Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - January 2003

USOC AGM - Saturday 11th January 2003 at 3.00pm, Gilnahirk Presbyterian Church, Belfast
The church is in Gilnahirk Road, which is off Kings Road, off Knock Road in East Belfast. Knock Road is part of the Outer Ring, which is easily accessible from Newtownards Road or Sydenham Bypass at one end and Malone Road at the other.

Sale of Music
There will be a second-hand music stall at the AGM, proceeds to Society funds. Any members having choral or organ music surplus to their requirements are invited to bring it along.

The subscription levels have remained unchanged for at least five years. In that time, rises in printing, postage and many other things have taken place so that the subscription no longer covers the cost of running the Society. In view of this, a proposal will be put from the committee to the AGM that the Full Subscription be raised to 20, the Student Subscription to 12 and the Overseas Subscription to 7. As before, extra donations to the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund will be gratefully received. The fund now stands at about 7500. We want to raise 10000 as a suitable sum to allow the interest to be used for making grants to students wishing to take part in the Society's tours or other organ and choral related events. At present, small grants are made from the Society's general account.

We have enough bookings from members to proceed with our May Tour based in St. Albans. Further participants can be accommodated, but the later you leave it, the more you may have to pay! This is because we are flying with Easyjet and the earlier we book, the cheaper the fare. Student members who wish to take part in this tour may be eligible for financial assistance from Society funds.

The Organ Day was a tremendous success. In the morning, at Knock Methodist Church, David Briggs conducted a most fascinating work-shop. All who attended, whether as players or observers, were both educated and entertained. Simon Williams from the Royal College of Organists spoke about the College's new initiatives, and in particular the Performer's Certificate, which is designed to bridge the gap between the upper Grade examinations and the acquiring of diplomas. In the afternoon, the Open Consoles around the city attracted many visitors. As a finale, David Briggs' recital at the Ulster Hall drew a large audience who were entranced by his musicianship. A new feature was the competition among local schools to compose themes for the large-scale extemporisation which formed the second half of the recital. The Society is very grateful to the City Council for its generous underwriting of the whole event, and especially to Pat Falls and his staff at the Ulster Hall; to David Briggs, around whom the whole day revolved; to Dr. Joe McKee for arranging the composition competition; and to members of the Committee, in particular James Little, who bore the greatest part of the organisation and put in many hours on our behalf so that every detail of the Day should be a success.


At the beginning of each year, the Secretary attempts to overhaul the membership list. It would be appreciated if any changes of address, qualifications, positions, &c, could be communicated as soon as possible. E-mail addresses are particularly useful.

We welcome the following New Members to the Society:

Mrs Christina U. Bradley
... Whitehead ... Mrs Bradley is Ordained Assistant at Rosemary Presbyterian Church, Belfast, and gained professional qualifications in church music at the Kirchenmusikschule, Esslingen, Germany.

Mr Edward McMullan (student member)
... Hillsborough ...Edward is a member of the Choir at St. George's, Belfast, and has in fact been a member of the Society for several months. He played with great confidence and ability at the Organ Day Workshop conducted by David Briggs. My apologies for the late insertion of these details.

Mr Christophe E. McGlade (student member)
... Belfast ...

Changes of Address

John Crothers
... Paris, France ...

Charles Harrison
... Belfast ...

We congratulate our Honorary Treasurer, Alasdair MacLaughlin, on his appointment to St. Thomas' Church, Belfast.

It is sad to record that our member Stanley Woods passed away on the first of December. Stanley was Organist of Castlereagh Presbyterian Church and was often to be seen with his wife at our meetings. Our sympathy goes out to his family.


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 2-manual Smethurst. St. Stephen's has an Allen. Salary 4500pa. At present there are no choir practices except for Harvest and Christmas (the Hon. Sec. has been helping out in the evenings and can testify that the singing is very good and the atmosphere very friendly). Meanwhile, these parishes would welcome assistance from organists who can manage occasional services. Contact the Revd. David Lockhart, 028 9077 4119.

