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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

December 7, 2018

Macaronic dilemma

evelyn @ 11:05 am

It’s decision-time again, and someone is bound to be offended …

This time it’s all about that famous macaronic carol, In dulci jubilo.

Macaronic? asked half the choir. The other half turned towards our social secretary, who had just booked the choir pizza evening.

No, it’s nothing to do with food, I explained. A macaronic carol is in a mixture of languages, in this case Latin and English. No, I don’t know why it’s called that. It just is.

But the point is, it isn’t in the hymn book, and even if we have the words printed out, the people will have trouble with them. Nobody learns Latin these days. ‘Good Christians all, rejoice’ is in the hymn book, and it’s exactly the same tune. And it’s the tune that matters, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it?

‘No’ was the answer to that, and to be honest, I sympathised. I actually do like the medieval words. I was just trying to think of the greater good, as they say. Or, to put it another way, how to offend the smallest number of people.

Our leader jumped in at this point and suggested substituting In dulci for ‘O holy night’. Her hatred of ‘O holy night’ is legendary, so that didn’t wash. As usual, the men were leading the rebellion, but when the altos joined them I knew the battle was over, and I would have to comply.

But I was determined to have the last word. ‘OK, but if it means a lot of type-setting, I’m not doing it.’

However, it’s pretty straightforward, and won’t be a lot of bother. I just hope the people don’t complain that they are being left out. We don’t want another ‘O holy night’ episode’ or its sequel.


November 30, 2018

Tranquillised stops!

evelyn @ 1:12 pm

When it came to my three short organ pieces at the end of the parish concert last month I had wanted to use them to enlighten people just a little bit about the sounds of the beautiful instrument in our gallery. I had suggested to our MC that I could let people hear a short piece on the flutes, followed by another on diapasons. Could he explain this in his introduction? He cheerfully agreed, and we got the flutes done all right. However, the diapasons proved too much to explain, or even pronounce – our conversation had been by email. Alas, they will now always be known in our church as THE DIAZEPAMS!

Just how deliberately did he do that? Hmm.

I suppose it’s better than linking them to American babies’ nappies, which has been done.

Anyhow, the third piece (full organ – the good old D minor toccata) soon removed any tranquillity the audience might have been feeling …

November 23, 2018

Road works ahead!

evelyn @ 2:38 pm

The Forth in Praise website is undergoing an overhaul. With most pages this will be straightforward, but rearranging this blog could prove a bit tricky. There’s such an awful lot of it – nearly ten years’ worth.

The idea is that the Organists’ Blog will keep going throughout the alterations process. However, if things start to look a bit strange here and there, do bear with us. It should be worth it in the end.

November 16, 2018

Carols released!

evelyn @ 6:57 pm

The Forth in Praise Christmas Carol Mass has proved popular over the last few years, and orders are still coming in. But in my parish we are ready for a change. One problem with the Christmas Carol Mass is that it ties up certain carols, especially ‘Ding dong merrily on high’, and ‘Joy to the world’, so that it’s a bit much if we try to have them in the pre-Mass carol service as well.

Last year I asked for a change, but our priest has always liked the carol Mass because it is familiar to those who turn up only at Christmas. However, this year even he has had enough.

So, the imagination is at work to produce some sort of new festive Mass setting, and the carols from the Christmas Carol Mass are now released into the wild. Immediately our carol service has taken on new life, although ‘O holy night’ is still there, and (sigh) always will be …

(No! I will not post the goat version again!)

November 9, 2018

A leaner, meaner website

evelyn @ 10:13 pm

Things are not as promising as they were a few years ago.  We were so much more optimistic.  Even the 2010 revision of the Mass text couldn’t put us down. It was just another challenge.

But now – all has gone quiet. We don’t hear anything from the usual sources. Catholic church music seems to be fading away.  Or else the lines of communication to the parishes are down. Things may be happening, but we don’t hear about them.

