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Forth in Praise

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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

January 18, 2019

Website reconstruction: progress report

evelyn @ 2:13 pm

Ten years’ worth of blogging creates a lot of posts, 315 to be precise. To date, anyway. The actual anniversary isn’t until October. Still, it’s worth doing a little bit of assessment just now, with perhaps a test or two.

Blog posts are ephemeral. Once read, they disappear off down the page and are forgotten. Although most blog hosting companies, including mine, give opportunities for tags and categories, I’ve never been able to get my head round these things, so haven’t bothered.

Now, however, I’ve been taking a long look to see if any of these past efforts, which relate to a career of 53 years as a church organist, 45 of them in my present parish, are worth a re-run. Many are not, of course, but some touch on matters which are always of interest, such as fees (the fee posts have always had the most Google hits). Other posts can be really quite funny, and if I find myself laughing as I re-read them, maybe others will, too.

So very soon now I’m planning the first anniversary blog-set. Watch this space …

January 11, 2019

Easter is late this year!

evelyn @ 4:05 pm

As the Christmas season dies down, the church organist’s first thought is to scrabble through the new diary muttering ‘When is Easter? When is Easter?’ Having located Easter, the next calculation is ‘that means Ash Wednesday must be …’ This usually turns out to be sometime in February – and here we are, well into January, oh my gosh – so it’s a question of digging out the choir (sometimes literally, given January weather), persuading them away from their cosy firesides and into the freezing church for a bit of Lenten misery.

But some years are more fortunate, and 2019 is one of them. Easter is on 21 April and Lent doesn’t begin until 6 March. Our choir leader is perfectly happy to cancel rehearsals for the rest of January, and we still have February to practise something special for Lent. We can use January to locate the something special, in the comfort of home and the internet. Maybe it’s even time for another chiller of a penitential anthem

Update on last week’s attempt to return to the organ bench: it didn’t work. Back to the chair for another couple of months or so.

January 4, 2019

Back to the bench?

evelyn @ 4:54 pm

Happy New Year, everyone!

Resolution No. 1: do something about the organ bench.

It’s more than a year since I started using the special backrest chair and it has always been my intention to return to the proper organ bench eventually. It has taken longer than I expected, though, and there may even be an element of cowardice involved (panic! – what do I do if it doesn’t work?). And the backrest chair is so comfortable

The situation has been tough on our other organists. Their problem is not the chair, which they can pull out of the way quite easily, but the huge solid oak bench, the original one from 1874, which takes some muscle to heave into position. The 9 o’clock people then have to move it away again afterwards and put the chair back for me at 11.30. Actually, I think some of them just use the chair themselves, which they must find limiting, especially for pedalling.

At Christmas, the gallery was full to bursting point with choir and instrumentalists. Our leader decided to move the bench out of the way completely, and had it carried round to the side of the organ, where it is now blocking the way to the humidifier tank and the hygrometer, so important at this time of year.

So when I meet the cantor for practice, I’m going to ask him to help me get the monster back in position, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll try it out this Sunday.


Resolution No. 2: do more practice.


Resolution No. 3: take Resolution No. 2 seriously.



December 28, 2018

End of year report: could do better

evelyn @ 4:25 pm

I have been taken to task over ‘welly’. It is not English, it is Scottish! Without thinking, I had been referring to the English language rather than to the country, but I still should have realised and acknowledged the innate Scottishness of ‘welly’. It is in Scotland that wellington boots are invariably referred to as ‘wellies’, in Scotland that there is a hostelry on the road to Oban called ‘The Green Welly’, and in Scotland that ‘give it some welly’ means’put your wellington-booted foot hard down on the tractor’s accelerator’. Apologies all round.

Our welly went well on Christmas Eve, or if that sounds too alliterative, let’s put it in a more Scottish way:

Oor welly done good!

See you in 2019!

December 21, 2018

Total welly

evelyn @ 12:04 pm

First, a note for our foreign readers. ‘Give it some welly’ is a British English phrase deriving from farming and meaning ‘give it extra power’. Google it to learn more.

‘Give it some welly’ has been a common cry in our choir, and not only from the leaders. We all like welly, and have built a lot of it into our Christmas Eve programme. None so great, however, as in our experimental Sanctus.

Trying to make the Christmas Mass Christmassy is always a problem in the world of Vatican II because (a) the people have to be able to sing the parts of the Mass, and therefore need to have some practice, but (b) Advent is a no-no for singing Christmassy Mass parts, and there’s no Gloria, anyway, and (c) as for people practising outside of Mass in the run-up to Christmas … well, pigs might fly.

One answer is to use well-known tunes that make practice unnecessary. Our Christmas Carol Mass does that, as does Eugene Burns’s Christmas Gloria, which the choir are to sing this year. For the Sanctus, however, we’re trying out something rather different.

The people know our Linlithgow Sanctus well; they sing it a lot during the year. But they haven’t met it in its new festive garb, with which we hope to shock them. The idea of decorating something familiar for Christmas so carried me away, that at the first choir practice I had to tell everyone to sing fortissimo because I would be playing all sorts of things but not the tune.

‘You mean we should give it welly’, said our American soprano, who seems to have taken to the phrase.

