Things organists do that drive you....crazy.
  • When dealing with the GIRM and a dream of better things to come, you have an organist who has been there forever, knows that you will be here for awhile but they will remain...and as a result they say things and do things that drive you crazy.

    [I should mention that this is not a situation that I am in, but am gathering information]

    I can give an example form the past, to start. Organist was treated really, really badly by the three prior DM's and had developed a thick skin. Treating her very nicely seemed to work, but three times in the first year minor comments caused her to walk out - even during Mass. Changing a hymn, for example.

    As a followup, the current quite competent director is having the same experience, so I know it wasn't just me...

    What things do they say or do when you suggest....chant...and other things?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,304
    Things organists do that drive you....crazy.

    1. Play everything too slow.
    2. Play everything too fast.
    3. Divide all music into two categories: those that get played too fast and those that get played too slow.
  • For some reason or other I thought you were also the organist....is this some sort of internal two people in one body sort of thing? If so, I know a reality series based on psychological disorders that would welcome you...
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,016
    The only things that organists do that drive me really crazy are showing up late and/or hung over.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    I once knew an organist - may he R.I.P. - who was notorious for being hung over. I don't know how he did it. I am not talented enough to play either drunk or hung over. It just amazes me that anyone could do that.
    Thanked by 2R J Stove tomjaw
  • I don't know how he did it.

    He drank a lot.

    Recently met a nurse who had been married to a fundamentalist preacher. He passed away, she had no intentions of marrying again, met someone Catholic and married him, went through RCIA. Her priceless comment about all of this change in her life:

    "My, Catholics sure drink a lot."
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Well I've never played while under the influence, at least in public, but I did once fall asleep during the Gospel acclamation. My cantor said afterwards that I played it perfectly. You tell me how that happened.
    Thanked by 2Ben Yanke BruceL
  • 1.Try to improvise when they really can't!

    2. Play bad music.

    3. Don't allow time for a breath or a tad of reflection between hymn stanzas.






  • ^^^ or both of these while drunk/hungover! That's the organist at my church, God love him...
  • My wife's contribution: organists play (nearly) everything too loud and bombastically.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    Conducting a round standing in the middle of the aisle and running back and forth from side to side (of the church) mouthing the words... like we are in some kind of singing workshop or something... I kid you not!
  • All that while playing the organ?
    My! What a feat.

    4. Clueless registration, no imagination.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,417
    I've never known an organist play drunk/hung over. But, that's probably because most of the organists in my area that I know are little old ladies with buns.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    1.Try to improvise when they really can't!


    I have to disagree with Jackson here. To say one "can't improvise" is like the old myth that Jackson rightly argues against that some people (Catholics especially) "can't sing".

    Any organist can improvise. All it takes is the ears God gave them, a soul to connect to the sacred rites, and a mind to express creatively the mood of the soul. When I've taught improvisation, I've suggested quite seriously that organists simply pick a scale and play it alone on one particularly beautiful stop. Or a hymn tune, melody only. Pause when you feel it to be needed, speed up when you feel it to be needed. Who among us is incapable of that? Yet so many organists will not, out of obstinacy, rather than from inability.
  • Organists who are afraid to play bombastically or loudly.

    Related to that, using the same stops ad nauseam.

    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • I've never known an organist play drunk/hung over.


    I've known a substantial number of organists who drink profusely. (I hope I'm not giving away your secret, Clerget! ;] ) Part of me would be worried were the number ever to drop. Drunk organists are like the Tzadik Nistarim.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    There ARE organists who can not improvise. Be assured.
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • I've never known an organist play drunk/hung over.


    You didn't know my 22 year old self.
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood tomboysuze
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    Personally, as an organist, I find all of these remarks fascinating. Of course, my complaint is with one footed organists.
  • I readily agree with Gavin if he means to encourage those who have the ability, the talent, to develop improvisatory skills. Many have these. Many don't. Those who do should be encouraged and egged on. There are those, however, who subject people to a boring round of doodling on, or not on, a hymn tune or such at the offertory or communions and call it improvisation. There are those who make a lot of noise for a closing voluntary or a processional and boast that they have improvised. Predictably, an awful lot of people are mightily impressed (and concommitantly deceived) with said noise. Such doodling, whether loud or soft, is not improvisation and should be discouraged. Improvisation is the spontaneous invention of music which is defined by musical thought and form. We encourage and wish to ennervate those who have this gift and wish to develop it. We discourage those who don't and are not embarassed to subject people to their senseless, boring, distracting, doodling and meandering. It is far better to play short pieces or examples of much early music which was written specifically to be cut short or lengthened as needed. Francis is quite correct: 'There ARE organists who can not improvise. Be assured'. Those who can't shouldn't, and those who can should be encouraged, no matter how elementary their first efforts bay be.

