Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

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

Since our last Bulletin, many things have been happening in the Organ world, so there is a lot to impart in this issue.

Upcoming event - September 13th, 2003 at 3.00 pm --
our next event is for all those to whom excellence in organ playing is supremely important. The Society has indeed been most fortunate to persuade one of the finest recitalists in these Islands to play for us. Professor Desmond Hunter will play a selection of Flor Peeters' works on the recently rebuilt organ at Clonard Monastery. Professor Hunter was a pupil of Flor Peeters, the 100th Anniversary of whose death is this year. He has been asked to play a Recital of his music in Antwerp Cathedral, and he has kindly agreed to play for us from his programme. You may also like to note that the organ in the Monastery was recently rebuilt and enlarged by Kenneth Jones of Bray.
Please come and bring at least one friend to this exciting event.

And that's not all -
on the same day, in the morning at 10.30am, in St Mark's PC, Dundela, Holywood Road, East Belfast, there will be a launch of the latest CD by Harry Grindle's PRIORY SINGERS. "Beside the waters of comfort" is a selection of psalms from the Psalter of the Book of Common Prayer. They are sung to chants which are both well-known and newly composed.
Do come and show support, not only by your presence, but also by purchasing the new CD which is attractively priced at 9.99. The launch will be by Archbishop Eames, and there will be plenty of chat and some light refreshments - and they're free!

Future USOC events-
October 5th, 2003 at 3.00pm - Members Recital in Down Cathedral
November 15th, 2003 at 7.30pm - Reflections of an Octogenarian Organist, with William Adair, in Queen's Parade Methodist Church, Bangor.

Great sadness - Death of Leslie F McCarrison
USOC is saddened to record the recent death of its esteemed Honorary Member, Leslie McCarrison. He was known to every Church Musician either personally or as Rathcol of the Belfast Telegraph. During his lifetime he was organist in several Belfast Churches, where he will be fondly remembered, but the Leslie many of us will recall most warmly was the generous encourager that he was to so many young and not so young musicians, both professional and amateur. We pass on our condolences to his family.
It is perhaps presumptious to venture the view that Leslie would have thoroughly approved of the excellence of the music, led by Daniel Rouwkema and his team of players and singers, at his Funeral service in St George's PC, Belfast.

But Good News too -
we wish members Michael McCracken [of Down Cathedral], and Susan Somerville [of Waringstown PC] every thing that is good as they begin married life together. They were spliced earlier this year; may lifelong happiness be theirs.

Another CD -
as we alert you to the compositions and a CD of the work of another distinguished member. Many of you will already be familiar with some of the delicious harmonies and melodies composed by Christopher Boodle. The Lammas Label [LAMM 143D] has just released a CD of Christopher's organ music. The player is Neil Weston and he is playing on the organ of Spencerville Seventh Day Adventist Church, Maryland, USA. In October, Christopher will be travelling to Nth America to play his music in Spencerville, and also in Virginia, Washington and in Akron, Ohio. If you are not familiar with Christopher's organ music, you will find it most approachable and palatable for voluntaries - why not try his Organ Book; it's full of delights.

And a welcome to new members -
it is a privilege and a pleasure to welcome several new members to USOC:
John Cullen is a singer at St Molua's PC
Christopher Day is an organist on the Team at Newry Cathedral, [and also plays the trombone!]
Mike Doherty is Organist of the enormous Sacred Heart Church in Carndonagh, Co Donegal
Daniel Rouwkema is the Director of Music at St George's PC, Belfast

Vacant consoles-
Stormont Presbyterian Church is seeking an Organist and Music Leader. They seek 'a competent person, with imagination, and willingness to experiment, to work with the Ministerial team to enrich the worship and enhance the total life of the church through music.'
There is a sanctuary organ by Alfred Davies & Son of 1955 which was upgraded by Wells Kennedy. They say 'the grid includes a separate set of stops called The Accompaniment'.
So ---- if you want to know what all this is about, then contact Rev Dr Ron Savage, 1 Knockdarragh Park, Belfast BT4 2LE, Tel 028 90 768 155, email rsavage@presbyterianireland.org
Dromore Cathedral, where an Organist and Choirmaster is sought. There is a wonderful old 2mn Conacher of 1872, tracker action and a robed choir with 15 singers; all four parts are represented, Contact the Dean, the Very Rev Stephen Lowry, tel 028 92 692 275 or email dean@dromore.anglican.org

Subscriptions outstanding -
at this time of year, the Hon Treasurer is anxious to clear up outstanding subscriptions. This is not simply to tidy up the books - it is also about keeping us solvent and ensuring cash flow. Please help with all of this if you are still due your 2003 subscription.
Please do remember also to consider making a donation, however modest, towards the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund. The Fund is progressing well but slowly towards our target of 10,000 - we now have just over 7000. The idea is to have a sufficient capital sum to provide a worthwhile income, sufficient to support a young church musician in an educative endeavour outside the Province.

Attracting new members - one or two members have already sent in the names of two or three of their friends/acquaintances or pupils who are not members of USOC. If you send in even one name, that is all you need to do. An office bearer or a Committee member will do the rest. Of course, if you can bend an arm or two, even better. But the point is, if every member were, say, to send in two names of Church Musicians who do not already belong to the Society, we would not be long in doubling our membership. Will you do this for our Society? - Please?

