Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - October 2002


Saturday October 19th - Choral music for choirs with depleted resources
Few choirs today can muster the numbers that they once could. Often, whole parts are missing and those in charge are at a loss to find repertoire which is worthy and approachable. But don't despair - there is a lot of good stuff around if you know where to look! This will be a chance to hear some of it, introduced by our member Billy Adair, whose imaginative music lists at St. James, Belfast, have long been an inspiration to many of us. Some of the music will be non-copyright, so if you like it you can make your own copies. (Illegal copying is the bane of music-making - basically, you can copy if the composer, editor or lyricist has been dead for 70 years and the edition is more than 25 years old. If not, you are breaking the law and could be in big trouble!). The meeting will take place at St. Mary's, Crumlin Road, Belfast at 3.30pm. The church is easy to find - an impressive building with a central tower about halfway up the Crumlin Road on the left as you come from the city centre. It was built by William Slater of London in 1865-68 and was supposed to set an example to Irish architects of a "model" church built at modest cost. In the event, it cost nearly three times the estimate - a lasting lesson to the parsimonious! The organ is one of the most interesting and effective of a number of rebuilds carried out by the Irish Organ Company in the 60s. There will be tea and biscuits afterwards and parking in the church grounds will be safe. We are much obliged to the Rector, Canon Walker, who has been very helpful in facilitating this visit.

On November 23rd the Society, in collaboration with the City Council, will host the second Belfast Community Organ Day. Featuring guest celebrity David Briggs, the events will include a morning work-shop at Knock Methodist Church on the new RCO performer's certificate (a preliminary to diploma level), open consoles throughout the City in the afternoon and an evening concert in the Ulster Hall. Full publicity for this event will be available soon. It is a major achievement for the Society that the City Council has agreed to meet virtually the whole cost of the day, including publicity, celebrity fees and the hire of the Ulster Hall. The event should draw large numbers of the general public. As USOC members, we rely on you to support the Organ Day in any way you can. Organ pupils are urged to come forward for the work-shop - this is an opportunity not to be missed, with one of the world's most talented, helpful and approachable teachers. Simon Williams of the RCO will also be in attendance. The organs in the afternoon will be Belmont Presbyterian (large late Conacher with possibly the earliest Positive Organ in Ireland), Clonard Monastery (recent Kenneth Jones rebuild of large Evans & Barr), St. Bridget's, Malone Road (modern Wells-Kennedy), St. Martin's, Newtownards Road (1983 Wells-Kennedy, still an outstanding instrument), St. John's Malone (Philip Prosser's fine rebuild of the original Norman & Beard), St. Paul's York Road (Abbott & Smith, rebuilt by the Abbey Organ Co.), St. Peter's Antrim Road (exciting 70s rebuild by Hill, Norman & Beard, modified by Wells-Kennedy), Sydenham Methodist (interesting amalgam by Wells-Kennedy of two previous instruments), St. Mark's Dundela (huge 4m Compton, known to the troops as "Gertie, a lady of ill-repute") and Fisherwick Presbyterian (notably fine old Walker enhanced by Philip Prosser).

Tonic Music at Bangor
On Saturday 26th October at 8.00pm, ex-Oxford organ scholar Richard Hills will be playing the Compton Theatre Organ, formerly in the Tonic Cinema, Bangor, and now in Bangor Academy. The programme will include the accompaniment of a silent film. Admission at the door is £5. Our President, who saved the organ from destruction when the Tonic ceased to require it, says that rebuilding of the school may threaten its continued existence here. So don't miss the opportunity to hear the only Theatre Organ in Northern Ireland while you still can!

From the Treasurer
The number of unpaid subscriptions is now down to 20. If you are one of the defaulters, we would welcome your cheque!

Please note our Treasurer's revised e-mail address: amaclaughlin@uk2.net
(This correction should have appeared ages ago - I grovel! Hon. Sec.)

Concerts at Christ Church, Londonderry
Billy West reports that concerts featuring the splendid new Wells-Kennedy three-manual organ at Christ church are proving a great success. Held on the first Thursday of each month from 1.10-1.50pm, admission is free, with a Retiring Collection. Donations so far have enabled an order to be placed for the prepared-for Cremona stop. Forthcoming recitals are as follows:

7th November: Jonathan Lane and the Choristers of St. Columb's Cathedral
5th December: Instant Brass and William West

Vacant Consoles
St. Clement's Church, East Belfast
Morning and evening services, weekly choir practice ("enthusiastic choir"). 2-manual Abbott & Smith organ. The church would also consider someone who would undertake morning service and choir practice only. : www.stclementsbelfast.com/organist.htm

St. Luke's and St. Stephen's, Belfast
3 services each Sunday - 10.30am St. Luke's, 11.30am St. Stephen's, Evensong 6.30 alternating between the 2. St. Luke's has a decent (and quite refined for him) 2-manual Smethurst. St. Stephen's has an Allen. The salary is £4500pa. At present there are no choir practices except coming up to Harvest and Christmas (but your Hon. Sec. has been helping out in the evenings and can testify that the congregational singing is very good and the atmosphere very friendly). In the meantime, these parishes would welcome assistance from organists who can manage occasional services. Contact the Revd. David Lockhart, 028 9077 4119.

