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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

November 7, 2010

1560 and all that

evelyn @ 3:19 pm

I feel I can’t let the 450th anniversary of the Reformation go by without some sort of tribute to my many friends and colleagues who play the organ in the Church of Scotland. Whatever may have happened in the distant past, whatever controversy there may be just now about ‘joint celebration’ of the event, I have to say that during my own time at the console I have found that organists from the two Churches get along together pretty well.

Better than most, in fact. Have you ever been to one of those very general ‘ecumenical’ gatherings, whose only purpose is to, well, gather? The self-conscious here-we-are-all-together-being-friendly-and-Christian-please-do-have-another-biscuit approach makes me go all embarrassed and shuffly. I run phrases through my head, discarding them one by one as ‘perhaps unsuitable’, and finish up talking about the weather. Or I suddenly find myself having to suppress a mad desire to run around shouting ‘Incense! Candles! Purgatory!

But when the gathering consists of organists, awkwardness is unknown. We gravitate like magnets, talking ten to the dozen about organs, problems, hymns, problems, choirs, problems … well, you get the general idea. Hidden away in alcoves and organ-lofts, we are a lonely lot, and getting a chance to meet others of our kind is wonderful. The organist bond seems to cut automatically across theological or liturgical differences. In fact, our main interest in those differences seems to be in finding out how they are likely to affect our playing, as we do tend to get dragged in at short notice for funerals and special services in churches of other denominations.

On the whole, C of S organists find the RC liturgy a bit daunting, with all its self-starting. But the RC organist playing in the C of S, while revelling in the wonder of having all the hymns announced, can still blunder. I will not forget how one minister’s moment of silent reflection at the end of her service was shattered when I crashed into the final voluntary too soon. And of course, whatever the denomination, things can cheerfully go wrong all of their own accord, as everyone knows.

So the next few posts will be about my Church of Scotland experiences, including one unforgettable summer when I stood in for a colleague for three Sundays in a row, and everything that could possibly go wrong, did.

1 Comment

  1. Agree wholeheartedly, organist days are great. We just sing from the same sheet!

    Comment by Elvira — November 9, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

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