(though not necessarily in that order)

(though not necessarily in that order)

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Things they don't tell you when you sign your contract.

Things they don’t tell you when you sign your contract as an organist, as observed by me a liturgical year into my first organist post:
- You use the phrase “liturgical year” as if there is no tomorrow. Ah well!
- Choirs are hard work as they can be haphazard in turning up, forgetful, never on time, chatty and somewhat unpredictable in what they manage each week.
- Choir bank accounts are hugely time consuming and very little use when money for things is dealt with in incompatible ways to that.
- Sheet music is expensive and what may first seem as an ideal piece for an occasion may turn out not to be.
- Descants known by the sopranos who want to do descants are generally in a completely different key to the hymn tune to be found in the hymn books.
- Refusing to play for a visiting African bishop due to his views on homosexuals is a fairly empowering and scary thing. Even if it just gets moved to another church and happens without hiccups there, with the vast majority of people not knowing it was moved as you refused to play/let someone else play the organ which is technically your organ. Pondering grabbing a woman off the street and passionately kissing her in the churchyard of the other church never actually became reality...
- The Bishop of the diocese is rather against homosexuals too. He retires in March of next year, pondering passionately kissing a woman in the cathedral grounds after his retirement service...
- Every other organist you will deal with will be called Tony. Pondered changing name to Tony by deed poll.
- Every other organist you will deal with will be at least 45 years older than you. They shall find it odd to have a 20 year old woman in their midst, seem uncomfortable, and will apologise for supposed sexist stereotyping comments they make (even if they aren’t actually being offensive in any way)
- Priests are somewhat unpredictable. And some just won’t sing, even if you suggest they could be taught the service rubric to be able to.
- You will not get paid on time. Some months you will not get paid until 2 months after it. The idea of the parish setting up some bank transfer of your stipend is immediately dismissed, even though it would make their life easier.
- Brides-to-be can be stressful. You tell them to contact you 4 months before when they ring 9 months before the date, but then spend another 30 minutes on the phone quelling their inane fears about the day.
- Brides-to-be expect you, as an organist, to be able control the weather. This is a somewhat unreasonable request, which you laugh at during meetings but they stare back at you in all seriousness.
- Choosing hymns can be quite tricky. Some weeks all the “ideal” hymns have lots of a certain digit in their numbers, so you have problems when it comes to doing the hymn boards to announce the numbers to the congregation as there are a limited amount of “2” cards...
- Some Sunday mornings, you end up singing everything as a solo as no choir turns up. Even if you were expecting 4 choir members, based on the known/given availability.
- First sopranos think they rule the roost. They really don’t. This notion is one which is difficult to change and you end up just letting them believe that to make the squabbling less constant.
- Innuendo amongst the choir is rife. Going “ANYHOW, can we PLEASE get on with this?” generally means laughter descends on the whole chancel.
- Innuendo about the word "organ" will always exist. A perfected glare of "I am not amused/heard it before/oh, shhh" appears about 3 months into the job.
- Funerals are more worrying for I than weddings are.
- You can actually get through a liturgical year without anyone requesting “Shine, Jesus, Shine” or Jerusalem, so you don’t play ‘em. *jumps for joy at this wondrous event*
- Organising for the organ to be tuned turns out to be a mammoth task, and actually swimming from Wales to Ireland would be simpler in some respects.
- People will organise events without telling you, but still assume you are free to play for said events.
- If you were to take all your entitled holiday leave, people would claim you are “never here”.
- You’ll trip over hymn books that end up on your bedroom floor.
- Choir members ring up in a panic on Saturday evening at 9pm as their televisions aren’t working, and expect you to remotely fix it.
- You will be referred to as the “NEW organist at the church” 11 months into your contract. Pondering how long the new status remains...
- Some people hate music that other people love. When choir members announce the dates of their holidays, you change choices of music to reflect this.
- The Parochial Church Council take months to come to any decision, and so you still haven’t got funding for the repairs to the organ which you need doing and have needed doing since your appointment to the post 12 months ago.
- You’ll start having to think about Christmas music in September, Easter music in January, but you still complain whenever a carol book gets placed in front of you at other musical gatherings before the 1st December saying “not yet”.
- Choir members will share the peace with you by saying “Peace be with you, boss”.
- Some days your internal metronome will be wonky, but people still thank you for uplifting music.
- Sometimes the congregation enjoy the anthem you have chosen for the choir, and spent weeks working on. They will come up to you afterwards and say “If it hadn’t been inappropriate, I would have clapped, that was beautiful.”
- You shall feel so humbled to sit at the organ you could pinch yourself to just check you aren’t dreaming. You are employed to worship God with music, to lead the music, to choose the music, to BE the music.
- You can see yourself being an organist and choir leader for many years to come. You seriously consider the Big Move which you shall do in a under 2 years time, and wonder whether a suitable post will appear in a university city which offers the masters course you want to do. Suddenly the world of church music, with all its downfalls and disappointments and horrors feels like the place you will always frequent. However mad it is, it feels right.

No more first services left to do - I've done Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Saints' Days and other feast days once, so now I start around the loop again. Next Sunday is Advent Sunday, and all things start getting manic with Christmas services again, if last year was anything to go by. Here endeth the blog post of an organist. (Though I'm not sure I'll ever get used to calling myself an organist...)


  1. First sopranos DO rule the roost. Fact. Everyone knows that the higher one can sing, the higher one's social status. ;)
    And I LOVE all the innuendo you have to put up with ;D

    But seriously Tony, huge congratulations on your first year. You're amazing, truly truly amazing. Here's to the next year! And the next, and the next...

  2. All too true - although I have never referred to our organist (or conductor) as "boss"!

    *is a first soprano* *whistles innocently*

    Res x