© Richard Powell 2013
This   is   just   the   place   where   I   write   a   few   words   about   being   a   British   organist   in   Norway.   There are   quite   a   few   of   us   here,   some   having   been   here   since   the   late   70s.   In   many   ways   it’s   a   good life,   the   standard   of   living   is   high   and   the   place   is   incredibly   beautiful   with   mountains   and   fjords and    islands.    My    work    is    varied,    with    services,    concerts,    andakts,    piano    teaching,    choirs, composing and arranging so there’s little chance of being bored.
Just a bit about one of the several British organists working in Norway
Ah,   yes,   well   I’m   sure   there   are   lots   of   people   who   wonder   about   this   one   !   It   might   seem   like   we   turn   up   at   five   o   eleven   on a   Sunday   morning,   play   for   about   an   hour   and   then   have   the   rest   of   the   week   off.   But   actually   my   week   sees   me   doing many things. Here are just a few of them. Well, most, actually .
Funerals   take   place   almost   every   week   here.   On   average   there   are   about   90   each   year   in   a   municipal   area   with   about 6000   inhabitants.   Some   are   very   straightforward,   others   involve   rehearsing   with   soloists   which   can   be   demanding.   I remember   one   lady   soloist   turning   up   literally   five   minutes   before   the   funeral,   presenting   me   with   an   ancient   four   pages   of manuscript,   written   in   pencil,   in   Gb,   which   I’d   never   seen   before   and   then   expecting   me   to   accompany   her.   When   I   aske how   fast   it   should   go,   she   said,   ‘Normal   tempo’.   It   all   went   okay   but   it’s   not   a   situation   which   an   organist   wants   to   find himself (herself) in.
and just to change the subject ....
Some   people   have   asked   me   why   I   have   a   picture   of   a   haystack   on   the   right   hand   side   of   this page.   It’s   simply   that   I’m   very   fond   of   old   country   customs   and   crafts,   and   this   is   a   process   which   is called   ‘hesjing’.   Basically,   instead   of   a   machine   picking   up   the   cut   grass,   people   do   it   by   and, hanging   it   over   wires   to   dry.   This   particular   picture   was   taken   in   a   little   village   called   Fiksdal,   where I used to live.
Andakts   happen   every   week.   In   my   case   there   are   two.   An   andakt   is   a   short   (three   quarters   of   an hour)   meeting   with   Bible   readings,   some   prayers,   hymns   and   a   short   sermon.   I   play   the   hymns   and two   or   three   piano   pieces.   These   short   ceremonies   take   place   in   residential   care   centresfor   the elderly.   The   priests   or   the   deacon   do   the   sermons   and   readings.   I’d   saythat   these   andakts   are   very much   appreciated   by   the   residents,   possibly   not   so   much   for   the   religious   content,   asfor   the   fact that they give people something to look forward to.
Weddings   take   place   throughout   the   year,   but   in   this   parish   they   are   concentrated   between   April and   October.   As   with   funerals,   they   can   be   very   straightforward   but   some   can   be   very   demanding on   time.   There   are   two   pieces   of   music   which   are   used   a   great   deal.   Mendelsohn’s   Midsummer Night’s   Dream   March   is   the   most   common   entrance   piece.   The   Norwegian   ‘Bridal   March   from   Øre’ is   the   most   popular   piece   for   the   couple   on   their   way   out.   Sometimes   there   are   soloists   and   this can take quite a lot of arranging and rehearsing.
Choir practice
The   Church   Choir   meets   every   week   on   Thursday   evenings.   Since   this   choir   was   founded   in   1995, I   have   worked   on   the   premise   that   spending   time   on   liturgical   music   for   the   services   is   more important   than   trying   to   do   performances   of   stuff   like   ‘The   Messiah’,   which   is,   to   be   honest,   just   a little   bit   too   difficult.   Doing   arrangements   for   this   choir   is   something   which   takes   up   quite   a   lot   of time,   but   the   reward   is   that   they   brighten   up   any   service   in   which   they   take   part.   I   used   to   have   a children’s   choir,   but   this   is   now   covered   by   other   people.   These   days   children’s   choirs   repetoire consists   almost   exclusively   of   jazz-gospel   songs. This   is   not   a   problem   for   me,   but   I   am   sad   that   the repertoire   cannot   be   drawn   from   many   different   styles,   not   only   for   the   congregation,   but   also   for the sake of the children, who get to see only one side of music.
Concerts   also   take   a   good   deal   of   time   and   energy   to   arrange.   In   recent   years   we   have   started   a   ‘Concerts   Council’   in   order to   get   a   broader   input   regarding   the   types   of   concerts   we   put   on.   Breadth   is   important   here   so   we   have   many   different   types of   concerts.   Naturally   we   have   a   lot   of   choral   music,   both   from   local   choirs   as   well   as   visiting   choirs.   We   have   had   organ concerts,   using   modern   technology   to   transmit   pictures   of   the   performer   to   a   screen,   so   all   can   admire   the   feats   of   the   feet and   hands.   Accordion   concerts,   violin   concerts,   cello   concerts,   brass   group   concerts   have   all   taken   place,   as   well   as   man others. 
Meetings seem to take up an increasing amount of time. We have a staff meeting every Wednesday to check dates and who is doing what, and this is very useful.
Organ   maintenance      is   also   something   which   needs   doing.   Norwegian   churches,   unlike   their   British   counterparts,   are   usually very   well   heated   and   it’s   almost   always   a   pleasure   to   go   and   practise   the   organ   during   the   week.   But   the   reeds   always   need tuning   and   that   takes   patience...   I   do   a   lot   of   organ   practice   each   week,   mostly   at   home   on   the   little   Peter   Collins   organ.   In many   ways   I   don’t   need   to   do   this,   since   I   already   have   a   whole   pile   of   pieces   which   can   be   used   for   Preludes   and   Pstludes. But life without challenges is dull, and I still haven’t mastered all the Six Sonatas which Bach wrote.
Services   don’t   just   take   place   on   Sundays.   Throughout   the   year   there   are   many   other   services   which take   place   throughout   the   week.   In   Lent   we   have   evenin   services   on   Wednesdays.   In Advent   there   are ‘Light   Masses’.   In   the   summer   we   have   outdoor   services   where   I   have   to   arrange   the   liturgy   and   hyms for brass band. There are also various gatherings for the children each year who are to be confirmed.
Well,   maybe.   Fewer   and   fewer   young   organists   are   being   educated   and   courses   are   dwindling.   Many organists    rather    miss    the    old    Organist   Trade    Union,    which    was    swallowed    up    in    the    much    larger Musicians   Union.   We   may   have   increased   our   bargaining   powers   for   pay   and   conditions   (although   that’s debatable   since   we   still   haven’t   achieved   parity   with   teachers   yet),   but   we   have   lost   a   lot   o   the   sense   of being   ‘organists   together’,   which   is   disappointing.   It   seems   to   me   that   the   days   are   numbered   for organists.   Increasingly,   jobs   which   were   100%   positions   are   being   advertised   as   80%   positions,   or   less. So   I   really   do   think   that   organists   are   an   endangered   species,   which   may   well   be   on   the   way   out.      Ask me again in 50 years time ..
organists on the way out? Services Organ maintenance Meetings Concerts so what does an organist actually do in the course of a week....???