St. Nicholas, Lisburn Road, Belfast
Our member, Leslie McCarrison, retires as Organist of St. Nicholas at the end of the year, after what must be an unrivalled record of service to various churches in Belfast. A successor is sought to play the 2-manual Hill Organ and train the robed choir. There are two Sunday services and a weekly choir practice. Salary is negotiable according to qualifications and experience. For further details, contact James Keatley, 26 Sharman Park, Belfast BT9 5HJ, 028 9028 0775. E-mail j.keatley@which.net

St. Mark's Church, Ballysillan, Belfast
A charming Victorian church with a 2m organ by the Irish Organ Company. Small choir, two services on a Sunday. For further details, contact the Revd. Paul Redfern, St. Mark's Rectory, 119 Ligoniel Road, Belfast BT14 8DN (028 9071 3151).

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).

Dr. George Guest (1924-2002)
Musicians throughout the world were saddened to learn of the death of Dr. George Guest on Wednesday 20th November. During his 40 years as Director of Music at St. John's College, Cambridge, George created and maintained a choir which was second to none, and whose distinctive sound was instantly recognisable. His Organ Students went on to occupy the most prestigious positions in church music. In retirement, George continued to share his expertise and was still at work with choirs until his death. His strong personality, erudition and dry sense of humour endeared him to many, including some in this Society who are grateful for his words of encouragement.

Members who subscribe to Organists' Review are reminded that subscriptions are now due. USOC members are entitled to a discount as members of an IAO-affiliated society. If you don't subscribe to OR, please consider doing so. It is by far the best journal devoted to church and organ music, caters for all abilities and includes excellent review sections on new organ and choral music and recordings. The Secretary can supply sample copies if requested.

Contra Oboe - a Parable of St. Luke

And it came to pass that there was a wedding in a house of the Lord nigh unto the Shankhill, and behold, there came unto that place a man to play upon the organs, that the festivity might be the more merry. And he, knowing not what manner of organ there should be, came with haste and gazed upon it with eager eyes. And, lo, there was a stop called Contra Oboe, whereat he rejoiced and said in his heart, This will add a touch of class to my offering. For is it not written, that a reed of sixteen foot length addeth an extra dimension unto any instrument wherein it is to be found? But when he played upon the Contra Oboe, behold, it was silent like the silver swan that living hath no note. And he departed afterwards sorrowing, for he said, Old Charlie hath been constrained to leave this stop prepared for, for such are only to be had at great price and are not like unto the sparrows, which may be bought ten for a penny. And there were in the same country those wise in the mysteries of the building of organs, and their names were called David, the son of El Derry and also Rachel, the daughter of Adam. And he spake unto them, saying, Is it not a sad thing before the Lord that this Contra Oboe should be but a slip of ivory above the keys? And they were confounded and, answering, said unto him, Thou art mistaken, for there be in that organ many weighty pipes of this wise, the which we have repaired and made good, for that their bindings had perished like a moth fretting a garment and their pipes had inclined themselves even as the lilies of the field, which work not, neither do they spin. Nevertheless, there was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted, and so peradventure thou hast been curst with a sticky slide. And it befell in latter years that this same player upon the organs came often unto that place, and he thought within himself, Now shall I learn of this Contra Oboe, whether it be like unto the glorious works of him that was called Father Willis or him that was known as Mr. Arthur, or whether it be like unto a bee which rageth in a bottle of glass. But, lo, the Contra Oboe had neither speech nor language, albeit that the nethermost note of the Pedal Open did cause the woodwork in sundry places to make a mighty noise. And he was troubled in his mind and said, How shall this be, that this stop respondeth not to my hand? Can it be that the spirit of Charlie Smethurst is wroth against me, for that I did in past times speak ill of some of his works (and in particular the unsteadiness of his wind in diverse places and also of sundry prodigious Large Opens that sound like unto the ships of the sea when the Lord sendeth his fogs to dwell upon the face of the waters)? And he again went his way sore troubled, for that he was fain to use the Sub coupler to make the congregation fear the Lord, as it was meet for them to do.

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