Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

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

USOC AGM - Saturday 11th January 2003

Apologies were received from A Forbes, C Gordon-Wells, R Adams, J Little, WH Grindle, W Livingstone and M McCracken.

The Minutes of the 2002 AGM were passed as a correct record.

The Treasurer gave a report on the Society's finances and answered questions.

The Secretary reported on the Society's activities during the past year (report reproduced below).

The Society elected the following Office Bearers:
President: Rodney Bambrick
Vice Presidents: David McElderry, Michael Tregenna
Honorary Secretary: David Drinkell
Honorary Treasurer: Alasdair MacLaughlin
Honorary Auditor: John A. Wright
Committee Members: William Adair, Rachel Adams, Barbara Callender, Michael Callender, Eileen Kerr, Geoffrey McConnell, Ivan Millen, David Rutherford, Theo Saunders, Timothy Wilson.

The President wished our particular thanks to be recorded to James Little who was retiring from the committee. No one has worked harder for the Society and his contribution is greatly appreciated.

The new committee will meet on Saturday 1st February at 3.00pm at Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Bangor, Co. Down. In the imaginative one-way system, members are advised to go down Main St (right lane) to the harbour, up High St, bear right at the Savoy Flats and park behind the church.

The Society approved the Programme for 2003:

THIS MONTH'S MEETING: Saturday February 8th at 3.00pm (St. Molua's, Stormont, Belfast) WHITHER CHURCH MUSIC? A Symposium of views and visions with Brendan Drummond, the Revd. David Humphries and the Very Revd. John Dunlop. St. Molua's is in the Upper Newtownards Road, nearly opposite the entrance to Parliament Buildings.

March 8th - IMPROVING THE SOUND OF YOUR CHOIR Expert advice from singer and teacher Ghislaine Morgan
April 12th - NEW MUSIC FOR THE AVERAGE ORGANIST (Malone Presbyterian Church, Belfast)
June - ULSTER ORGANS based on Dromore, Co. Down
September 13th - COMPOSERS' CENTENARIES (Armagh CofI Cathedral) With organist Theo Saunders
October 5th - MEMBERS' CONCERT (Down Cathedral)
November 15th - REFLECTIONS OF AN OCTOGENARIAN ORGANIST (Queen's Parade Methodist Church, Bangor) With William Adair

Under Any Other Business, Gareth Johnston posed the question as to whether the Society should consider a change of name, the term Choirmaster being rather outmoded. After some discussion, the President promised to seek the views of the membership (letter attached).

The Society is grateful to Alfred Casement, Organist at Gilnahirk, for arranging for the church to be available, and to the ladies who provided refreshments.

You may be wondering why I'm still here! The reason is that the post I hoped to go to in Newfoundland is, as most of these things are, not entirely full time and for that reason the Canadian immigration people were reluctant to issue a permanent resident's visa. I am due to go out there for a few months shortly, but it may not be possible to make this permanent and I could well be back again! The AGM agreed that the committee would appoint an acting secretary in the event of my absence, seeking the Society's approval if the situation became permanent. The ins and outs are positively Gilbertian, but I'm still cheerful!

The Treasurer reminds members that the new Subscription levels approved by the AGM are as follows:

Full Member £20 / Student Member £12 / Overseas Member £7

These are due now. An additional donation to the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund would , of course, be welcomed! The Treasurer asks every member to consider a Standing Order for paying the Sub. This is a convenient method for members and the Society. It can be cancelled or modified very simply at any time.
Any members considering using a Standing Order should fill in the attached form and send it to their own bank - not to the Society! Members who already pay by SO are asked to fill in a form for the new rate that applies to them and to cancel the existing SO which will have the old rate.

If anyone has any doubts or queries, the Treasurer would welcome a phone call.

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.

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.

The Society extends a warm welcome to new member Gary Moss DPhS, RPT, ACC, ......, Newtownards, .........

Charles Harrison has been appointed Assistant Director of Music at Lincoln Cathedral.
Roy McKay has been awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts (Hons).
Ian Mackrell has been appointed to St. Nicholas, Lisburn Road, Belfast.
Elizabeth Newell has become an Associate of the Guild of Church Musicians.
We welcome Philip Stopford, from Chester, to the Province on his appointment to Belfast Cathedral.
Martin White has been elected a Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians, in recognition of his long service to music in the province and elsewhere.


