**President’s Report to the  2017  AGM**


Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the President’s Report for session 2016/17.

Our syllabus for the session has included a diverse range of events, each of which has sought to further the aims of the Society in the education of both GSO Members and the public.  Interestingly, our syllabus included only one conventional organ recital when, back in November, Donald Hunt (from St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh) played for us.  Other syllabus events have included:

  • John Riley’s presentation on improvisation
  • an organ crawl, featuring the instruments in Boomhill Parish Church and St Bride’s Episcopal Church
  • two talks:
  • the first was given by GSO Trustees Andrew Forbes and Peter Christie and was concerned with resources for organists and choirmasters available free of charge on the internet
  • the second talk was by Phill Mellstrom, Worship Development Worker with the Church of Scotland.  That meeting opened up the lines of communication between the Society and the Church and I’m hopeful that we will be able to continue that dialogue in future sessions.  The Trustees would want to acknowledge that the GSO is, of course, not a denominational organisation and we have respected members who play outwith the Church of Scotland.

I suspect that, for many of us, the highlight of the GSO year was our visit to the recently installed organ in St Aloysius.  We were treated to a wonderful demonstration of this fabulous instrument by GSO members Andrew Forbes and Tiffany Vong who, after giving us an informative talk, played a number of pieces which let us hear the range of tones available.  As our visit to St Aloysius took place on a week night, the Trustees were a little concerned that the attendance may be low.  However, the attendance was excellent –one of the best in recent years.  The Trustees have therefore decided that one of the 2017/18 syllabus events will take place during a week night evening.

When planning the syllabus the Trustees were keen to continue the ‘hidden gems’ series which we have now been pursuing over a number of sessions.  The simple concept behind the series is that, by holding some of our meetings in ordinary parish churches, we are able to showcase the organs within them.  This provides an opportunity to promote these instruments amongst their Congregations who we hope will appreciate they have a wonderful resource which is worth looking after and maintaining.  One of the Society’s aims is the education of the public and this is something which we pursue though the hidden gems series.  In addition, the series provides us with an opportunity to advertise the Society and raise its profile within different areas across Glasgow.  The two hidden gems which we visited this year were Neilston Parish Church (for Donald Hunt’s recital) and Lenzie Old Parish Church (for John Riley’s presentation).  Curiously, both of these Churches house Conacher instruments which were built just 14 years apart (Lenzie in 1874 and Neilston in 1888).

At present the Trustees are finalising the 2017-18 syllabus.  It will include two particularly exciting events:

  • on Saturday 3rd March we hope that an eminent organist from South of the Border will be giving us a recital in Christ the King Church, Carmunnock Road.  Christ the King’s 1961 Hill Norman & Beard organ was recently restored by Malcolm Lightbrown who also added a trumpet.  As the finalised arrangements for the recital are still to be made we can’t, at this stage, say who the Organist is, but we will let you know as soon as possible as we hope there will be an excellent attendance at the recital by GSO members.
  • on the afternoon of Sunday 1st October we will be holding an organ day.  This will be another event which will allow us to pursue our charitable aim of educating the public.  The event will be for young people, ideally in S4, S5 or S6 of secondary school, who are interested in finding about the organ with a view to taking lessons.  The programme for the afternoon will comprise of a series of both plenary and workshop sessions.  While we will have some flexibility in terms of the age of the young people attending, having achieved Grade 4 of the Associated Board on piano (or other keyboard instrument) will be a requirement for all who attend the day.  Most of the event will take place in New Kilpatrick Parish Church (Bearsden), but the young people will also be visiting the organs in All Saints and Bearsden Cross Churches.  The event will be delivered in part by GSO members, but a key figure will be Daniel Moult who is travelling up from London to assist us with the event.  Daniel is Associate Head of Organ at the Birmingham Conservatoire.  He is experienced in delivering similar outreach events elsewhere and we look forward to his contribution.  The event has required much preparation and I would like to acknowledge the considerable efforts of the sub-committee who have worked hard to make it happen.  As a follow-up to the event, we will be offering a free organ lesson to each young person who attends.  You’ll have realised by now that the event isn’t for GSO members, but members will have an important role to play in recruiting young people for the afternoon.  Is there a young person in your family who might be interested in attending?  Perhaps there is a young person in your Church (maybe someone who sings in your Choir) who would like to join us for the afternoon?  Please pass on an enrolment form to any young people you know who might be interested in attending.  It will be a free event, with no charge to the young people who attend.  Forms will shortly be available for downloading from the website.  In order to ensure that all who attend the event have a meaningful time at the Organ, we have capped the number of attendees at 16.  Places will be offered on a first come, first served basis.