St. Thomas' Parish Church, Eglantine Avenue/Lisburn Road, Belfast
Applications are invited for the post of Organist/Director of Music. BCP and APB sung services. Good musical tradition and opportunities for development. The Church is a fine High Victorian Gothic building designed by John Lanyon in 1870 with an outstanding 3-manual Hill Organ fully restored by Mander in 1998. Generous salary negotiable according to qualifications and experience, plus fees and facility for Organ pupils. Job description and further details from Canon Walter Lewis, St. Thomas' Rectory, 1A Eglantine Avenue, Belfast BT9 6DW. Telephone 028 9080 8343. E-mail walter.lewis@ntlworld.com

St. Ignatius Church of Ireland, Carryduff
There are two main services on Sundays and a weekly practice for the four-part, RSCM affiliated robed choir. There is also a Junior Choir. Traditional music is used and services are main-stream, including Anglican chant and the singing of anthems. St. Ignatius is a modern church of striking design with excellent acoustics and has a large Allen electronic organ, recently refurbished and upgraded. The parish is anxious to maintain its musical tradition. Those interested should contact Mrs E. Dunning, 10 Old Saintfield Road, Carryduff, Co. Down (9081 3369).

FOR SALE - The large 3-manual Domus Viscount, model no.1332, purchased in 1996 and owned by our member Ian Keatley. Suitable for home or larger venue such as church or hall. Price £6500 o.n.o. Phone James Keatley on 028 9028 0775, e-mail j.keatley@which.net or write to 26 Sharman Park, Belfast BT9 5HU. Mr Keatley has kindly offered the Society a small commission if the sale is made as a result of our help.

Vive le Crothers!
Our member in Paris, John Crothers, mails that he has been asked to play for a Remembrance Service in Notre Dame Cathedral on Armistice Day. Excellent news, John - have fun!

The Honorary Secretary has some news!
The Grapevine works pretty fast, but for those of you who do not know, I have been appointed Organist & Choir Director to the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

Elspeth and I are tremendously excited at the prospect of moving to this beautiful city, the site of the first English colony in North America. The church is a superb building by George Gilbert Scott and the parish is the oldest Anglican parish in America, founded in 1699. Members might be interested in some details of the organ (rather than the oddities I had in mind to fire at you this month). It was built by Ingram in 1904 to a design by Robert Hope Jones and retains some excellent pipe-work of the period, including Tibias and Vox Humana to delight our President. In its present form it was rebuilt in 1927 by Casavant Fréres of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec and is a fine example of their style at the time, combining English (Willis) and French influences with the superb combinational versatility of the best American work such as that of Aeolian Skinner. There have been some minor modifications, notably to the Choir Organ, but nothing to spoil its character.

Names in specifications can be deceptive - the Great reeds are French trompettes and the Solo Stentor is a broad diapason mid-way between the two on the Great. Note the generous provision of couplers (by tilting tablets over the top manual, with drawstops for the other registers). In American organs of this period, the octave couplers are a much more integral part of the tonal conception than in Britain: the voicing took this into account and there are extra notes at the top to complete the compass. I lived with the multi-coupler system on the Willis at St. Magnus Cathedral and much prefer it (but it must be tilting tablets - drawstops for that number of couplers are hopeless!). In fact, at St. John's I would like Solo to Swell 16.8.4 and Solo to Choir 16.4 as well, just for a start! It's amazing how such a provision gives the player freedom to create colour. Just as an example, although a Bach Prelude sounds just right on the Great principal chorus at St. John's, the addition of the Great Octave produces a shower of sparks that sends shivers down the spine, and still perfectly balanced because it was voiced that way! And then there are all the lovely soft stops ("Every organ should have a Vox Humana" - David Briggs, and quite right, too). It could do with a chorus mixture in the Swell, but apart from that I love it and I'm looking forward to playing it every day.

We shall both be sad to leave Northern Ireland after fourteen happy years and we shall always value the friendships we have made. I am grateful for all I have learned from my colleagues on the Church Music scene and for the great crack which I have always had with members of the Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters. We don't know our date of departure yet, so will hope to see many of you before we go.

If anyone still plays LPs, I have several hundred to get rid of, including boxed sets of Mahler symphonies, Wagner and Strauss operas, organ and choral items (including original Boris Ord King's Matins and Evensong). No charge - if you want them, you are welcome to them.

Meanwhile, the Society is looking for a Secretary. Get your name in to the President before it's too late!!

Specification of The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, St. John's, Newfoundland (Word Document)

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