Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

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

Our next event – on Saturday 5th June 2004 - is a visit to the North Coast to Ballywillan Presbyterian Church, near Portrush, and to Dunboe Church, at Articlave, near Coleraine. It is some time since USOC visited that part of our Province. Here, we will hear a large three manual pipe organ, to be played by Adrian Anderson and an organ by Phoenix, which many of our members will know is really Stephen Hamill, who will demonstrate and play. The timings and itinerary are as follows:

			Recently installed Phoenix Organ
	12.30pm:	Lunch at CROMORE HALT (Portstewart)
			Programme of American Organ Music
			followed by afternoon tea.
At both Churches there will be an opportunity to play these two very different organs.

Directions for Dunboe Presbyterian Church, which is in Articlave, four miles from Coleraine on the Castlerock Road. From a Southerly direction, take the A26 towards (but not into) Coleraine. At the Lodge Road Roundabout take the exit signposted Londonderry/Limavady. Continue on this road, over the bridge to Greenmount Roundabout. From here, take the road signposted Castlerock/Articlave. Directions to the other two venues will be given at Dunboe.
Members who want lunch booked, please complete the attached slip and returned to the Hon Secretary, to arrive not later than Saturday 29th May 2004. Pay for your lunch when you get there.
Do come along and bring a friend with you.

USOC London Visit -- Our London visitors are now home again and reflecting on their wonderful trip. We will have further details in another issue, but suffice to say at present, that the visit was another classic organised by James Little. Here is a brief synopsis:

-26 people took part in all activities with another five joining the party on the Saturday. Five of the 26 were first timers. A member (Nigel McClintock) was the conductor at one of the events, another (Colm Carey) played at another two and yet another (David Martin) sang at Westminster Abbey where he is a choir member.

-14 venues were visited. At two, (the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London) we were given special security access. Ten venues were opened specially for us. There was considerable variety. Five organs built within the previous 15 years or so were featured. Four very different Wren churches were visited. Six four manual organs were heard. Members who wished were able to play the organs in all but three venues. All our hosts were punctual and welcoming.

-On the Sunday, the party travelled on trains, trams, buses and the underground using a one day Travelcard costing only £5.80 each-and no one got lost!

-The overall travel and accommodation arrangements seemed to have been acceptable.

-Despite the tight schedule on occasions (when we had no control of timings, short of dropping some venues from the itinerary), very little rushing was required, except that caused by similar difficulties as encountered in previous years in dragging away particular members in order to stick to agreements with hosts.

-In future, we may be wise to issue guidelines (reminding members not only of the law but also common courtesy to our hosts on such visits) on the use of video and sound recording equipment.

Reports from overseas members are always welcome. Recently, we have had two very interesting communications.
The first is from our former President and former Director of Music at St Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, Tim Allen, who encourages us by noting that he really delights in the news in the Bulletins from the Province. He, having been strongly instrumental in initiating the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund, takes particular pleasure in reading of the continuing strides being made in building up the Fund.
Tim tells us that being an organist in USA is a real treat. Music is taken seriously, as is those who make and lead it. Salaries are realistic at worst and generous at their best. There are proper budgets and his own Rector gives him full say over all the music! His Church, St Michael’s and St George has 2000 members and he has a Choir of 18 adult members. Tim has started a boys choir and a girls choir with a dozen in each. He plays for three services on a Sunday morning and Evensong on the first Sunday of the Month. During the summer, one service is cut – because of the heat in that season.
The organ is a 72 rank Turner/Petty Madden with a Walker Tuba, especially imported – he describes the instrument as ‘quite English’ in character.
Tim mentions the exodus of British organists to North America (two from our own Society, for instance). He mentions John Scott’s migration later this summer to St Thomas’s Fifth Avenue, New York, for example; this has really sparked off the debate, and the idea of Brits Out is now a possible reaction.

His friends over here will be delighted at two pieces of wonderful news from Tim. He says ‘My personal life takes a huge turn in October when I get married to a stunning young soprano called Christine Westhoff. We will be getting married in the huge RC Basilica, with its 145 ft high dome. This promises to be the musical event of the year – Byrd Four Part Mass, Hadley’s My Beloved Spake, and all sorts of other goodies. I’m even going to play a Prelude, so that I can say I played at my own Wedding!’ Hearty Congrats from all at USOC to Tim and his future Bride.

But before all this comes to pass, we will have the pleasure of seeing Tim back here. He is bringing his Choir to Ireland this summer. Please note that he will be appearing in Derry Cathedral on 1st August, and he hopes in Downpatrick later that week – more details later. Tim says that if anyone wants them to perform on Monday 2nd August, he is open to offers!! Please contact the USOC Secretary.

