Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - October 2004

Belfast Community Organ Day - takes place on Saturday 27th November 2004. All members should have received a brochure by post already, together with a letter from the President. You should have this event in your diaries already, so this is simply a reminder. Please do try to attend the ‘happenings’. There is something for everyone interested in the organ. We would like to point out that the Belfast City Council, Pat Falls of the Ulster Hall, and the City Organist have put substantial resource behind this, so good attendances will be very encouraging for the Council to do even more in the future. The participation of as many of our members as can be mustered, will also signal to those who might have an interest in the organ just how much we all care about ‘our instrument’. Will you help us by promoting the occasion wherever and whenever you can – please!
Of course, the BCOD is for the enjoyment of everyone.
The ‘open consoles’ provide you with an opportunity to see and hear interesting instruments and to play them for yourselves, from 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm.
The venues are:

Church of the Resurrection, Cavehill Road
Cavehill Methodist Church, Cavehill Road
Townsend Street Presbyterian Church, off Peter’s Hill
St George’s PC, High Street
May Street Presbyterian Church
Moutpottinger Methodist Church, Albertbridge Road/Templemore Avenue
St Matthews RC Church, Bryson Street, Lower Newtownards Road
St John’s Presbyterian Church, Upper Ormeau Road
St Finnians Parish Church, Cregagh Park
Church of the Good Shepherd RC, Ormeau Road

There will a representative of USOC at each venue. Do come along and bring a friend; also, please encourage anyone who wants to give an organ a try to come. Everyone is very welcome.

The workshop at 10.00 am to 1.00 pm is open to all, and Colm Carey, the City Organist will be conducting it in a very approachable manner – and don’t worry, you won’t be put in the hotspot! The venue is St Martin’s Parish Church, which you will find on the lower Newtownards Road.

The celebrity concert is by Nicholas Kynaston in the evening on the Mulholland Grand Organ in the Ulster Hall at 7.45, preceded by a pre-concert talk by David Byers. The concert includes Henry Smart’s Andante in G, Mendlessohn’s Prelude and Fugue in B minor, Mozart’s Fantasia in F Minor, and Reger’s Sonata No 2.

You will only have to pay for the recital – £7.00 (students £4.00) – every thing else is free. Please clear your diary and support USOC and the Belfast City Council – you will not regret it! By the way, all the venues are in Belfast, just in case we have confused you. All members are encouraged to make a day of it. If you need more brochures or other details, please contact the Secretary – contact details below.

Annual General Meeting – will members please note that our AGM is scheduled to take place on Saturday 8th January 2005 at 3.00 pm? The venue will be Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church, Shore Road, Newtownabbey. There is plenty of parking in the Church grounds, but anyone needing a lift should contact the Secretary. Please try and come – particularly welcome will be those members who, in the ‘Your Views’ questionnaire said that they felt they had no influence on the Society and its programme – this is your opportunity!! Amongst other things, the Society will be electing a new Committee to carry things forward; members will also receive the programme for 2005, which you will be able to influence if you wish. The current Committee would love to see a really big turnout. There will be a cup of tea provided. You will receive further notification in or around (but probably just after!) Christmas.

URGENT! URGENT! URGENT! May Bank Holiday Trip – given time constraints and logistics, it is always necessary for us to get ahead quickly with the Annual ‘Overseas’ Visit! Next year, thanks to the hard work of James Little, one of our Vice Presidents, we have put together yet another superb visit, this time to Winchester, Chichester, Salisbury and Portsmouth and areas (including visits to the Cathedrals, of course). The details are contained in a separate sheet (enclosed), which seeks your booking with deposit. You will note that we require your booking by 16th November 2004 – this is an essential this year – so if you wish to be included, please take the necessary action – attempts to book later than this will be refused. So, do get ahead with booking for this wonderful visit to some wonderful places.

Other Musical Events – this is the time of year when the rehearsals over many weeks are beginning to bear public fruit for so many choirs and other musical groupings. We have been notified of a number of these which will be of interest to members.

