I would have to admit that this session - 2015/16 - has had its difficulties. We have lost some members who have long been associated with the G.S.O.; others have had to cope with serious health issues; and we have had some ‘hiccoughs’ with our arrangements.
Seven of our members passed away this session. Four of them were former presidents, and the others were faithful and longstanding members of this Society. It is good that we have gained sufficient new recruits to have maintained our membership at the same level as last year - 116 - but I have to admit that I have had a sense of a sea change coming about which with the passing of time is inevitable. It is therefore a very good thing that we continue to attract people to join the Society, otherwise our loss, sad as it is, would be even more grievous. The website again has been a useful tool in attracting new members, but the personal touch is also an important factor. Both our secretaries, Norman our Membership Secretary and Adrienne our Honorary Secretary, do a lot of work quietly in the background ‘phoning possible new recruits and chasing up the waverers. It is that sort of diligence and effort, not in the limelight but rather out of sight, that does so much to keep our heads up in difficult times. I thank them both sincerely on everyone’s behalf for this and so much else that they do for us. Now then; do you know some one whom you might ask to join our Society?
Our meetings this year have been attended at much the same level as previous sessions. To be honest, I would have to admit some disappointment in that, for an immense amount of time is spent arranging venues, speakers and performers of high standing and I wish we could lift our average attendance figures by even a few. The meetings that we have described as ‘hidden gems’, where we have invited an eminent organist to give a recital on an interesting organ in an ordinary parish church setting, and have invited the congregation to attend, have been very successful and well attended. These have taken us to some interesting venues, but perhaps more importantly have illustrated to the members of the congregation present, that the organ is indeed a gem of considerable value and worth taking good care of. In addition, we advertise the existence of the Society and can truthfully say that we fulfil our charitable obligation to be of benefit to the public at large.
If I may express a personal view, I feel it is important that societies like ours adopt an outgoing ethos. It is easy to be unconsciously inward looking and consider only the needs of the membership and feel we are doing well, but in these days the organ needs advocacy that was unnecessary in times past when we did not have to justify our existence. We do now, and I firmly believe we can, should and will succeed in that task if we continue to work hard at the business of educating the public in our art. That is part of what your charitable giving to this Society is expended in doing and we who are the trustees of your society are grateful for the generosity that continues to be shown year after year by members of the G.S.O.
I will return to the subject of education later but for now let me continue with the session that is past. We had two very interesting talks, one on the subject of electronic organs and the other on early Scottish sacred music. The subject of electronic organs is, let us be honest, a controversial one. In the talk that was given we did not set out to show a preference one way or the other, rather to approach the subject intelligently, accepting that where it is not possible to have a pipe organ some guidance should be given towards purchasing an instrument that is of as good quality as is achievable and that represents value for money, and also to demonstrate what may be achieved with a good quality electronic organ.
Early Scottish sacred music was the subject of a talk by Alan Taverner illustrated with recorded examples and this proved a fascinating subject, perhaps worth returning to in a future session. As well as these we had scheduled a meeting with a representative of the Church of Scotland Committee on worship. The trustees felt that some dialogue with the established church would be of value and an attempt should be made to enter into one. In doing so we acknowledge that we are not a denominational organisation and that we have valued members who do not play in a Church of Scotland Church and may well not wish to! However, it is still the case that the majority of organs are situated in Church of Scotland churches, and the majority of available posts with acceptable salaries are within the Church of Scotland, so we hoped for some information possibly with respect to future developments and perhaps an opportunity for some input from ourselves. Unfortunately the meeting did not take place due to the failure of the church to find a speaker on the subject, although I have to say that we did receive an apology regretting the situation and an expression of a real willingness to address us at some time in the future. In the event our honorary President, George McPhee stepped into the breach and gave us a superb recital in Paisley Abbey. If you were not there I fear you really missed yourself.
Now, to return, as I said earlier, to the matter of education. We have been discussing an education project and a sub-committee has been formed to bring forward proposals and a plan for an event. Some adventurous proposals have been made to try to encourage young keyboard players to take organ lessons with a view to them perhaps becoming future players. It has not been easy. Despite a lot of hard planning, discussion and diligent steering of the project by Peter Christie we have had to overcome one hurdle after another. Child protection issues, appropriate venues, and budget, to say nothing of the very different expectations of today’s school musical education, have all been matters to address and progress has perhaps been slower than might have been hoped for. However we labour on, determined to come up with something that we hope will succeed.
We have been promoting a method of raising funds for the Society called ‘Easyfundraising’. By using this system funds are paid into the Society’s bank account periodically and each time some one purchases an item through the internet the amount to be paid in is increased. Members and non-members can participate and so far this session a sum of £68.52 has been raised. This is very good considering that only three members participate in the scheme. One of them is my wife and another is me, I have no way of knowing who the third person is as Easyfundraising keeps that information confidential, but I would like to thank them. This is a way of increasing our financial resources that costs those who participate absolutely nothing. All it takes is a little trouble to register as a donor to your cause and each time you purchase something on the internet a percentage goes to the G.S.O. Other organist societies raise funds in this way and if we could persuade more members to use this facility we could increase our income significantly without any financial burden being placed on our membership. Please give thought to this as it is all it says it is - easy fund raising.
As you must all know by now this is the last meeting at which I will act as President. Very shortly I shall hand over to my successor the honour and privilege of this office. I have been thrilled to have been entrusted with it and am deeply grateful to have been marvellously supported by a hard working committee that we are most fortunate to have guiding our Society’s affairs. I am grateful too, to the membership who have generously supported us in many different ways during the last four years and I conclude by wishing the new president all the pleasure and pride that has been mine in holding this office, and now may the Glasgow Society of Organists continue from strength to strength.