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Shocking how little the organ can be valued in church...

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  • #31
    One must simply go to a church that understands the importance of sacred music!

    If they can't spend the 'ones-of-thousands of dollars' that a used Allen or Rodgers* costs, as you can find any time on e-bay, they will get the organ they pay for!
    * I mention these without prejudice to others simply because these companies are still in business, their instruments are well made, and their older models can be repaired, and additional speaker cabinets are readily available.

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    • #32
      Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
      Most of us are lucky enough to be playing in church where the organ is valued and respected, and where music is fairly well presented with a view to excellence to the greatest possible extent. But that is not the case everywhere.

      I recently got a call to do a quick prep on a "gift" organ that was presented to a congregation that had just built a new church building after the old one was destroyed by a catastrophic water leak. They had built a rather nice new church that seats close to 300, I'd guess. Beautiful inside and out, a traditional "southern colonial" brick building with modern facilities and current technology -- TV screens and such. The project was valued at around $2 million, including a good deal of volunteer labor and donated materials that came from a denominational agency.

      The new church was completed and the "organ" had been set on the chancel, they told me, and they wanted it checked out before the dedicatory service. I had no idea what I was to see.

      I was shocked to find a little "toy" organ from the 80's that barely resembled even a "chapel" organ other than having two 44-note manuals and spinet style pedals. The stop tabs offered a selection of tones such as "jazz organ" or "church organ" or "orchestra" or "piano" and so on. To its credit, the "church organ" sound wasn't really dreadful, but that was the ONLY sound on it that had any possible use in a service.

      The "audio system" of this "organ" consisted of exactly one 8" speaker in the kneeboard. That was it.

      When I mentioned that I could offer a used Allen or Rodgers made for church use for as little as a couple thousand dollars, the reaction was "we can't spend that kind of money on an organ!"
      Hmmm........ you built a $2 million church, and didn't set aside ANYTHING for an organ? Whatever....


      People are satisfied with the sound of the organ. You stated that the Church Organ stop (sound) was decent. As long as they can sing the hymns, played on that organ, they are satisfied. What is the quality of the sampled sound on the Allen Organ-8 bit, 16 bit 0r 32 bit sampled sound? Does the Rodger Organ have digital sampled sound? If yes, What is its quality?


      Comment


      • #33
        Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
        Most of us are lucky enough to be playing in church where the organ is valued and respected, and where music is fairly well presented with a view to excellence to the greatest possible extent. But that is not the case everywhere.

        I recently got a call to do a quick prep on a "gift" organ that was presented to a congregation that had just built a new church building after the old one was destroyed by a catastrophic water leak. They had built a rather nice new church that seats close to 300, I'd guess. Beautiful inside and out, a traditional "southern colonial" brick building with modern facilities and current technology -- TV screens and such. The project was valued at around $2 million, including a good deal of volunteer labor and donated materials that came from a denominational agency.

        The new church was completed and the "organ" had been set on the chancel, they told me, and they wanted it checked out before the dedicatory service. I had no idea what I was to see.

        I was shocked to find a little "toy" organ from the 80's that barely resembled even a "chapel" organ other than having two 44-note manuals and spinet style pedals. The stop tabs offered a selection of tones such as "jazz organ" or "church organ" or "orchestra" or "piano" and so on. To its credit, the "church organ" sound wasn't really dreadful, but that was the ONLY sound on it that had any possible use in a service.

        The "audio system" of this "organ" consisted of exactly one 8" speaker in the kneeboard. That was it.

        When I mentioned that I could offer a used Allen or Rodgers made for church use for as little as a couple thousand dollars, the reaction was "we can't spend that kind of money on an organ!"

        Hmmm........ you built a $2 million church, and didn't set aside ANYTHING for an organ? Whatever....
        This is why so few institutional organs are sold today.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by daryljeffreyl View Post
          This is why so few institutional organs are sold today.
          Yes, certainly one reason. There was a day when even a small church building a new sanctuary would've set aside some money for a nice organ. In the 80's I sold a lot of Allen organs to churches that seated fewer than 300 people. Even some little churches with attendance as small as 50 or so would buy new organs. At the low end, but new organs nonetheless.

