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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

October 24, 2010

Mistakes and senior moments

evelyn @ 8:20 pm

As a sort of corollary to the parish organist-hunt, for each of the three weeks since I’ve been helping the new organists I myself have managed to make a major liturgical mistake when playing.

The first one came after I had rashly suggested the trainees join me in the gallery on the Sunday. I didn’t say ‘come and see how it’s done’, but was uneasily aware that they might think that was what I meant. And of course I messed it up.

It was one of those beastly, horrible, non-liturgical, paraphrased Glorias. I lost count of the verses and gave them an extra one. Oops. Cringe. Trainees were sympathetic and I tried to turn it into a lesson on not caring about one’s mistakes.

The next week I got the two Communion hymns in the wrong order.

Then today, the cantor was the soprano who likes everything to be a tone higher than usual. I possess two versions of the Gloria we were using, and had made sure I had the higher accompaniment in front of me. Then blow me down if I didn’t start playing it in the usual, lower key. This is the big danger for us buskers – a tendency to start playing first, then look at the music afterwards.

There was absolutely nothing I could do but continue. The music was no use – I’m not the best of transposers-at-sight – so I just had to hope my memory would hold out. It did. No one realised the mistake, except for the poor cantor, who I must say tackled the low notes very well. An email of apology has been sent to her.

It may be that I need a holiday, but it can’t be yet. There is a major liturgical event on Thursday, when the Cardinal, probably with a retinue of priests, pays a special visit to the parish. I will be playing …


  1. Isn’t it odd that when we try our best to make a good impression, we mess up the most? Maybe it’s His way of telling us nobody’s perfect? 🙂 Your trainees sound very understanding, and I bet you had a good laugh at it together afterwards, too!

    I hope the cantor didn’t mind – my sympathy for her, the lower notes are really difficult when you’re used to singing soprano.

    Something tells me things will work out and you’ll be able to enjoy your holiday fully when it finally comes! Some things are just worth the wait

    Comment by Dominika — October 25, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  2. Dominika, you’re right. Anxiety about making mistakes makes you make them! I don’t think Evelyn is as bothered as she makes out, though. It will certainly help trainees to see mistakes handled with a shrug, as I bet these were.

    Comment by Flora B — October 25, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  3. You’re both right. If a mistake is made, it’s made, and all you can do is learn from it, then try to forget it. Actually, it’s amazing how many people just don’t spot what you think is a glaring error.

    I think incubating (to use Dominika’s excellent phrase) the five trainees is possibly what is causing me to lose concentration. They won’t be with me on Thursday, and then we’ll see.

    Comment by evelyn — October 25, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

  4. Did the same during a wedding playing a piano solo of the “Wedding Song” ugh, and also suffering from the flu and high temp. Started out without a thought and ended up halfway thru in the wrong key – aaahhh – then sightread the rest. I made it through and there was no interruption, but all I wanted to do was go home and collapse in bed. It always happens when we want something to be the best. Music was fine, but I just couldn’t concentrate with the fever and illness. No subs; so, just tough it out.

    Comment by tB — March 21, 2012 @ 7:37 am

  5. I sympathise!

    Comment by evelyn — April 6, 2012 @ 3:30 am

  6. I play the organ for the local kirk on Stronsay http://www.orkneycommunities.co.uk/STRONSAYKIRK
    The service is a typically dour Presbyterian “hymn sandwich”, such a contrast to my previous parish in Scarborough (N Yorkshire) which was Anglo-catholic. The kirk’s congregation has an infuriating habit of not standing up when a hymn is announced and waiting until the organ playover is finished before struggling to their feet. Therefore in the five years I’ve been playing here the congregation has never sung the first few notes of any hymn. I’ve no idea when this habit was formed, any enquiry is met with a blank look.

    Comment by Bruce Fletcher — November 15, 2012 @ 10:46 am

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