Castlereagh Presbyterian Church
This church is looking for someone to take up the position held by our late member Stanley Woods. The organ is a 2 manual Evans & Barr containing material by August Gern. The Revd. Ker Graham writes: 'We are looking for someone to lead and develop the praise. We have morning and evening worship and a choir practice on a Thursday evening. The choir is energetic and enthusiastic. We would envisage an organ rebuild in the next few years.
Further details are available from myself:
21 Garland Hill Castlereagh Belfast BT8 6YL 028 90792898.'

Dromore Cathedral, Co. Down
Alasdair MacLaughlin, vacating this position on his move to St. Thomas', Belfast, gives the following details: 'Fine old Conacher organ, 2 manual 1870 - in original condition - everything works! Robed choir, keen, 15 strong, all sections represented. Weekly Choir Practice, two Sunday services 11.30am and 6.00pm. Nice people, active congregation. Details from the Very Revd. Stephen Lowry, 028 9269 2275.

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 two. 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. 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, main-stream services, including Anglican chant and anthems. A modern church of striking design with excellent acoustics 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).

Members are urged to give these their fullest support.



1. Grand Choeur Triomphal  op.47 no.2                            A. Guilmant (1837-1911)

2. Prelude and Fugue in A Minor,   BWV 543                       J.S. Bach (1685-1750)

3. Priére à Notre Dame & Toccata                                 L. Boëllmann (1862-1897)

4. Fugue sur le thème;
   du Carillon des Heures de la cathédrale de Soissons -         M. Duruflé  (1902-1986)

5. Scherzo in G Minor                                            M.E. Bossi  (1861-1925)

6. (a)Chorale Prelude:  'How brightly shines the morning star' - Flor Peeters (1903-1986)
   (b) Toccata, Fugue and Hymn on  'Ave, Maris Stella'
There will be divertimenti by the Children's choir- Cor na n'og of Rostrevor and by the French Benedictine Monks of Kilbroney ("Suggested" door offering of £5)


TUESDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2003 7.30pm

This free concert is being promoted by Belfast City Council to celebrate DONALD DAVISON completing 21 years as City Organist.

Also taking part will be:

Methodist College Girls' Choir, conducted by
Ruth McCartney (first Ulster Hall concert since obtaining the unique accolade of being voted Sainsbury UK Choir of the Year-for the second time in two attempts)

Hugh Carslaw (Trumpet) Michael McGuffin (Piano) Deborah Davison (Mezzo Soprano)

For USOC members, this is an excellent opportunity to support Donald, a former President and long-serving Vice-President.

We can also show our appreciation for the great honour brought to our shores by Ruth McCartney and her outstanding Methody choir by their triumph on nationwide BBC TV.

All this along with a number of other top local musicians-a real musical feast!

For further information, please phone the Ulster Hall on 028 9032 3900


On March 21st 2003, The Favoriti Consort will be making a visit to Belfast Cathedral.
The Favoriti Consort is a London-based professional vocal ensemble,
consisting of some of the finest young singers in the UK.
The group was formed in early 2002 by David Martin (former Chorister at Belfast Cathedral) and Graeme McCullough (former Chorister at St George's, Belfast).
All of the singers have a vast amount of experience in the solo and choral fields, regularly performing and touring with some of the world's leading ensembles such as
The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, The Gabrieli Consort and Chapelle du Roi, as well as choirs such as Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral.
The Consort will perform a sequence of music for the season of Lent, which will include a setting of The Lamentations by Brumel and the glorious motet Ne Irascaris Domine by William Byrd, plus movements from Byrd's Four Part Mass and O Nata Lux by Tallis.
Tickets are available price: £10.00 each.
Further information at www.favoriti-consort.co.uk

Eccentricities of the Honorary Secretary - Casson Positive Organs

The latest journal of the British Institute of Organ Studies contains an article by Dr. Relf Clark on Thomas Casson (1842-1910), whose work has always intrigued me. Born in Liverpool, Casson spent most of his working life as a banker in Denbigh, but was a prolific writer about the organ, formulating definite and often original opinions on both tonal and mechanical matters. His theories influenced the Cumbrian enthusiast George Dixon and, through him, Arthur Harrison. Features of the Harrison organ which can be traced to Casson include the Great "Harmonics" mixture with its seventeenth and flat twenty-first ranks, the borrowing of manual doubles on to the Pedals and the grouping of couplers with the departments they augment. In 1887, Casson set up as an organ-builder, producing a number of organs with unusual dispositions. By means of mechanical and pneumatical ingenuity, he obtained secondary departments by duplication from parent divisions and incorporated melodic and pedal bass devices. Few of his larger instruments exist today, but one of the biggest was for the Church of the Sacred Heart, Omagh, with Choir and Echo obtained largely by octave duplication from Great and Swell respectively:

