Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

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

Amsterdam is off ------but London is on---
All those who had booked for the Amsterdam trip for 2004 have been notified that for a variety of reasons, this has had to be cancelled. The reasons have all to do with practical difficulties, which would have put the Society in a position where it was unable to guarantee value for money for the participants. But, you will wish to know that, instead, a visit to the Capital has been arranged for 1st May through to 3rd May 2004.
London has more important organs than we could ever visit, and in some of those magical places where we will have been before, the instruments have been rebuilt or in some cases house new organs. This venture can only be extremely exciting, there will be many visits, and venues will be close to each other. Either way, we strongly encourage you to examine carefully the enclosed leaflet, and if you can arrange to go, take the necessary action. BUT DO BE QUICK, SO THAT WE GET THE LOWEST PRICES.

Upcoming events
Our next USOC events take place in 2004 - difficult to believe that 2003 is all but ended. On Saturday 10th January 2004, our Annual General Meeting will take place at 3.00 pm. For those who have not been before, please try to take the time to come - it lasts approximately one and a half hours, followed by a cup of tea.
The venue is Holywood NS Presbyterian Church by courtesy of the Church Authorities, and our member Mrs Jean McCadden. The Church is in High Street, but for those coming by car it is suggested that you approach the venue from the dual carriageway along the Belfast - Bangor Road. Look out for the town war memorial on your RHS at the first set of traffic lights at Holywood. Turn right here, and after a few yards, bear left. Look out for a restaurant called the Platform, turn left and a few yards on your right is the back gate into the Church car park: if there is room, park there, if not use the town car park through which you have driven to get to the back of the Church, but note that you may well have to pay and display, if you park here.
The Church can also be approached by High Street itself; if so and you are facing Bangor direction, the Church is on your LHS and set back behind railings. It seems unnecessary to have to say it, but, if you are coming from the direction of Bangor, please reverse these directions!
Two other attractions are offered, to entice members to attend. There will be a sale of music which belonged to recently deceased members, along with benefactions from one or two members who are very much alive. There will be gems to be picked up and all funds go to the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund. In case you are of the frame of mind of one Committee member, who recently said to me ' I hope it isn't that tired old bunch of stuff that comes out every year'. Well, it isn't, so do come and browse.
Also, Jean has very kindly agreed that any member is welcome to play the lovely little Binns instrument in the Church. The organ was opened in 1902, and is a two manual with 9 speaking stops. The instrument has been described to me as 'very good'. Will hope to see you there, supporting our President and his Committee, and maybe giving us some constructive criticism!

Also, Dame Gillian comes to Northern Ireland
On 23rd January 2004, Dame Gillian Weir will return to the Province to play in the Ulster Orchestra Series in the Ulster Hall. On that occasion, she will play the two great Poulenc and Saint-Saens Organ/Orchestral works on the Grand Mulholland Organ.
This is an excellent excuse for USOC members to have a party and at the same time support an organ related event! The idea is to meet beforehand at 6.00pm in the Holiday Inn Hotel, which is across Ormeau Avenue from the BBC and close to the Ulster Hall for a meal together. Thereafter, we make our way to the Ulster Hall for the Concert. Please do consider this important organ concert if you are not an UO regular, and take in the meal beforehand. A sheet with relevant instructions on how to book your place is enclosed.

