Ulster Society of Organists and Choirmasters

U.S.O.C. Newsletter - September 1999


For reasons not yet revealed to me there has been a disappointing response to the announcement of our trip to Mullingar and Tullamore in September (10th/11th). However, for the 21 members who have applied arrangements have now been made, with departure at 6 30pm on Friday 10th from Methodist College where cars can be parked overnight. We expect to return thereto at about 7pm the following Saturday evening.

In Mullingar bed and breakfast has been reserved at the Bloomfield House Hotel. On Saturday lunch will be taken at the Court Hotel in Tullamore, but as this is not included in the charge, you may wish to bring some punts with you - though at the current exchange rate pounds sterling will certainly not be refused!

If you would like to join the party please let me know not later that 31st August. Between 18th & 27th August I shall be away from home (this time it's Vienna and Budapest) but your application will be processed as soon as I return. A reply-slip is appended.


For our plans to visit Berlin next year (April 27th - May 1st) there has been a much more encouraging response with 34 applications received to date. It may be October or November before flight arrangements and precise costs can be determined but I shall let you have details about both as soon as possible. Meanwhile if you would like to participate in what promises to be one of the most exciting ventures the society has ever undertaken, a reply-slip will be found below. This should be returned to me (with your deposit) no later than September 30th.


When the question of widening the society's membership (it currently represents a mere fraction of the province's church musicians) was discussed at a recent committee meeting, it was proposed that we should appoint a PUBLICITY OFFICER who would make the society's activities more widely known and thereby attract new members. If this is a task you would be happy to undertake please let me know.


Honorary Treasurer Alasdair MacLaughlin has informed me that about 40 members have not yet paid this year's annual subscription! If yours happens to be one of them please grab your chequebook now. It's £17.50 (£10.00 for student members) payable to USOC. Alasdair is a busy man so a prompt reply would be appreciated.


As you may know, committee member Nigel McClintock relinquishes his appointment as organist of St George's Church in Belfast at the end of August in order to pursue a Master of Music degree course in conducting at the Royal College of Music, London, As a society we should wish to thank him for the excellent work done during his five years at St George's, and to wish him well in his new course of study. You will also be pleased to hear that member Jonathan Hardy, Nigel's assistant organist at St George's, has just been awarded an ARCO - a remarkable achievement for a young man of 17! Congratulations, Jonathan!


Our meeting on Saturday 9th October will take the form of an organ workshop conducted by Anne Marsden Thomas, organised in co-operation with the Royal College of Organists. Applications to take part will be welcome from members of all ages and all standards, so if you would welcome some constructive comments on one of your 'pièces de résistance' why not brush it up and bring it along? Applications should be made on the form enclosed and this returned to Dr Harry Grindle by 17th September. Most members will probably wish to attend as observers at either the morning or afternoon session - or both. Of this, more in the next circular.


A bit dismayed by the realisation that barely half of our USOC members subscribe to Organists Review I recently made arrangements for a sample copy to be mailed to every non-subscriber. If you are one, I trust that you will soon receive your copy and be convinced that this is a journal well worth having. And at the concessionary rate of only £12.00 per annum (£13.00 next year) it's certainly not expensive.


Although the reaction so far has been absolutely nil, I trust that the 'Altos' Lament' delivered to you with a recent circular may have produced even a faint smile. More recently I came across a similar confessional written by an organist in Helen's Bay, of which a copy is enclosed. Perhaps someone in the society could concoct another entitled 'The Ageing Soprano'. There are a lot of them!

2000 PLANS

At its next meeting on Saturday 4th September (members please note : 7 30 pm at 16 Malone Hill Park) the committee will bring its combined intelligence to bear on the question of next year's USOC programme. If you have any proposals you would like it to consider please let me have them before that date.

Honorary Secretary



Member's Name : _____________________________ Tel No: ________________
Please reserve ___ place/s for me and for ___________________________________________
I wish to share a room with _______________________________________________________
(If not naming anyone in particular write "Another USOC Member".)
I wish to have a single room (supplement £15.00).
In full payment a cheque (payable to USOC) for £_____ (£52 per person + any single supplement) is enclosed.

Please return to the Honorary Secretary NOT LATER THAN 31ST AUGUST


Member's Name : _____________________________ Tel No: ________________
Please reserve ___ place/s for me and for ___________________________________________
As deposit a cheque (payable to USOC) for £_____ (£50 per person) is enclosed).
I would/would not be interested in the possibility of accepting hospitality in the home of a member of the Berlin Organists Association.
I wish to extend my stay in Berlin and to return on _________________.
(Precise date can be decided later)

Please return to the Honorary Secretary NOT LATER THAN 30TH SEPTEMBER


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 the 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 draughty and there's rarely any heat
So it's just as well an organist uses BOTH his 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, he must play a voluntary
By Buxtehude or Bach, César Franck or Hubert Parry
But, woe betide the organist whose music's too contemporary!
(Much safer with "old masters" or even play extemporary.)

The organist is poorly paid and often short of money,
Thus "voluntary" is a word, quite apt, but to him it isn't funny!
His gown and hood in purple means that everyone should know
He'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 he who plays the organ and has to train the choir
Is a labourer in the "vineyard" and worthy of his hire!

Sam Barron

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