening in Miss Alain’s French lessons, or learning all the stop-names off by heart could prepare me for the reality of THE FOREIGN ORGAN!

Orgue

I know that most organists would never dream of putting on a concert or recital without meticulous planning, rehearsing and getting to know the organ beforehand, but often, on a tour, this is not possible.

Take for example, my visit to La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer, where due to my appalling pigeon-french, I spent a good half-hour standing underneath this colossal organ, unable to gain access, next to a locked door with a local gentleman who unbeknown to me had the very key in his pocket!

We stood side-by-side in blissful Anglo-French ignorance of the fact that he was waiting for me and I was waiting for him. Eventually, thanks to a kindly interpretor, the door was unlocked and up the stairs I ran to encounter an immense instrument of sheer beauty and power, the craftsmanship of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll himself – but no visible sign of a blower switch ANYWHERE.

Worringly, behind the organ I did find this:

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer6

My page-turner started to look very pale and we both searched frantically, as down below in the cathedral, the audience started to take their places. We traced any visible electric cables back to their source and finally found the antique and, rusty hidden switch.We gave it a nervous bodge and fired up the big beast, just as the audience applauded the choir processing in to begin the concert!

The organ console was immense, very beautiful, comfortable to play, but full of things I’d read about and never tried out.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saint-Omer4

Good fortune ( or great programming?!), meant the first couple of concert items were ‘a capella’ (unaccompanied), so I could ‘toot’ a chord or two on a ‘montre’ and as the choir enjoyed the acoustics below, I took a look at the ‘aids’ to registration, and then wished I hadn’t!

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I wasn’t expecting THAT!

Well, the concert went very well, and by the end I had fallen in love with an inaminate object. I was playing a historical instrument, unspoilt by progress, but an instrument that really had ‘soul’ and every note was a real joy!

…and then there was, MALAGA!

This was ground-breaking, in terms of a learning-curve that was pretty near vertical!

Malaga Cathedral does not have an organ – oh no, it has TWO! And not just a big one and a little one – but TWO IDENTICAL ORGANS!

I had done my homework for this ‘gig’and once again I thought I was prepared, but nothing could have prepared me for this:

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Malaga Cathedral

Two identical organs (one ‘Gospel’ and one ‘Epistle’), with Trumpets ‘en chamade’ all around. I have never seen so many! I was helped on this occasion, as the cathedral organist was there to speak a Spanish welcome to me.  I responded with suitably English appreciation. The language barrier was broken down by our superb translator, without whom I would have run away!

After spending much time translating all the technical intricacies of how the organ worked, (like how to switch the thing on), it was time for her to go and explore the local paella and sangria available in Malaga. She departed with the the foreboding advice “He said ‘Whatever you do, don’t ‘ …but I couldn’t understand the rest…”

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The stops were, as expected, pretty unreachable from the sitting position, so you needed an assistant to ‘pull out & push in’, and ideally they should be Spanish organists.

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With a baffling array of stops such as ‘Cornettas, Clarinos, Flautaudos’ and ‘Trompetas’ above us, to the left and right of us and even behind us, and a choir situated what seemed like a hundred miles away, this was going to be one-heck-of-a-gig!

However, I had my fiancee, (now thankfully Mrs stmarysorganist), on one side of the console and the Cathedral organist on the other. In a show of Anglo-Hispanic unity that would impress the EU, we managed to get our way through music which was not designed for instruments such as these!

So, Miss Alain, you were right – I should have listened in your french classes, and maybe, just maybe, one frenchman would not have wasted half-an-hour of his life waiting to meet an organist who was standing right next to him!

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