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Are organists the most ill-treated musicians?


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#16 mel2

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 13:22

VH, you wrote that you are often accompanying these choirs because 'there is no one else stupid enough to do it'.  The thing is you have obliged by playing repertoire not designed for organ accompaniment and no doubt done it very well, which is why they ask you to do it again. This has involved a great deal of work on your part rearranging this stuff so that it will work for them, and they obviously have no idea of the skill involved and so don't think to reward you appropriately. (Choirs have a mindset that you love to play for them just as much as they love to sing, which in my limited experience is somewhat wide of the mark, although my choral accompaniment was done with the piano and was unpaid: " ...good experience for you, dear..."  palmed off onto me because my piano teacher at the time didn't want anything to do with it.

 

The only solution that I can see is to get yourself onto their artistic committee and veto anything that is going to involve too much rearranging on your part. At the moment it seems that they decide what they want to sing and then present you with their programme.

It sounds as though more than one choir is involved here so that might be more than you want to take on. The other alternative is to not have a set fee. The trickier the job, the more it would cost them.


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#17 Norway

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 13:29

 " ...good experience for you, dear..."  palmed off onto me because my piano teacher at the time didn't want anything to do with it.

 

Mine did something similar. Using me to do the page turning for all of her recitals (unpaid of course!) - twenty years later she rang me up for the same favour (I was a teacher myself by then - that was a no!)


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#18 Keyhorn

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 14:29

I find myself in complete agreement with VH's original post.   

 

Certainly as far as church work is concerned, despite the occasional praise from members of the congregation, clergy and readers are constantly battering at the walls of standards in singing and in choice of music, in favour of the sub-(yesterday's)pop.   I'm lucky at my establishment to have, still, two choirs, two deputies and an assistant - but I notice that the morale of all is diminishing in the face of the dumbing down onslaught on music and words.    Certainly, the strain of trying to keep standards and spirits up and in a process of enhancement becomes ever more difficult - one's own optimism therefore suffers grossly.

 

In music in secular contexts - even if it's sacred music (and after all, that's the foundation of our Western tradition, surely) - different rules apply.   There is more likely to be a shared joy in making music, there are less likely to be those who carp and cavill at music choices.    Mostly, these days, I conduct, though have often played continuo in orchestral ensembles, too.

 

I certainly share VH's thoughts about pianistic arrangements of orchestral scores - particularly, it often seems, to be a legacy of the time of Ebenezer Prout!   Frequently, too, one is passed a 'keyboard continuo' part for a baroque piece, 'realised' with far to thick a texture for reasonable use.   The figured bass would be easier.   

 

However, at the end of it all - if music of decent competence and artistry is performed to the best standard to which the ensemble (vocal, instrumental, or both) is capable then that is when the joy comes.   None of this precludes the payment of proper fees for the time involved, the time and effort involved in equipping oneself with specialised skills, and the acquisition of a sense of musicality and standards.


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#19 Vox Humana

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 15:22

The only solution that I can see is to get yourself onto their artistic committee and veto anything that is going to involve too much rearranging on your part. At the moment it seems that they decide what they want to sing and then present you with their programme.

It sounds as though more than one choir is involved here so that might be more than you want to take on. The other alternative is to not have a set fee. The trickier the job, the more it would cost them.

 

Thank you for your support, Mel2. The choirs I accompany are not that democratic (thank goodness - I can't be doing with democracy in choirs!) It's the conductors who decide the programmes, although in some cases they do have to be agreed by the choir's committee. There's a problem of economics. Everyone freely admits that a cheapskate organ accompaniment is a far from ideal solution, but there really isn't any other option if big choral works are to be performed regularly. Orchestras can be afforded only on a very occasional basis. The choirs obviously have to cover their costs. A normal concert can cost anything up to £1,000 - maybe three times that if an orchestra and solo singers are being hired. This has to be covered from membership subscriptions, ticket receipts and miscellaneous initiatives like coffee mornings. Once the conductor's stipend and soloists' fees have been accounted for there's not overmuch left over to pay the poor old accompanist. I think I have pushed my fee as high as will be acceptable, though it irks me to think that the solo singers are almost certainly being paid more for only a fraction of the hassle. I should be more mercenary, but, frankly, I'm not so much worried about the money as about the amount of grief involved. I'd just like to free up more time to keep my organ repertoire up to scratch! 