St Martin's in the Bullring
In biblical times, the concept of the TEMPLE was not confined to the weekly diet of Sunday services to which so many of us have become accustomed today. The TEMPLE was a place of busy comings and goings all day, every day. It was a place of commerce, banking, markets, medical and social services as well as of religion. It was also a place to go to see and be seen.
This concept came to mind on a recent visit to the new Bullring Centre in Birmingham. For those who have not been there for some years, the filthy concrete jungle, with its underground tunnels and graffiti, and with its seedy shops, at the foot of New Street, have now all gone. In its place is the enormous - and it's huge -Bullring Centre, containing shops, offices and open public places, some roofed in and some in the open air. The anchor tenants are Debenhams and Selfridges. The latter is housed in an enormous doughnut covered with 15,000 spun aluminium discs each a metre across.
At its very heart and at the confluence of a massive figure 8 is an ancient place of worship, now in the shape of the Church of St Martin's in the Bullring. A large gothic building with wonderful stained glass, the original Church has recently been supplemented sympathetically with extensions for a variety of purposes. Incidentally, there is a large 4m Compton in the Church, which has also been rebuilt in the past year or two.
St Martin's now claims 25,000 visitors each week -- and that is no misprint. The Rector used to organise a shoppers service each week for maybe 4 people; today he packs in 350. St Martin's has its own shop, arts café, training centre, and exhibition space, in addition to being a glorious and reflective place for tranquillity and worship.
And the whole concept is guided by a Committee formed not only of Church people, but of the Bullring Centre management and other non-church people - stakeholders, to use the 21st Century jargon! This is clearly a serious attempt at outreach by the Church, and it seems to be working.
It is, of course, not every church that can have a huge Centre embracing its site. But there are perhaps a few important principles which St Martin's have adopted. All of them are open to all of us who are concerned about trends in our churches, and who want to make a difference.

Edinburgh Organ Academy 2004
This is scheduled for 13th -16th April 2004, which will be the seventh in the series. The Secretary of USOC has some copies of the brochure, if anyone wants one. Mention earlier of the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund reminds us that any young organist wishing to learn more about the organ away from Northern Ireland should feel free to apply to the Committee for assistance. This event looks to be a very suitable one where support might be considered. Any member of the Committee can guide you, or contact the Secretary.

For sale-
There is a Hammond two manual draw bar electronic organ with pedal board for sale in Groomsport. If you are interested, contact Ivan Millen (tel 028 9145 9127) who can arrange for you to view the instrument.

Vacant Console
At Magheralin Parish Church. A fine acoustic and a lovely organ with a very enthusiastic and young Rector and Choir - USOC visited the Church to hear the organ a few years ago. Interested? Tel the Rector, Gareth Harren tel 028 9061 1273.

Assistant Organist required
St George's Parish Church in High Street, Belfast is seeking an Assistant Organist to work with the Director of Music, Daniel Rouwkema. Details may be obtained from Hon Sec at the Church, Mr Jim Adams tel 028 9185 2376.

Reflections of an Octogenarian Organist
Our most recent meeting featured Billy Adair, who professes that he is over 80 - not many of us really believe him based on appearance, but presumably he knows best! Billy provided us with a wonderful glimpse into the past in relation to Church Music and how it has developed. He also entertained us with many insights into our longest serving former President, Captain Charles Brennan, how his own personal musical life developed and finally anecdotes about our Society - in which Billy has held every office, and is still serving on the Committee. He managed to evoke for us a real sense of history clarifying so much of the 'why' we are as we are today in our roles as organists, church musicians and choir leaders, and the trends of church attendances and church music.
How wonderful it was that there was a crowd of members and visitors numbering over fifty to hear this remarkable story. Thank you, Billy.

And finally
The Committee and Office Bearers wish all our members a very Happy Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year. We all hope that you will continue to support the work of the Society in every way that you can. We particularly hope that you will resolve to attend as many of the Events planned for the Programme next year. You will hear more about this at the AGM on Saturday 10th January 2004 at 3.00 pm, so please do come on that important day - it is after all your best opportunity to tell the Committee how we can best serve your interests, and you will almost certainly enjoy the occasion.


Dear Member


You are cordially invited to attend the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of the Society. This is scheduled to take place on Saturday 10th January 2004, at 3.00pm, in Holywood Non Subscribing Presbyterian Church, High Street, Holywood, Co Down.

The following list of Agenda items will be considered.

1. Welcome
2. Apologies
3. Minutes of previous AGM
4. President's Comments
5. Report by Acting Hon Secretary
6. Report of Acting Hon Treasurer
7. Elections for President, Hon Secretary, Hon Treasurer, Hon Auditor and Committee.
8. Programme for 2004
9. Any other business
10. Next meeting

I do hope that you will be able to attend when I will look forward to seeing you .

With Good wishes for Christmas and the New Year

Alasdair MacLaughlin
(Acting Hon Secretary)

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