USOC visits Dromore -
our May member meeting was a most interesting visit to Dromore, Co Down. There, we were acquainted with two very interesting organs. The first was the splendidly revised 2mn organ in First Dromore Presbyterian Church, worked on by Wells Kennedy Partnership in 1997. A very interesting feature of this organ was the attention being given to the aesthetics and appearance of the inside of the instrument,. Like the organs in Christ Church, Derry and that in St Michaels RC Church in Enniskillen, this organ is as beautifully presented inside as it is on the outside. Surely this is a most valuable development where the internal layout with plenty of space will pay dividends to those who have to maintain and look after the instruments in the years ahead. The organ has 23 speaking stops capable of making a wide range of effective sounds available to the enterprising player.
The organ was played by Philip Walden, and he chose an interesting approach with repertoire designed to show off the organ and its various capabilities. This was a refreshing idea which focussed on the organ much more than on the player. We were treated to pieces by Bach [Fantasia in C], by Brahms [Es ist eine Rose--], a Whitlock piece using the string stops and a trumpet piece written for a bride for Philip to perform at her wedding. The organ coped splendidly, and the listeners enjoyed the programme.
The second instrument was at the Cathedral. Here, the visitors received another, but quite different treat. Despite a heavy attack of influenza, Philip Elliott played a masterful short recital on the ancient Conacher [ now looked after by Abbey Organ Co]. He began with the JSBach No 4 Trio Sonata. As the President said at the time, Philip made the music sound so easy when we all know that it is not! He then played us the Saint Saens 'The Swan', which was quite exquisite. After this we had a Bach Chorale Prelude, and he ended up with the Elgar Pomp and Circumstance in C. These were offerings designed to show that the old organ [1872] has stuffing in her yet, and there is no question that the player succeeded beyond the expectations of the writer [who was organist at the Cathedral for 18 months].

The Charles Wood Summer School - 17th-24th August 2003 ----
the tenth programme in this Series takes place shortly in Armagh. There is much to excite and entice - including solo singing, choral activities, organ playing and other interesting events. You will wish to know that the Society is a joint sponsor of the whole event.
The staff of the Summer School include David Hill, Nigel McClintock, Paul Farrington, Quentin Hayes, Terry Rafferty, Daniel Hyde, and Jonathon Vaughn. Also involved are the Vicars Choral of Wells Cathedral and a number of local musicians.
Do not miss finding out about the Summer School - there are things for everyone to learn from and enjoy. Details available from Charles Wood Summer School, Council Offices, The Palace Demesne, Armagh BT60 4EL. Tel 028 3752 9632 emaila.mcclintock@armagh.gov.uk

The Institute of British Organ Building ---
has been in touch with USOC to draw attention to their Annual Journal. This is an excellent publication if you happen to be interested in new organs. It does not appear to the writer to be overbearingly technical, and is readily readable! However, it is by its very nature more angled at those who are interested in how the instrument works and how the industry is going about solving players problems. The Journal costs 8.50pa inclusive of postage and packing -- not a bad bargain, as it is a glossy of 100 pages. If interested, details from the Hon Secretary.
The 2002 edition has articles on new organs including the Wells Kennedy instrument in Christ Church, Derry, the restoration of the organ in Ely Cathedral, Tubular Action - Worth Restoring? [of particular interest to the writer, where the Wm Hill organ in St Thomas's was restored recently], Book Reviews, an essay on Noel Mander at 90 years of age and Where the Money should go![the debate on restoration, innovation and new organs!]

This has been a mammoth read, so now for something completely different:

The Organist's Lament
It's tough to be an organist and have to train the choir.
For most it is a thankless task and very few aspire
To sit up in the organ loft, where seat is hard and polished;
With any other union, the post would be abolished.

It's very time-consuming and there's certainly no medal
For all the time spent practising on great and swell and pedal,
For the organ loft is drafty/draughty and there's rarely any heat
So it's just as well the organists use both their hands and feet!

To play the organ properly is fraught with complication
Appreciated rarely by the average congregation,
The organist must choose the stops for appropriate occasions
Like faux bourdons, flutes and trumpets and open diapasons.

Hail, rain or shine, each Sunday,they must play a voluntary
By Buxtehude or Bach , Cesar Franck or Hubert Parry
But, woe betide the organists whose music's too contemporary!
[Much safer with old masters or even extemporary.]

The organists are poorly paid and often short of money,
The voluntary is a word, quite apt, but to them it isn't funny!
The gown, the hood in purple means that everyone should know
Here's LTCL, LGSM - not least ARCO!

It's tough to be an organist, well qualified but skint,
To those who pay the maestros, herewith a gentle hint:
For they who play the organ and have to train the choir
Are labourers in the vineyard and worthy of their hire!

Sam Barron

Congratulations - to Martin White on his award in Coventry Cathedral of an honorary ARSCM. How good to note that his distinction as a major Church Musician in the Province is being recognised, following his retirement as Master of the Choristers and Organist in St Patrick's Cof I Cathedral, Armagh.

In Conclusion-you will find a copy of the full list of USOC members enclosed. Please inform the Hon Secretary or another office bearer of any mishaps, errors or omissions. With apologies if there are any, and thank you for your help.

If any member has any other comment, query or request to make, the Hon Secretary will be keen to hear from you

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