Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - December 2001


By Saturday 12th January the worst effects of writing hundreds of Christmas cards, purchasing piles of Christmas presents, suffering a surfeit of Christmas carols and munching mountains of mince pies should have eased off so that Saturday afternoon at three o'clock please make your way to Bangor Road Presbyterian Church in Holywood. That's where next year's Annual General Meeting of the Society will be held at which office-bearers will be elected (including a new president), a report on the Society's activities in 2001 presented, and a preview of the plans made for 2002 revealed. Neither the plans for next year nor any proposals made by the committee have to be accepted so please come prepared to be constructively critical (or if you prefer, critically constructive). This Society, like any other, is what its members make it.


At our last committee meeting it was disclosed that just over 20 members had not yet paid their 2001 subscription! If you are one of the score please delay no longer. And perhaps I should remind you that the current annual subscription is 17.50 (10.00 for students; 5.00 for members overseas). Cheques should be made payable to USOC and the Honorary Treasurer's address appears below.


If you subscribe to Organists Review or attended our October meeting the name John Riley will be familiar. To Organists Review he has recently contributed a series of articles on organ improvisation, and he has now produced a manual entitled 'The Creative Organist - An Outline of Improvisation Techniques', described in Church Music Quarterly as "one of the best books available on the subject", and it's accompanied by a CD. Price has yet to be determined but you can order a copy using the form enclosed and an invoice will come with the copy. Please note that John has just moved house so your order should be directed not to the address indicated on his information sheet but to 18 Brunstane Road, Edinburgh, EH15.


As you may know, member John Crothers is now working in Paris. Enclosed is a copy of the letter he kindly sent to me recently describing his multifarious activities in the French metropolis, and noting his address there. We were delighted to hear from you John - keep in touch and enjoy the croissants!


For many USOC members the overseas weekend usually arranged in May is a highlight of the year's programme. For 2002 plans are now under way for a weekend in the Coventry area from Saturday 4th to Monday 6th May when visits to the cathedrals of Lichfield, Leicester and Coventry will be included in the itinerary. The cost per person is expected to be about 300.00 including flights, meals and accommodation in a three-star hotel. Full details and booking form will accompany the January circular. Meanwhile, a wee note in your 2002 diary might be a good idea.


Although the song might suggest that April is the right time to visit the French capital, in 2002 July might be an even better time, as it is during that month that the IAO plans to hold its annual congress next year. This is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Paris with a comprehensive programme of visits to its wonderful churches and organs all arranged for you and good accommodation provided at a very reasonable price. Details are given in the copy of 'Piping the News' which you should have received recently; if you didn't let me know. I imagine that this venture will almost certainly be oversubscribed so it would be wise to make reservations soon.


A variety of courses is offered, providing expert tuition from distinguished tutors. Applications (by March 1st 2002) welcome from beginners (Associated Board Grade III and above), advanced players, church organists, and students considering a university music course. Send me a SAE if you'd like a copy of its descriptive leaflet.


Centred on the Kenneth Jones organ in Christ Church Cathedral and including competitions for both interpretation and improvisation. Competitors need to apply by 22nd February; detailed syllabus from the Festival Administrator, DIOCF Office, 18 Eustace Street, Dublin 2. In addition to the competitions, recitals by a worldwide range of distinguished organists are given so non-competitors could also enjoy an interesting (and less stressful) week.


Formed in memory of Ronnie Lee and conducted by member Edward Craig, the Chorale has just produced a CD entitled 'Love Came Down at Christmas', including music by USOC members. Details and order form enclosed.


As this is the last USOC circular to be distributed by Ian Hunter I should like to express my great gratitude to him for the invaluable work he has done for many years in typing and mailing our monthly bulletins - and in correcting secretarial solecisms!

Only those who have done this kind of job will fully appreciate the time and trouble involved, and Ian, as you will have observed, has maintained a remarkably and consistently high standard of presentation.

In June 2001 he retired after 32 years as Head of Music at Bangor Grammar School, and in September completed (with distinction) a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology (computers) from the University of Ulster. So, in addition to our thanks, we should also wish him congratulations and send him our good wishes for a long and happy retirement.


If you make them, may I suggest that for 2001 you make one to be a regular attender at next year's USOC meetings? The committee does its best to arrange attractive and interesting sessions but we do need an audience!

That's all for 2001. Do please join me in Holywood on 12th January 2002.

For now, my best wishes to you for Christmas and the year ahead.


Honorary Secretary


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