Glasgow Society of Organists (GSO) was founded initially in 1911 as “The Glasgow South Side Society of Organists”, the constitution stating that it was founded for the purposes of “social and friendly intercourse and for mutual assistance in matters relating to their profession”. Initial membership was limited to organists (honorary or salaried) who held appointments or resided in the south side of the city. In 1912 as a response to rapidly growing demand and interest, “The Glasgow South Side Society of Organists” became known as the Glasgow Society of Organists.
Over the years Society membership has fluctuated. During the Second World War, for example, as with other organisations, there were clearly logistical problems in maintaining membership, attendance and, one would assume, interest in the Society over other priorities at that time. The need to maintain, and indeed improve, membership levels through syllabus topics that reflect membership interest are a continued topic of concern and debate for the GSO committee.
In recent years, GSO has introduced an ‘Education Day’ held at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Great Western Road, in Glasgow. This event (funded by GSO with generous help from IAO) enabled and encouraged a number of primary schools to come along to hear Dr John Kitchen (City of Edinburgh and Usher Hall organist) give a demonstration of how the organ works, with primary teachers being given an information pack for follow-up/class room usage afterwards. Feedback has indicated that, funding permitting, this should become a regular feature of the syllabus, as part of an ongoing concern to favourably influence the demographic of the GSO, and more generally enhance the place of music and the organ itself within the public conscience.
GSO members also have an affiliated link to the Incorporated Association of Organists (IAO). The IAO Annual Congress has undertaken visits to Paris (2002), Cologne (2006), Belfast (2011), Cheltenham (2012), Nuremburg (2013). The 2014 Congress will be held in Durham, and 2015 in Norwich.
GSO has two Honorary Presidents – Professor George M McPhee, Organist and Director of Music at Paisley Abbey and Dr David Lumsden (former Principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, shortly to be re-launched as ‘The Scottish Conservatoire”). Former Honorary Presidents have included Rev Dr George Bell (1911), A Peden Fyfe (1931-34 inclusive), Dr Ernest Bullock (1942-46 inclusive) and Professor Frederick Rimmer (1967-69). Former Presidents have included Alfred Dinsdale, A M Henderson, Purcell James Mansfield, William H Blakey, J Geddes Maxwell, Wilfred Norris, Walter Blair, Kenneth Walton and many current GSO members; session 2004-5 saw the first ever ‘non-playing’ GSO President in keeping with the wider demographic aim of the Society. A comprehensive list of former Honorary Presidents and Presidents can be viewed on this website.