Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - March 2005

USOC March Event – On March 19th, we head for St John’s Parish Church at Orangefield in East Belfast, where we will learn about ‘How to get the best out of an Ordinary Church Choir’. Our members have been telling us that they wish to have more events focussed on the needs of the ordinary church musician whose job is to keep the music going in the Church to which they are committed week by week. They say that very few organists and church musicians, however aspirational it may be to do so, are in the business of trying to replicate ‘Cathedral’ standards. We have asked USOC member Edward Craig to give us a session on this subject, working with a choir newly assembled and with which he has never worked before. So please, if you want to learn some important but straightforward lessons in this subject, come along at 3.00pm. You will find the Church on the right hand side heading countryward at the top of Belfast’s Castlereagh Road; if you reach a Lidl store on your right, you have gone too far! Everyone is most welcome.

USOC April Event – On 9th April, USOC descends on the Ballymena area. This will be an all day event, although there is no reason why any member cannot join the party at any stage during the day. The theme of the day is ORGAN MUSIC for MANUALS ONLY, although there will be other music too; we feature particularly young organists. Members are invited to assemble at Ahoghill Parish Church, where we will be treated to music by Tallis and Stanley, and we will hear the organ with the ‘cello. Lunch will be in the carvery at the Tullyglass Hotel – instructions on how to get there will be given at the Ahoghill event. Lunch is on offer at £11 per head, and you are asked to notify the Treasurer that you wish to be present by returning to him the enclosed form together with your cheque for £11 made out to the Society. After lunch, we head for the Parish Church in Ballymena. Here we will hear music for organ and trumpet/horn and a Handel Organ Concerto with orchestra of string players from the Belfast School of Music. This is a major enterprise involving many young people. we encourage all members to mark the date, return your form for lunch, invite your friend to join you and in so doing, make this a great day for you and also for the many young players we look forward to hearing during the course of the day. Do come along, it will be well worth it.

And another great event in prospect from St Philip & St James PC, Holywood under the direction of USOC member Edwin Gray. Come along on 21st March,2005 at 8.00, to listen to Bach and Pergolesi at Passiontide. Details are on the attached flyer (sent to local members only).

New Members – Welcome! Once again, we are delighted to welcome new members to our Society.
Miss Jenny Heaney, ____________ BALLYCLARE, Co Antrim
Philip Kennedy, ____________, BANGOR, Co Down
Jenny is organist of St John’s, Ballyclare and so is unavailable to deputise for other players. Philip is available on Sunday evenings only, to deputise, by arrangement. We hope that both new members will have a long and fruitful association with the Society. Once again, you are both most welcome.

Calling all Members!! – As ever, we love to see new members join us, and our delight is particularly with the addition of young musicians. Please can you help us grow our membership? We have just under 200 members at present, which must represent a very small proportion of the Church Musicians in the Province. Please see if you can identify potential new members for us? All you need do is to let the Secretary know the names of, and contact points for, those you believe might become interested in joining us. He will make the necessary arrangements to approach the people you list – you don’t even need to be identified. On the other hand, if you don’t mind making the approach yourself, even better; let the Secretary know, and he will let you have a simple pack which is designed to interest the potential new member. Many thanks.

Incorporated Association of Organists (IAO) . USOC is an affiliated society of the IAO. We pay an annual capitation fee to the IAO, which is actually wonderful value, as they provide us, amongst other things with insurance cover for our events. Were this not so, we would have to provide this for ourselves, and the cost of this alone would be several times the fee we pay annually to IAO. But this is not all. IAO is responsible for the publication of the Organists Review, a quarterly magazine which readers say is the best of its type, as well as being a tremendous bargain. The Organists Review is available to members at the annual price of £17 for the four issues. This will provide you with a 100 hundred page, full colour A4 magazine, in February, May, August, and November. In the most recent issue, there were major articles on Eric Thiman, the Organs of the City Temple in London, The Willis in Reading Town Hall, The Bevington Organs of Grenada West Indies, The Gern Organ in Shelford, Nottingham, the new organ for the RCO Building in Birmingham and an interview with Stephen Layton. There are also CD Reviews, Music Reviews, and a super education Section with articles on Empowering Your Choir, Technical Tips and the Neo Classical Organ and its music. Yes, this is the content in just one issue!!
It is strongly recommended that you consider purchasing this magazine – you will not regret it, and you will learn so much of the wider world of the Church Musician. If you are interested, let the Secretary know and he will send the necessary form.
We would also mention the IAO Congress; this is a wonderful event, and this year Nottingham has been selected (last year it was held in the Southampton and Portsmouth area). The dates are 22nd to 26th July 2005. Artists who will be playing and/or sharing their wisdom include: Jane Parker-Smith, Paul Hale, Jonathan and Tom Scott(Piano and Organ), Gordon Stewart, Colin Walsh, Simon Lindley(IAO President), and the St Peter’s Singers. Venues include Nottingham RC Cathedral, Newark, Southwell Minster, Lincoln Minster, Derby Cathedral and the Albert Hall in Nottingham. Further details are available from the Secretary.
If any younger member/student from the Society wishes to attend, you may apply for a grant from the Arthur Beggs Memorial Fund, USOC and also the Philip Brereton Fund. I am assured that were both applications to be successful, you might find you only had to pay for getting there and a possible nominal additional contribution. Think about it, and then contact the Secretary.