          Of course there are many factors at work in the decline of the institutional organ market. Huge elaborate church buildings go up all the time, with tens of millions of dollars being spent, with no organ of any kind, the church only planning to accommodate praise-band style worship. If the organ builders were selling to these big churches with 1000-2000 seat sanctuaries (or, pardon me, "auditoriums" or "worship venues") it would make a vast difference in the state of the industry.

          There must be a dozen such structures that get built every year in this small state, meaning that an ambitious organ dealership could be installing a 3 or 4 manual organ every month. That would be a prosperous dealership unlike anything I've seen in my lifetime. But these dozen churches are totally lost to the organ market, and to historic worship, to the heritage of hymnody and choral music. Sold out to the pulp mills that crank out "new" music weekly for their consumption.

          I have to add another factor to blame that I have observed over the years -- really poor organ playing. Far too many congregations are saddled with a player who has been playing for so many decades nobody wants to make him or her step down, even when their playing becomes abominably sloppy (or perhaps always was). Or has actually "hired" a player who is seriously incompetent because the persons doing the hiring were not qualified to judge, or because they simply couldn't get anyone better. This kind of situation can cause people to learn to hate the organ and associate it with dreadfully bad music. These folks are greatly relieved when the old organ (or organist) finally dies and they can switch to something different, which is bound to be "better" in the sense of musical competency. (Or not.)

          Hard to believe that the one instrument most closely associated with sacred music, for many centuries and in many branches of Christianity, has so quickly fallen into disuse in such a large swath of the church culture. It's almost like there was a trend that started somewhere to destroy all the stained glass in the world and install video screens in their place, and it took off with such force that it became an unstoppable movement that nobody knew how to squelch, even as they could see the ruin it was doing. It's like that, really.

          One could perhaps make a case for this being a very transitory trend, with people eventually crying out for a return to the music that was so deeply connected to the church in our youth, the music that our parents and grandparents enjoyed at worship. But it sure looks like a trend that is going to continue. Far too many folks today have never even attended a properly-done authentic historic worship service. They don't know what they're missing, and all they know is what their preacher and praise band leader tell them, that "traditional" worship is boring and just for old people.
          John
          ----------
          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

          Comment


          • #35
            Not to mention that a great many young people have the attention span of an ant and are not capable of accessing the wonderful poetry contained in traditional Hymns. They can only accept "7-11" music (7 words, 11 times) because it strains their little minds trying to encompass anything deeper. (Rant off)

            David

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            • #36
              Perhaps all these poor players are defaults when a better organist couldn't be found. We have been looking for many months for a permanent organist. While we have a contemporary service, we also have a very traditional service. We have a well maintained 3M Skinner so we aren't talking playing a funeral parlor reject. The person we are looking for would probably need to play at a master's degree level or beyond. Apparently people with these qualifications are difficult to find.

              Comment


              • beel m
                beel m commented
                Editing a comment
                When I was an AGO Chapter Dean, many of us felt that "there is not a shortage of fine organists, only a shortage of fine church positions." If the pay is not in line with the work and skill level, and/or the organ is substandard, and/or the musician is going to be working for a control freak//get in the crossfire between minister and unhappy official board members, then a given church will find there's a shortage of applicants

            • #37
              Originally posted by cham-ed View Post
              Perhaps all these poor players are defaults when a better organist couldn't be found. We have been looking for many months for a permanent organist. While we have a contemporary service, we also have a very traditional service. We have a well maintained 3M Skinner so we aren't talking playing a funeral parlor reject. The person we are looking for would probably need to play at a master's degree level or beyond. Apparently people with these qualifications are difficult to find.
              The person you are looking for to play your Skinner with a Masters degree might well be around. However, someone that plays to the level you want will expect to be compensated accordingly. That person has probably taken a different career path due to it being really hard to make a living doing church music.
              Regards, Larry

              At Home : Yamaha Electones : EX-42 ( X 3 !!! ), E-5AR, FX-1 ( X 2 !! ), FX-20, EL-25 ( X 2, 1 chopped, 1 not ). Allen 601D, ADC 6000D. Baldwin 626. Lowrey CH32-1. At Churches I play for : Allen Q325 ( with Vista ), Allen L123 ( with Navigator ). Rodgers 755.