Although not part of the GSO syllabus, I would also like to advise you of an invitation which we have received from Dr Jim Hunter in his role as Honorary Directory of Music at Kelvingrove Art Gallery.  Jim appreciates that there may be some GSO members who don’t feel up to giving a full Kelvingrove recital themselves, but would be interested in giving a composite recital with another one or two organists – each playing for around 10 to 15 minutes.  If you would be interested in doing this, please let me know by the end of April.

Over the year it has been my privilege to present two Certificates of Honorary Membership: the first to Dr Stuart Campbell and the second to Alan Tavener.  Members may recall that my predecessor, Nairn Young, announced at the 2015 AGM that the Trustees had agreed to confer Honorary membership on Bill Hutcheson.  It wasn’t possible for us to present Bill with his certificate at that meeting, but I am pleased to advise that I will have the pleasure of presenting Bill’s certificate to him later this afternoon.

Continuing with the theme of honours, we were delighted to read that GSO member Derek Norval (Organist and Choirmaster at St Paul’s Church, Milngavie) had been cited in the New Year’s Honours List.  I was pleased that I could write to Derek to convey the Society’s congratulations for his BEM which was awarded in recognition of his services to music in Dunbartonshire.

During the session we lost three long-standing and dedicated members who sadly passed away: Sandy Small, Jean Jack and Rod Paton (who served as President during 2005/6).  We acknowledge their contributions to the Society over the years.  At a time when many clubs and societies seem to be struggling to keep and recruit members (just look, for example, at the number of golf clubs advertising membership), I am pleased to report that we, in the GSO, are retaining our membership.  At the end of December we had 114 members, just two less than the previous year.  While I believe there is no room for complacency or that we should be taking our membership for granted, we can take heart that our numbers remain strong.

If we are being honest, I suspect that we would all like to see more members attending our monthly meetings – particularly given the time and energy spent devising the syllabus each session.  That said, I think we should be pleased that so many wish to remain members of the Society.

It would appear that another common characteristic of many clubs and societies today is a lack of leadership and numerous office-bearer posts go unfilled.  However, just as the GSO is bucking the trend by maintaining membership numbers, we are blessed with a good number of experienced people who give sterling service to the Society as Trustees.   The wide age range represented by our present Trustees is extremely encouraging and demonstrates that the Society is not just for those of senior years.  On your behalf, I would like to say an enormous ‘thank you’ for the work which each of the Trustees has undertaken over the year.

Before being elected President I had naively assumed that, if we invited an organist to give a recital, s/he would reply after a day or so.  However, I have quickly learned that Adrienne often needs to send a follow-up email, and sometimes even a follow-up to that follow-up!  Adrienne – thank you for the unstinting service that you give throughout the session as Secretary of the GSO.  Keeping the financial records of the Society up-to-date is, I’m sure, almost a full-time job – so Alan, thank you for all that you do as Treasurer of the GSO.  As Membership Secretary Norman works tirelessly throughout the year, including ensuring that we are all informed by email or via the website of organ recitals and other related events.  Norman – thank you for your contribution to the Society.

We have six ordinary Trustees: Peter Christie, Andrew Forbes, Christine Furnish, Peter Howard, Donald McIntosh and Nairn Young.  Although these six Trustees could be considered ‘ministers without portfolio’, over the session they have undertaken a range of different roles and each has contributed a power of work to the Society for which I thank them now.  I would like to mention two of them in particular.  Firstly, Christine who - as our unofficial ‘Head of Catering’ - works hard to ensure that we are all fed and watered.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a small sub-committee meeting or a larger meeting such as today’s AGM, Christine is always happy to ensure there is an abundant supply of food and tea/coffee for everyone.  Secondly, I would like to acknowledge the work which Nairn undertakes as Newsletter Editor.  I am aware that many members look forward to receiving their Newsletter in the knowledge that it will contain a series of informative articles.

Closely aligned to the Newsletter is the website, which Adrienne and Norman work hard at keeping up-to-date.  Setting up a website is, in many ways, the easy part, it’s keeping it fresh and up-to-date that requires the effort!  So thank you to Adrienne and Norman for the time you spend updating the website.

In closing, I would like to thank you all for the privilege I have of being President of the Glasgow Society of Organists.  I have enjoyed my first year of office immensely and look forward to the second.

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