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Organist/Church Music Disputes

A new Mediation Service

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#1 Barry Williams

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Posted 10 August 2020 - 10:44

There has been concern for some time about the number of disagreements arising over church music.

The Guild of Church Musicians has decided to offer a Mediation Service to churches for cases where there are disputes involving church music. The team of mediators includes a former Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a Bishop with particular experience of church music (previously Dean of a major Cathedral), and two lawyers.

 

No charges are made for this and the service is available to churches of all denominations, whether members of The Guild or not. However, the mediators would expect to be reimbursed any travelling or other essential expenses incurred.

 

Enquiries about mediation should, in the first instance, be addressed the Registrar of the Guild, June Williams.

 


Further details are available at:https://gcm.org.uk/

 

 

Barry Williams


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#2 Zixi

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 14:54

Barry, it's no good. I've been thinking about this for weeks and I just have to ask what kind of disagreements can occur?


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#3 Cyrilla

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Posted 26 August 2020 - 22:24

How long have you got, Zixi????

 

:unsure:  :unsure:  :unsure:


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#4 elemimele

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 06:58

I do think this is a wonderful idea. So many parishes have been poisoned at some point by a dispute between the incumbent and the organist. It's not unique to music; there have also been parishes where things have happened over the flower arrangements that make Midsomer Murders look like the Tellytubbies. But church music does seem to be prone to conflict. An external voice of reason might be a good way to get through a bad patch, avoid much harm, and help everyone to appreciate each others values.

 

(going off topic, I liked the idea of the team; I wonder what they'd look like on a chess board. The director of the royal school of church music is clearly King; having a Bishop is handy as they can think diagonally. But the two lawyers presumably move in lines as straight as a corkscrew, take absolutely everything in their path, and you can only afford to move them once every seven moves...)


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#5 Zixi

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 08:26

How long have you got, Zixi????

 

:unsure:  :unsure:  :unsure:

As long as it takes! Is it: 'Hey, that's the wrong words to that tune?' Or, 'That music goes faster than that?'

 

Barry said something a long time back about how when you wrote a hymn it had to be predictable from the organ introduction and that good composers knew that. OK I'm summarising. It really had an impact on me because I'd never thought about it. It's sooooo obvious once it's been said but it wasn't obvious to me before Barry said that. I always meant to ask some more but didn't have courage so I'm not making that mistake this time!!!! :)


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#6 maggiemay

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 16:20

Indeed - how long have you got !  Cyrilla spoke true. 

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that most disputes are about the music. :-)


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#7 Zixi

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 16:40

You mean: "Do you *have* to wear that hat when you play the organ?" 

 

Or - if elemimele is right...

 

"I won't play the organ if you stick those flowers there..." :)

 

Perhaps I shouldn't have asked... The organ section here has always appealed to me because of the knowledge and a wonderful sense of humour... And I'll never ever play the organ that's certain... even though I think it's a wonderful instrument... I'll go back to the recorder bit where I belong... :)


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#8 Guest: mel2_*

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Posted 27 August 2020 - 16:56

Zixi, there is much entertaining reading to be found on this forum if you can change your settings and go back 4 or 5 years and read some of the threads back then; the organ forum has been quiet in recent years but it wasn't always so.

 

Much of the discontent is caused by 'new brooms' coming in and wanting to change the style of music or disband the choir; sometimes it has been pay and contractual issues, other times it has been inconsiderate treatment by the incumbent. 

 

My most recent niggle was being offered a fee for playing  for a baptism at a neighbouring church, only for the celebrant airily to assure the family later that 'we don't take a fee for baptisms! ' so fee came there none. (And I'd done two 30 mile round trips to prepare)

 

Barry may be flexing his legal muscles in the light of the suspension of church services during lockdown. I imagine there will be  rumbles of discontent in the bosom of many an organist cast adrift.

 

It is fertile ground indeed.


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#9 Zixi

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 06:25

mel2 - That all makes sense and is sad. And, in your example, you were treated unfairly and unkindly - needlessly too.

 

Re - this board - I've learned a lot about music from the organists. One of the nicest aspects has been the enthusiasm and common-sense. Someone once asked if they should have a go at the organ and they were enthusiastically encouraged and told to wear warm socks... It's just nice to see such disarming practicality! I shall indeed take a peek at the board's history. The thing about hymn composition had a profound effect on me because it explained what makes a good hymn! It made me question why other forms of music 'just work'. Any way, thank you for your patience!