Composer Members – USOC, in addition to the ‘ordinary’ church musicians in its ranks, has some very fine players and composers. One such is our old friend, now at home in Gloucester, Christopher Boodle, a former Assistant in Belfast Cathedral. Christopher is a particularly fine player, and he is also a popular and approachable composer. Indeed, no ‘ordinary’ organist should be without his Little Organ Book –well worth the modest purchase price. Christopher has now written a Symphony for Strings, and a Concertina for Organ and Small Orchestra. If you would happen to be in the Gloucester area, the Symphony will be performed on 8th April by the Guildhall Strings with Martin Roscoe, and the Concertina by the Gloucestershire Symphony on 8th May. If you want to know more about Christopher’s work, he would be pleased to hear from you. His contact details are: 7, Sudgrove Park, Abbeymead, Gloucester GL4 4XS. Tel 01452 542229. email: crboodle@sudpark.demon.co.uk.

Subscriptions – The Treasurer reports that members have been more efficient than ever, this year in paying subscriptions on time. Thank you so much – this enables the Society to do more and to remain solvent. If you are one of those who have not paid, and customarily wait to be reminded, please consider paying now! The Treasurer’s cup would be full of joy, and the Society will be that bit more solvent --- and thank you so much for your continuing support!

Vacant Consoles – Sadly we know of many vacant consoles; many of the churches concerned seem to have lost heart, and simply no longer bother to advertise. This is a sad reflection given that there are so many people who can play the organ, but who are not prepared to give the commitment Sunday by Sunday, and week by week for choir practices.

One exception is Killinchy Presbyterian Church -- they haven’t given up! They require an Organist or Musical Director. They say ‘We are a friendly, open congregation of 570 families with normally one Sunday Service and a weekly Choir Practice from September to Easter. We have a choir of 18 voices (fortunate indeed) ,and an Allen Digital Computer organ. We sing anthems and special settings as well as the normal diet of hymns’.
The Congregation would welcome applications to Rev Dr WJ Patterson, 62 Comber Road, Killinchy BT23 6PD. Tel. 028 9754 1231.
(footnote: this is a pleasing historic church built centuries ago; it is a large cruciformed building of historic interest, and well worth a visit, if you have never been before).

Another is St Polycarp’s Parish Church in Finaghy, South Belfast -- they haven’t given up either! Their organist is to retire shortly, and they wish to appoint an Organist and Choirmaster/mistress. There is a four part enthusiastic choir, and the instrument is described as an excellent 2 manual Smethurst. Duties include two Sunday Services and a weekly choir practice, with occasional special mid week services. Further details are available from Barbara Kenwell ( Hon Secretary, Select Vestry), 20 Porter Park, Belfast BT10 0BU. Tel: 028 9061 2355 (evenings only).

An interesting Vacancy – Antrim Choral Society was formed in 1975. It now has 48 members with all four parts represented in the chorus line. Weekly rehearsals take place in Parkhall College from September to December, and January to April, with a concert at the end of each of these two sessions. The Society now seeks a new Conductor to start work with the Society in September 2005. If you would like to know more, contact the Hon Secretary, Mrs Sheilagh Stinson, 8 Greystone Road, Antrim, BT41 1HD. Tel: 028 9442 8367. Email: antrimchoralsociety@lineone.net

Your Views -- On 19th February, a group around forty members assembled in the afternoon at St Ignatius’ PC, Carryduff, to discuss YOUR VIEWS. This was your opportunity to review the results of our Survey last year, and to guide the Society Committee in better meeting your needs. It was a most helpful, positive and informative occasion, and the Committee would like to thank all those who took the trouble to turn up, and in one or two cases also submitted written comments. What a pity that some of those who expressed very strong views in the Survey were unable to be there to explain more fully some of the great ideas they came up with. We now outline the advice we received from those who were present. Please be assured that these will be the principles that the current Committee will be pursuing in the remainder of this calendar year and beyond. Everyone will be aware that not all the guidelines will be met immediately, but we can all expect that over a two year period, your guidance will have begun to take effect.