              Comment


              • #38
                Originally posted by cham-ed View Post
                Perhaps all these poor players are defaults when a better organist couldn't be found. We have been looking for many months for a permanent organist. While we have a contemporary service, we also have a very traditional service. We have a well maintained 3M Skinner so we aren't talking playing a funeral parlor reject. The person we are looking for would probably need to play at a master's degree level or beyond. Apparently people with these qualifications are difficult to find.
                cham-ed, I hope your church will keep looking and not settle for mediocre. But you are right that it may be difficult to find a qualified person, or at least one who can afford to live on what church organists are paid these days. I do know a few large churches that pay a perfectly comfortable salary to their organist (who is also probably the choir director and general minister of music, thus a full-time position). But too many that I know simply want a highly-trained and sensitive musician to drop in for the required services and accept a paltry wage that hardly covers their time, travel, and the practice and prep they put in through the week.

                I suppose it's the widely-accepted separation of the job of "organist" from the job of "music minister" that has taken a toll on the salaries organists can get. Long ago (and still in many liturgical and "high" churches) the music minister was always the organist too, along with being the choir director. He or she would have plenty of work to do to make it a full-time job, and these positions would of course draw highly-qualified individuals who didn't mind spending years and lots of money getting a proper education.

                Nowadays, with the all too frequent separation of the tasks, the "music minister" is saddled with the expectation that he or she will be an actual "minister" in the sense of making appearances at the hospitals, generally partaking of some of the duties we associate with the "pastor" -- and thus so many churches now call him the "worship pastor" or "music pastor." Personally, I think this is a questionable change, as it #1 makes it seem that the music ministry is not "enough" of a ministry on its own, that in order to be a true "minister" the person has to do those hospital visits and such. And #2 it elevates those duties above what used to be the MM's vital qualifications as a highly-trained musician, including playing the organ.

                So hang in there and try to find the person you need. But if the church doesn't offer a full-time position with a living wage you may have trouble. You can't blame someone who spent five or six years in a college or conservatory at a cost of many tens of thousands of dollars per year for wanting to make a decent living with their skills.

                And "settling" for a low-rent little old lady who only knows enough about the organ to be dangerous is the kiss of death to your traditional worship. That is exactly the type of situation that I have seen so often in these dying churches.
                John
                ----------
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                Comment


                • #39
                  Originally posted by cham-ed View Post
                  Perhaps all these poor players are defaults when a better organist couldn't be found. We have been looking for many months for a permanent organist. While we have a contemporary service, we also have a very traditional service. We have a well maintained 3M Skinner so we aren't talking playing a funeral parlor reject. The person we are looking for would probably need to play at a master's degree level or beyond. Apparently people with these qualifications are difficult to find.
                  You mention that your church has a traditional service and a well-maintained 3M Skinner organ, but you don’t say anything about the duties or compensation for this person. If you want help determining what you need to pay for a person who needs to “play at a master's degree level or beyond," I suggest that you contact the American Guild of Organists." They have guidlines that you should find helpful. I often see ads in my area for church musicians that post a 10 hour a week job and then list responsibilities that would take at least twice that amount of time. The average person often does not have a good idea of how much time it takes to prepare for a church service or choir rehearsal. Also, have you contacted the person who teaches organ at the University of Illinois-Champaign? They may have a promising student or know of someone who is looking for an organist position.

                  Best wishes in your search.
                  Bill

                  My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                  Comment


                  • #40
                    Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                    .. I have to add another factor to blame that I have observed over the years -- really poor organ playing. Far too many congregations are saddled with a player who has been playing for so many decades nobody wants to make him or her step down, even when their playing becomes abominably sloppy (or perhaps always was). Or has actually "hired" a player who is seriously incompetent because the persons doing the hiring were not qualified to judge, or because they simply couldn't get anyone better. This kind of situation can cause people to learn to hate the organ and associate it with dreadfully bad music. These folks are greatly relieved when the old organ (or organist) finally dies and they can switch to something different, which is bound to be "better" in the sense of musical competency. (Or not.) ...
                    Related to this:
                    I have heard of situations where the musician was excellent at music, but had some difficulty with interpersonal skills. Once they were finally gone, the next hiring committee raised the importance of the interpersonal part above the musical skills part. They got someone who can play at some level, but that step conditioned people to accept/tolerate music (and organ playing in particular) that was mediocre at best. Even though the organ was still maintained, choral and other ensemble programs began to deteriorate to that point that when it next came to hire a new musician, the position didn't nearly interest a serious, professional organist as it had in the past.

