Page 41 - Church Music Quarterly June 2019
P. 41

The choir of St John’s College, Cambridge is set to release its latest album, Locus Iste, on 26 April this year, marking its 100th recording release
as well as the 150th anniversary of the completion of St John’s College chapel. The title track is Bruckner’s Locus Iste, with its opening line ‘This place was made by God’ offering a fitting sentiment, having been written the same year the building was completed (1869).
Designed by great Gothic Revival architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, the chapel of St John’s College was first consecrated on 12 May 1869. Its construction was intended to reflect the College’s royal status as a foundation of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII. It would be hard to conceive of the College without the great Victorian chapel that is by now so closely connected with its traditions.
  Anna Hallett, 14 years old and a former RSCM Pipeline organ scholar, has put together an insightful report on the challenges facing young organists.
She has also put forward her recommendations for addressing some of the issues.
In her study, Inspiring Organists of the Future, Anna argues that, while an excellent range of scholarships have been established in recent years (notably the RSCM’s Pipeline and the Young Organists Scholarship Trust), information regarding access to a wider range of funding tends to be poorly disseminated. Anna also notes that young organists often struggle to find a safe and welcoming place to practise. As one responder to Anna’s survey put it, ‘even today, finding an organ to practise on, where it is safe and warm and there is light, is a challenge and often costly too.’
Another noted that ‘some (organists) are distinctly possessive of their instrument and can, on occasions,
be a touch superior – this does little
to encourage the interest of potential young players.’
Success tends to depend upon privilege, as does access to a teacher. Then there is the question of incurring high levels of student debt in order
to obtain a degree. All of which make learning the organ prohibitive to all but a small number of (mostly) white young males attending elite schools.
Anna also points out that practising organists across the country, many of whom work tirelessly to keep sacred music alive in churches, feel let down by the clergy. A lack of musical training among the clergy was a common complaint, with several of those surveyed suggesting that those in charge of churches often want to ‘get rid of the organ, choirs, pews, anything that carries on old traditions’. Many are also more than happy to replace musicians with recordings, having little understanding of the valuable role music plays in worship.
Anna concludes that if we do not wish to see an ever greater number
of small parish churches without an organist, we must do more to provide safe and welcoming spaces for young people to practise, do more to promote access to funding for those outside the public school system, do more locally to promote the existence of
the organ to those who are interested in becoming a musician (perhaps
by offering free recitals), and establish a greater number of scholarships.
Anna’s report contains a lot of information for would-be organists, including information about scholarships and useful organizations you may wish to join.
Anyone wishing to download the report in full or to get in touch with the author can do so through Anna’s website:

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