The following sections are dealt with in some detail, to enable the many members who were not present to gain a clearer impression of what was said, and the opinions that were expressed. In the last Bulletin, we printed six questions we were considering. What follows is an attempt to summarise what was said against three of these questions. In the next issue, we shall look at the other three questions.

Q1. What do you like most about USOC Events?
The ambience is always very pleasing.
Standard of performance is very high.
Frequency of meeting is about right. Afternoon is preferred, but please try evening meetings.
Outside of greater Belfast, could coach, or other means of transport be offered?
USOC is better than most other Organ Societies elsewhere.
Organ crawls are great.

Q2. Can you think of events/themes which might be usefully included in future programmes?
USOC has not neglected many areas affecting Church Musicians; why not have some repeats?
We want events on Accompanying, Choir Training, Registration, and Improvisation which is ‘at a lower level in the stratosphere’ than is usually offered by USOC.
Aim some sessions at people who are new to the organ – could include teenagers at school and teachers, and offering involvement. Could be for non-members. Could be a charge for attendance.
Use the computer more eg encourage the downloading of out-of-copyright music.
More time on average organists and choirs, linking this with ‘new music’.

Q3. How important is it to cater for ‘new music’ taking place in Churches, and can USOC provide for it, or should USOC concentrate on organ and choral issues only?
Preparing ‘new music’ including harmonising and arranging.
How to do ‘new music’ and how to do it well.
Limitations and use of traditional organs in this context.
Communicating through praise.

It is vital to note that none of these comments were taken as any criticism of the current or past Committees of USOC. Members should never feel, unless of course they try to personalise it, that criticism is unwanted by any Committee member or Officebearer. You are therefore encouraged to let us have your comments as they occur to you. It is only in this way that those elected to serve our collective interests can deliver what you want!

And finally, we refer to the Dunleath Organ Scholarship Trust which was set up in honour of the memory of Henry, Lord Dunleath, a great friend of organs in our Province – most will know that the Mulholland Grand Organ was provided to the City of Belfast by his ancestor, and he was responsible for the major rebuild which has given us a very fine concert instrument. The Scholarship is designed to assist young organists who wish to pursue their interest in the organ as a player and/or as a scholar of aspects of the instrument. Applicants must have been born in either part of Ireland, or have been resident for more than three years. They must also be, normally, under the age of twenty five years. There are a number of other criteria to do with process and with the current role of an applicant. If you are interested in applying for one of these Scholarships, which should be worth around £750, you should contact USOC Honorary Member Professor Desmond Hunter FRCO, Department of Music, University of Ulster, Northland Road. Londonderry, BT48 7JL. Email: d.hunter1@ulster.ac.uk (this doesn’t look right, but as it’s on the official listing, try it anyway!). Please get in touch with Professor Hunter quickly, as the closing date is 30th April 2005, and you will need some time to prepare. And very good luck.

We thank you, all our Members, for your support – we cannot do without you!



SATURDAY 9th APRIL 2005, commencing at 11.30 am at AHOGHILL PARISH CHURCH.

To the Honorary Treasurer

Please reserve for me a place at the lunch to be made available in the Carvery at the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena on Saturday 9th April 2005.

I enclose my cheque for £11.00 which I understand to be the full cost of the lunch available.

Name _________________________________________________________


(Indicate if you would like a lift on this occasion. It may be possible to help you meet up with someone near you; we’ll try, but cannot provide a guarantee -------- Yes/No -------(please strike out which ever does not apply).

Please return this form duly completed, to the Hon Treasurer, and enclosing your cheque for £11.00 made out to USOC. With very many thanks. Forms should be received by the Honorary Treasurer no later than 4th April 2005. Thank you very much.

Philip Walden Esq
20 Hazeldene Avenue
Co Down
BT20 4RA

Return to Archive Page Return to Home Page