    Incidentally, for those who are members of the AGO, or can avail themselves of copies of The American Organist, there is an ongoing article and tutorial about improvising in every issue. There is much good advice and encouragement here for those who wish to develop their talent. They may even discover that they can do what they never thought they could do. Many have!
  • UGH Jackson you reminded me of another of our crazy/drunk organist's particular talents-just plain awful registration and comically awful changes of registration that happen randomly. There is something wrong with our organ, well probably several things, and instead of avoiding whatever stop or pipe it is with the issue he just blasts through it. It sounds like a flute stop but it is piercingly loud and hideously flat...just please Mr Organist whom I will not name here, don't use it or get it fixed!!!
  • Back in my Anglo-Catholic days, we used to celebrate the Feast of the Circumcision. And there was a tenor who would come in, the worse for wear. I remember one year when he invented "the reverse Picardy third" by going massively flat in a 4-3-2-3 cadence.
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • There are those, however, who subject people to a boring round of doodling on, or not on, a hymn tune or such at the offertory or communions and calling it improvisation. There are those who make a lot of noise for a closing voluntary or a processional and boast that they have improvised. Predictably, an awful lot of people are mightily impressed (and concommitantly deceived) with said noise. Such doodling, whether loud or soft, is not improvisation and should be discouraged.


    Would it be possible for you to find us a YouTube recording or two that illustrate what you call bad improvisation? If people put it online in the public sphere, it's fair game IMO.

    I'm still not sure exactly what you would call bad improvisation vs. good. And this discussion is important to me since I'm actually studying some improvisation right now.
  • Paix -
    If you are studying improvisation I applaud you and wish you much gratification from practicing this noble art. Think of improvisation as the musical equivalent of the gift of spontaneous speaking on a given topic. We have all been informed, entertained, and enriched by those who have knowledge in a certain field and the ability to 'invent' a spoken essay of brief or lengthy duration about it. If someone is good at this we applaud him. If he isn't we are likely to be turned off and say that he doesn't know what he is talking about. So is it with music. If you know what you are talking about, improvise away. But if you don't, please don't bore us and clutter the liturgy with musical nonsense. Play a short piece, or a part of one that was meant to be cut short if need be. There is honour in that.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    a boring round of doodling on, or not on...
    Improvisation is NOT pressing the keys within the scale. It IS what MJO references above.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    One of my predecessors would hold a chord, then turn the organ off. The sound was hideous as the wind died away. He didn't last long. An organist at another parish was notorious for playing a 1-3-5 melody on a solo stop at the end of every piece. Stuff happens. LOL.
  • Since you asked-

    Organists who presume they can sing... a pet peeve of mine. That often hurts my ears.

    Worse, organists who presume they can sing but cannot, and then go on to presume that they can teach other people to sing, just because they happen to have a music degree and the "ignorant amateur singers" don't.

    When things go wrong, and the choir doesn't develop well or gain members, of course! it's the fault of the choir and not the organist...

    I've seen this cycle of frustration in choirs many times.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Steve Q
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Then there is the aging diva - God save us all. She's been in every choir I have ever worked with. Her hearing is not the greatest any more, so of course I will play her part in addition to the accompaniment when she demands to do a solo. No problem! Being a "star" she comes in late, has to get her music out, and say hello to all her friends in the choir. We are past the Gloria by that point. Oh well, Maybe she can compensate for the deaf and booming bass, who has no sense of rhythm and refuses to wear a hearing aid. I think one could easily earn sanctity through suffering in the field of church music. Who said this work is easy. LOL.
  • The aging diva or divo- or any aged such person- becomes a cross to bear. Repeatedly. Mass is not a talent show for adults. Organists become drunks for a reason...

    I knew a community diva well past her prime who sought out performance venues in the most pathetic way. She would read the local obits so she could call the family and offer to sing. When the qualified staff musicians were pushed aside, she could say that the family "chose" her. And the sound was... not worthy.

    I think one could easily earn sanctity through suffering in the field of church music.


    Amen!
    Thanked by 1JSHerman
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,016
    For the win: "Organists become drunks for a reason." Laughing hysterically over here!
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Hey, I can't take refuge in the bottle. I don't drink. Hate the taste of alcohol. I just have some penitential Lindt dark chocolate, instead. :-)
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    Stop making fun of me.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    Organists become drunks for a reason
    .

    I would like to know what this reason is? Working for priests? Working for congregations?
    32 years and while I like a good beer or wine or bourbon ( hey its Kentucky), playing at Church has never made me want to do that. Raising children, marriage, families...now I have a reason.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 632
    Thankfully, I've managed to avoid drinking and doodling together to this point. I may be guilty of some of the other stuff!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,230
    THEN THERE IS THE AGING DIVA... Jesus, please help us. There are too many of them.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Back to the topic...practical things they fail to understand and do.

