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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

October 3, 2010

Hunt the Organist

evelyn @ 8:10 pm

‘Have you caught one?’ called our parish priest eagerly as he came up the gallery stairs.

I nodded hopefully.  It was immediately after first Mass.  Sitting at the organ, trying out the various stops and couplers, was a young man whom I had never met before.  He had come forward a few minutes previously in answer to an appeal which I had just made to the congregation, asking for pianists who might consider transferring to the organ.   He appeared to be an accomplished pianist and something about his confidence suggested that he had played in church before.  If he was prepared to take this on, we had a winner.

At the next Mass, the same thing happened.  A lady this time, a very competent keyboard player, who hadn’t played in church before, so would need some advice and encouragement.  Not for long, though.  Another winner.

And at the afternoon Mass, unbelievably, yet another one.  This time an experienced organist who had moved into our parish some time ago.  ‘I really couldn’t get used to not playing’, she said.  I knew the feeling; all long-term organists have it.  This was perfect.

Interestingly, all these people said they had thought about coming forward and offering their services, but had felt unsure for one reason or another.  Once they had been asked, however, it was different.

There were also a number of people who took the leaflet I was handing out (the main part of it is here, if you’re interested), but said at the same time that their keyboard skills were not very great.  These people, if they were genuinely keen, would need some training before they could do a full organist’s job.

However, investment in training might well prove worthwhile if the person already has all the other qualities needed: confidence, commitment, perseverance – and a thick skin.  Only by taking everyone on board at the beginning can one find out who has these qualities.  People can be very surprising.

So what will the next step be in this exercise in renewal of parish organ-playing?  And can it be extended to other parishes?     By fortunate chance I have met up recently with former SCOTS colleague Robin Bell (‘former’ applies to me; he is still the Administrator of the very popular Scottish Churches Organist Training Scheme).   And also by fortunate chance, Robin is contemplating a similar project, although in a wider context involving all denominations.  SCOTS is still going strong, of course, and the Forth in Praise Organ Learning Project is planning new material for beginner organists.

The mood is optimistic.  Watch this space …


  1. Dear Forth in Praise,
    Reading about your Organ Learning Project, I would like to bring to your attention the Courses for Volunteer Organists project. These courses have been running in Salisbury for some time and have now been established in Norwich and York. They are two-day courses that get to grips with the basics of moving from the piano stool to the organ bench.
    There may be some scope in connecting up and I would be very pleased if this were a possibility. Have a look at the website for further information and meanwhile, all best wishes with your project, a very worthwhile one!
    Robert Fielding

    Comment by Robert Fielding — October 11, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  2. Seems your luck has turned! Hoping these three (and many more with them) will prove to be as good in reality as they sound on paper and you get some well deserved time off! 🙂

    Comment by Dominika — October 11, 2010 @ 9:44 am

  3. Robert, thanks for making contact. Your website is interesting, and it looks as if we’re working along similar lines, as you’ll see from the next post. We’re still at the preparatory stage, but once we get a bit further on we’ll definitely get in touch with you. The lack of organists is a real problem, and it’s heartening to find that others are also working to solve it!

    Comment by evelyn — October 14, 2010 @ 3:00 pm

  4. Dominika, thanks for your good wishes. Our three have turned into five, as you’ll see from the next post.

    Comment by evelyn — October 14, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

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