I spent a couple of wonderful hours yesterday and today as an Organist’s Assistant at Winchester Cathedral. And the time really was full of wonder. My Training Incumbent is a talented musician, and was asked to step in when none of the usual organists was available to play for two services for primary school leavers.
The Cathedral is a wonderful example of craftsmanship from any angle. I’ve got to know its nooks and crannies a little as visitors’ chaplain, but thought you might like to share an organist’s view for a change.
A lot of my wonder came from experiencing this beautiful building from a different perspective. I was up close and personal with the intricate wood carving in the choir, I was considerably closer to the stunning roof too. The photos, taken with my phone, don’t really do justice (why oh why didn’t I take our camera?)
I know that services take some choreographing when people have to move large distances, but timing the processional music was an art form in itself. More wonder – that I routinely expect organists to play processionals which last for the right amount of time, and that they do. The skill in cutting and pasting music phrases together is huge, and to be able to gauge the timing is a gift.
Part of my job today was to monitor the movements at various points in the service, and keep a report. There is a CCTV which covers the nave, but watching that, whilst reading music, using two hands across four manuals, playing with feet and retaining control of six columns of stops was a feat which my TI didn’t fancy attempting. So much of my wonder came from watching the marriage of music and movement.
My other job was to turn pages as required. I read music competently, but it’s a long time since I’ve had to follow with such concentration – oddly it is far easier to read what I am playing than it is to follow what someone else is doing. And I had to keep put of the way of stop changes too. Wonder that my musicality was just good enough!
And wonder that my TI is so talented – and at the people who conceived of and built such an instrument too. So much wonder at the quality of music that I have heard these two days.
And the last bit of wonder – the shared sense of achievement at the end of the services – and a little conceit. “Look professional” said TI – I did my best.