                    And the cycle continues...

                    Comment


                    • #41
                      Originally posted by regeron View Post
                      Even though the organ was still maintained, choral and other ensemble programs began to deteriorate to that point that when it next came to hire a new musician, the position didn't nearly interest a serious, professional organist as it had in the past.
                      Silly candidates! Don't they realize it's a prime position because anything
                      Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
                      • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
                      • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
                      • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

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                      • #42
                        Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                        Silly candidates! Don't they realize it's a prime position because anything they do will exceed the expectations of the church–at least, for a while. Granted, the position will be a bit more difficult in restoring the quality of the music program, but in so doing, there is immense satisfaction.

                        Michael
                        I forgot to mention, because the incoming musician was less qualified, the salary was lowered. The church felt they were getting enough for less money and failed to see how more money could get them a better situation. In some cases, the situation with the organist associated with the higher salary still left a bad taste in people's mouths - "we might have gotten better music, but this person couldn't work well with others."

                        I have recently inquired about a couple jobs that came open. Here in Canada, churches will often reference the Salary Guidelines of the Royal Canadian College of Organists (RCCO). In some instances, the church came to me to see if I'd like to apply. When I asked about the hours involved, then checked the salary table and let them know how much I would cost them, they had to admit that they couldn't afford me.

                        Related to this, in my own job situation, the minister has bad interpersonal skills. I get one email from him each week, telling me his sermon title, scripture reference and his choice of last hymn. Other than that, since the beginning of December he hasn't even said "hello" to me on a Sunday morning, even though we are not a large group and our paths inevitably cross.

                        Nothing is being done about that, though I have heard that others are noticing the same lack of communication skills. I know that will impact our choice of whom we hire when this one moves on.

                        Comment


                        • #43
                          All this points up that in order to be a church musician, you need BOTH musical competence up to the demands of the situation, AND you need to be a nice person to work with. We're not all extroverts (by a long shot) but we can probably all be persuaded to be kind and gracious to other people.

                          To be fair, there is always hope, regardless of where you are as a person. When I took my present position as organist/choir director/minister of music over seven years ago, I wasn't actually musically qualified. And I wasn't as nice a person as I should have been.

                          In decades and years past, my position has been held by guys and gals with music degrees, who were extremely proficient at the organ and piano. I'm a piano-player-turned-organist, primarily self-taught, and a preacher-turned-music minister, who picked up most of his music leadership skills by attending workshops, by being in college and bigger church choirs led by real pros, by observing other MM's whom I admire. And I have had to struggle and practice hard to get to the point where I can play the organ without embarrassing myself.

                          Over these seven years, I have constantly been surprised at how my musical abilities have developed and my playing skills have advanced. I can honestly say that I play better, sing better, and direct the choir better than I ever did, even when I was 20 years younger.

                          And I've learned a LOT about being thoughtful, letting other people have a voice, and keeping my mouth shut when I want to run it off. And that has been a long process, for which I am very grateful. These people were very patient with me!

                          In part, I was able to get this job in spite of my questionable qualifications because the church had been so dis-satisfied with a previous MM. From what I've heard, he was a real horse's patootey. By the time he left, half the choir members had dropped out because they couldn't stand him. The pastor told me she could not work with him. And from what I know about him now (after checking out his Facebook page), he was a real mismatch for this very progressive church, as his views on many issues are anything but progressive or open-minded. I don't know how he ever got the job, frankly.

                          The guy who was interim after him and before me was a decent sort, but also not a good fit, with his deeply fundamental Baptist background. He was apparently very nice though, and well liked. But possibly not a very sensitive organist. The one time I visited this church and heard him play I thought he was basically competent but not very creative or musically clever.

                          So I guess they took a chance on me because they needed to. And they could tell that I was a genuine progressive person, unlike my predecessor, and thus surely a better fit for the congregation.