Songs of the Spirit – Belfast Philharmonic. The ‘Phil’ will be performing in Clonard Monastry, Belfast on Saturday 6th November 2004 at 8.00 pm. This is a haunting and evocative evening of choral music by candlelight in the Monastry. There will be music by Taverner and Rachmaninov as well as spirituals – the latter, we are told, are truly stunning. Tickets at £15/£12 are available at the festival box office tel: 028 9027 2626.

Magnificat – the marvellous choirs of Methodist College will be performing Pergolesi’s MAGNIFICAT, in St Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street, Belfast on Saturday 6th November 2004 at 7.45 pm. The guests players will be the CBSM Camera Strings directed by USOC member Joe McKee. Soloists are Lynda Barrett soprano,Alan Boyd counter tenor, David Revels tenor, and Geoffrey Moore bass, all directed by Ruth McCartney MBE.

Charity Concert in aid of Men Against Cancer – will be given in St George’s PC, High Street, Belfast on Saturday 13th November 2004 at 8.00 pm. This concert features light classics, close harmony and jazz, with MELISMA, CBSM Camera, and CBMS Stage Band. Admission £10.00. Tickets available at the door or from the Eric Cairns Partnership.

Belfast Cathedral – Centenary Concert Series. The Priory Singers are on parade in the Cathedral on Thursday 25th November 2004 at 8.00 pm. Under the direction of Harry Grindle, they focus as the centre piece of the Concert on two substantial works. The first is Stanford’s superb setting for double choir of the Latin text of the Magnificat. The second is ‘The Boyhood of Christ’ by Philip Hammond, who incidentally was awarded the rare distinction of a MusD by QUB last year. This imaginative setting of Thomas Kinsella’s translation of a 7th c Irish Poem was composed in response to a commission by USOC. It was premiered by the Priory Singers on 17th June 1995 in Down Cathedral. There will also be music by Peter Philips, Byrd, Morley, Gibbons, Bateson, Charles Wood, Ireland and Walton, and the concert will conclude with Vaughan Williams’ splendid Anthem ‘O God, our help in ages past’, sung to the tune of St Anne. Trumpet obligato is played by Hugh Carslaw, and Philip Stopford will play the organ (including two organ solos). Admission £8.00 (concessions £5.00).

Carols by Candlelight – St John’s PC, Orangefield, Belfast. Once again the Priory Singers are mounting their annual Carols by Candlelight, at 8.00 pm on Saturday 18th December 2004, in this interesting venue. The singers are directed by USOC member Harry Grindle. This is an immensely popular occasion, and admission is by ticket only (£10.00 with concession £8.00). Contact tel: 028 9048 4913 for your tickets.

Some more corrections for your member list! – once again, the Secretary apologises that some more corrections to your membership list are needed. Please note that Christopher Boodle’s email is __________. And please note that Daphne Morrow’s tel no should be 028 _____________, and that her postcode should be BT________. Also, Daphne is available to deputise week days only (WDO).

Harmonium Available! USOC member Steve Smith from Monaghan is now the proud owner of two harmoniums, but really only needs one! He wishes to offer his spare to a GOOD HOME. If he can find such a thing, he will not be hard to pay, as he says it will be free! The instrument is described as a ‘basic’ model in a rather nice oak case. It has been recently totally restored and in the process, no name or makers mark could be found, inside or out. It would suit a first timer ‘harmoniumist’. Those who are interested can contact Steve at tel: 00353 878 179 181 or by email at steve@cspringle.com

Help a Former President!! Former President, former Secretary and current Vice President Rodney Bambrick is appealing for help – please, can anyone come to his aid? As many USOC members may know, Rodney is a very talented composer of approachable choral music, which he is always delighted to share with others. Rodney is planning to produce a collection of his unpublished choral music (Kevin Mayhew is one publishing house that has featured his other work), and he needs help in converting his hand-written copies into print. If any USOC member can offer help, Rodney would love to hear from you by telephone: 028 9146 5222. He hopes to produce copies of the compilation to make available to members of the Society and to other interested church musicians. Rodney is always most modest in his claims for his own music, but those who use his compositions are universally full of praise for its approachability, its charm, its craftsmanship and its exquisite results for ordinary church choirs. He has written music for special occasions, as well as short anthems, and introits. The final publication will earn its keep for all working organists and choirs. Please help if you can.