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#10 fsharpminor

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 07:56

Some years ago, an organist/choirmaster friend of mine near Glasgow (Church of Scotland)  was asked to leave his post because he was deemed to be 'too Anglican' in  the repertoire he was using.  (well he was Winchester schooled). I think the real reason was a new Minister had a friend who wanted his job.


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#11 maggiemay

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 13:17

You mean: "Do you *have* to wear that hat when you play the organ?" 

 

Or - if elemimele is right...

 

"I won't play the organ if you stick those flowers there..." :)

 

Perhaps I shouldn't have asked... The organ section here has always appealed to me because of the knowledge and a wonderful sense of humour... And I'll never ever play the organ that's certain... even though I think it's a wonderful instrument... I'll go back to the recorder bit where I belong... :)

Zixi - Yes - I think we do mostly have a good sense of humour, and quite often can laugh ruefully at some of the things .....  and almost any choir member will tell you that there is plenty of laughter to be had during a lively rehearsal (and probably afterwards in the Nag and Monk). 

Hmm - re the flowers example - possibly? Maybe along the lines of ‘ if you put those flowers there I can’t see the choir and they can’t see me, and that makes life difficutl’ . 

And one actual example I can cite ‘ if you put that (temporary) light there it shines right in my eyes and I cannot see anything at all’. 

People (vicars included!) thinking they can come up behind you while you are playing, and ask you a complex question.

The tale is told of one well-known organist, who shall be nameless here, who was thus interrupted,  stopped in the middle of an improvisation on an unresolved Q sharp minor diminished chord, turned round, and asked politely ‘ how would you feel if I did that to you in the middle of your sermon?’ 

:-)


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#12 AdLibitum

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 19:42

Some years ago, an organist/choirmaster friend of mine near Glasgow (Church of Scotland) was asked to leave his post because he was deemed to be 'too Anglican' in the repertoire he was using. (well he was Winchester schooled). I think the real reason was a new Minister had a friend who wanted his job.

Much more likely. Isn't it pathetic what excuses people try to come up with in such circumstances?
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#13 fsharpminor

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 20:37

 

Some years ago, an organist/choirmaster friend of mine near Glasgow (Church of Scotland) was asked to leave his post because he was deemed to be 'too Anglican' in the repertoire he was using. (well he was Winchester schooled). I think the real reason was a new Minister had a friend who wanted his job.

Much more likely. Isn't it pathetic what excuses people try to come up with in such circumstances?

 

I also recall an organist here on the Wirral being fired for playing 'Moon River' during Communion !


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#14 LoneM

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Posted 28 August 2020 - 21:35

 

Some years ago, an organist/choirmaster friend of mine near Glasgow (Church of Scotland) was asked to leave his post because he was deemed to be 'too Anglican' in the repertoire he was using. (well he was Winchester schooled). I think the real reason was a new Minister had a friend who wanted his job.

Much more likely. Isn't it pathetic what excuses people try to come up with in such circumstances?

 

 

If it's the place I'm thinking of it was was a rather more complicated, with a divided congregation and several bitterly warring factions - the sacking of F#m's friend was part of the collateral damage.


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#15 Vox Humana

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Posted 03 September 2020 - 00:19

As long as it takes! Is it: 'Hey, that's the wrong words to that tune?' 

 

Some decades ago I had a newly appointed priest stop a procession because he didn't recognise the tune and insisted on having the 'right' one. He was really quite rude about it. I very nearly switched the organ off and went home. We also had an argument about a voluntary he didn't like. To be fair, it was Messiaen, but it wasn't as if the congregation had complained. They were used to all sorts of things because the previous priest had been a musician who had had highly proficient organists and had given them a free hand. We did settle down into a reasonably benign armed neutrality, but the man was a near philistine.  It's a wonder the church's fine musical tradition survived, although he did nobble it severely.

 

I also recall an organist here on the Wirral being fired for playing 'Moon River' during Communion !

 

Seems fair enough to me!  :)  I knew an organist who used to incorporate all sorts of irreverent tunes into his communion improvisations. The congregation used to have fun trying to spot them. It was hardly my idea of how one should prepare for the most solemn moment of Communion, but that church was so low it was scraping the bottom of the candle holder.


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