Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

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

OUR NEXT MEETING – Pipes and Chips!
Saturday 24th April 2004 at 2.30 pm – and please note the time – beginning at Donaghadee Parish Church, Co Down. Here, we will be able to hear the lovely new organ by Wells Kennedy Partnership, played by Daniel Rouwkema. You should note that John Norman made this organ one of note in a recent article in the Organists’ Review. After this , we make our way to Greyabbey Presbyterian Church to hear William McDonald play the Copeman Hart organ in that Church. Here, we will receive afternoon tea, courtesy of the Church. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear two top class organs of quite different lineages, played by two top class organists, and in the process, compare the Pipes and the Chips! So do come along for what promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Parking at Donaghadee PC is to be found at the Church Hall. Travelling from Bangor /N’ards direction, circumnavigate the Town’s one way system, and turn left for Millisle. Turn right into Killaughey Road (look for the Masonic Hall on the corner), take first right again along North Field and right again at the end. The Church/hall and carpark will now be visible. Good Luck!

Then, later from 1st to 3rd May 2004, the lucky travellers are off to the USOC ‘Overseas’ visit, this year, to London. James Little has masterminded a most wonderful series of visits to great venues in the Capital. They include the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London, All Souls, Langham Place, All Saints, Margaret Street, Westminster Cathedral, The Temple Church and Croydon Parish Church. Those already in the know will recognise these venues as either very famous anyway, or else places of great interest where new and rebuilt organs have been installed recently. During their visit they will be meeting and hearing play such great players as Jonathan Rennert, Susan Heath-Downey, Harry Bramma, Nigel McClintock, Andrew Sampson, James O’Donnell, Peter Wright and Colm Carey. And this doesn’t cover all of their itinerary!!

Also, in May there is an interesting Choral Concert at 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church, Antrim Road, Belfast on 8th May 2004. This is being organised by our member Rachel Adams. She tells us that this wonderful Choir is singing a programme of mainly unaccompanied works on that evening. The Choir is called Lelikoor (a chamber choir from Amsterdam) and it is conducted by JanJoost van Elburg. The Choral concert features works by Cardoso, Lassus, Martin, Messiaen, Pärt and Swayne and is in aid of the Ulster Cancer Foundation. The work by Frank Martin, Mass for Double Choir, is thought in this performance to be receiving its first airing in Ireland. Rachel tells us that James O’Donnell recorded the work in Westminster Cathedral. This is a fascinating concert in support of a good cause – do see if you can make it to St Peter’s Parish Church on the Antrim Road, Belfast. Tickets are £10/£7, available from Matchetts Music, or at the door.

Subscriptions always seem to cause a degree of difficulty! I am reminded by the Treasurer Philip Walden that there are, despite several reminders, quite a number of members who have not yet paid their subscriptions for the current year. These are due on 31st January in the year to which they apply. Please may we implore you to review whether or not you have yet paid your subscription for this year, and if you have not done so, let the Treasurer have the amount owing. For information, the rates are: for an Ordinary Member the sub is £20 pa; for a Student Member the sub is £12; and, for an Overseas Member the sub is £7. These rates have remained unchanged for some years.
Some members find this matter embarrassing, but it really shouldn’t be, as it is a very practical and important feature of any society. Many thanks for your response!

A Memorial to Leslie McCarrison – so many people were touched in their lives by Leslie McCarrison, who died last year. An Honorary Member of our Society, Leslie was well known for his persona as RATHCOL for many years. This was his public face in the Province. But as a member of this Society, he will be remembered for his fund of stories, his quiet encouragement to many young church musicians, his advisory work to churches, clergy and other church musicians, and his humorous approachability. Leslie in his later life didn’t drive, yet even when apparently frail, he used to turn up at musical venues right across the Province having found a means of public transport to get him there, when hardier souls would never even have ventured forth.

A number of USOC members feel, and the Committee endorses this idea, that it would be a most suitable Memorial on behalf of the Society to gather together a fund which can be handed over as a lump sum to the Ulster Orchestra. Leslie did so much for the UO over the years, and many of us have derived a great deal of pleasure from the Orchestra. Please consider giving a sum to this Memorial initiative – and what a wonderful and creative way to remember him. Please send your donations, if possible before 15th June 2004 to the Honorary Treasurer, Philip Walden, and in any case as soon as you can. Thank you very much.

Our last USOC event was a thoroughly interesting occasion at which Philip Stopford, the Director of Music at Belfast St Anne’s Cathedral, conducted a Choral Workshop. His choir comprised the Choirs of Ballygilbert Presbyterian Church (conductor Neale Agnew) and of the host Church St Columba’s PC, Knock (conductor Gerald Hill). One feature that came through very strongly was the value of a fine accompanist – and we had that in great measure with the highly experienced Ian Barber, Assistant at the Cathedral. What a treat it all was – and of course, much was learned by the ‘ordinary organist’ of limited resource such as your correspondent. We are fortunate to have members of the calibre of Philip Stopford from whom we can learn so much.

One of the delights of the occasion was the Anthem written by Philip for the Society, CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN AGAIN. This is a very approachable piece which given thorough practice could be tackled by many four part church choirs. Philip has kindly agreed to allow the copyright to be open for USOC members. Let the Secretary know if you would like a copy. Please note that multiple copies will be a job for you – USOC can undertake only to provide one ‘master’ from which you can make your own copies. Thank you Philip for an entrancing afternoon and for your Anthem for the Society.

A Chorister’s Confession! (sent by a Member, author unknown!)