    1. Playing the last line and expect the congregation to recognize the hymn and expects them to sing.

    2. Slowing down at the end of every verse - or worse, at the end of every line.

    3. Being totally unable to accept a director's tempo, beginning and plowing along at their own speed.
  • #3 equals undermining the director, no?
  • It is rather a given that the organ sets the tempo for hymns, leads them, and that they are not conducted by the choirmaster. Hymns are not conducted, they are led by the organ. This is a prerogative which I guard jealously when in appropriate circumstances. It is presupposed, though, that one has a real organist, not one who is characterised by numbers one and two. With this caveat in mind, I agree with Noel whole-heartedly about numbers one and two.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,841
    If the hymn number is up on the board and it's one the congregation has sung before the last line will often do nicely: are you really going to lose anyone with "O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord"? The most confused I've ever been as a singer though was an introduction to AURELIA consisting of the the first two lines.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    The hymn numbers are always on the board and the hymns are familiar. I don't throw new things at the congregation without months of preparation. I set the tempo for the hymns - the choir would drag them to death if allowed - and I direct from the organ. With familiar hymns the last two or three lines are more than enough introduction.

    I will add that I tell my choir the hymns are not choir pieces. They are for the congregation.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    My church has a wonderful organist and I'm grateful because I'm not. That being said, when the hymn is familiar, he occasionally plays too quickly because, I believe, he isn't singing and he's lost in the moment. He likes to poke fun, so often before a hymn, or after a quick introduction, I'll remind him that we have words and humans breathe.

    I agree that the last line is not always best, especially when there is no choir. I play when there is no choir or cantor and prefer to give the first line and the last, or find a good cadence point after the first for the intro.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,417
    MJO, I presumed that Noel's comment about tempi was more in regard to Anthems than Hymns.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,104
    Peeves.
    1. Organists who play full blast with mixtures on every verse. There is no surerer way to cause people to hate the instrument.
    2. Guest organists who change every piston on the organ and leave.
    3. Organists who stuff the organ consle with jelly bellies, stuffed animals, prayer cards, books, cups, pens, office supplies, toys, pictures of the entire Smith clan...
    4. Organists who get the organ tuned once every ten years whether it needs it or not, and allows us all to suffer.
    5. Organists that have no rhythm whatsoever.
    6. Organists that have to fill up every spare second of the liturgy with some sounds from the organ like the liturgy is some televised soap opera.
    7. Organists who get ahold of a very loud mike and croon whike playing.
    8. Organists who dont realise they are the ones leading congreational singing
    Couldnt agree more with MJO 's comment about the job of the organist is to lead the congregation.
    ok I guess I'm done.
  • I didn't take FNJ's #3 to be in reference to hymns, either, when I wrote my response.
    That being said, I have also shared in the experience canadash describes. Sometimes the organist leading the hymn is just "getting through it", maybe thinking ahead to a postlude, maybe not liking the hymn and giving it some mental distance, and he or she ends up not choosing a tempo that is comfortable or familiar with the bulk of the people.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • The pastor at the church I work at recently got a cochlear implant. He promised not to sing until his ear/brain connections improve, but that can take a year or more, so he sings anyway...The result is him not knowing where we are and having zero sense of pitch, and throwing off the choir and congregation. Try as I might to lead, it often unravels and there's not much I can do to stop it LOL!
    At my home church we have one priest that should have gone into opera. If he doesn't like the tempo of anything he will sing in his great, booming voice and dictate the tempo. I'm sure our organist just loves that...You just can't win it seems!
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    Please start a new thread complaining about choir directors and or singers. You guys have beaten the organists up enough.
  • Many threads incorporate that theme, Kevin.
  • I'm gaining useful information here, beyond the usual complaints, thanks!

    Now, why not post from the priest's point of view? Put yourself in the round collar.
  • Three things I've heard repeatedly from priests:

    1) organ is too loud, this is a constant theme with variations

    2) organ is too dissonant, too esoteric. In fairness to organists this can simply mean that the priest doesn't listen to music written in the last 80 or so years, and doesn't think the people do, either.

    3) organists or music directors, anyone choosing the hymns picks from among musicians' favorites and not what they think is good for the people.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,005
    Our new pastor said from the pulpit that he loves the sound of our pipe organ. He said to open it up and play. We are the only Catholic parish in town with a pipe instrument. The others had them at one time but got rid of them for electronics.

    Our folks prefer the traditional hymns they know.
    Thanked by 1Gavin