Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - February 2000


In terms of the number of notes played it is probably fair to claim that at a church service most of an organist's time is spent playing hymns. Appropriately then our first session for the new century will take the form of a Training Seminar on Hymn Accompaniment, directed by Michael McCracken, Michael Callendar and Neale Agnew, with John Boal and Geoffrey McConnell at the organ.

Topics to be discussed will include hymn introductions, registration, the treatment of final verses, and the playing of hymns with pianistic accompaniment.

This meeting will be held at St Thomas' Parish Church, Lisburn Road, Belfast at 3pm on Saturday 5th February.


If you were there you will know; if you were not, you will be happy to learn that at the AGM in January David McElderry was elected President of the Society and (weather permitting) will hold that office for the next two years. David, as you probably know, is Managing Director of the Wells-Kennedy organ firm, and a Fellow of both the Incorporated Society of Organ Builders and the Institute of Musical Instrument Technology - hence the cryptic letters which follow his name!

At the same meeting Timothy Allen and David Drinkell were elected as Vice-Presidents and William Adair, Barbara Callendar, Michael Callendar, Donald Davison, Christopher Gordon-Wells, James Little, Joe McKee, Joan Mills, Eileen Kerr and Michael Tregenna elected as Committee Members for the year 2000.


Members will be sad to hear that illness has compelled Elsie Graham to resign from the Society. She has kindly donated her music to the Society and this will be made available to members at one of this year's meetings.

As a young, new member we are delighted to welcome Claire Cousens who assists at St Patrick's Church, Lough Gilly; her address is ......


Just a reminder that subscriptions are due by 31st January (17.50 per annum; students 10.00) and should be forwarded to the Honorary Treasurer (address below). The Society operates on quite a tight budget so it is important that subscriptions should be paid promptly.

When the Arthur Beggs Student Fund was established two years ago it was intended that any grants made would derive from interest earned, leaving the capital intact. Unfortunately the capital sum is still too limited for this to be done and so further contributions to the fund are urgently invited.

The Honorary Treasurer has suggested that members might like to round up their annual subscription to 20.00, in which case the additional 2.50 would be allocated to the Student Fund.


In case you were unable to attend this year's AGM in January and so missed my review of the Society's activities during 1999, a copy is enclosed. Our thanks to Ian Hunter for typing it. Also enclosed are TWO copies of this year's programme of events in the hope that you will pass on one of them to another organist who is not already a member. Personal recommendation is the best form of recruitment!


Nigel McClintock informs me that he is "very much enjoying" his studies at the Royal College of Music in London, and has also been sharing with Barry Rose the role of Master of the Music at Chelmsford Cathedral. In the near future, however, he is to become Director of Music at Croydon Parish Church so we wish him well in this new appointment.


Yes! Carlo Curley, the world's most popular concert organist, will be playing the mighty Harrison at St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, at 7 30pm on Saturday 11th March in a concert which also features the cathedral choir. Mr Curley may not be the most modest of fellows but his recently published autobiography 'In the Pipeline' makes absorbing reading. Recommended.


To be held this year 5th to 8th April, the Festival includes classes for church choirs singing anthems and/or hymns. The adjudicator will be Jeffrey Wynn-Davis and entries should be made by 7th February. Detailed syllabus from Joan Houston, 71 Bryansford Meadow, Bangor, BT20 3NX, tel 028 9145 6851.


At Bangor Abbey where they have a substantial two-manual organ and choir and two Sunday services. Further information from Ronald Nesbitt, tel. 01247 460173.


This Christmas I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Padua in northern Italy and amongst other interesting experiences attended Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. It was presided over by a rather frail looking cardinal and lasted over two hours! Unfortunately the music, led somewhat casually by a small group of young novitiates and an invisible ladies choir secreted in one of the galleries, was no match for the splendour of this magnificent church. The organ was obviously quite a small one and for much of the time played with tremulants trembling! A beautifully produced 36 page booklet contained the Order of Service, printed in Italian, English, German and French, and the music of the responses which were rehearsed briefly before the service began.

Yours sincerely

Honorary Secretary



In response to my request for humorous tales which could be included in the monthly circulars, one member has kindly lent me a most engaging volume entitled 'Classic FM Musical Anecdotes', edited by Henry Kelly and John Foley. Two samples:

After a very dull concert with a rather second-rate orchestra, the guest conductor found himself buttonholed by the orchestra's chairperson. "Tell me, maestro" she gushed "when was the last time you conducted our orchestra?" "Tonight!" replied the conductor.

Shortly before he died in his ninetieth year, Pierre Monteux was asked about his pleasures in life. "I have two abiding passions" he replied "one is my model railway, the other women. But at my age I am getting just a little too old for model railways!"

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