Almighty and most merciful Conductor,
We have erred and strayed from Thy beat like lost sheep
We have followed too much the intonations and tempi of our own hearts
We have offended against Thy dynamic markings.
We have left unsung those notes that we ought to have sung
And we have sung those notes we ought not to have sung
And there is no support from us

But Thou, O Conductor, have mercy on us, miserable singers;
Comfort the chorally challenged;
Restore thou them that need sectionals;
Spare Thou them that have not pencils.
Pardon our mistakes, and have faith that hereafter we will follow Thy directions
And sing together in perfect harmony.

Vacant Consoles – it would appear to be a sad fact that at a time when we appear in the UK and Ireland to have more young and not so young organists playing to a higher standard than for many years, fewer and fewer seem to be willing to take on the commitment of being a church musician. There is room surely for some radical thinking. Is the idea of job sharing too absurd to be considered? Can other devices be considered? Many current day organists will run a mile when they hear the words contemporary music. Is this term really indicative only of rock bands and ‘swingle singing’ or does it refer to more recently composed music which is still reflective and spiritual in content? Have we become carried away by the idea that worship should not be fun, that we mustn’t bring smiles to faces? And what of including other instruments in our worship – that is after all what used to happen in ancient times – are these things really so frightening to church musicians? These are all issues we must face somehow, and the debate must surface in our Society in a meaningful way in the future.

Be all this as it may, there would appear to be a rash of vacancies at the present time; if this is so, then it is vital that all our churches find a way of considering future needs and how these needs might be fulfilled. Action will have to be taken to review what congregations want and how this is to be developed and fostered. This will require leadership, ideas and imagination; and where is the source of these to be? The Bulletin have been notified of several vacancies at present, which require to be filled:

McQuiston Memorial Presbyterian Church – there is a four part choir, and they are seeking a Director of Music. You may obtain details from Mr J Shivers, who is the Secretary, tel no 028 9079 1246.

Bangor Parish Church – has also been seeking an Organist & Choirmaster, who can also play the piano (sic). Although the closing date was prior to this advertisement, you might still wish to follow up in case they have been unable to make an appointment. They have a four part robed choir and a very fine 3m Hunter. Contact Mr Victor Bull at tel no 028 9145 9458.

St Nicholas’ Parish Church, Lisburn Road, Belfast – is seeking an organ scholar. (Now here is an imaginative idea). The Church says it is seeking to appoint an Organ Scholar, who will assist at services, with the rehearsing of the Choir, with the planning of the music etc. A generous music allowance will be provided, plus fees, by negotiation. Application forms obtainable from the Hon Secretary, Mr T Brown, tel no 028 9066 3675.

(It is not so long ago that this Church was looking for childrens’ choir robes, so some interesting things may be happening at St Nick’s! This looks like a wonderful opportunity for a young and ambitious organist).

There are others which we have advertised recently which remain vacant, and still more which have not thought to ask us to advertise their vacancies. In this connection, one might dare to comment on the sometimes cynical world in which we live in this Province. It gave your correspondent great amazement, and later, when he had thought about it, a good old laugh, recently, when, having without charge and in a spirit of helpfulness, placed for a Church, an advertisement in the USOC Bulletin for an Organist and Choirmaster – the Church Choir took grave exception to being described as ‘useful’! Bad enough that they hadn’t the face to complain directly to the Society; they took it out on the unfortunate Secretary of the Church, and blamed him. What a funny old world!! Perhaps we should start to charge heavily, and perhaps then the Service USOC provides might be taken more seriously by such ‘clients’!

New Members
It is always a joy to welcome new members to the Society! If you know of anyone who wishes to further the cause of church music, please persuade them to join, or if you would prefer tell a member of the Committee who will make the approach on behalf of the Society.

But, it is even more of a delight to welcome new and younger members to the Society. Recently we have been joined by Robert S Woods, and by Jonathan Arnold.

Robert has come to a few of our events recently in the company of Hilda Trueman. He obviously found the USOC experience positive, and so has taken up student membership. He plays the organ in Tartaraghan Parish Church in Armagh, and he can be contacted at _________________, Armagh BT_______. Robert would deputise during the week. A little bird tells us that he is something of a composer!

Jonathan Arnold hails from Holywood. He has the ATCL in performance, and is working for his BMus at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown. Jonathan plays at St George’s Parish Church in the town. You can contact Jonathan at _____________, Holywood, __________, tel no 028 ________

This may be a good time to note that the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund is available for any younger member to apply for. While we are still attempting to reach our target of a capital sum of £10,000 (we actually have over £8000 thanks to generous members and of course the late Arthur Beggs who left an initial sum in his Will to establish the Fund), this does not mean that a younger member cannot apply for assistance. If you need help with a travel initiative which has some church music learning element in its objectives, you should consider an application to the Society. If you are in any doubt, but feel that you would like to be considered, have a chat with an office bearer or Committee member. If you are in no doubt, well then get on with applying – you might just get a favourable response!

Other Information
Evelyn Todd who has not been too well recently, is now very much better, and has told us that she is now available again to deputise. Evelyn is contactable as follows: Mrs Evelyn Todd BA MA ALCM, _________, Lisburn, BT______, tel no: 028 ________.

It would be much appreciated if you will be kind enough at any time to let the Secretary know of any changes in your details. A new list of members will be published in the summer, and you will be sent a new details form with the June Bulletin. However, do let me know details of changes in: Your name, your address, your qualifications, your tel no, your email address, your availability to deputise, your church, and your position in relation to church music. Many thanks in anticipation.

Postscript – Dr John Wells is the Aukland City Organist and the Aukland University Organist. He is a former King’s College, Cambridge Organ Scholar and was also trained at Indiana University where he attained a doctorate ‘with high distinction’. He has been in New Zealand for many years and has written to the Society to say he will be travelling in UK, Europe and North America during 2005. Any impressarios in USOC who wish to contact him can do so at email : j.s.wells@xtra.co.nz

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