Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

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jbuck919
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Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:28 am

This article doesn't have it quite right in several senses. I don't have the ambition to comment on all of them now, but for one thing the "specialized shoes" are available online and cost no more than a good pair of normal shoes. (In fact these days I play in stocking feet because of the peculiar pedal board at my church.) The supply and demand situation is quite the reverse of what the article implies. Churches which are serious about serious music are declining, and organists have gone begging now for many years. I'm just lucky to be well received where I am. OK one more thought: Nobody with serious artistic intent wants to work for a modern Roman Catholic Church where they will have to play a Rodgers and only be an adjunct to an overall atrocious musical worship program.

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There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by RebLem » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:06 am

jbuck919 wrote:This article doesn't have it quite right in several senses. I don't have the ambition to comment on all of them now, but for one thing the "specialized shoes" are available online and cost no more than a good pair of normal shoes. (In fact these days I play in stocking feet because of the peculiar pedal board at my church.) The supply and demand situation is quite the reverse of what the article implies. Churches which are serious about serious music are declining, and organists have gone begging now for many years. I'm just lucky to be well received where I am. OK one more thought: Nobody with serious artistic intent wants to work for a modern Roman Catholic Church where they will have to play a Rodgers and only be an adjunct to an overall atrocious musical worship program.

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Catholics, or "Cat'licks, " as we called ourselves around Chicago, have had, unlike many Protestant churches, no tradition of communal singing. They tried to develop one after the Church councils of the 60's, but somehow it never took. As Garrison Keilor once said, in a politically incorrect moment, "Listening to Catholics sing hymns is like watching spastics play basketball."
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jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:24 pm

RebLem wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:This article doesn't have it quite right in several senses. I don't have the ambition to comment on all of them now, but for one thing the "specialized shoes" are available online and cost no more than a good pair of normal shoes. (In fact these days I play in stocking feet because of the peculiar pedal board at my church.) The supply and demand situation is quite the reverse of what the article implies. Churches which are serious about serious music are declining, and organists have gone begging now for many years. I'm just lucky to be well received where I am. OK one more thought: Nobody with serious artistic intent wants to work for a modern Roman Catholic Church where they will have to play a Rodgers and only be an adjunct to an overall atrocious musical worship program.

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Catholics, or "Cat'licks, " as we called ourselves around Chicago, have had, unlike many Protestant churches, no tradition of communal singing. They tried to develop one after the Church councils of the 60's, but somehow it never took. As Garrison Keilor once said, in a politically incorrect moment, "Listening to Catholics sing hymns is like watching spastics play basketball."
The funny thing is that Chicago has, or used to have, one of the few serious music churches in the country, St. John Cantius, and that musical program was not based on congregational singing. (It was based on a serious continuation of the music associated with the Latin Mas.)

Parish music has always been deficient in the US. It is a myth that it only deteriorated after Vatican II, but it doesn't help that the aesthetic quality of what they use now is even worse.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

karlhenning
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by karlhenning » Thu Sep 18, 2014 9:59 am

jbuck919 wrote:Parish music has always been deficient in the US. It is a myth that it only deteriorated after Vatican II, but it doesn't help that the aesthetic quality of what they use now is even worse.
This.

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Mookalafalas
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by Mookalafalas » Sun Sep 21, 2014 10:17 am

RebLem wrote: Catholics, or "Cat'licks, " as we called ourselves around Chicago, have had, unlike many Protestant churches, no tradition of communal singing. They tried to develop one after the Church councils of the 60's, but somehow it never took. As Garrison Keilor once said, in a politically incorrect moment, "Listening to Catholics sing hymns is like watching spastics play basketball."
This is news to me. I was raised Catholic, and as my family moved a number of times I ended up attending quite a few Catholic churches. They all had a lot of singing, at least two songs for each service in the 70s and 80s, when I attended. I think there was an opening song, then the offertory hymn and a closing number. Sometimes there were special hymnal compartments on the backs of the pews so there would always be one in reach. Neither of my parents could sing worth a damn, but in the 80s and 90s they actually ended up helping out in the choir because there were no longer young(er) people willing to do it (Catholic church attendance has fallen massively). My boyhood church in Rock Island, Illinois had an organ with huge pipes and a pretty large choir.
Call me Al (cuz its my name)

jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 11:55 am

Mookalafalas wrote:
RebLem wrote: Catholics, or "Cat'licks, " as we called ourselves around Chicago, have had, unlike many Protestant churches, no tradition of communal singing. They tried to develop one after the Church councils of the 60's, but somehow it never took. As Garrison Keilor once said, in a politically incorrect moment, "Listening to Catholics sing hymns is like watching spastics play basketball."
This is news to me. I was raised Catholic, and as my family moved a number of times I ended up attending quite a few Catholic churches. They all had a lot of singing, at least two songs for each service in the 70s and 80s, when I attended. I think there was an opening song, then the offertory hymn and a closing number. Sometimes there were special hymnal compartments on the backs of the pews so there would always be one in reach. Neither of my parents could sing worth a damn, but in the 80s and 90s they actually ended up helping out in the choir because there were no longer young(er) people willing to do it (Catholic church attendance has fallen massively). My boyhood church in Rock Island, Illinois had an organ with huge pipes and a pretty large choir.
I don't know how old you are, Al, but I'm glad you had a different experience. However, there is actually a book called Why Catholics Can't Sing.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0824511530/?ta ... tvnt0u4r_b

When I attended the Organ Historical Society convention in Syracuse this summer, I was surprised at the percentage of Catholic churches on the itinerary with excellent, old, and properly maintained organs. I know that's not unheard of, but there are few areas of the country where one would find a density of them. A more typical situation would be the mega-parish of several thousand families of record (which, as you indicate, no longer necessarily implies pews filled for five Masses every Sunday), but their organ is an outdated Rodgers electronic and they have no serious adult choir. They rely on their "contemporary group," even though recent Vatican directives have expressly forbidden the use of "profane" instruments in worship. I could see this in the Syracuse area, where there was a set-up for such a group in the front of the church in spite of a very nice organ in a choir gallery in the rear.

Prior to the changes brought about after Vatican II, the typical parish situation was a small choir that sang a limited range of the then prevailing version of schlock, and the congregation never sang at all. (Perhaps they joined in on Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, the hymn used at the end of practically every Mass in those days and one of the few Catholics in general knew as opposed to the hundreds that many Protestants do.) So again, if you had a better experience, you were lucky, I think.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Auntie Lynn
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by Auntie Lynn » Sun Sep 21, 2014 7:16 pm

I never used shoes. Just pantyhose, gives you a better "feel" for the pedal keyboard. More people have left the Holy Roman church over the trashy liturgical music than over the social issues...

jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 9:20 pm

Auntie Lynn wrote:I never used shoes. Just pantyhose, gives you a better "feel" for the pedal keyboard.
Then there's the show-off Curtis kid I saw playing a Reger fugue on the Wanamaker organ wearing his street sneakers.
More people have left the Holy Roman church over the trashy liturgical music than over the social issues...
Back at Princeton in the relatively liberal 70s under Paul VI when such things were fashionable, there was a very grand ecumenical service at the university chapel. Unlike most of these, it was a liturgical Eucharistic service, and somehow or other a dispensation had been given at the Vatican level for everyone to receive communion, an unheard of thing today. Most of the music was provided by the excellent choir of men and boys of the local Episcopal church, from whose director I had my organ instruction. However, in honor of the occasion, the Diocese of Trenton put together a combined choir. So at one point, in files this group so large that it fills the entire cantoris side of the architectural choir of the third largest college chapel in the world, octogenarian ladies in mantellettas included, and all they can manage is the equivalent of a responsorial psalm. Not a clue that they are embarrassing themselves and their denomination.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by PJME » Mon Sep 22, 2014 2:55 pm

http://www.orgelnieuws.nl/

Unfortunately, I fear, only a Dutch language site (possibly some German) but it may give you an idea of the Dutch-Belgian organworld anno 2014.

http://www.orgelinvlaanderen.be/Welkom.html

All major kathedrals ( Brugge, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels, Liège, Hasselt...) have professional organists / regular organconcerts/concert series.
Brussels has also an ongoing series with conductor Erik Van Nevel (nephew of Paul ) and his Currende Choir: Misssam.http://www.currende.be/eric

Antwerp:http://www.akc-orgel.be/akcv2/main.php?lang=en

Even small towns as Turnhout and Sint Niklaas organise yearly "Organ days".

jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:16 pm

PJME wrote:http://www.orgelnieuws.nl/

Unfortunately, I fear, only a Dutch language site (possibly some German) but it may give you an idea of the Dutch-Belgian organworld anno 2014.

http://www.orgelinvlaanderen.be/Welkom.html

All major kathedrals ( Brugge, Ghent, Antwerp, Mechelen, Brussels, Liège, Hasselt...) have professional organists / regular organconcerts/concert series.
Brussels has also an ongoing series with conductor Erik Van Nevel (nephew of Paul ) and his Currende Choir: Misssam.http://www.currende.be/eric

Antwerp:http://www.akc-orgel.be/akcv2/main.php?lang=en

Even small towns as Turnhout and Sint Niklaas organise yearly "Organ days".
Thanks for the links, Patrick.

The situation in Europe is very different. As most here know, I lived in Germany for two years, and it is no myth that every single church has at least a decent organ, with exceedingly many fine ones, and they are in regular use. I hate to say this, but that is what happens when people are taxed to support their churches, something that could not and should not happen in the US. Perhaps I should have qualified the original post as being limited to the situation here. Germans also require certification of organists (they require certification of everything, including street musicians), which is optional in the US.

However, to go to the secondary topic, the relationship between the quality of the organ and the quality of worship is also problematic in Europe, though not as much as in the US. The important Romanesque cathedral at Bamberg, which is an archdiocese, has a magnificent Rieger organ (and a magnificent organist to go along with it, to which his recordings attest), but it is greatly under-utilized in Sunday worship. Also, they are very proud of their choir of girls and young women (!), but though they are not awful, they perform like an enlarged version of old-time parish choirs, offering nothing of artistic substance.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by Marc » Tue Sep 30, 2014 3:02 pm

Well, uderneath the surface maybe (for outsiders), but in 'organ country' the Netherlands there are many worries about the future of organ playing and about the future of the instrument itself, mainly due to the secularisation of the last half century. No matter if protestant or roman-catholic, church communities are forced to merge if they want to survive. Which means a rapidly growing amount of empty church buildings and, who knows, eventually, even demolition of buildings and also of the instruments.

(There is a growing amount of new evangelical communities here, but they rarely use organs in their services. Their hallelujahs are sung accompanied by other instruments. Organs are considered completely 'out of time'.)

Last year, the well known Sietze de Vries was fired as organist of a freed-reformed community, because even their liturgical practice seems in need for a change because the younger members prefer a different kind of music making and praising in their church. Most of them are not interested in the organ anymore. Of course there are still exceptions, but the amount of young organ pupils is also rapidly falling.

I still attend a rather large amount of organ concerts, but yes, the audience is growing older. During summertime, many youngsters come from Eastern Europe and Asia, because the organ school in 'my' city is internationally popular, and during summer holidays the students invite their families and friends to listen to those beautiful European baroque organs.

Funny enough, 3 years ago I spoke to a young American organist, who had just graduated from conservatory, and I suggested that the US of A, being still a more strict Christian country (in general), was a better place for organists. He kinda agreed, but also said that the job was very poorly paid. Therefore he had decided to study medicine.

jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Tue Sep 30, 2014 7:18 pm

Marc wrote:Well, uderneath the surface maybe (for outsiders), but in 'organ country' the Netherlands there are many worries about the future of organ playing and about the future of the instrument itself, mainly due to the secularisation of the last half century. No matter if protestant or roman-catholic, church communities are forced to merge if they want to survive. Which means a rapidly growing amount of empty church buildings and, who knows, eventually, even demolition of buildings and also of the instruments.

(There is a growing amount of new evangelical communities here, but they rarely use organs in their services. Their hallelujahs are sung accompanied by other instruments. Organs are considered completely 'out of time'.)

Last year, the well known Sietze de Vries was fired as organist of a freed-reformed community, because even their liturgical practice seems in need for a change because the younger members prefer a different kind of music making and praising in their church. Most of them are not interested in the organ anymore. Of course there are still exceptions, but the amount of young organ pupils is also rapidly falling.

I still attend a rather large amount of organ concerts, but yes, the audience is growing older. During summertime, many youngsters come from Eastern Europe and Asia, because the organ school in 'my' city is internationally popular, and during summer holidays the students invite their families and friends to listen to those beautiful European baroque organs.