Lower Manual - Great: Geigen Principal 16, Lieblich Bordun 16, Contra Dulciana 16, Open Diapason 8 Open Diapason 8, Suabe Flute 8, Viola da Gamba 8, Principal 4, Flauto Traverso 4, Twelfth 2 2/3, Fifteenth, Harmonics V, Octaves, Second Manual, Third Manual, Manual Help.
Choir: Geigen Principal 8, Lieblich Gedeckt 8, Dulciana 8, Salicet 4, Octave Viol 4, Piccolo 2, Second Manual, Third Manual, Manual Help
Middle Manual - Swell: Rohr Bordun 16, Contra Viola 16, Open Diapason 8, Hohl Flöte 8, Harmonic Flute 4, Mixture IV, Fagotto 16, Cornopean, Vibrato, Octavesw, Third Manual ,Manual Help.
Echo: Rohr Flöte 8, Viola 8, Voix Celestes 8, Hohl Flöte 4, Harmonic Piccolo 2, Hautboy, Vibrato, Octaves, Third Manual, Manual Help.
Top Manual - Solo: Harmonic Flute 8, Tenoroon Oboe 16, Corno di Bassetto 8, Tuba 8, Octaves, Octaves Alone, Melody.
Pedal: Stopped Violone (Gt) 32, Open Diapason 16, Geigen (Gt)16, Open Diapason (Sw) 16, Echo Bass (Sw) 16, Principal (extn) 8, Flute 8, Trombone (Solo) 16, First Manual, Second Manual, Third Manual, 3 Pedal Helps.

The Manual and Pedal Helps attached their respective departments and detached the others. It all appears very complicated and mechanically certainly was so. The Omagh organ can still be seen but was rebuilt more conventionally by the Irish Organ Company in the sixties.

Casson's fascination with getting the most variety out of available pipework was manifested in the Positive Organ Company, which produced vast numbers of (mostly) very small organs. The basic format was a spotted metal diapason, a metal gedact, a hybrid flute/diapason 4' called "Dulcet" and a "Double Bass 16" which automatically played the lowest note of any chord. A Viol was commonly included, as were melodic devices which played the top note of any chord to give the impression of two manuals. Some positives were caseless but there were at least two standard designs for neat and correct cases. In Northern Ireland, a representative stands in Kilmood Church, Co. Down, containing Open and Stopped Diapasons, Viol. Double Bass, Melodic Viol, Tremulant, Octave Coupler and Transposer. A little further afield, Ferns Cathedral, Co. Wexford has Open Diapason, Gedeckt Treble/Bass, Dulcet Treble/Bass. These instruments distil a good deal of music from a small number of pipes. Mechanically, they are very sturdy, although the pneumatic portions require painstaking adjustment to be reliable, and there are several hundred still giving good service today. The northernmost Casson stands in Twatt Church, Orkney, where it was erected by me in 1986, having been modified for its previous owner by Martin Cross of Grays, who removed an open diapason on a pneumatic chest and replaced a bourdon treble with a fifteenth. It contains Double Bass, Gedact, Salicional, Dulcet, Fifteenth and, standing in an open position in a square Scots kirk, gives a very good account of itself - to the relief of the Minister, who watched in growing disbelief as the various bits came off the van and were strewn around the church but returned five hours later to find the organ complete and ready for use the next Sunday.


New Name for the Millennium?

Dear Member,

During the past few years an increasing number of members have suggested that a change should be made to the name of our Society. The main argument for doing so is that our present title is by definition exclusive and does not reflect the fact that a growing proportion of our membership now consists of women, most of them understandably reluctant to undergo the major surgical operation necessary to qualify as "choirmasters". Another factor is that in many churches the director of music is now expected to be more than just an organist; for some this may be a cause fro regret but it is the necessity with which we must live.

If a change of title is felt to be advisable, the problem of course is to find an appropriate and acceptable alternative. How about ULSTER SOCIETY OF CHURCH MUSICIANS? (Neat, comprehensive and non-sexist), or simply, ULSTER SOCIETY OF ORGANISTS? (Even neater and equally hermaphroditic).

This is a matter in which I would like ALL our membership to be involved and no change will be made unless a substantial majority approves.

Please complete the reply slip below and return it to me by 15th February.

Yours sincerely,

Rodney Bambrick


Member's Name:_____________________________________________

1] I would prefer to leave the Society's name unchanged: YES / NO

2] I would like the Society to be re-named:___________________________

Please return this reply not later than 15th February to:
R.S. Bambrick, 1b Beverley Hills, Bangor, Northern Ireland BT20 4NA

Return to Archive Page Return to Home Page