What a Performance! Reginald Frary. It’s not often that the USOC Bulletin is invited to review a new book! Well, we have, so we will! This amusing set of choir tales rings all sorts of bells for this reviewer at least. It is a £7.99 offering from the Canterbury press. It contains 18 very readable, very witty, and often very funny tales. The frontispiece says ‘More than seventy years after an imposing church warden declared, ‘The laddie must join the choir’, Reg Frary still sings in his parish church choir in Richmond, Surrey. Here he has found ample inspiration for his affectionate and amusing stories of passion and intrigue beneath the cassocks, which a loyal following of readers has enjoyed for more than forty years. This is Reg Frary’s third collection of choir tales to be published by Canterbury Press’. So, over to you if you are attracted by this information.

Another vacant console. We have been notified of a vacancy at the wonderfully named Tartaraghan Parish Church (CoI). This is located 5 miles north west of Portadown, one mile from junction 12 on the M1 motorway. Applications are invited for the position of ORGANIST/PIANIST to lead a supportive choir and congregation, two services each Sunday. Holiday cover can be provided. The ‘new’ CoI Hymnal and the BCP 2004 are in use. Further details from Rev David Hilliard, 5 Tarthlogue Road, Portadown, BT62 1RB. Tel no: 028 3885 1289.
(note: this vacancy arise as USOC member Robert Woods is off the Keele University)

‘Your Views’. Members should have received a stamped addressed envelope, and a questionnaire about a month ago when the September Bulletin was sent out (although the Secretary apologises to, and thanks, at least one unknown member who did not receive the SAE, but who did return the form duly completed – we hope there weren’t any others!). The form was accompanied by a letter from our President asking you to help us. So far, just over half of those sent out have been returned. Thank you to all those members who have done so – you have given us most valuable information about what you want from the Society. And a particular thank you to those who supplemented the form with separately composed material – a number have done so - and what you have written provides vital material for considering the development of our Society. In the weeks ahead, we will be finding ways of sharing the information with you, and all our members will thus be contributing very centrally to the way in which our Society can better meet the needs of our members.

As to what is emerging from the initiative, there is much yet to analyse. However, one of the most interesting notions which we must all debate is the degree to which our Society needs to be a representative body, as compared with being an educational and/or a social organisation. Most of those who commented along these lines felt that USOC in recent years had not sought to represent its members to clergy, church authorities and other relevant organisations. The question is, are we indeed equipped to do this important work, and are there others who could do it better? Several members were keen to recognise the crisis, and to take action, that relates to the shortage of organists prepared to serve the various Christian Denominations, and the changing demands that are placed on all organists and music directors.

On a lighter vein, it was fascinating to note that we have several members who feel that the ‘exclusive’ focus on Belfast, Bangor and North Down (as they see it) is unacceptable. This is not withstanding that USOC went to Armagh in September, and to North Antrim and Co Londonderry in June, for the events in those months! Well, Well, Well!!

As for those who still retain the stamped addressed envelopes we sent you a month ago, the Committee now appeals to you to at least send the form back to us, even if you only fill in the bare essentials; we would of course, prefer if you would take a moment and at least tell us one or two ways in which we could improve our service to our members. Thank you very much indeed, in anticipation. And please note, your views are important at any time, so don’t feel you have missed the boat if you have left until now to respond! If all our members will participate, we can really transform our Society for the benefit of all.

And finally – this is likely to be the final USOC Bulletin this side of Christmas. Accordingly, the President, the Office Bearers, and the Committee wish all our members a very Happy Christmas. We know that if you are a working organist, it won’t be peaceful, but we hope all the special occasions go as well as they should given the hours of rehearsal time that you will have put in. We thank you for your support of the Society and its programme of events which have been put on for our edification and our enjoyment. We particularly thank those members who have organised events for us, whether operating in the background, or very publicly as performers. May the New Year bring even greater heights.

Looking forward to seeing you at the AGM on 8th January 2005!

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