Funny enough, 3 years ago I spoke to a young American organist, who had just graduated from conservatory, and I suggested that the US of A, being still a more strict Christian country (in general), was a better place for organists. He kinda agreed, but also said that the job was very poorly paid. Therefore he had decided to study medicine.
It is good to hear from you Marc. (I know I keep saying that, but we desperately need our range of good international posters who do not appear here often enough.) Your excellent post ranges widely and is hard to do justice to in a single comment. Organists poorly paid? I suppose so in a general sense. I've also been around the block with our Australian friend Holden Fourth about substitute teacher pay. (Apparently Australian substitute teachers make something like $300 per day, an unheard-of thing in the US.) As an organist, I get $125 for every service I play for. The limitation is that organists only work one or two hours per week under the best circumstances. Pursuing a career in medicine? Well of course that will guarantee a decent salary, but even doctors these days are veering toward slave labor in the US, where only hedge fund managers and the like actually make any good money and dominate politics to make sure that it stays that way.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by Marc » Wed Oct 01, 2014 4:07 am

jbuck919 wrote:[....]Pursuing a career in medicine? Well of course that will guarantee a decent salary, but even doctors these days are veering toward slave labor in the US, where only hedge fund managers and the like actually make any good money and dominate politics to make sure that it stays that way.
He told me he loved both music and medicine :), so it wasn't a tough decision for him. IIRC (it was a nice but short conversation, after a concert that we both attended), he said that the competition for organists was stiff because there were a lot of 'contestants' in the field, among them non-certified organ players, who did it for fun and therefore didn't ask/need a worthy salary.
Which reminds me of the father of a former acquaintance of mine, who played organ at home for fun and also played at little services, probably for a free cup of coffee or a small gift now and then. Just helping the community, which is a good thing of course, but it's a bad thing for professionals. I know something about it, because I am a certified librarian/archivist with difficulties finding a job, because an increasing amount of organisations use volunteers or unemployed people (while retaining unemployment compensation) for that kind of work.

jbuck919
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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 01, 2014 7:48 am

Marc wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:[....]Pursuing a career in medicine? Well of course that will guarantee a decent salary, but even doctors these days are veering toward slave labor in the US, where only hedge fund managers and the like actually make any good money and dominate politics to make sure that it stays that way.
He told me he loved both music and medicine :), so it wasn't a tough decision for him. IIRC (it was a nice but short conversation, after a concert that we both attended), he said that the competition for organists was stiff because there were a lot of 'contestants' in the field, among them non-certified organ players, who did it for fun and therefore didn't ask/need a worthy salary.
Which reminds me of the father of a former acquaintance of mine, who played organ at home for fun and also played at little services, probably for a free cup of coffee or a small gift now and then. Just helping the community, which is a good thing of course, but it's a bad thing for professionals. I know something about it, because I am a certified librarian/archivist with difficulties finding a job, because an increasing amount of organisations use volunteers or unemployed people (while retaining unemployment compensation) for that kind of work.
As you may know, I have a history as a librarian sort myself, and am currently the volunteer president of the board of trustees of my tiny but exellent town library. It is a more difficult and responsible job than one might imagine. Even the New York Public LIbrary, the most important civic library in the world, for which John F volunteers, is a private organization, not governmental, which is not to say that its most important positions are not paid.

I am aware that the supply of organists is replenished because young people continue simply to fall in love with the instrument. That was not the case with me. My father forced me to learn it, though I am certainly and ultimately grateful to him for having done so.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Playing the organ a dying art? Well....

Post by John F » Wed Oct 01, 2014 8:57 am

jbuck919 wrote:Even the New York Public LIbrary, the most important civic library in the world, for which John F volunteers, is a private organization, not governmental
NYPL is a not-for-profit organization which receives most of its funding from the state and city of New York - 75% for the 88 branch libraries and 30% for the four research libraries. It's not a branch or agency of government but in effect it's a ward of the government. NYPL's many and generous supporters are certainly important, but without them the library would only be crippled - without the government money, it would have to shut down. This inevitably has an impact on library policy; the controversial plan for the main library building was abandoned last summer chiefly because the government funding for it had become shaky and under the new mayor, who campaigned against the plan last year, was likely to be withdrawn.
John Francis

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