Well, Forth in Praise has decided not to give up.  We do still have readers, believe it or not. And the response to our check on the mailing list was incredibly heartening.

So we’ll cut away a lot of the dead wood from the website, and focus on what seems worthwhile to us.  Who needs guidance, anyway?

November 2, 2018

Blog is in its tenth year!

evelyn @ 8:01 pm

Ten years is a lot of blogging, as was pointed out to me at last week’s meeting. Some sort of celebration will be in order next year.  Must start working on it now …

October 26, 2018

Watch this space …

evelyn @ 5:34 pm

The way forward for Forth in Praise is to be discussed tomorrow!

August 22, 2018

The Three Tenors

evelyn @ 8:05 pm

No, not those three!


Organist friend with deep speaking voice: Yes, I’ll come and sing in the choir for the parish concert.

Me: Great! We’ll have a really strong bass line.

Organist friend: Well, actually I’m a tenor.

Me: Oh, that’s good, too. We have only one tenor, and he doesn’t like singing on his own. So now we can be SATB.

It was a parish gathering and I was recruiting for the choir’s appearance at our forthcoming parish concert.  I pounced on my next victim. He was the MC, announcing things in a strong and (as I thought) low-register voice. I’d heard he’d just joined a local choir. He agreed cheerfully to take part in the concert. Later someone told me he had joined the local choir as a tenor.

Then we realised our second bass would be on holiday at the date of the concert, leaving us with three tenors and one bass.

Why does our choir always buck the trend? It is well known that tenors in choirs are like gold-dust, and now we have three of them. Choirs are supposed to be awash with sopranos, but there was a time when we had none at all. That was OK with hymns when the congregation sang the tune, but just try doing Mozart’s Ave Verum with no top part!

So here we are, out of balance again. Our solitary bass is very good, and perfectly capable of singing on his own, but he still could be drowned by such a strong tenor part. We are hunting basses now, but if we strengthen that line too much we’re going to need more ladies to stop the upper parts being overwhelmed. We’ve already had complaints from the altos about the off-putting sound of the men immediately behind them.

This parish concert – an innovation suggested by our priest – is going to be a riot …

August 15, 2018

Quite a surprise!

evelyn @ 8:13 pm

Not many people at Mass this morning for the Feast of the Assumption. The main body of believers had probably attended last night’s Vigil. I was a bit disappointed, as I had planned to give the organ its head with the popular hymns to Our Lady.

But when I started off with some very moderate diapasons, the enthusiastic response from below gave me such a jolt that I quickly built things up, and stayed that way. Are there more people there than I can see? I wondered. I took a quick look over the rail during the Creed, but no, there wasn’t a huge crowd hiding just below the gallery.

It was just the old Marian magic at work again. These hymns, which surely must put to rest the ‘Catholics can’t sing’ argument, are totally Catholic in origin. Except for ‘Tell out my soul’, which appears to be a Protestant paraphrase of the Magnificat acquired by us as part of the changes after Vatican II. Nevertheless, they belted out that one as well. Terrific tune, Woodlands.

We finished up with ‘Hail, Queen of Heaven’ and all stops out.

However, I still miss the wicked men. I felt other people did, too.

July 8, 2018

Swimming the Forth

evelyn @ 4:46 pm

On 22 September my daughter, along with a number of others, is going to dive into the River Forth and swim from South Queensferry to North Queensferry, if not blown off course! Her swim is in aid of MIND, the mental health charity. There will be various craft in the river to fend off the swimmers from obstacles in the water, mainly the (now) three bridges over the Forth at this point. Here is Katy with all three bridges in the background:

Forth in Praise felt we couldn’t let this pass. The Forth is very important to us. It cuts across the major part of the Edinburgh archdiocese, and is a symbol for us of the many parishes grouped around it with whom we have had happy times exploring church music.

So well done, Katy, and accept a small donation from Forth in Praise (should anyone else be interested, donations can be made online here).

Mental health is so important. Sometimes I worry about my own … (see last week’s post)

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