                          It has worked out well, so far anyway. We have fallen in love with this little church, and count the people here as our dearest friends. There seems to be a sweet spirit here, the choir has been stable, though it's still a shadow of what it was 30 or 40 years ago in the heyday. But we have a great choir family who love one another and enjoy being together, we sing music that suits us and that our people seem to genuinely enjoy. You never know how something is going to work out, but you should always be careful and thoughtful when choosing church staff members.

                          John
                          ----------
                          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                          Comment


                          • #44
                            Originally posted by voet View Post

                            You mention that your church has a traditional service and a well-maintained 3M Skinner organ, but you don’t say anything about the duties or compensation for this person. If you want help determining what you need to pay for a person who needs to “play at a master's degree level or beyond," I suggest that you contact the American Guild of Organists." They have guidlines that you should find helpful. I often see ads in my area for church musicians that post a 10 hour a week job and then list responsibilities that would take at least twice that amount of time. The average person often does not have a good idea of how much time it takes to prepare for a church service or choir rehearsal. Also, have you contacted the person who teaches organ at the University of Illinois-Champaign? They may have a promising student or know of someone who is looking for an organist position.

                            Best wishes in your search.
                            I recently heard that Professor Robinson is retiring and the organ program is on its' way out at U of I. Our organist is organist/accompanist. There is a separate choral director. No clerical duties. So they are not expected to wear sixteen hats. But not being part of the search committee, I have no idea of compensation.

                            Comment


                            • #45
                              Originally posted by jbird604 View Post
                              Interesting points raised by all. Didn't intend for the thread to go this way, but this is a topic worth hashing out some more.

                              As I said, I'd be almost afraid to suggest to a church like the one I'm describing that they ought to "improve" their music program. The majority of the people are probably tickled to death with what they have. And they aren't (yet) in decline, as are so many churches with more "legitimate" music. I'm sure there's more to maintaining a church than just having good music, though that would be important to me, if I were looking to join a church.

                              I think it is ALWAYS a bad idea for a declining traditional church to start a contemporary service in hopes of bringing in some "new people." It will probably always turn out as Voet described -- some new faces, but they won't integrate into the existing membership. Pretty much the same experience in several churches I know about, even some very large ones. The two services actually constitute two separate congregations who basically refuse to worship together, so what point is there in saying they are part of the same church?

                              Is there a solution? I don't know. I would love to think that doing traditional worship BETTER would strengthen an existing traditional church. Upping the musical standards, making sure to sing solid hymns, keeping the organ and/or piano in top playing order, using competent players, polishing up the choir, using a variety of other instruments and ensembles, etc., to best advantage, making sure the service or liturgy is not being done in a boring manner.

                              I know at least one church with a very traditional history that is trying to do all the above -- the church I currently serve -- but still attendance is slipping as folks die, an occasional family moves away, our high school and college age kids got spouses or careers or whatever and moved away. Nobody is showing up to take the places of the ones we lose, so our crowd continues to shrink, in spite of "doing everything right" in worship, or at least doing it with more grace, class, competence, and thought than so many churches I could name, such as the above example.

                              So I just don't know what is going to happen. I don't think the contemporary movement is going to save us. I think we'll see mega churches come and go, leaving behind hulking arena-size empty buildings, as people get tired of the spiritual pop act du jour, and go looking for more excitement. A lot of mainline churches will one day have to close the doors when they can no longer pay the bills. Perhaps there is a middle ground somewhere, a type of church that will take root and grow in this toxic materialistic culture.

                              We'll see.
                              Since the older people will certainly die, and attendance decline, I don't see an alternative to bring in new people, even if they don't integrate with the older people. You may have to have separate services or masses, for the younger people, with more contemporary music, and more overall contemporary services and masses. The young people, future generations, are the future for buying products and services, in the general economy, and for expanding church service and mass attendance. We, the older people, are rapidly becoming the past. When we are in the cemetery, we won't be buying and products, services, or attending church, and contributing to the collection basket.

                              Comment


                              • Admin
                                Admin commented
                                Editing a comment
                                The assumption that contemporary music brings in new people is unfounded. There are some figures on this on the Forum, but the fact is that church attendance of adults under 50 has been declining for quite some time and continues to do so.
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