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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

June 27, 2014

It’s happened again!

evelyn @ 4:31 pm

This is getting ridiculous. I gave my second organ lesson last Saturday. On the Sunday another pupil – let’s call him Martin – received compliments on his playing, this time at the early-morning Mass. He texted me to say he’d decided to experiment with last verse stop changes, and had got ‘rave reviews’. When I arrived at the church later in the morning, our priest met me in the car park to tell me how well Martin had played.

Time to pause and consider this phenomenon. It can’t be due to my teaching experience – this was only lesson two, for heaven’s sake – nor do I possess a Harry Potter-style magic wand. It can only be that these are people with considerable musical ability who don’t understand the fundamental nature of the organ. When once (and I mean just once!) a feature is pointed out to them – wow! They apply it with instant success.

Some readers will think I’m being incredibly naïve here about something very obvious, but this is a matter that directly affects the standard of liturgy in the average Catholic parish. It isn’t the same in churches, even Catholic churches, where organists are paid professionals. But in parishes where organists are unpaid, persuading a pianist out of the pews and then leaving him or her to sink or swim with an instrument that nobody understands is regrettably quite common. And I suppose you can’t blame priest or parish council for their lack of what is in effect specialised knowledge.

I really feel that our Church could do more at diocesan and national level to help amateur parish organists. There must be many of them out there, doing their best to play an instrument which they don’t understand. And all the while the most basic bits of information could transform their performance.

It clearly doesn’t take much to effect the transformation. The personal touch of a lesson may not even be necessary. A booklet of handy hints could be sufficient.

Maybe I should start writing one …

Or wait!  Let’s not get carried away.  Maybe I  just have extra-special organ pupils, who happen to be coming for lessons at just the right time.  We shall see.

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