May 12, 2013
Just how formally anyone dresses for church on Sundays will vary according to the denomination and the occasion, but for the organist an important factor is the extent to which he or she is visible to the world at large when at the console. Of course, even the most invisible organist will be seen entering the church, passing through porch and passages, greeting people on the way. Once up in the dimness of the gallery, however, jackets, ties, and other unnecessary items of clothing can be discarded with relief. All that is needed is the preservation of basic decency in case unexpected visitors turn up.
For those on display while playing, things are more difficult, to the point of needing some advance preparation. Jacket sleeves which are on the long side can inadvertently push a thumb-piston and completely change the mood of your voluntary; best to adjust them before starting. The frequent but necessary watch-checking before things begin gives a wholly unmerited impression of impatience; an unobtrusive little clock would help here. Also, find a hidey-hole so that the shoes you came to church in, plus your gloves and umbrella, are not being examined with great interest by the congregation during the sermon.
In some churches, a glance round the congregation would suggest that skirts are favoured over trousers as ladies’ wear for church Visiting lady organists should pay no attention to this but instead be guided by pragmatic principles. My own preference, other things being equal, is for a skirt, although experience has taught me to avoid pencil skirts – you just can’t reach the outer pedals – and also the Indian-style wrap-around variety, which may start to unwrap if the pedals get busy. However, trousers for female organists are necessary if one has to vault over the organ bench to reach the console, and absolutely essential when it comes to sunken and semi-sunken consoles; negotiating these is like getting in and out of a low-slung sports car, or a pit.
But the last word on this subject simply must go to Professor Gordon Reynolds (1921-1995), Organist and Master of the Choristers at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace for nearly 30 years. His two gloriously hilarious books about the vicissitudes of organ-playing, Organo Pleno and Full Swell (pictured above) should be required reading for all organists. Look how dog-eared my copies are.
Writing in 1970, in an Anglican context, Professor Reynolds issues the following solemn warning on page 22 of Organo Pleno:
“Finally, ensure (in the case of males) that the trousers are well clear of the shoe toes, and the waistband firm. No one will know if you accidentally debag yourself in the Benedictus, but you will gain a reputation for insecure rhythm and may have to play an extra long voluntary at the end to ensure total exodus of onlookers. A box of safety pins is in any case a wise precaution.”
May 2, 2013
On Saturday 31 August Forth in Praise will hold a Singing Day in Linlithgow.
More details will be given on the website and in the forthcoming music newsletter.
Put the date in your diary now! We’d love to see you there.
April 21, 2013
Guess what? At long last I’m allowed to drive – but my car is in hospital!
I was so thrilled to clamber into it again, but a bit worried in case sitting for two months had flattened its battery or jammed the handbrake. But no, it started first time. Handbrake released no bother.
Got to the end of the road. Indicators failed.
So now my poor car has been removed to the local garage for repair, and is waiting there for some part which will be delivered on Tuesday.
Still, it meant I had to take husband’s nifty new car to church this morning. There are some compensations.
April 19, 2013
A friend has emailed me about my last post, asking why organ shoes are important for the ‘Praise, my soul’ tune. I realise I should have said more about this, for only those who pedal the hymn regularly will have understood the problem.
The strong bass line starts on low D in minims, but soon switches to marching crotchets, meaning that both feet are moving around most of the time. There are also some quite wide jumps. Looking down at feet is not really an option, but normally one’s familiar organ shoes (mine are like the one above) seem to know where the notes are and go straight there. The moccasins I was wearing on Sunday to accommodate my bandaged right foot didn’t have this knowledge, so I had to feel around for some of the pedal notes. Added to that, the moccasin on the good foot kept trying to fall off.
All in all, I didn’t do too badly, even if there was a pedal note or two missing. My feet deserve a pat on the back!
April 17, 2013
Last Sunday was highly successful. Up to the gallery no problem. Lovely flutes and diapasons of the Hill just waiting for me. I gulped a bit when I realised that the first hymn tune was ‘Praise, my soul, the king of heaven’, and me without organ shoes. But I had a go, missing out the odd tricky note, and it worked.
In the event, I had felt a bit silly about emailing the choir asking for assistance with the stairs, so I didn’t do it, but someone came up and helped anyway. By next week, I’ll definitely be OK on my own, and before then I should even have the green light for driving, which will be a relief to my long-suffering husband and the friends who’ve been chauffeuring me around.
So this is going to be the last post about my injury; the whole thing is getting very boring. But before finishing, I’ll explain how it happened, and issue a warning. It wasn’t a car accident. It wasn’t a fall. I was simply stepping on to a train in Glasgow Queen Street Station, something I have done thousands of times before. On this occasion, however, my foot slipped between the train and the platform, resulting in said injury.
All my friends are now being very, VERY careful whenever they step on or off a train, and I would advise the whole world to do the same.
April 9, 2013
I am now desperate to get back to my pipe organ, to the beautiful, beautiful Hill that stands in the church gallery.
Withdrawal symptoms are becoming severe. I’m missing it like crazy. Neither of my electronic options – not the small organ at the front of the church, nor the two-manuals-with-pedalboard in my living-room – can substitute for our 1874 Hill, which is one of the best organs in Scotland.
The problem is the very steep spiral stone staircase leading to the gallery. It is not a good idea for anyone on crutches. Even with assistance it is tricky.
Last Sunday, I played at the afternoon Mass. I had planned to attempt the staircase, but chickened out at the last minute, and instead played the small organ. This week, though, following an excellent Glasgow clinic session in which I handed back the crutches, I decided that next Sunday morning, at the main Mass of the day, I will tackle the stairs. Climbing them should be OK, but getting down again might be a problem. Nil desperandum – I’ve decided to email the entire choir for help in descending.
Otherwise, I might find I’m still up there when the afternoon Mass comes along.
March 31, 2013
Happy Easter, everyone!
March 29, 2013
Two cushions plus one hymn book did the job nicely. I managed to play everything, and the sound of the little organ apparently carried well from the front, even though the crowd was considerably bigger than I had expected.
The only awkward moment was at the Agnus Dei, where the organist’s cue is visual rather than audible. An unusually tall altar server blocked my view of the proceedings, and I just had to take a chance, which happily came off.
But otherwise, great. So good to be back in the saddle, even if I can’t yet take on the Hill in the gallery.
Looking forward to the Vigil, which I’ll attend as part of the congregation, and especially to hearing the said Hill being played rather splendidly by Robin.
March 27, 2013
It looks as though I’ll be playing a little bit during this year’s Triduum after all – on Holy Thursday, to be precise, on the small electronic.
The big question is cushions, which in my present state are essential. The choir are pretty sure they can find a chair of the right height, which they will then securely fix up cushion-wise.
The number of organ wrong notes will be in direct proportion to the comfort of the cushions. Worst case scenario: everything sung a cappella after the Gloria, while I try to recover, hidden and flat out in the most distant pew in the side-chapel.
But let’s hope for better things.
March 20, 2013
Older Posts »
The annual googling of ‘chords for bring flowers of the rarest’ is starting to take place again. I’ve already mentioned this phenomenon here and here.
The G major chords-and-bass-line arrangement which we previously used is a bit boring, so it’s now supplemented with an A major chords version, and a G major easy organ version. All three have now been moved to the Downloads and Publications page as PDF files. Hope this will be more useful, and please feel free to comment and let us know whether it is or not.