‘Yes, as much welly as possible, because I want to unleash all the organ’s welly, too.

Total welly …’, breathed one of the tenors, almost reverently. Everyone else murmured agreement.

So on Christmas Eve we’re going to give the Sanctus everything. Even with a full church, I know how to make the floor shake. Some of the choir are worried about the stained-glass windows, although I think pitch would be more likely to do damage there than welly.

This is going to be fun – I hope.

Now let’s finish off with some welly from St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Happy Christmas, everyone!





December 14, 2018

When the moderator is moderated …

evelyn @ 12:27 pm

No, nothing to do with the Church of Scotland.

I tried to send an email round the Forth in Praise mailing list, but couldn’t send it. After spending a day exchanging messages with the web hosting company, it turned out my email had gone into moderation, which meant that it was being held until approved by the website’s moderator, a sort of censor who has the power to release or reject it.

But wait a minute! I thought.  I’m the moderator.  At least, I must be, as I’m the only person running this website.

I struggled to make sense of this, and I suspected my remote helpers were struggling as well. I was directed to various parts of the operation, but nowhere could I find how to manage moderation of this mailing list, and release my email from the cage it was trapped in. I seemed quite powerless.

Eventually, a way out was found by pretending I was an outsider with special privileges, and as such I sent the email. But not without discovering that my helpers had first sent a ‘test plz ignore’ email to my entire mailing list. So I felt obliged to send round yet another email to reassure people that Forth in Praise had not been hacked.

I don’t know why, after years of happy mailing list sending, this problem suddenly came from nowhere. I still don’t know how to exercise my function as moderator in order to stop myself being moderated! The helpers finally gave up by referring me to a technical website which I couldn’t begin to understand.

I can’t help wondering if the fact that my previously excellent web hosting company has recently been taken over has something to do with it.

Oh, let’s have a carol.

December 7, 2018

Macaronic dilemma

evelyn @ 11:05 am

It’s decision-time again, and someone is bound to be offended …

This time it’s all about that famous macaronic carol, In dulci jubilo.

Macaronic? asked half the choir. The other half turned towards our social secretary, who had just booked the choir pizza evening.

No, it’s nothing to do with food, I explained. A macaronic carol is in a mixture of languages, in this case Latin and English. No, I don’t know why it’s called that. It just is.

But the point is, it isn’t in the hymn book, and even if we have the words printed out, the people will have trouble with them. Nobody learns Latin these days. ‘Good Christians all, rejoice’ is in the hymn book, and it’s exactly the same tune. And it’s the tune that matters, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

‘No’ was the answer to that, and to be honest, I sympathised. I actually do like the medieval words. I was just trying to think of the greater good, as they say. Or, to put it another way, how to offend the smallest number of people.

Our leader jumped in at this point and suggested substituting In dulci for ‘O holy night’. Her hatred of ‘O holy night’ is legendary, so that didn’t wash. As usual, the men were leading the rebellion, but when the altos joined them I knew the battle was over, and I would have to comply.

But I was determined to have the last word. ‘OK, but if it means a lot of type-setting, I’m not doing it.’

However, it’s pretty straightforward, and won’t be a lot of bother. I just hope the people don’t complain that they are being left out. We don’t want another ‘O holy night’ episode’ or its sequel.


November 30, 2018

Tranquillised stops!

evelyn @ 1:12 pm

When it came to my three short organ pieces at the end of the parish concert last month I had wanted to use them to enlighten people just a little bit about the sounds of the beautiful instrument in our gallery. I had suggested to our MC that I could let people hear a short piece on the flutes, followed by another on diapasons. Could he explain this in his introduction? He cheerfully agreed, and we got the flutes done all right. However, the diapasons proved too much to explain, or even pronounce – our conversation had been by email. Alas, they will now always be known in our church as THE DIAZEPAMS!

Just how deliberately did he do that? Hmm.

I suppose it’s better than linking them to American babies’ nappies, which has been done.

Anyhow, the third piece (full organ – the good old D minor toccata) soon removed any tranquillity the audience might have been feeling …

November 23, 2018

Road works ahead!

evelyn @ 2:38 pm

The Forth in Praise website is undergoing an overhaul. With most pages this will be straightforward, but rearranging this blog could prove a bit tricky. There’s such an awful lot of it – nearly ten years’ worth.

The idea is that the Organists’ Blog will keep going throughout the alterations process. However, if things start to look a bit strange here and there, do bear with us. It should be worth it in the end.

November 16, 2018

Carols released!

evelyn @ 6:57 pm

The Forth in Praise Christmas Carol Mass has proved popular over the last few years, and orders are still coming in. But in my parish we are ready for a change. One problem with the Christmas Carol Mass is that it ties up certain carols, especially ‘Ding dong merrily on high’, and ‘Joy to the world’, so that it’s a bit much if we try to have them in the pre-Mass carol service as well.

Last year I asked for a change, but our priest has always liked the carol Mass because it is familiar to those who turn up only at Christmas. However, this year even he has had enough.

So, the imagination is at work to produce some sort of new festive Mass setting, and the carols from the Christmas Carol Mass are now released into the wild. Immediately our carol service has taken on new life, although ‘O holy night’ is still there, and (sigh) always will be …

(No! I will not post the goat version again!)

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