web analytics

Forth in Praise

and Downloads




The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

August 10, 2010

Technical mayhem

evelyn @ 9:48 am

If there is one thing I hate in church, it is ancient electronic music equipment: dangling rusty microphones dating back to the sixties; old wooden amplifier cases; aged stands and cabling taking up gallery space; a box marked ‘Disco’ gathering dust under the window. It’s even worse when attempts are made by well-meaning but unskilled parishioners to bring this old stuff into use again. And worse still when it involves the organ (or what passes for an organ in some places). I have grim memories of an amateur attempt to amplify the sound of one of those beastly electronic pianos. I finished up having to sit absolutely still to avoid kicking two microphones which lay like a couple of adders at my feet.

But the very worst of all is when they’ve been tinkering with things and don’t tell you. Perhaps my most shattering experience of this kind was a wedding in a large church with a very old and particularly difficult electronic organ. I had played it before, and had always found it tricky to handle because of its harsh tone and confusing stop and coupler labelling. This time it seemed quiet and subdued, with very little of its usual brashness. I fiddled with the various controls, including the awful crescendo pedal, without making much difference at all. What had happened to the thing? Was it finally on its last legs?

This was getting worrying. While the guests were coming in it didn’t matter, but I’d have to get something reasonably strong for the bride’s entrance.

Suddenly a girl stuck her head round the door at the far end of the gallery and hissed ‘The bride’s ready. Start now’.   I added everything I could, opened all pedals to the fullest and began playing ‘Highland Cathedral’.

The same girl reappeared, very agitated. ‘The bride’s READY! Please start!’

‘I have started!’, I hissed back, ‘I’m doing all I can!’

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘you haven’t got the amplifier on’, and she reached up to the wall beside her and threw a switch which I didn’t know existed. I had everything set at maximum, and the resulting blast just about took the roof off the church.

Needless to say, I haven’t been asked back. And needless to say, that church now heads my ‘never-again’ list.


  1. Ouch! That hurts!

    Comment by Elvira — August 13, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  2. Yes, Elvira, I think it hurt everyone at the time, and there was no point in even starting to tell people it wasn’t my fault! I just beetled off, vowing never to go back.

    Comment by evelyn — August 15, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.