Our other North American Ambassador is of course David Drinkell at St John’s Cathedral, Newfoundland. He has written again briefly to tell us that he and Elspeth are having a great time at the Cathedral. There is excellent musical progress at the Cathedral. He says ‘We now have a respectable choral repertoire to work with and attendance at the weekly organ recitals is very encouraging’.
He reports that Eric Sweeney from Waterford Cathedral was over for a week’s residency at the University and he gave a recital in the Cathedral.
If anyone with a computer wants to see more about David’s work, dial up www.infonet.st.johns.nf.ca/cathedral

And another ‘overseas’ Member – from all the way across Lough Foyle. Even though he is classified as ‘overseas’, in typical Irish fashion, he is as he points out, actually living in Ulster!! Such are the eccentricities of USOC’s member classification. If you have ever been to Carndonagh in the North of the Innishowen Peninsula, you will have seen that this small Donegal Town is dominated by what can only be described as a huge basilica. I had asked Mike Docherty, who is the Organist there, the secret of how he went about filling the Church with sound. He tells me that they have a Johannus Rembrandt 3000 with external speaker system. He says it’s well able to fill the massive Church.
One day as an experiment, he persuaded his friend David McGuckin to lend and set up a 1000watt sub woofer – the mind boggles! The idea behind this was to get the heavy 32’ stops to sound properly and to reach the back of the Church. Not only, he says, did the sound reach the back of the Church, it was able to rattle all the doors and windows in the building. ‘Unfortunately, the Choir were placed in front of the massive box making the sounds, and the low vibrations had to pass through them first! Gordon Slater’s ‘An Easter Allelulia’ stirred the whole place up appropriately, given that I played it last year with this system on Easter Sunday ’. The good citizens of Carndonagh probably have still to recover.

Thank you, all three for writing and keeping us up to date. Anyone else who has interesting tales to tell, please contact the Secretary.

Just a wry comment – How marvellous that these and our other ‘overseas’ members are so committed that they are prepared to continue to support our Society – and incidentally the Arthur Beggs Travel Fund too -- from afar. This is a great delight, that they care to keep in touch with us as they do; we can learn so much from what happens elsewhere.

USOC Subscriptions – the Hon Treasurer reports hat there are still a number of members who have not paid their subscriptions for this year – these were due on 31st January 2004. Please can you check to see if you might be one of these members, and let the Treasurer have the necessary sum as soon as possible. This will help our Society to balance its books. Please will you help??

Now to one of our own Cathdrals. Members may be fully aware that this is a very special year in the history of the Cathedral Church of St Anne, in Belfast. One hundred years ago, the Cathedral was consecrated, and this year there are a range of events spread over the months from February to November. There have already been several musical events, and the next scheduled are of interest to Society members. On 28th May the Augustana Choir from South Dakota, USA are giving a concert. The following evening, David Briggs will be playing the big Harrison, while on the Sunday 30th May, David will be playing during the Eucharist which I am told will be featuring David’s own Eucharistic work. Philip Stopford tells us that he and his Choir have been mastering this work and look forward to performing it with the Composer. Later on there will be other events (including our own Members’ Recital in October 2004). Please note that on September 19th there will be a special Musicians Service when Choirs and Church Musicians – indeed all musicians -- will be welcome to attend, and when the address will be given by Dean Morton, of Derry Cathedral. Then in November 21st there will be the Great Choir Service which is for former choristers, and church and choir members from the Dioceses of Connor and Down. Address will be by Bishop Colton, a former Vicar Choral.

Member Information – USOC Members will know that the Society publishes each year, principally for its own use, a list of the names, qualifications, addresses, contact numbers, email addresses and incumbencies, where relevant. We also note those who are able and prepared to deputise, and when. Enclosed please find a simple form which calls for any changes you may wish to make in your own details. If you are in any doubt, please return the form duly completed no later than 30th June 2004, after which a new list will be published and made available to members.
It always intrigues your Secretary that so many members get quite irritated, understandably, when we get their details wrong; very often when asked ‘Did you let the Society know?’, these are the very people who admit that they haven’t done so. We have searched for a way of doing this without you having to let us know – but, we haven’t yet found it!! So please, if you want your details made correct, please return your form as quickly as possible, and thereafter, do let us know when a change takes place.

Olympian Melodies – is the title of the first solo recital since his appointment by the new Belfast City Organist, Colm Carey, on the Mulholland Grand Organ. Colm will play Percy Whitlocks ‘Sonata in C Minor’ JSB’s Trio Sonata No 5, Mendlessohn’s Sonata Number 3, Karg-Elert’s Walse Mignonne and Louis Vierne’s Symphonie No 2. So, much to chew on, on that occasion. Please support Colm Carey, and the Belfast City Council, tell you friends and come along yourself. To make things even better, at 7.00 pm, Colm Carey will be in conversation with Phillip Hammond about Mendelssohn’s important role in the revival of interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The recital follows at 7.45pm.

What do you, the Members want – it is vital for any Society to maintain the interest of its members. The Committee is examining this very carefully. All of us in USOC believe in the relevance and value of Church Musicians. However in today’s world, the needs of Church Musicians are dictated by what the Churches and their members want. There are major changes in the work we are all asked to undertake, and this means that what we want and expect from our Society is constantly on the move. USOC, to survive must consider what you are members want and need from your membership. If you have any ideas, please let any member of the Committee or its office bearers know, in whatever way is most convenient for you. Meanwhile, the Committee is working on a consultation exercise to ensure that USOC remains relevant, helpful and of value to you its members.

Reminder – the Leslie McCarrison Memorial Appeal – last moth you will recall we wrote about an Appeal to commemorate our late, much loved and respected Honorary Member, Leslie McCarrison – Rathcol of the Belfast Telegraph. Please consider a donation, and send this as soon as possible to the Hon Treasurer, and in any case before 14th June 2004. Very many thanks in anticipation for your support of this great opportunity to remember a very fine person.

And another reminder – Philip Stopford wrote for the Society a great Anthem recently entitled CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN AGAIN. Philip kindly made the copyright open, so that Society members can enjoy and use this excellent piece. If you want a copy let me the Secretary know. You will receive a master which you are free to photocopy and use as you wish.

In closing, the Committee thank you for your continuing support.

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