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#20 Vox Humana

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 15:47

Certainly as far as church work is concerned, despite the occasional praise from members of the congregation, clergy and readers are constantly battering at the walls of standards in singing and in choice of music, in favour of the sub-(yesterday's)pop.   I'm lucky at my establishment to have, still, two choirs, two deputies and an assistant - but I notice that the morale of all is diminishing in the face of the dumbing down onslaught on music and words.    Certainly, the strain of trying to keep standards and spirits up and in a process of enhancement becomes ever more difficult - one's own optimism therefore suffers grossly.

 

The ludicrous thing is that this dumbing down, committed in the naive hope that it will fill the pews, is so demonstrably wrong-headed and flies in the face of common sense. No one seeks out a church because of its Gumby songs and dumbed down liturgy and clergy who imagine otherwise really need to remove their blinkers. Second-rate music of poor artistry has absolutely no evangelical merit. Conversely, people certainly do seek out churches where there is a high standard of classical music and the liturgy is performed meticulously and reverently. I haven't seen it myself, but I am told the latest issue of Church Music Quarterly has an article about St Peter's, Wolverhampton, where (I am told) there has been something of a musical renaissance over the last few years. They have over 100 souls regularly involved in the music making and they do "proper music" with not a Gumby Song in sight - and the church is bursting at the seams with young people. A friend of Barry's tells a not dissimilar tale about a church in London that similarly does good, serious church music (albeit using a professional octet of singers) with excellent liturgy and is also full of young people. And, of course, it is one reason why cathedral congregations are growing at the expense of the parish churches. High quality, classical church music does have every potential to play an important and meaningful evangelical role in the church. It can "put a church on the map" and earn it a good reputation. Gumby songs and camp-fireside informality will never achieve that sort of respect.*

 

* I should add that I have come across one or two "with-it" churches that have unconventional services and great popular support, but, whilst seemingly well-known, they don't appear to command any widespread respect - and it isn't their music for which they are known.

 

Frequently, too, one is passed a 'keyboard continuo' part for a baroque piece, 'realised' with far to thick a texture for reasonable use.   The figured bass would be easier.

 

Oh yes!


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#21 clarinetnmickle

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 18:51

The clergy are the worst I am currently reading
At Cross purposes by m
Michael Smith which is so true
And have only got to page 40
Really worth reading
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#22 Vox Humana

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Posted 11 July 2017 - 20:19

The clergy are the worst I am currently reading
At Cross purposes by m
Michael Smith which is so true
And have only got to page 40
Really worth reading

 

It is a fascinating read - and a rather sad one. It is, however, a very one-sided story (which is an author's privilege of course) and smacks unpleasantly of scores being settled. I have heard other sides to some of the stories he tells that shed different lights (although it wouldn't be appropriate to air them here). Unsurprisingly a lot of people were very offended by what Dr Smith wrote and there are also many who think that he wrote things that would have been better left unwritten. My copy of the book came as a gift from someone who was so disgusted with the book that he wanted to get rid of it. On the other hand, another friend of mine tells me that he was assured by someone who was at Llandaff during Dr Smith's time that there is nothing in the book that is actually inaccurate. Certainly subsequent history has tended to reinforce the impression that Llandaff is a far from happy place - although I have no knowledge of the present situation, which I would like to hope has improved.

 

 I gather that there is an OUP edition of Messiah "made playable" and I have a copy on the way to me.

 

For what it's worth, this was Clifford Bartlett's edition and it's excellent. The scholarship is more up-to-date than Watkins Shaw's and the accompaniment is indeed far more playable. If anything Bartlett leaves out just a few too many notes, but many will be thankful for that and you can always put them back in. On the whole I preferred Shaw's continuo realisations, but that's a small point most players will be able to do their own thing. For the selections we did I found it perfectly compatible with Shaw's edition, although I didn't check whether both editions have exactly the same alternative versions of those arias where alternative exist (e.g. "But who may abide"; "Rejoice greatly"). Recommended.


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