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Are Organ Societies Doomed? Another Point Of View...

Posted: Monday 21st March

With Penny Weedon's articles in mind, we have since received this from Sandra Ebbets of The New Forest Organ Society, offering their views as a committee on the future of the organ world and their findings within their club.  We have opened up a topic on our forum where we invite you to have your say and express your opinion on the committees thoughts below...

The New Forest Organ Society- with 250 members and a waiting list for membership - is a successful and busy Society in Milford-on-Sea in Hampshire that has grown over 33 years with monthly concerts, monthly Social Evenings and Special Events during the year. Recently the NFOS Committee has become increasingly concerned about the suggested falling interest in the organ field as indeed it would seem are several organists themselves and we feel that clubs and organists could do more to help each other.

We have got to the point where we do not yet have a Programme for 2012 – not one organist has been booked.

Previously published articles seem to put any problems with Clubs closing etc down to the Clubs so we hope that you will appreciate and understand why we feel the need to write the following.

The NFOS Committee acknowledges that Clubs around the country vary in their enjoyment needs and this is agreed by most of the organists we have talked to.  So why not a little more flexibility in the organists programme to allow for the requirements of different clubs?  Two examples:-  Some clubs enjoy ‘singalongs’ of the pub variety – we do not, some enjoy jazz and light classical music – we do.  The organists are the professionals and the clubs are there to  promote them and enjoy a good concert with a variety of music.  Is it really too difficult for this to be arranged?  Surely we cannot be the only society in the country to have these concerns?

Here at NFOS we work hard to get an audience of up to 200 each month but lately the Committee has received a number of comments after concerts – many good but others are critical and we know that it only takes a few people not to enjoy a concert - and they probably won’t come back!!   Three of the main concerns are:-

(1) The organist often does not have a programme to work from – some actually start asking the audience what    they should play next

(2)  The concert sometimes consists of several medleys which are 5 or 6 or even 7 songs from one show – even if we like the music, after 4 we are left wondering when it is going to end.  Not good.

(3)  The audience easily remembers whether the concert programme (and the jokes etc !) is new or has some new pieces and if this does not change for 2 concerts we get told!! 

Hence we have delayed booking concerts for 2012 because it is important that we try to get it right in order to continue the success of our Club.  The NFOS Committee and helpers, all volunteers of course, give a lot of their time to ensure we all enjoy a good concert.  We all agree that if we stop enjoying what we are doing and we start to lose our audience we may not wish to carry on.   It should not be forgotten that it is the Society funds that pay the bills!!

It is sad to hear of so many Clubs in trouble or closing through lack of people or money or enthusiasm or any combination of these things so let us all try to get it right.


Therefore the outcome of the discussions at our Committee Meetings and with many of our audience has resulted in the following:-

We are pleased to acknowledge that the majority of the organists do give wonderful concerts with a good PROGRAMME and a variety of music but to avoid any misunderstanding we are confirming that from now on, here at the New Forest Organ Society:-

1.  We all look forward to a concert - an evening with a variety of music without 'extras' on the screen which we believe detracts from the music and general 'feel' of the concert.  
2.  We have our own excellent stage team, a 1st class screen with cameras, a computerised set up and new LED lighting so no extras are required.  
3.  We have an agreed policy at NFOS that we do not want 'singalongs' – that is the Bye Bye Blackbird and
My Old Man variety  - just some lovely music to listen to.   Of course there are always exceptions with
such great pieces as Pomp and  Circumstance etc and maybe one or two Christmas Carols when appropriate.
4.  It would be appreciated if organists/artistes who are invited to play at NFOS would tell us at that time if
they do not agree to our suggestions in points 1,2 and 3 before signing their contract because we have had the occasional problem with ‘changes’ after a contract has been signed that have not been appreciated on the night.                      

Sandra Ebbetts  -  Chairman  -  New Forest Organ Society

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